The BEST Christmas Cookie: Pignolis (Recipe Included)

Pignoli Cookie for Christmas - Birthday Butler

At my Girlfriends Wrapping Party a few years ago, I sent guests home with Christmas cookies. 

The next day, my friend Marci texted me this picture with the caption, “Best. Cookie. Ever.” 


The cookie in question? Pignolis.


Usually made at Christmastime, this sweet, chewy cookie is rolled in pine nuts. (It turns out that 18-20 species of pine trees have edible seeds which are called pine nuts.)


Pignolis have been a favorite of mine since I was a kid in NJ. They were considered the crown jewel of an Italian bakery, not just for their delicious flavor, but because their two primary ingredients, almond paste and pine nuts, are among the most expensive in a baker's pantry.


With apologies to Coco Chanel’s famous quote:

When you look at a cookie tray, the pignoli isn’t the one you’ll notice first. After tasting it, the pignoli will be the one you'll never forget.

If you’re looking for a cookie that will add some va-va-voom to your Christmas holidays, this is it. The flavors are widely enjoyed, yet very few bakers include it on a holiday cookie tray. 


I think they should.


Pignolis Cookie Recipe - Birthday Butler

It's not Christmas in my house without Pignolis! 


The recipe below is adapted from Lidia Bastianich. Her original recipe calls for 2 tsp orange zest, but I've found people (including me!) preferred them without the orange flavor.


Lidia's Pignoli Cookies

14-16oz almond paste
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1 1/4 cup pine nuts
Powdered sugar for dusting

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pulse the almond paste and sugar in a food processor until it is broken up into small pieces.
3. Add egg whites and process until smooth.
4. Shape the dough into small balls and roll in pine nuts.
5. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
6. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing.
7. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Lisa's notes

  • Yes, you really need to get out the food processor to break the almond paste up.
  • Almond paste and pine nuts are pricey ingredients, but these cookies are worth it.
  • I prefer Odense almond paste over Solo. Solo tends to be too liquidy.
  • Other recipes call for powdered sugar (inside) but I've found that granulated sugar yields a more delicious texture.
  • You can toast the pine nuts first. It gives them a deeper flavor and the slightly darker color is nice.
  • Do NOT use the All Recipes version of this recipe! It calls for twice as many egg whites as you need.



    Lisa Bader

    Lisa is the founder of Birthday Butler. She loves making celebrations easier and more convenient.  Lisa will never say no to a Christmas cookie and always underestimates how long it takes to decorate the tree.