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


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 tablePinon 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 oneItalian 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 platepinon 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).

Pignoli Cookie Recipe

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 processoralmond 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 processoralmond 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 whitesalmond 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 traypine 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 rackpine 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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Servings: 30 cookies

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  • 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.

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.

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

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

Italian Pignoli CookiesItalian Pignoli Cookies

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