Pignoli Cookies (Pine Nut Cookies)

by Dorothy Reinhold on December 5, 2011

Print This Post Print This Post Pignoli Cookies

Crunchy, chewy, sweet and nutty, these are an almond-lover’s dream.

That would be me — the almond lover. I believe most things can be improved with the judicious application of almond extract. Pine nuts are close behind. Need to dress something up? Fling some toasted pine nuts at it, for crunch and flavor.

So Pignoli Cookies featuring a half pound of pungent almond paste AND pine nuts? My idea of heaven!

Karen making steamed clams and linguine for her Christmas Eve Italian menu a few years ago. She’s wearing her “utterly embarrassing but beloved yucky green smock with pink elephants on it. I have no idea where my mother got it but I’m sure it was hers at some point. When I put that on, everyone knows I’m doing some serious cooking!”

This recipe comes from business writer Karen E. Klein, a former work colleague from my early newspaper era, who married a newspaperman I later worked with at a different paper.

But never mind how I know her, though…the important thing is she’s a great cook!

She found the recipe online after sifting through a bunch of recipes. She makes them for Christmas cookie platters, and because they are her husband’s favorite type of cookie.

“He likes the ones you can get at Italian bakeries, but I never liked those because I find them very dry. When his relatives brought a whole suitcase full of home-baked Italian cookies (probably 12 or 14 different kinds) to a family wedding, I was hooked and wanted to try making my own. Those cookies were to die for! Of course those ladies never share their family-secret recipes so I just looked online.

“I loved them because I adore almond flavor and I found these sweet and chewy, not at all dry like the bakery kind. I got the almond paste at Claro’s Italian market in San Gabriel (Calif.).”

Ah yes, Claro’s. I know it well. There’s a Claro’s outpost in Upland (Calif.) that I frequent when I am visiting my mother; it’s a chain of Italian markets throughout the San GabrielValley.

Karen’s advises that although these cookies are yummy, they can be temperamental. To wit, she has advice you must heed:

  • Chill the batter
  • Use quick-release foil or else they are very hard to work with and they stick badly when you try to get them off after baking.

Platter of pignoli cookies

Recipe: Pignoli Cookies (Pine Nut Cookies)

Summary: Crunchy, chewy, sweet and nutty, these Pine Nut Cookies are an almond-lover’s dream, and a great companion on a Christmas cookie plate. 

Pignoli aerial single cookieIngredients

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 pound almond paste (NOT marzipan or almond cake filling)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg whites


  1. Toast pine nuts briefly to bring out flavor. You can do this easily in a dry small skillet, stirring frequently over low heat.
  2. Break up almond paste in a food processor until granular. Gradually add sugar while processing.
  3. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites gently into almond/sugar mixture.
  4. Chill dough to make it easier to handle.
  5. While dough is chilling, prepare a no-sided cookie sheet by lining it with quick-release foil. If you don’t have that, you may use regular foil or parchment paper, lightly misted with nonstick spray.
  6. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet. Press pine nuts into tops of cookies.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes before removing from foil and placing on a rack to cool completely. They will keep several days in an air-tight container. That’s if you can stay away from them.
  8. Makes 30 cookies.

Quick notes

Be sure to use almond paste, not marzipan or almond filling.

Use all the pine nuts, distributed among all 30 cookies.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 30
Culinary tradition: Italian
My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Pignoli cookie closeup

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

March January 25, 2019 at 1:26 am

First recipe I tried for this type of cookie, I rarely bake. The directions were easy, I found parchment paper worked much better than silpat. It also took a few extra minutes in the oven than specified, but they came out perfect and tasted great!


Dorothy Reinhold January 28, 2019 at 10:44 am

I am so glad they worked for you and you like them!
Thanks for letting me know!


Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence December 12, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Loving the flavors here! And the simple ingredient list.


Kristen December 12, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Those sound amazing! I was so surprised looking at them and then reading the ingredient list that there was no flour in them.


Michelle @ The Complete Savorist December 12, 2014 at 10:45 am

Delicious. So crisp looking. I am an avid cookie lover (but not maker) and I love chew and soft, to cracker-like crispy. I have never heard of this type of cookie before, but now I must try it.


Dorothy Reinhold December 12, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I adored them! But I am a big almond fan, and big pine nut fan.


Laura December 12, 2014 at 10:40 am

These look great! I too dislike the bakery versions because they can be so drying and lacking in flavor. I can’t wait to try out this recipe!


fabiola@notjustbaked December 12, 2014 at 10:16 am

I have a slight obsession with pine nuts. But truth is, I rarely eat them, and I have never made cookies with them! This must change now, these look delicious!


Dorothy Reinhold December 12, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Oh yeah, you MUST MUST!


Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts December 12, 2014 at 10:14 am

What a great cookie!! Love the use of pine nuts!


Renee - Kudos Kitchen December 12, 2014 at 6:05 am

Pine nuts are so rich and buttery. I’m going to try this recipe ASAP.
Thanks for sharing.


Elizabeth Andersen November 28, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Awesome cookies! Easy, taste like they took more time than they did! Served w vanilla gelato, for the richest bday desert. Thank you!


Dorothy Reinhold November 28, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Mmmmm…with vanilla gelato. PERFECT! Thanks for coming back and telling me your results!


Peas December 5, 2011 at 4:32 pm

I also LOVE almonds and pine nuts! I am SO looking forward to trying this recipe. I am wondering though, do you think I could use almond meal for this recipe? Can’t find almond paste anywhere. Thanks for the recipe!


Dorothy December 6, 2011 at 12:35 pm

No, it wouldn’t be a straight substitution. I looked on the Mandelin Almond paste container that I have, and it also has sugar, water and oil of bitter almond. I have seen make-your-own almond paste recipes that have almonds, powdered sugar, egg whites and almond extract. Another recipe has no eggs, and uses a boiled sugar method. Wikipedia notes that almond paste is made from ground almonds, sugar, cooking oil, eggs, heavy cream or corn syrup. Why don’t you try making it yourself if you can’t buy it? Good luck, and let me know how it turns out for you!


Peas December 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Yes I thought the two must be different, I thought maybe if the almonds were ground fine enough they would form a paste with their own oils, but it’s good to know they are different things. I will try making my own! Thanks so much for that!


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