Italian Ricotta Christmas Cookies

Published December 5, 2022. Updated November 29, 2023

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Italian Ricotta Christmas Cookies are soft and tender, cake-like cookies with sweet and simple icing. They have a light lemon flavor and that sink-your-teeth-in moisture, thanks to the rich ricotta. They’re holiday classics and such a fun recipe to try if you’ve never made them.

Ricotta cookies stacked in a Christmas tin.

The Best Ricotta Christmas Cookies Recipe!

Our favorite ricotta cookies! They’re easy to make and they’re always consistently delicious.

They’re so good that you can never stop at just one.

The ricotta cookie dough can be made two days in advance so it’s a great make-ahead recipe. Plus it makes a huge batch of cookies so they’re great for celebrations and gifting.

You’ll love their lightly lemony flavor, the melt-in-your-mouth texture, and that sweet and simple icing finish. And if you want a little contrast finish them with crunchy sugar sprinkles which also add a pretty and festive pop of color.

 

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Ricotta cookies with glaze on a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet.Ingredients needed to make ricotta cookies shown.

Ingredients for Ricotta Christmas Cookies

This recipe calls for basic ingredients most all of which you already have on hand. You’ll need:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Lemon
  • Ricotta – use whole milk
  • Vanilla
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk

Six photos showing how to make ricotta cookie dough. Six photos showing how to finish and shape ricotta cookie dough on baking sheet.

How to Make Ricotta Cookies

  1. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  2. In an electric stand mixer cream together butter, granulated sugar and lemon zest until pale and fluffy.
  3. Mix in ricotta and vanilla extract then blend in eggs one at a time.
  4. Mix in flour mixture.
  5. Chill dough 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Scoop chilled dough out 1 Tbsp (heaping) at a time and shape into balls, drop onto lined baking sheets.
  8. Bake in preheated oven 12 – 14 minutes until underside of cookies are golden, cool.
  9. Spread over glaze and let set.

Four photos showing how to ice ricotta cookies.

Possible Variations

  • Almond extract: Use almond extract in place of the lemon zest and juice for another flavor option. Use 1/2 tsp almond extract in the dough and 1/4 tsp in the glaze. Replace lemon juice with milk.
  • Orange: You can swap orange zest and orange juice for the lemon, and add extra zest for more orange flavor (up to 2 Tbsp).
  • Lime: Lime zest and lime juice will work well in place of lemon. Use equal amounts.
  • Chocolate chips: Add white chocolate chips to the cookie dough or mini chocolate chips.
  • Nuts: 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans can be added to the dough.

How to Store Ricotta Cookies

  • Container: Store ricotta cookies in an airtight container. If layering be sure to place parchment paper between them.
  • Fridge: These will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Freezer: Ricotta cookies can be frozen for 3 months. I do however recommend waiting to add the icing though because it does wrinkle over time.

Christmas sprinkle cookies with icing

Close up photo of Christmas cookies on a cooling rack after covering with icing.

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Ricotta cookies stacked in a Christmas tin.
4.89 from 119 votes

Italian Ricotta Cookies

Soft and fluffy, lightly lemony, melt-in-your-mouth cookies made with rich ricotta (for moisture and flavor) and finished with a sweet icing.
Servings: 60
Prep30 minutes
Cook50 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

Icing

Instructions

  • For the cookies:
  • In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt for 20 seconds, set aside. 
  • In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment whip together butter, granulated sugar and lemon zest until pale and fluffy (scrape down sides and bottom of bowl occasionally throughout entire mixing process).
  • Mix in ricotta and vanilla extract then blend in eggs one at a time. Set mixer on low speed and slowly add in flour mixture and mix just until combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill 2 hours or up to 2 days. Preheat oven to 350 degrees during last 20 minutes of dough chilling.
  • Scoop chilled dough out 1 Tbsp at a time and shape into balls (if it's too sticky just drop onto sheet using two spoons), drop onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (don't use dark baking sheets).
  • Bake in preheated oven until set, 12 - 14 minutes (bottoms will be lightly golden brown). Cool on baking sheet several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  • Once cool spoon icing over cookies and return to wire rack, immediately add sprinkles if using.
  • Allow icing to set at room temperature. Store in an airtight container preferably in a single layer and preferably store in the fridge (bring to room temperature before serving).
  • For the glaze:
  • In a mixing bowl whisk together powdered sugar, melted butter, lemon juice or almond extract, vanilla and 4 Tbsp milk until smooth.
  • Add in more milk 1 tsp at a time to thin as needed (you don't want it to be very thin, it should be quite a bit thicker than a doughnut glaze).

Notes

  • *Scoop flour directly from container using measuring cup and level top using a butter knife. Don't whisk or sift before measuring and don't spoon into a cup. The best option is to use a kitchen scale, I highly recommend investing in one if you don't already have one. I always use mine when baking.
  • **Cookies previously listed using 2 tsp baking soda, but a few have had issues with cookies rising so recipe has been improved to use baking powder instead.
  • Recipe source: adapted from New York Times
Nutrition Facts
Italian Ricotta Cookies
Amount Per Serving
Calories 125 Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Fat 4g6%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Trans Fat 0.1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 18mg6%
Sodium 41mg2%
Potassium 41mg1%
Carbohydrates 20g7%
Fiber 0.2g1%
Sugar 13g14%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 142IU3%
Vitamin C 0.2mg0%
Calcium 28mg3%
Iron 0.5mg3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.

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505 Comments

  • Tara J

    Have made these in the past and they were a hit! Everyone complimented them!

    This time dough is very sticky before going into fridge. Is this normal or does it need more flour?

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Did you use a different brand of ricotta by chance, some are runnier than others? I wouldn’t add much more flour or they could end up tasting doughy and heavy.

      • Tara J

        Thanks for the reply! Once in the ridge the stickiness was better after the dough cooled. One thing I did mess up on is my butter wasn’t super soft so it clumped up when mixing making my cookies a bit flatter I think . Will try again with really soft butter!!!

  • Kim

    Third batch is in the oven now. They’re taking 25 minutes and are still super soft. Are they normally like that? I’m making these for my mom and she likes them a little harder. (Very tasty though!!)

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      They should be quite soft because of all the ricotta. They are more of a cakey cookie.

  • AnnMarie

    I made these last year and everyone loved them!
    My question is can I make the dough in advance and freeze the uncooked dough for baking closer to Christmas?

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      I’m not sure with the ricotta how well it will thaw out for baking. It may work fine but without testing I can’t say for sure.

      • AnnMarie

        OK, I won’t take a chance. I did bake them and freeze them last year (prior to frosting) and they tasted delicious ( I even had some in the freezer for 6 months and they were perfect) Thank you!

        • Dawn E. Gamboa-Nappi

          You can make dough balls. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets. When flash frozen take out and put in ziplock. When ready take raw dough balls out of freezer. And bake accordingly

  • JoAnne Kressaty

    Baked both your lemon ricotta and almond variation recipes last Christmas. This year there have been several requests for them.
    Thank you for all your tips and insights about the different varieties. We’re fairly traditional when it comes to Italian flavors…and are super happy with the almond, lemon & orange flavors. Your recipe is a keeper!

  • Valerie Crumley

    These cookies were good and I had no problems… they didn’t flatten out like others have mentioned. I do feel like they’re missing something though, not sure what would improve them. I like how soft they are and the lemon glaze is really good. Kinda wish the cookies themself had more of a lemon taste. Recipe says that it makes 60 but I was only able to make 45 cookies. They weren’t big either… they look like the picture. Overall a good recipe that I would make again!

  • Maureen Abrams

    I think they are better when you do not chill the dough! I made 1/2 of my batch immediately and 1/2 batch after chilling overnight. The first 1/2 was way better! Perfect and fluffy! The second 1/2 where the dough was chilled took longer to cook too.

  • M riggs

    Just like my mom used to make they are light and airy like clouds with just enough Lemon. Yummy thank you!