Grandma’s Vegan 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 vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies recipe that I adapted from my Grandma’s traditional recipe.

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.

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.

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.

Finding the right recipe for vegan Italian pignoli cookies:

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.

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!

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 vegan Italian pignoli cookies! If you make this recipe, take a photo tag us on Instagram @pastabased or leave a comment below!

If you like these vegan Italian pignoli cookies, try these classic vegan struffoli, too!

4.04 from 30 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
Calories per Serving: 182 kcal
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.

Nutrition Facts
Vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies
Amount Per Serving (1 cookie)
Calories 182 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 34mg1%
Potassium 90mg3%
Carbohydrates 19g6%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 12g13%
Protein 2g4%
Calcium 32mg3%
Iron 0.7mg4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

December 15, 2017
December 22, 2017



  1. Reply


    December 22, 2017

    5 stars
    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

    5 stars
    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

    5 stars
    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

    5 stars
    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

    5 stars
    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 🙂

  10. Reply


    December 21, 2019

    5 stars
    So! I used Miyoko’s butter for this recipe (and accidentally used regular flaked almonds instead of blanched slivered. Not sure if that significantly affected the recipe or not). The dough was lovely, if a bit crumbly, but these leavened WAY more in the oven than I thought they would! No trouble getting them to come apart–didn’t even need to wedge something between them to separate, oddly–but they were much flatter and crispier than I thought they’d be. Not that that’s a bad thing per se, they still taste delicious, but I’m pretty sure these were supposed to be softer and more dome-shaped. I’d definitely like to try these again with some of the Earth Balance buttery sticks, and maybe with the vegan “butter” alternatives they sell in the UK (I go to school there). Curious to see if vegan butters can really affect the bake of these cookies the way Miyoko’s seemed to.

  11. Reply


    August 8, 2020

    Hi, I wanted to make this recipe but was hoping I could sub the earth balance for solid coconut oil? Have you tried that by any chance? Please let me know! Thanks!

    • Reply


      August 18, 2020

      Hey Yasa,

      Good question – we have not tried solid coconut oil in this recipe, but I imagine it could work just as well. Since the butter is made out of oils anyway, as long as the oil is solid, I think you are good. Let us know how it goes if you try!

  12. Reply


    December 12, 2020

    5 stars
    I just made these cookies and they taste great but they completely spread out on the pan and became really thin. They are still chewy and great, but not as fluffy and dome-shaped as your pictures. I used a soy-free plant-based butter, but it wasn’t Earth Balance. Could that have been the issue? I did everything exactly as the recipe said, so I’m hoping to figure out for next time how to avoid that. Should I refrigerate the dough first? I appreciate any insight you can provide! I really love this recipe and hope to use it again!

    • Reply


      December 12, 2020

      Hi Jessica,
      Oh no, we never want that to happen! There’s many reasons that could happen with the dough, but we would try refrigerating the dough before hand like you suggested. Sometimes warm dough can cause the butter to melt and that can lead to flat cookies.

      Let us know if you try again and are successful! Thanks for trying and commenting 🙂

  13. Reply


    December 27, 2021

    5 stars
    Made these cookies for Christmas and they came out great! Family and friends loved them and couldn’t tell they were vegan.

    Instead of making my own almond paste, I just used the one from “Solo” since it’s vegan.

    I didn’t have Earth Balance’s soy-free butter sticks, so I just used their soy-free tub and the cookies still came out great.

    • Reply


      January 24, 2022

      Oh Tara, this comment makes me so happy! These cookies hold a special place in my heart, I’m so glad that they came out great for you. I’ll have to check out the “Solo” almond paste as I’ve never heard of it before – great tip!


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