Holy Cannoli Cookies, an easy recipe for cannoli cookies with ricotta, chocolate chips, and pistachios! Fun Italian Christmas cookies, inspired by Italian cannoli, that will make a great addition to your Christmas cookie baskets and gifts this year!
Ever have a cannoli? Growing up with an Italian American parent, we had cannoli regularly and they are one of my favorite desserts! Since we’re approaching Christmas cookie season, I thought it was about time to make some Holy Cannoli Cookies, inspired by one of my favorite Italian pastries! These Cannoli Cookies may not be an authentic Italian cookie recipe, but I love them as my own Italian Christmas cookies!
Ohhh how I love making an assortment of cookies for the holidays, don’t you? My Elvis Inspired Cookie Cups and Chocolate Turtle Cookies are always a popular choice, but thought I’d try some new flavors and cookies this year and thus these fun Holy Cannoli Cookies were born!
Although we typically just call them Cannoli Cookies. They have been super popular on my site and on Pinterest. I get so many comments and emails about these cookies year round.
These Cannoli Cookies have a cake-like texture, and no they do not taste exactly like cannoli. Nothing tastes exactly like a cannoli besides a cannoli. But they are delicious and have a lot of great flavor!
Cannoli are different to different people, so if you make substitutions or changes, you may have different results.
What is a Cannoli?
Wondering what the heck a cannoli is? Maybe we should start with that.
Cannoli are from the Sicily region of Italy but have become very Americanized. I asked a lot of my Italian American friends what kinds of cannoli they grew up with. Like pizza, everyone had their own favorites!
Cannoli are made up of a fried pastry dough tube that is generally crispy.
What’s in a cannoli? They are generally filled with sweetened ricotta cheese. Cannoli may be plain with the sweetened ricotta and no additional ingredients. Or the cannoli filling may contain such things as chocolate chips, candied fruit, citrus zest/juice, wine, pistachios (or other nuts), maraschino cherries, and/or cinnamon.
You can usually find cannoli at most Italian bakeries, specialty grocery stores, and even sometimes your neighborhood grocery store. You can even find a cannoli kit on Amazon and sometimes at local specialty grocery stores. Even our Costco carries a great cannoli kit around the holidays.
Or if you’re wondering where to buy cannoli shells so you can fill them yourself, try these different types on Amazon or your local specialty grocery stores. You can even ask the Italian bakeries to sell you just the cannoli shells so you can make your own filling of choice.
Equipment You May Need
You probably have most of these items in your kitchen, but just in case you don’t, a few suggestions to help you get started…
- Medium Cookie Scoop – I love using a medium cookie scoop to help get the same size cookie every time.
- Cookie Sheets – I can’t stress enough how good quality baking sheets can make such a difference.
- Parchment Paper – Helps for the perfect cookies and precut parchment paper makes cleanup a breeze.
- Cooling Racks – Don’t leave the cookies on the baking sheets too long or they’ll over brown on the bottom. Move them to cooling racks to finish cooling.
- Zester – An inexpensive zester for fresh orange zest will make things a lot easier.
Again, you don’t necessarily need all of that equipment. Just suggestions to make things easier.
There are many MANY varieties of Cannoli Cookies. I’m not sure I’d say any are really authentic Italian cookies (so don’t send me hate mail….) but rather a fun twist on the Italian pastry.
Like I said cannoli are different to different people. Everyone swears the cannoli near them are the ONLY authentic cannoli. I can’t even begin to tell you how many emails I get on this. Some people grow up with cannoli that is just the pastry shell and plain cannoli cream. Some people are used to cannoli with chocolate and nuts. And some swear candied fruit in the cream is the only way to go. And some swear cannoli need maraschino cherries.
So again with all that said, you can change up the flavorings a little in these cookies. Add or substitute your favorite flavorings for mix-ins for the cinnamon, vanilla, orange zest, chocolate chips, and pistachios. Just be careful because of course making changes can really change the cookies.
Cannoli Cookies Ingredients
- Butter – Unsalted. You could use salted butter, but then adjust the salt in the recipe.
- Sugar – Regular white granulated sugar.
- Eggs – Large eggs.
- Ricotta Cheese – Drain off any excess liquid, but you do not need to strain the ricotta cheese overnight unless it’s VERY watery. If it’s the consistency of say sour cream, it will be fine. I would use full-fat ricotta. Low fat might work, but I haven’t tried. Again, as long as it’s not super watery.
- Vanilla Extract – You could also use a little Fiori di Sicilia or even almond extract.
- Ground Cinnamon – Just a little ground cinnamon. If you like a lot of cinnamon, you can sure add more.
- Orange Zest – A little fresh orange zest makes such a difference. Don’t worry, it doesn’t overpower the other flavors. If you really don’t like orange, you could omit it, but I do highly recommend trying it.
- Baking Powder – To help the cookies rise.
- Baking Soda – To help the cookies rise.
- Salt – Adjust if you’re using salted butter.
- All-Purpose Flour – Regular white all-purpose flour.
- Mini Chocolate Chips – Or you could use finely chopped chocolate.
- Pistachios – I used lightly salted pistachios. If you have a nut allergy you can omit the pistachios or could use walnuts or pecans (although not traditional, still good).
How to Make Cannoli Cookies
(Full printable recipe is at bottom of the post. Be sure to check out my How to Bake Cookies that are Perfect Every Time for great cookie tips.)
- MIX. Beat together butter and sugar. Add eggs and ricotta. Then add vanilla, cinnamon, and orange zest.
- DRY INGREDIENTS. Beat in baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then flour. Stir in some of the chocolate chips, and pistachios. Chill one hour.
- PREHEAT. Preheat oven. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- DROP. Drop dough onto baking sheets.
- BAKE. Bake until golden brown, cool.
- DRIZZLE. Melt rest of chocolate chips. Drizzle on top of cookies. Cool for chocolate to set.
To make things easy, I made the whole cannoli cookie dough right in one bowl. You probably should mix the dry ingredients separately and be a little more careful, but I really didn’t want a huge cleanup. Feel free to be more careful if you’d like. :)
- Serve these cookies at room temperature.
- These Italian cookies are delicious with coffee, espresso, cappuccino, or even hot chocolate like this Italian Hot Chocolate! Yum!
- Some fresh raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries on the side are also a great addition.
Quick Tips for Best Results
- You shouldn’t need to drain the ricotta cheese overnight for this recipe, although you can if you want. Drain off any excess at the top of the container when you open the ricotta and that should be fine. BUT if your ricotta does seem really thin and watery, you can drain it overnight. As long as it’s the consistency of like sour cream, it should be fine. See how to strain ricotta cheese if you want to try that.
- Everyone has a different opinion on what cannoli taste like. Nothing tastes like cannoli, except cannoli. These are just a fun cookie with similar flavors. You can adjust the flavors as you see fit including the cinnamon, orange zest, vanilla, chocolate, and pistachios. Although I would recommend making the cookies as written at least the first time.
- Use good quality chocolate or chocolate chips for the drizzling. Some chocolate does tend to melt better than others.
- These Cannoli Cookies do tend to have a bit of a cake-like texture. Be careful to not over bake them and cool them on a cooling rack so they don’t get overly brown on the bottom if left on a hot pan.
Cannoli Cookies FAQ
How should I store Cannoli Cookies?
Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Can I freeze Cannoli Cookies?
Yes! I would suggest freezing them in a single layer on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Once the cookies are frozen you can then wrap them or place in sealable bags. Try to get out as much air as possible. Freezing them individually in a single layer first will help prevent the cookies from sticking together.
How long will the cookies last?
I would guess the cookies will last at least a few days at room temperature, probably a week in the fridge, and a few months in the freezer.
Instead of vanilla, you could use a little Fiori di Sicilia or even almond extract. Instead of chocolate chips, you could use finely chopped chocolate. Instead of pistachios, you could use your favorite nuts such as walnuts or pecans.
Can I use low-fat ingredients?
Low-fat ricotta would probably be ok in these cookies as long as it’s not super watery.
What else can I add to this recipe?
You could add small bits of candied fruit.
Can I make this vegan/vegetarian/low carb/gluten-free?
Here are some suggestions, but I can’t guarantee results. Be sure as always to check particular brands and ingredients if you’re following a specific diet or have diet restrictions or allergies.
Vegan – This would be a tough one to make vegan unless you want to make or can find vegan ricotta. You would also have to use egg and butter substitutes and find a vegan friendly chocolate.
Vegetarian – It’s vegetarian.
Low-Carb – You can try a sugar substitute for a lower carb option, as well as a lower sugar chocolate.
Gluten-Free – You can try a gluten-free baking flour that has a 1:1 substitute ratio.
Other Cookie Recipes You May Enjoy
- Mudslide Cookies – For all the chocolate lovers and inspired by the popular drink.
- S’mores Bars – Full of graham crackers, chocolate, and of course marshmallow.
- Buckeye Thumbprints – Chocolate and peanut butter, one of my favorite combos.
- Strawberry Daiquiri Cookies – Another fun drink inspired cookie.
Hope you like these easy Holy Cannoli Cookies! Tell me in the comments what you thought!
Cannoli Cookies Video
Here’s a quick video to show you the recipe for Cannoli Cookies from beginning to end:
Holy Cannoli Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 10 ounces mini chocolate chips divided
- 1 cup chopped pistachios
- In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs then ricotta cheese until well combined then mix in the vanilla extract, cinnamon, and fresh orange zest.
- Next, mix in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Mix in the flour. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips and the pistachios. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease.
- Using a medium cookie scoop or spoon, drop about 1 1/2 tablespoons of cookie dough for each cookie leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.
- Bake cookies at 375 degrees F for about 8-11 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Cool slightly then move to wire racks to cool completely.
- Microwave remaining chocolate chips on high in a small microwave safe bowl in 20 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Spoon melted chocolate into a small resealable bag, clip one corner slightly, then drizzle melted chocolate over cookies. Let cool for chocolate to set.
(Nutrition data is provided when available for informational purposes only and calculated using an online nutritional calculator. For the most accurate information please calculate based on specific ingredients and brands you use as well as any changes you made to the recipe. I am not a certified nutritionist or registered dietician and any nutritional information provided should only be used as a general guideline and estimate.)
This post was originally published in November 2017, but updated in December 2020 with additional information.