Ricciarelli: Chewy Italian Almond Cookies

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!

It’s about time I shared a recipe with you that was inspired from our trip to Italy last fall!

We had so much good food while we were there that I wish I could relive or recreate: Bistecca alla Fiorentina, or Florentine steak. Tiramisu. Homemade cavatelli pasta with arrabiata sauce from our cooking class in Rome. Allllllll those interesting flavors of gelato. Of course, pizza. More than anything, I wish I could import the amazing cured meats we had or have just one more sandwich from Lo SchiacciaVino.

While we were in Florence, we had the rare treat of meeting up with my European blogger friend Emily of Inside the Rustic Kitchen (an amazing go-to recipe blog for all things Italian!).

Caroline and Emily in Florence, Italy

We both happened to bring each other identical gifts – cookies local to the cities we lived in. I brought her benne wafers (small, crunchy sesame cookies) from Charleston, and she brought me a box of ricciarelli – chewy almond cookies native to Siena, Italy.

I had never had them before but my husband and I were in love with them from the first bite! It was really difficult trying to save any of the cookies for more than a couple days!

What are ricciarelli?

Ricciarelli are cookies from Siena, Italy, that have a kick-you-in-the-face almond flavor, a lovely dense chewiness, and a beautiful cracked surface. One of these cookies is just perfect alongside a hot cup of Earl Grey or, if you want to live in true Italian style, a cappuccino.

Think of ricciarelli cookies as a cousin to macarons. Technically, I believe, it is actually a type of macaroon – with two o’s – but they made me think of macarons – with one o – as I was making them.

The recipes and techniques of ricciarelli and macarons are actually very similar: In both types of cookie, you fold almond flour and sugar into whipped egg whites, and you leave the shaped cookies on the baking sheet for a while to dry out before baking in order to form a little crust on the outside.

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!

But — and this is good news — ricciarelli dough is much less fussy to make than macaron batter. 

In ricciarelli, the ratio of almond flour to egg whites is much higher than in macarons, so you get a dense, chewy almond cookie rather than a light, airy one. Because there’s so much almond flour to fold in, it’s impossible to keep much of that fluffy meringue texture. Instead of lava-like macaron batter, you end up with a sticky dough you can roll into balls with your hands.

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!

However, that hint of a crispy meringue-like exterior is still there before you hit the chewy inside. Letting the cookies rest long enough on the counter before baking is key to getting this texture!

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!

Getting perfectly crackled ricciarelli cookies

That dried-out shell on the cookie dough is also vital to getting the beautifully craggy, crackled effect on the outside as well. With ricciarelli, you roll each ball of dough in powdered sugar before baking. When it cooks, the dough on the inside expands and breaks through the dried exterior, allowing golden cracks to show through the white outside. 

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!

However, sometimes the cookies need a little help in getting the crackled effect. The first time I made these, the dough was practically drying out by the time I got them on the cookie sheet and cracked very easily on their own. The second time I made them, even though I left them on the counter for two hours instead of one, the cookies needed some assistance to get the cracked texture.

You can see the difference here – the cookies on the right didn’t have any help, while the ones on the left were pre-cracked before baking.

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!

I lightly squeezed each cookie from opposite corners until I was satisfied with the cracks I could see forming in the tops of the unbaked cookies. Then, instead of relying on the expanding dough to create the cracks, they just have to enhance the ones you already made.

I’ve demonstrated below on the baked cookies how I squeezed the unbaked dough balls to crackle the shells. Feel free to lightly press down on the tops or whatever you need to do to get those cracks started!

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!

It’s basically like when you slice the top of your bread dough before baking. If you don’t, the dough will still expand and crack, but it might not be where you want it to. (In the case of the cookies, I found without pre-cracking the dough, it will mostly crack on the bottoms of the cookies rather than the tops, which isn’t nearly as pretty)

Getting the ideal flavor and texture

I did several rounds of recipe testing to get these just right for you! The first batch was delicious but tasted too much of orange and was too sweet. (The orangey flavor was lovely, just not as close to the original super-almondy ones we had.)

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!

The second batch was much closer to the original cookies we had, but lost that hint of a meringue-like shell. Granted, I don’t remember that being present in the original cookies we had in Italy, but was a really nice attribute of the first batch of cookies I made!

I wasn’t sure why less sugar and orange zest would affect the texture, but I theorized that it was related to the humidity on the day I made the second batch. 

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!

What else could I do but test the same recipe with a third batch? This time I had our new dehumidifier on. Voila! Nice slightly crispy thin meringue-like shell, with the dense, moist, chewy interior. Perfecto!

Granted, they were still AMAZING in the second batch – just know that the humidity of your climate may affect the exact texture of your cookies. You can always leave them out longer before baking to help them out if you are in an especially humid environment!

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!

Anyway, the best thing you can do to make sure these cookies come out well is to TRY THEM. They’re very easy to make — and even with subtle variations on exactly how the surface or flavor of each batch turned out, the consensus for each and every cookie was that they were awesome.

Hands down: holy amazingness. These have become one of my favorite cookies now!

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee! Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!
Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!
4.77 from 137 votes

Ricciarelli: Chewy Italian Almond Cookies

Ricciarelli are dense, chewy Italian almond cookies originating in Siena. They are a distant, and much less fussy, Italian cousin to the French macaron — perfect with tea or coffee!
Print Recipe
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 20 cookies
Calories: 128kcal
Prep Time:30 mins
Cook Time:20 mins
Drying time:1 hr
Total Time:50 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 dash lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 cups almond flour
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp orange zest about half a large orange
  • 1 tbsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar for coating cookies

Instructions

  • Whip egg whites and lemon juice together with a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
  • Using a fine mesh sieve, sift in almond flour, 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, salt, and baking powder and fold into egg whites. I don't do it all at once but maybe in 2-3 batches. Try to keep some air in the egg whites, but at this point it will form a pretty sticky dough rather than a fluffy meringue.
  • Add orange zest, vanilla extract, and almond extract and fold in until combined.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using clean hands, roll dough into balls about 1" in diameter, then roll in powdered sugar until well coated. Shape into an oval, then arrange on baking sheet with some space between them for spreading, and flatten slightly.
  • Leave at room temperature for about an hour or until the tops have dried out and formed almost a little shell. (This may take longer in humid areas.) Pre-crack the shell by squeezing the cookies slightly from opposite corners. (Not doing this won't affect the taste, but pre-cracking them makes them much prettier if you want that beautiful white-gold contrast!)
  • While cookies are drying, preheat oven to 300 degrees. When the cookies are ready, bake for about 20 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container. These are even better the next day and are great with coffee or tea!
Tried this recipe?Mention @pinchmeimeating or tag #pinchmeimeating on Instagram!

Nutrition

Calories: 128kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 13mg | Potassium: 7mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 1mg

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347 Comments

  1. Can you please advise, are the measurements in US cups? As I’m in the UK so will need to convert to grams. Thanks

  2. Thinking of making these for Thanksgiving. I’m going to test them today. Can you please tell me about how many cookies this recipe makes?

  3. 2 stars
    I made this today & followed the recipe to a T.
    The cookie texture turned out perfect But the almond extract was so over powering.
    Your recipe said 1 TBSP of almond extract but i was wondering did you mixed & was suppose to be 1 TSP?

    1. Hi Eden, these cookies (as I had them in Italy and otherwise) are supposed to be extremely almondy! The 1 tablespoon measurement is correct for that smack-you-in-the-face almond flavor. However, if it’s too strong for your taste you’re certainly welcome to reduce the amount to 1 teaspoon and they will still be delicious!

  4. 5 stars
    I love these cookies and always buy some at my local Italian bakery. I made your recipe today. The cookies turned out great. Crisp outside, moist and chewy inside! I followed recipe exactly, but needed to bake about 5 minutes extra to get cookies golden. So glad I found your recipe. Thanks, Sherry

  5. There’s a cookie called Tara’s Mediterranean Almond cookie sold exclusively at one grocery store in my area and it consists of only almond flour, sugar, egg whites, and pistachios. The cookies look very similar to the recipe posted without the powdered sugar and some of the other ingredients. Wondering if I would be able to recreate something similar with only those ingredients and the directions posted. I don’t have a stand or hand mixer so it might be a while before I try to attempt it.

    1. It’s worth a shot! Let me tell you about the other ingredients so you can decide whether you want to leave them out or not.

      The dash of lemon juice helps stabilize the egg whites when you whip them.
      The pinch of salt enhances and balances the sweet flavor (most cookie dough recipes include a small bit of salt).
      The baking powder may be an issue if you leave it out, since it helps the cookies expand and crack.
      The orange zest, almond extract, and vanilla extract are for flavor.
      I’m not sure how the dough would turn out if you subbed granulated sugar for the powdered sugar. On an ingredient list I imagine even powdered sugar would be listed as “sugar” so you might want to still use powdered sugar in the dough, even if you don’t roll them in sugar afterwards.

      I’d recommend trying it as written too to see which version you prefer and which is closer to the cookies you’re trying to emulate! A mixer is definitely helpful for whipping egg whites but I’ve done it by hand before too. Good luck!

  6. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this recipe! My family and I love them and I make them often! I tried a new variation today using coconut extract. Totally different but delicious!

  7. 5 stars
    I tried these today and I love how they turned out. It’s amazing that they don’t have any butter or oil bust still have a very nice texture. Will definitely try again and double or triple the ingredients. Thanks a lot for the recipe

  8. 5 stars
    Delicious cookies! I was wondering if you have ever freezed them? I have had a request to make them for a friends birthday but I might not be in town so I was hoping I could make them beforehand.

  9. 5 stars
    I usually buy these cookies at our local Italian market for $18.90 a pound. I wanted to see if I could make them, and found your recipe. I doubled the batch with no issue and for 1/2 the cookies I made round balls, rolled in powder sugar and put a thumb print adding apricot jelly in center. I thought it would be a good touch for Easter. The last 1/2 batch I sprinkled shaved almonds over the top. These taste just like what I get from the Italian Bakery. The only thing they do different is they use a pastry bag to pipe the dough out to have nice ridges. I may try the pastry bag next time with these. Great Recipe, my husband is Italian and he loved these. Thanks!

  10. 5 stars
    My mother-in-law made these for us and they were to die for! Luckily she gave me the receipe for us to try on our own. They tasted great but ended up very hard. Could it have been an over mixing issue? Or do you think we just baked them for too long?

    1. Probably one of the two! Did you bake them longer than the 20 minutes? I do try to keep some air in the dough when I mix it. It’s not nearly as finicky as macaron batter as far as air is concerned, but I could see it would be possible to overmix it.

  11. These are soooo yummy.

    Have tried a few versions and made some substitutions based on what I have. All work!

    I will say using icing sugar to do the final coat means you don’t need drying out time. It has cornstarch so probably pulls all the moisture out?

    Thanks for sharing this!!

    1. Icing sugar is just another name for powdered sugar, which is already what’s called for in the recipe. Depending on where you live and how humid it is that day, it can take a longer or shorter amount of time to dry out! Even here in notoriously humid Charleston there have been some days where they’re dried out enough by the time I finish rolling the cookies, and other days it can take a couple hours!

    1. Hi. Anastasia! So sorry your cookies burned. Just to clarify, was your 300 degrees in Fahrenheit? (about 150 degrees Celsius) If you did set your oven for 300 degrees Fahrenheit and they burned after only 15 minutes, I would suggest checking the calibration of your oven with something like this oven thermometer (affiliate link) because it would seem your oven is running much too hot. Hope this helps!

  12. 5 stars
    This is my third time making them so I figured I should drop a rating! These are now my favorite cookies to bake (and eat). I recommend using amaretto in place of almond extract!

  13. 5 stars
    Ermergerd these are delicious!!! Made three times the amount and ended up only using 2/3 the total sugar and they still turned out incredible!

  14. 5 stars
    Once I converted the measurements into UK measurements that is! We don’t really use the cups system, even though it seems very good and practical.
    If any other Brits are interested I’ve found these ratios work perfectly:
    200g almond flour
    200g icing sugar + 30g for coating
    Then all the other measurements stand.
    Set oven to 150 degrees Celsius or 130 Celsius for fan oven.

    Hope that’s helpful!

    1. Thanks Katherine! Re-testing these cookies with metric measurements and adding them to the recipe card is on my to-do list but thank you for providing your conversions in the meantime!

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