Grandma’s Italian Pignoli Cookies

Vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies by Pasta-based. A stack of pignoli cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar. Text reads: Grandma's Pignoli Cookies. 100% Vegan.

I’m heading back to my hometown in a few days to visit family for Christmas. I can’t wait! I mean, is there anything better than visiting Grandma on Christmas? In honor of the season, I’m sharing with you a traditional Italian Pignoli Cookie recipe from my Grandma (veganized, of course).

Vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies by Pasta-based. An overhead shot of the baking sheet with the pignoli cookies lined up and deliciously baked.

Ever since I can remember, my Grandma has been making these pignoli cookies. She makes huge batches and keeps them in her freezer. Then, whenever we come over for a family dinner, she’ll defrost a few and throw them on top of a beautiful Italian cookie platter filled with all sorts of deliciousness.

Vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies by Pasta-based. Diptych of a glass bowl of almond paste on the left side and a hand-mixer beating creamy cookie dough in a white bowl on the right side.

They are seriously one of those most delicious cookies ever. The first time Matt tried them, he was totally hooked. If you’re from New York, you knooooow all about the Italian bakeries where you order cookies BY THE POUND, wrapped in a white cardboard box and tied with red candy-striped twine. That’s something I miss about living back there, although Colorado has it’s own perks that I love too.

Vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies by Pasta-based. Diptych image of how to add pignoli nuts to the cookie dough. On the left, someone is smushing the cookie dough into a shallow bowl filled with pignoli nuts. On the right, the dough is being held up showing that the pignoli nuts are stuck on the cookie.

The original recipe calls for egg-whites – in fact, there is no butter or flour involved in the classic cookie recipe – and I did try baking this recipe using aquafaba as a replacement. However, the cookies didn’t turn out too well when I did that. They actually just made a huge mess! They needed some substance to them, some flour, and some butter to keep it chewy.

Vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies by Pasta-based. Someone is gently breaking a chewy, soft cookie in half.

I used Earth Balance buttery sticks and I would recommend that, when buying Earth Balance, always buy the soy-free sticks because some people notice a funky taste when they use the regular sticks due to the flax oil. Just a pro-tip, but if all you have is regular buttery sticks then it will be okay!

Vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies by Pasta-based. Someone took a bite out of the moist, chewy cookie and is showing the detail of how soft and fluffy the cookie is.

I hope you like these traditional pignoli cookies! If you make this recipe, take a photo tag us on Instagram @pastabased or leave a comment below!

4.45 from 9 votes
Vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies by Pasta-based. Someone is picking up a cookie from the tray.
Vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
30 mins

A vegan remix of the chewy, soft, classic Italian holiday pignoli cookie. Made with almond paste and studded with mild pine nuts (also called pignoli).

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian, Vegan
Servings: 24 cookies
Author: Pasta-based
To make vegan almond paste (makes 8 ounces):
  • 1 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • pinch of salt
To make vegan pignoli cookies (makes 24 cookies):
  • 8 ounces almond paste
  • 1/2 cup earth balance buttery sticks* (softened at room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup pignoli (pine) nuts
To make the almond paste:
  1. Add slivered almonds to a food processor and pulse to make a fine almond meal. 

  2. Add powdered sugar, water, almond extract, and salt and continue to pulse until a sticky dough forms.

To make pignoli cookies:
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. In a large bowl, beat almond paste, butter, sugar and almond extract with a hand-mixer until creamy.

  3. Sift all-purpose flour and baking powder into bowl. Using a spoon, mix to combine until a smooth cookie dough forms. 

  4. Pour pine nuts into a shallow bowl or dish. Roll a tablespoon-sized piece of dough into a ball.

  5. Gently push the dough ball into the pine nuts, smushing to flatten a little bit and letting the nuts stick to the top of the dough.

  6. Place dough on a prepared baking sheet, nut-side up. Bake at 325°F for 20 minutes. Let cool.

Recipe Notes

*If you can find the soy-free earth balance buttery sticks, get those instead of the original. Some people have found that the flax oil in the original recipe has a funky taste.

December 15, 2017
December 22, 2017



  1. Reply


    December 22, 2017

    Holy, these look incredible! Italians sure know how to make their cookies (and you sure know how to veganize.) I love soft cookies and also love that there’s pine nuts in them!! So cool.

  2. Reply

    Paul Eyers

    December 28, 2017

    These look amazing, I think I could just eat the almond paste by the spoonful!

    Will try and make these for sure…

  3. Reply

    Linda from Veganosity

    January 2, 2018

    Pine nuts are one of my favorite ingredients and these cookies sound amazing! Id make them all year round, no need to save them for Christmas. 🙂

  4. Reply


    January 3, 2018

    They are sooo beautiful! And I totally agree with the above, wouldn’t wait until Christmas to make them, they would be perfect for any day! Gorgeous photos!

  5. Reply

    Gina Marie

    January 3, 2018

    I want to try these do they freeze well?
    I will end up eating all of them LOL or do you think I can cut the recipe in half? I know baking is very technical so I don’t want to mess it up

    • Reply


      January 3, 2018

      Hi Gina, freezing the cookies should be fine!

  6. Reply


    September 2, 2018

    Hi, thank you for sharing this: ) have you tried freezing these? I have a weddings I need to make 150 of them I don’t want to risk a chance if They don’t freeze well.


    • Reply


      September 8, 2018

      I haven’t tried freezing them before, sorry!

  7. Reply


    December 2, 2018

    Hey! Would Miyokos butter work in this recipe as well? I really want to make these for our family holiday party 🙂

    • Reply


      December 14, 2018

      I’ve been meaning to try it with the Miyokos butter instead but I’m sorry, I just don’t know! Please let me know if you try it and how it turns out.

  8. Reply


    January 25, 2019

    These look amazing! They’re now on my list as I’m really intrigued by the flavour of these. Could I add some orange zest or spices do you think? ?

    • Reply


      February 2, 2019

      I think orange or lemon zest would be amazing in these.

  9. Reply


    July 11, 2019

    Where can I get egg free almond paste? Any brand suggestions?

    • Reply


      July 15, 2019

      I’m sorry, I’m not sure where to find it. That’s why I ended up making my own 🙂