Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pignoli Cookies {a.k.a. Pine Nut or Pinon Cookies}

Pignoli Cookies (aka Pine Nut or Pinon Cookies) - get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com
Seven or eight years ago, I was given one of the most delicious cookies I had ever tasted. It was unique in flavor and texture; completely unlike anything I had tasted before. The restaurant where I tried the cookie does not share their recipe; they simply called them Pinon (pine nut) Cookies. Crunchy, chewy, sweet and nutty, these cookies are a perfect match for any almond-lover.

I spent 3 years thinking about those cookies and wondering how on earth they were made. Many of the pine nut cookie recipes I found were merely sugar cookies or shortbread topped with or rolled in pine nuts. I'm sure those cookies are delicious, but that was not what I was searching for this time. As you can guess, I was beyond excited to share the recipe with you all after I finally found this recipe for Italian Pignoli Cookies!

Over the past few years, I have shared these cookies with friends and family countless times and every single person that tastes them comments on how unique and irresistible they are. Pignoli Cookies are an unexpected and absolutely perfect addition to the traditional line-up of holiday or any day cookies.

COOK'S NOTE: This recipe calls for almond paste, NOT marzipan or almond cake filling. Almond Paste can be found in the baking aisle in most grocery stores. It is typically sold in an 8 ounce can. The paste will be very firm and a food processor is required in order to work with it. The paste will not blend with the other ingredients until it has been broken into a granular mixture.

Pignoli Cookies (aka Pine Nut or Pinon Cookies)
recipe and method slightly adapted from Shockingly Delicious
Yield: 30 cookies
(printable recipe)

1/4 cup pine nuts
8 ounces almond paste
2/3 cup sugar, divided
2 egg whites

In a small dry skillet, toast the pine nuts over low heat until they are fragrant. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, break up the almond paste. Use the pulse feature on the food processor a few seconds at a time, scraping the sides as needed. It should take just a few minutes to turn the hard paste into fine sand-like pieces. Add the sugar in two stages, processing for a few seconds each time to combine.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the almond mixture into the egg whites, making sure the mixture is well-combined. Place the dough in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (This is required for these cookies. They will stick to the baking sheet without it.)

Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet. Press 8-10 pine nuts into the top of each cookie, pressing down slightly to flatten each ball of dough. Bake for 14-15 minutes, remove from the oven before the cookies begin to brown. Cool 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Italian Pignoli Cookies (aka Pine Nut or Pinon Cookies) - get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com

{originally published 11/13/12 - recipe notes and photos updated 5/19/16}

Here are a few more almond desserts you might like:
Chinese Almond Cookies by Simply Recipes
Scandinavian Almond Bars by Barefeet In The Kitchen
Iced Almond Lemon Loaf by Dinners Dishes and Desserts
Swedish Almond Cake by Shugary Sweets
Almond Pillow Cookies by The Noshery
Buttery Almond Pound Cake by Barefeet In The Kitchen
Almond Lace Wafers by The View from Great Island

Pignoli Cookies Recipe (aka Pine Nut or Pinon Cookies)


  1. Oooohhh... I too have had pine nut cookies before and they are to die for!! Thanks for posting this recipe.. I can't wait to try these!

  2. Almond and pine nuts...the combo sounds amazing!

  3. Ain't almond paste same as marzipan?

    1. Technically no, although the same ingredients are used to make both items. Almond paste is a mixture of finely ground blanched almonds, sugar, and water that is cooked until it reaches a smooth consistency. Almond paste is used for cooking, baking and for making marzipan.

      Marzipan, theoretically, is almond paste to which more sugar has been added. It is more pliable and it is used for molding and decorating.

      More information can be found here: http://www.ochef.com/1087.htm

  4. Pignoli cookies are my mom's favorite! I made them once last year and they weren't awesome...but I didn't use almond paste in them. Obviously my recipe was a dud. Need to try this one!

  5. These sounds so tasty Mary. I've never heard of them but an intrigued! Your photos are fantastic - I love successful recipes!

  6. I love pine nuts so I am certain I would love these cookies. They look delicious.

  7. I also searched for a recipe for this cookie for years! I finally found mine in a dessert book edited by Saveur magazine. I cannot wait to make them for Christmas. Once you have had these cookies you dream about them!

  8. this is a terrific recipe---suits me perfectly. love it when the recipe is naturally gluten free. I can't wait to try this.

  9. can I tell you an italian family secret? if you put a littttllleeeee drop of grand marnier on the bottom of the cookie kinda just drizzle it and let it soak in, them bake, you will die with love, ;)

    1. Sounds delicious! :)

  10. Good morning! I found that working with the canned almond paste was difficult; my solution has been to grate it with a hand held grater first. It breaks it down so small lumps don't ruin your baking effort. Wonderful cookies! Heidi

  11. Grating the almond paste is a good idea, but I've also made my own from scratch. I also add a teaspoon of almond extract to the batter. I've found that wearing gloves makes handling the sticky batter easier. I also use a small ice cream scoop to shape the batter, then roll them in the pignoli before baking.

  12. A friend of mine was telling me about these cookies. Her husband heads to an Italian Bakery each year and buys her a few!! Can't wait to bake them for her - THANK YOU!!

  13. I can't wait to make your Italian Almond cookies and the Pine Nuts cookies.
    I had them many years ago, and they are wonderful.

    Do you know if they ship well, or are they too delicate?

    Joyce T.
    PS I love your site!

    1. They both should ship fine, if packaged well. They aren't especially delicate cookies.