Authentic Italian almond paste cookies with lemon are perfect with tea or coffee. These soft amaretti style almond cookies are easy, gluten free, and delicious!
paste di mandorla ~ Sicilian almond paste cookies are naturally gluten free and dairy free
There’s no butter or oil in the recipe either! These adorable little almond paste cookies are crisp on the outside and soft and chewy inside, just like a soft amaretti cookie with a lemony kick. The lemon and almond play off each other in a powerful way in these treats ~ it’s a brand new (to me) flavor combination. But the texture might be the headline maker here, it’s deliriously delightful 🙂
paste di mandorla translates to ‘almond paste‘
Almond paste is made from almonds and sugar, ground together with a little egg white as binder to form a coarse paste. It’s used in Europe and Scandinavia as a filling for various baked goods and pastries. You can buy it in jars and tubes in the baking section, but I love to make my own homemade almond paste.
These cookies are made with an almond paste like dough that’s rolled into balls, coated in powdered sugar, and baked. They form little crackles on the surface which are so tempting because you can get a glimpse of the soft almond center before you even take a bite. Almond is one of my absolute favorite flavors (along with lemon!) so these cookies couldn’t be more appealing to me. If you love almonds, almond paste, and almond extract, you will flip for them.
more almond recipes from the archives
- Almond Fig Cake
- Raspberry Almond Puff Pastry Danish
- toasted almond pavlova with summer berries
- Almond Pear Tart
- Raspberry Almond Bars
- Norwegian Rhubarb and Almond Cake
- Easy Almond Macaroon Cake (gluten free!)
a simple ingredient list
The minimal ingredient list makes these cookies very convenient to make, even on short notice. If you get a last minute invitation to dinner, you know what to bring!
- almond flour
- almond flour or meal is simply finely ground almonds. The almonds are blanched to remove the skins first and then finely ground. Almond flour tends to be finer and softer than almond meal, but both will work (I use Bob’s Red Mill almond flour.) Almond flour, like all nut flours, can spoil once opened, so store any leftovers in the fridge or even freezer.
- sugar, both granulated and confectioner’s
- granulated sugar sweetens the cookie and powdered sugar is used to coat the cookies before baking.
- lemon zest
- citrus fruit is a big part of Sicilian cuisine, lemons and oranges feature prominently in all kinds of recipes. I combine the zest with the sugar in the food processor ~ this lemon sugar is amazingly fragrant and ensures a strong lemon flavor in the cookies. Try orange zest for a change during the holidays.
- egg whites
- this recipe is so easy, just whisk the egg whites until nice and foamy, no need to haul out the electric beaters.
- almond extract
- don’t leave it out, it’s key to this recipe. One of my favorite things about these cookies is the combination of almond and lemon ~ it’s unexpected and really good.
how to make almond paste cookies
- First I make my famous lemon sugar with the sugar and lemon zest. Process your granulated sugar and lemon zest together in a food processor. The zest will fuse with the sugar to make the most incredibly fragrant lemon sugar. Note: if you don’t have a food processor you can omit this step and add the zest to the batter separately.
- Whisk egg whites until foamy.
- Blend in almond extract, lemon sugar, and almond flour until the dough is well combined. No need to worry about over mixing because there is no gluten in this recipe.
- Form into small balls and coat in powdered sugar. Flatten slightly with the back of a knife or spatula.
This type of nut based cookie rolled in powdered sugar before or after baking is popular in so many different cuisines…think Russian Tea Cookies, Swedish Cardamom Walnut Crescent Cookies, or Mexican wedding cookies. These cookies are especially tempting because of the way the cracks form across the surface, giving you a peek into the soft lemony centers.
why we LOVE these almond cookies
This is a VERY EASY recipe, which is always a bonus. Next to my flourless peanut butter cookies, it’s one of the easiest on the site 🙂
The flavor is outstanding and a little different from most cookies.
The texture is crisp on the outside with a soft inside so you can really appreciate the almond paste experience.
They are gluten and dairy free making them a good choice for giving and sharing.
They’re sturdy and travel well, so consider them the perfect holiday or care package cookie.
love these cookies? I bet you’ll also love
- Copycat Crumbl Banana Bread Cookies
- Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
- Coconut Snowball Cookies
- Reader’s Recipes: Italian Christmas Cookies
- Chocolate Dipped Orange Shortbread Cookies
- Soft Molasses Sandwich Cookies
- Scandinavian Almond Bars
Paste di Mandorla ~ Sicilian Almond Paste Cookies
for the cookies
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- zest of 1 lemon Note: peel the lemon zest with a serrated vegetable peeler ~ you want only the yellow part, try to avoid getting the bitter white 'pith'.)
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 2 1/2 cups almond meal or almond flour
for the coating
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- To make the lemon sugar put the granulated sugar with the lemon zest into a food processor and pulse/process for about a minute until the zest is fully incorporated and the sugar is moist, pale yellow, and super fragrant. Note: If you do not have a food processor you can skip this step and just whisk the zest and sugar together.
- In a mixing bowl whisk the egg whites until foamy. Whisk in the almond extract.
- Add the lemon sugar and almond flour to the bowl and mix thoroughly. It will seem dry at first, but keep mixing until you get a moist dough with everything evenly incorporated. Don't worry about over mixing, there is no gluten in this dough so your cookies will not get tough.
- Using a tablespoon or small scoop, form into small balls and coat in powdered sugar. Make sure the balls are thoroughly coated with the sugar, then place on your prepared baking sheets. Flatten slightly with the back of a knife or spatula. It's ok if they start to crack along the sides.
- Bake for 15 minutes. The cookies will not look very different, but they will have puffed slightly and formed a few more cracks. Do not over bake.
- Let cookies sit on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.