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Pignoli Cookies

This recipe is from my Italian born mom who has been baking pignoli cookies for over 40 years! These chewy, delicious cookies contain only 3 major ingredients and no flour. This recipe does not require almond paste, it uses almond flour instead so it is much less expensive to make.

What are pignoli cookies?

pignoli cookies

A variety of Italian cookies were made by mom and many other Italian American families in the Philadelphia area, including this pignoli cookie, which is a “no almond paste needed” recipe – much cheaper to make! Another very popular Italian cookie is something called the Italian wedding cookie.

The pignoli cookies are one of my mom’s speciality (probably because it is her favorite cookie). She has been making this recipe for sooooo many years that I’ve lost count! I’m estimating that she makes about 1000 of these cookies a year!

pignoli cookies
pignoli cookies fresh from the oven 🙂

These cookies seem fancy (pignoli is Italian for pine nut) but they are incredibly easy to make at home. And, although they cost a small fortune at the bakery (if you can even find them), they are not expensive to make at home (unless you are using a recipe that calls for almond paste, which is expensive).

There are only 3 main ingredients (almond flour, sugar, eggs) plus almond extract and of course, pine nuts (pignoli) to top them.

the best pignoli cookies, only 4 ingredients plus pignoli. easy to make too!!

Dough consistency

I was surprised to see that dough for these cookies is rather stiff (see photo below) but it is NOT dry. You may have to add an extra egg if your dough is too dry. My mom recommends a ratio of 1 pound almond flour: 1 pound sugar: 2 large eggs. Add the extract and pine nuts topping and viola, you have these cookies!

Forming the cookies

This recipe is enough to make 40 cookies (2 half sheet pans)

the best pignoli cookies, only 4 ingredients plus pignoli. easy to make too!!

My mom seems to be able to fit a good amount of the unbaked cookies (20 cookies!) per 1/2 sheet pan:

the best pignoli cookies, only 4 ingredients plus pignoli. easy to make too!!

As you see here, they don’t expand too too much after they are baked (they get about 30% bigger). I was concerned that they would spread and attach but they didn’t.

These are also a great option for those who follow a gluten-free diet, since they do not contain any wheat flour. These are great anytime you want a little treat!

the best pignoli cookies, only 4 ingredients plus pignoli. easy to make too!!


Place cookies in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover.

Store at room temperature for up to 1 day, chill for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Other Favorite Italian Cookies:

📖 Recipe

top view of freshly baked pignoli cookies on white serving platter

Pignoli Cookies

This authentic chewy heavenly pignoli cookie recipe uses almond flour, sugar, and eggs. No almond paste needed. Flavored with almond extract and topped with pine nuts, and baked in 20 minutes. Better than the bakery!! Makes 40 cookies but recipe can be halved
4.97 from 28 votes
Author: Marie
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
resting time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 20 servings
Calories 226 kcal


Cookie dough

  • 4 3/4 cups (448 g) almond flour (~1 pound total)
  • 2 1/4 cups (466.67 g) sugar (~1 pound total)
  • 2 large (2 large) eggs
  • 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) almond extract

To top cookies

  • 1 large (1 large) egg white
  • 1/2 cup (67.5 g) raw pignoli nuts (~ 4 ounces)


To make the cookie dough

  • Preheat oven to 340 degrees 
  • Add eggs and about half of the sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy (see photos)
  • Add flour and remaining sugar and almond extract and beat until everything has been well incorporated. The texture will be somewhat stiff but not overly dry (see photos)
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. 

Forming and topping the pignoli cookies

  • Form cookies into round balls that are a bit smaller than the size of a golfball
  • In a small container, add the egg white with about a tablespoon of water and mix. In another small flat container, add the pignoli nuts
  • Dip the top of each cookie into the egg white mixture, then dip into the nuts, slightly flatten the ball into a cookie shape, and place the cookie nut side up, on the lined cookie sheet
  • Bake cookies for about 20 to 22 minutes until just slightly golden. Do NOT overbake as the cookies will be dry. Begin checking your cookies after about 15 minutes as oven temperatures/power may vary. 


1 pound of sugar = 2 1/4 cups sugar (according to Domino’s sugar)
1 pound of almond flour = 4 3/4 cup almond flour (see King Arthur’s conversion guide)


Calories: 226kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 5gFat: 11gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 11mgPotassium: 10mgFiber: 2gSugar: 23gVitamin A: 30IUCalcium: 51mgIron: 1mg
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  1. Hi Marie, I have made a similar cookie, the ricciaerelli which doesn’t have the pine nuts. But my mom loves pine nuts so I have been reading about pignolis which ar $25/lb plus in NYC. I love your recipe as its simpler than most. In my pignoli research, it seems that many recipes requires almond paste “plus” more egg whites and MORE sugar. ( I am trying to reduce sugar if possible :)) Almond paste via the internet is a combination of almond flour, egg whites (some use yolk as well in Italy) These pignoli recipes, it seems, like an over-usage of sugar and eggs. Have you researched or discovered why this may be? I find it to be perplexing? I can’t wait to try your recipe! Thank you for your time and thoughts. Pat-

    1. I’m also confused – this recipe comes straight out of my mom’s favorite Italian-language Italian baking book and we’ve been using it forever. I feel like using the paste is completely unnecessary although I once read that the well know baker US Nick Malgieri recommends it for Amaretti cookies (ie, bitter almond cookies) as it supposedly contains some bitter almond in it (but I’m not sure if that’s alway the case). In any event, I try to avoid the almond paste, as it’s expensive and not always as fresh as it should be. I even make homemade almond paste for my rainbow cookies to avoid it – good question though, I’ve often been puzzled too! I wish more people knew how easy these were to make with only a few ingredients.

  2. 5 stars
    Easter is coming and I was wondering what to bring to my son’s young family. Then I thought, Pignoli! Of course! The thought of it made me happy. I bookmarked this page several years back after trying various (lesser) marzipan-based recipes. Your recipe is the gold standard, and I’ve stuck by it ever since. Simple and perfect. Thank you!

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