Pignoli Cookies (a.k.a. Pine Nut or Pinon Cookies)

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Almost 20 years ago, I was handed one of the most delicious cookies I had ever tasted. The Pignoli Cookie is unique in flavor and texture; completely unlike anything I had tasted before.

Pinon Cookies stacked on black plate with blue cloth on wooden table

The restaurant where I first tasted these cookie does not share their recipe; they simply called them Pinon Cookies (a.k.a. Pine Nut Cookies). Crunchy, chewy, sweet and nutty, these cookies are a perfect match for any almond-lover.

Pine Nut Cookies

I spent three years thinking about those cookies and wondering how on earth they were made. Many of the recipes for cookies with pine nuts that 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. I eventually learned that these pine nut cookies are most commonly known as Italian Pignoli Cookies or Italian Pine Nut Cookies. In New Mexico where I first tried them, they are called Pinon Cookies.

As you can guess, I was beyond excited to share the recipe with you all after I finally found this recipe.

I followed the recipe, tasted one of these cookies, and nearly shrieked out loud with joy. The hunt was over. These Italian Pine Nut Cookies are every bit as delicious as I’d remembered.

The recipe and method below have been very lightly adapted from and with an abundance of thanks to Shockingly Delicious.

Italian pignoli cookies on plate, hand holding one

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.

These cookies always bring people back for “just one more” and I’ve received many requests for the recipe. And full disclosure, this is a cookie that I simply can not resist.

I made a batch a few weeks ago to share with friends and I wound up eating at least 6 of them before I finally packed them up to share! The cookies are so light and airy, they’re an irresistible, sweet, and satisfying treat.

pinon cookies stacked on plate

Pignoli Cookies are an unexpected and absolutely perfect addition to the traditional line-up of holiday or any-day cookies. I love the expected traditional holiday treats like Peppermint Bark and fudge but sometimes it’s nice to add something different to the rotation.

If you like these cookies, you’re also likely to enjoy Mexican Wedding Cookies and Pfeffernusse  (German Pepper Nut Cookies).

Pine Nut Cookies made this way are entirely gluten free, as it turns out. I always love when a treat I love can be served to my friends and family who avoid gluten.

While I’ve had great success using gluten free substitutes for wheat flour, it’s nice when a recipe is already wheat and gluten free.

This recipe doesn’t use any flour at all. The pignoli cookies get their light airy texture thanks to a combination of egg whites and almond paste.

almond paste in food processor
You’ll need just four ingredients to make these cookies:
  • almond paste
  • sugar
  • egg whites
  • pine nuts

If you’ve never baked with almond paste before, you can find it in the baking aisle of most well-stocked grocery stores. You can also purchase almond paste online. It comes in a can, box, or roll and will be very stiff when you open it.

almond paste and sugar in food processor

In order to work with the almond paste and incorporate it into a dough, you first have to break it into a granular texture using a food processor.

The process takes a few minutes and then the almond paste is ready to be mixed with sugar and folded in with beaten egg whites.

After chilling the pignoli dough, toasted pine nuts are pressed on top of each cookie. The pine nuts not only look pretty but give these cookies their primary flavor.

almond paste with sugar and egg whites

I’m repeating myself here to be especially clear. 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 or box in the US.

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 as pictured above.

Look specifically for almond paste in the baking section of your favorite grocery store.

Take care not to accidentally pick up marzipan or almond cake filling, neither of these will work. The almond paste is different than both of those and is required to give the dough the right texture.

pine nut cookie dough on parchment lined tray

More Almond Desserts

I love desserts made with all things almond. From almond extract to almond flour, this versatile nut plays a key role in so many delicious treats.

These Scandinavian Almond Bars with a shortbread texture and nutty flavor have been a favorite for a while.

Tender, buttery, lightly sweetened Almond Cake is a treat with a cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon, but it’s also a company-worthy dessert for any occasion.

Crunchy toasted Brioche topped with jam and almonds creates an irresistible pastry called Bostock. As simple as it sounds (and is to make) once you’ve tasted it, I’m willing to bet that you’ll be telling everyone about it.

You should also check out these Almond Pillow Cookies by The Noshery and Almond Lace Wafers by The View from Great Island if you’re after almond cookies.

If you’re a fan of nutty cookies, you might like the Toffee Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies or the Walnut Cookies too.

Looking for more gluten-free desserts? Check out all of the Gluten Free Dessert Recipes on this website!

pine nut cookies on cooling rack

Have you had Pine Nut Cookies before?

I spent so many years thinking about those first pinon cookies I tried and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have finally found a pine nut cookie recipe that exceeds my expectations. I can’t wait to hear how you like them!

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pinon cookies stacked on plate

Pignoli Cookies (a.k.a. Pine Nut or Pinon Cookies)

5 from 1 vote
Crunchy, chewy, sweet and nutty, pignoli cookies are a perfect match for any almond-lover.
Pin Print Review
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Servings: 30 cookies

Ingredients 

  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 8 ounces almond paste
  • cup sugar divided
  • 2 egg whites

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

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.

Nutrition

Calories: 60kcal · Carbohydrates: 8g · Protein: 1g · Fat: 3g · Saturated Fat: 0.3g · Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g · Monounsaturated Fat: 2g · Sodium: 4mg · Potassium: 34mg · Fiber: 0.4g · Sugar: 7g · Vitamin A: 0.3IU · Vitamin C: 0.02mg · Calcium: 13mg · Iron: 0.2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @barefeetkitchen or tag #barefeetkitchen!

{originally published 11/13/12 – recipe notes and photos updated 12/5/22}

Italian Pignoli Cookies

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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    • Mary says

      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

  1. Joanne says

    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!

  2. linda says

    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!

  3. Ashley Courtien says

    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, 😉

  4. Anonymous says

    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

  5. Pat Sussman says

    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.

  6. Anonymous says

    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!!

  7. Anonymous says

    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!

  8. Kathy says

    Mary–You will never know how happy I was to find your recipe! My dearest little departed Italian mama made these and they were my favorite cookies EVER. I never wrote the recipe down and in all my efforts at duplication during the last ten years I never got them just right. BUT NOW I CAN! Thank you, thank you for helping me bring back a treasured memory. Dorina is lifting a glass of wine and smiling at you from heaven!5 stars