plate of Italian almond cookies on a white platter top view.
Home » Italian Recipes » Ricciarelli – Italian Almond Cookies from Siena (Naturally Gluten-free)

Ricciarelli – Italian Almond Cookies from Siena (Naturally Gluten-free)

Last updated on February 27th, 2024

Are you gluten-free and looking for a super easy cookie recipe to make for the holidays (or anytime of the year for that matter)? 

Even if you aren’t gluten-free, you should read on and learn how to make ricciarelli (also known as Italian almond cookies), Italy’s most beloved almond cookie. Ricciarelli cookies are a snap to whip up and satisfy the sweetest of sweet tooths. 

These macaroon-like Italian almond cookies are chewy and sweet with a crust of powdered sugar, perfectly paired with a cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon. 

This year, add these Italian almond cookies to your bake list and you can be sure that you will be making them all-year round from that point on!

Keep In Mind: Ricciarelli (Italian almond cookies) have a rest period of 12 hours before baking so plan accordingly!

Ricciarelli Pronunciation

Close up of a hand holding a cross-section of an Italian almond cookie (ricciarelli) with other finished ricciarelli in the background.

Ricciarelli is pronounced rich-chah-rehl-lee in Italian

Listen to the pronunciation of ricciarelli:

What Are Ricciarelli (Italian Almond Cookies)?  

Close up of food processor from above.  It has ground almond flour inside.
Homemade ground almond flour

Ricciarelli are gluten-free Italian almond cookies from Siena, most typically served during Christmas time. They are made from almond flour, egg whites, sugar, and flavored with orange zest. 

Nowadays, you can find them year round (even outside of Siena) but the best ones are made during the Christmas holiday in Siena. 

Fact: Ricciarelli are naturally gluten-free cookies.

Good To Know: Ricciarelli stay fresh for up to 1 month, making them a great cookie to give as a gift during the holidays!

Where to Buy Ricciarelli in Siena

Ricciarelli dough being sliced on a wooden cutting board.  You can see some flour sprinkled on the surface of the board.

If you are traveling to Siena and would like to taste the very best of the best than check out our two favorite locations:

  1. Nannini – Via Banchi di Sopra, 24, 53100 Siena – a historic bar and cafe in the city center that won’t disappoint
  2. Panificio Il Magnifico – Via Pellegrini 27, 53100, Siena – not only a great bakery for riccarelli but for all senese treats such as panforte

Good To Know: Ricciarelli make great souvenirs or gifts because they pack well and last longer than other varieties of cookies. Buy them in a tin if you can for better travel. 

Ricciarelli (Italian Almond Cookies) Ingredients

Ricciarelli (Italian almond cookies) on a lined baking sheet ready to be baked
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature (not large, just regular eggs)
  • 1 drop lemon juice
  • 1 ½ cups sugar (150 grams) powdered sugar, + ½-1 cup for dusting
  • 2 cups + 1 tablespoon (200 grams) almond flour or whole blanched almonds (skins removed), ground finely into flour.
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • pinch of salt
  • rice flour

Step-By-Step Instructions for Making Ricciarelli

Finished ricciarelli (Italian almond cookies) resting on a baking sheet
  1. Whisk the egg whites with just a drop of lemon juice until foamy, a minute or two. 
  2. Add the powdered sugar, almond flour, extracts and orange zest and mix well until the dough comes together. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 12 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 320°F (160°C). Meanwhile, lightly dust your work surface with powdered sugar. Roll the dough into a log, about 1 inch in diameter. If the dough is too sticky to handle, ddd a touch of rice flour to bind things together.
  4. Slice even rounds, about 20-25. 
  5. Shape the dough with your hands into an oval shape, with slightly pointed ends, about  ⅓ inch (1 cm) thick. Place the cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, spaced about 1.5 inches (4 cm) apart. If the dough is sticking, lightly wet your hands.
  6. Lightly wet your hands with water and ever so lightly pat each cookie. Gently roll the shaped cooking in the remaining powdered sugar (or sift it directly onto the cookies already placed on the baking sheet) and return to the baking sheet or generously sift the powdered sugar directly on top of the cookies. 
  7. Bake for about 18-20 minutes. They will still be soft and moist and seem undercooked but they will set to the correct consistency when cool. 

Ricciarelli (Italian Almond Cookies) Notes and Tips

Ricciarelli (Italian almond cookies on a plate and partial view of some on a baking sheet
  • Plan accordingly: the dough needs to rest at least 12 hours in the fridge before being shaped into cookies and baked.
  • The size of the eggs with determine how sticky the dough is. If you find it’s too sticky to handle, the egg whites may have been a little big. Add a touch of rice flour to bind things together.
  • This dough is sticky. It may be hard to work with. Wet your hands to prevent it from sticking when shaping the cookies.
  • Use an oven thermometer to ensure your oven temperature is accurate
  • I highly recommend when baking to measure ingredients with a scale for even more accurately baked goods, including these cookies.
  • These cookies get better as they age so plan on making them the day before you are ready to serve them. 
  • Ricciarelli (Italian almond cookies) keep very well, for up to 1 month in an airtight container, making ideal holiday gifts!
close up of Italian almond cookies (ricciarelli)
plate of Italian almond cookies on a white platter top view.

Ricciarelli – Italian Almond Cookies (Gluten-Free)

A simple recipe for one of Italy's best cookies, straight from Siena.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Resting time 12 hours
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 20 cookies

Ingredients
  

  • 2 egg whites (not large or extra large – just regular) room temperature
  • 1 drop lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (150 g), plus ½ to 1 cup for dusting
  • 2 cups + 1 tbsp almond flour or whole blanched almonds (skins removed), ground finely (200g total)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • pinch of salt
  • rice flour

Instructions
 

  • Whisk the egg whites with just a drop of lemon juice until foamy, a minute or two.
  • Add the powdered sugar, almond flour, extracts and orange zest and mix well until the dough comes together. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 12 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 320°F (160°C). Meanwhile, lightly dust your work surface with powdered sugar. Roll the dough into a log, about 1 inch in diameter. If you find the dough is too sticky to handle, the egg whites may have been a little big. Add a touch of rice flour to bind things together.
  • Slice even rounds, about 20-25.
  • Shape the dough with your hands into an oval shape, with slightly pointed ends, about ⅓ inch (1 cm) thick. If the dough is sticking, slightly wet your hands. Place the cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, spaced about 1.5 inches (4 cm) apart.
  • Lightly wet your hands with water and ever so lightly pat each cookie. Gently roll the shaped cooking in the remaining powdered sugar (or sift it directly onto the cookies already placed on the baking sheet) and return to the baking sheet or generously sift the powdered sugar directly on top of the cookies. 
  • Bake for about 18-20 minutes. They will still be soft and moist and seem undercooked but they will set to the correct consistency when cool.

Notes

  • Plan accordingly: the dough needs to rest at least 12 hours in the fridge before being shaped into cookies and baked.
  • The size of the eggs with determine how sticky the dough is. If you find it’s too sticky to handle, the egg whites may have been a little big. Add a touch of rice flour to bind things together.
    This dough is sticky. It may be hard to work with. Wet your hands to prevent it from sticking when shaping the cookies.
  • Use an oven thermometer to ensure your oven temperature is accurate
  • I highly recommend when baking to measure ingredients with a scale for even more accurately baked goods, including these cookies.
  • These cookies get better as they age so plan on making them the day before you are ready to serve them.
  • Ricciarelli keep very well, for up to 1 month in an airtight container, making ideal holiday gifts!
Keyword Christmas, easy, gluten-free
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Ricciarelli (Italian Almond Cookies) FAQ

How do I store ricciarelli?

Keep ricciarelli in an airtight container for up to 1 month. They are even better as they age.

How long do ricciarelli last for?

Ricciarelli last for about 1 month in an airtight container.

Are ricciarelli gluten-free?

Yes, ricciarelli are a gluten-free Italian almond cookie from Siena.

Where are ricciarelli from?

Ricciarelli originated in Siena, where you should go to sample the best ones.

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