Reader’s Recipes: Italian Christmas Cookies

Reader's Recipes: Italian Cookies

Reader’s Recipes: Italian Christmas Cookies ~ these classic holiday cookies have a soft texture, a buttery flavor, and lots of festive frosting on top!

A platter of Italian Holiday Cookiesrecipe box Welcome to my Reader’s Recipes series of holiday cookies. I’m going to be sharing YOUR family recipes here every Saturday from now until the New Year. Thanks to all of you who’ve sent in recipes for me to try!


This recipe was sent in by Susan, who lives in southern Maine. According to Susan, her aunt brought these festive Italian anise cookies to Christmas every year and the tradition took hold. Her mother in law also made them, but preferred a lemon flavor. Susan’s aunt was actually Scottish, or Irish, depending on who you talked to, and while her mother-in-law claimed to be Italian, she had a Polish maiden name…so…like with so many family recipes, the origins of this one are little vague. But, more to the point, these cookies are classic  holiday treats, the kind that make everybody’s eyes light up!

Reader's Recipes: Italian Cookies with frosting and sprinkles!

Traditionally these Italian Christmas cookies are made with anise extract. It comes from the seeds of a Mediterranean plant, and has a mild licorice flavor. It gives these cookies an old world flavor, and Italian anise, or anisette cookies are a staple of so many people’s holidays, whether they claim Italian heritage or not. Over the years Susan’s family came to prefer a lemon flavor, and I actually chose to use almond extract in both the cookie and the frosting because I love it, and didn’t have any anise around. Both lemon and almond are also traditional, so you’re good with whatever you prefer.

Reader's Recipes: Italian Anise Cookies fresh out of the oven

These cookies come together easily in one bowl. They’re a little unusual because they’re made with oil rather than butter or shortening.. Eggs and lots of baking powder give them a light cakey texture. They come out of the oven in perfect mounds ready for decorating.

Reader's Recipes: Italian Christmas Cookies recipe

So I have to confess, even bloggers misread recipes sometimes, and I misread the frosting portion of Susan’s instructions. I didn’t notice that it was supposed to be a ‘drizzle’ of frosting. Could have been a Freudian slip, as I do love frosting. As you can see, I made extra and loaded it on. Now that I think about it, the drizzle would be really pretty, and more authentic — an excuse to make another batch, I guess!

Frosted Italian Christmas Cookies recipe

These cookies are soft, with a nice, pillowy texture. The flavoring, whichever one you choose, comes through nice and clear, and the sprinkles or colored sugar adds a final touch of crunch to every bite. They are wonderful, and I highly recommend them.

Reader's Recipes: Italian Cookies with frosting and sprinkles

Thanks Susan for sending us the recipe!


Reader's Recipes: Italian Cookies
3.33 from 49 votes

Reader’s Recipes: Susan’s Italian Cookies

Author Sue Moran



  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon or anise extract
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cups flour


  • 3 Tbsp butter melted and cooled
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • approximately 1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • milk as needed
  • colored sprinkles and or colored sugar


  • Set oven to 350F
  • Beat together the eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, and lemon or anise extract.
  • Mix in the baking powder, salt, and flour until well combined.
  • Roll dough into 1" balls and place about 2 inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheets.
  • Bake 9 - 11 minutes (cookies should not brown).
  • Place on wire rack to cool. Then frost and decorate as described below.
  • To make the frosting, whisk together the butter and vanilla and then whisk in enough confectioners sugar to make a frosting. Add about a tablespoon of milk at a time until you get a drizzling consistency.
  • Liberally drizzle over cookies and immediately sprinkle with colored sugar or sprinkles. Leave until frosting sets.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.



  • I suggest making the cookies as Susan says, with a drizzle of frosting. But if you want to make them like I did, you’ll need at least a double batch of the frosting recipe, and just add enough milk to make a spreadable consistency.
  • If you’d like to make these ahead, freeze the plain baked cookies and frost them when ready to serve.
  • If you want to make the authentic Italian cookie, you can find anise extract HERE.


Don’t forget to pin these Italian Christmas Cookies!

Reader’s Recipes: Italian Christmas Cookies pin.



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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    5 stars
    Love your recipe. I use Anise oil instead of extract. The oil is very strong so 1/4 teaspoon for every teaspoon of extract basically. Love your blog, as I happen to cruise cookies for a fundraiser my kids will host for a sick friend.


  • Reply
    March 16, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    Love these little morsels…so colorful. Love anise flavored cookies!

  • Reply
    Natasha polchlopek
    December 19, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    I’m baking these now and they’re beautiful!! So good.

    • Reply
      December 19, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      Enjoy Natasha — I’ll have to do this Reader’s Recipe series again next year, it was such fun!

  • Reply
    GiGi Eats
    October 22, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    GAH! sprinkles turn my taste buds on SOOOOOOOO much!

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    October 20, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    Such pretty cookies and I love that you piled on the frosting! 😉

  • Reply
    Teresa Maloof
    October 19, 2015 at 5:16 am

    You posted a recipe for 3 ingredient candy about 2 weeks ago I deleted it in error the recipe has white chocolate would love the recipe. Thanks enjoy your recipes

  • Reply
    Vicki Bensinger
    October 18, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    What a fun idea Sue. I’ll try to send a recipe over as well.

    These Italian cookies sound tasty and they’re so pretty. I’m sure my crew would love these.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    I love these cookies – they’ll be perfect for my niece’s birthday party in a few weeks… She absolutely adores lemon, frosting and sprinkles (just like her auntie!), so these are going to be a hit! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Reply
      October 18, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      If I were to make these lemon flavored, I would use fresh lemon juice in the frosting, Michele!

  • Reply
    [email protected]'s+Recipes
    October 18, 2015 at 7:41 am

    These cookies look excellent and the colourful sprinkles make me happy :-))

    • Reply
      October 18, 2015 at 10:48 am

      Me too Angie — I guess we’re kids at heart 🙂

  • Reply
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    October 18, 2015 at 2:29 am

    Hehe as a frosting fan I think I may have misread it similarly! 😛 These are gorgeous Sue!!

  • Reply
    October 17, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Hi Sue, my mother-in-law bakes with anise quite often. I think using almond extract is a nice touch. Love how colorful and festive these look, perfect for the holidays.

  • Reply
    Abbe @ This is How I Cook
    October 17, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    What a great recipe. I actually bought anise extract because I saw a licorice recipe I wanted to try! Now I have a few reasons to use it. What pretty cookies. Thanks to both of you!

  • Reply
    October 17, 2015 at 11:33 am

    I grew up eating these cookies every Christmas. When I make them, I make the cookies with vanilla extract and the icing in 3 batches: one vanilla, one anise (I actually use Sambuca), and one with either lemon or orange extract. I keep them in separate, labeled containers. Don’t keep them too long because the sprinkles tend to run.

    My favorite? Anise cookie with anise icing!

    • Reply
      October 17, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      I really have to try the double anise version, I think it’s one of the those flavors that takes getting used to, but once you give it a try, it can be really addictive! Thanks for the tips Louise 🙂

      • Reply
        Katheryn Butts
        March 16, 2016 at 6:12 pm

        I make them double anise as well. My family is from Trentino in Italy and this is a Christmas tradition for us as well. My great-grandmother taught me to make them. And we totally pike on the frosting.

  • Reply
    2 sisters recipes
    October 17, 2015 at 11:24 am

    What a wonderful idea Sue! These Italian cookies are our favorite ! And love Lemon flavor! We look forward to submitting a recipe as well!
    Xo Anna and Liz

    • Reply
      October 17, 2015 at 12:26 pm

      I can’t wait to see your recipe ladies!

  • Reply
    October 17, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Please send a recipe for chocolate chip pumpkin blondies to me

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    October 17, 2015 at 5:51 am

    These look like they have the perfect texture and so pretty! Love the colorful sprinkles. I’ve always wanted to try a good Italian cookie – thanks Susan and Sue!

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