Homemade Cannoli Shells, a delicious Italian pastry shell that can be filled with cannoli cream or many other simple fillings. These crisp from-scratch fried tubes can be made mini, large, or any size in between. One of the best Italian desserts!
Yes, you can buy premade cannoli shells at your local grocery store or bakery, but you won’t believe how delicious and fresh Homemade Cannoli Shells are! Although typically filled with ricotta or mascarpone based cannoli cream or cannoli filling, these crispy shells can actually be filled with a wide range of options for a delicious treat.
If you didn’t already know I have a lot of cannoli recipes (such as these popular ones: Cannoli Cake, Cannoli Cookies, and Cannoli Cream Chocolate Truffles), but can you believe I didn’t even have a recipe for cannoli shells? Crazy, right?
Not going to like, cannoli shells can be a bit of work. But they’re so fresh and crispy! Some people also like using pizzelles as cannoli shells, but not the same as fresh crispy fried cannoli shells.
You can typically find premade unfilled cannoli shells at some local grocery stores (I’ve seen them in the cookie/cracker aisle) but they can be tough to find. You can also buy premade cannoli shells online. Some bakeries will even sell you unfilled shells if you ask (although I have noticed they can taste a bit stale at times). Or you might even be able to find a wholesale option if you need a lot of them.
BUT If you haven’t tried making homemade shells using a cannoli mold or tube form, give them a try. Fresh homemade shells are so much better than old shells from a cardboard box sitting on a store shelf.
What is a cannoli?
Cannoli are one of my all-time favorite treats. They can cause a little controversy as everyone seems to have a different opinion on what they should be like and what flavors they should or shouldn’t include.
Although you’ll hear many Americans (myself included sometimes…) refer to them as “cannolis”, “cannoli” is plural, and “cannolo” or “cannula” is singular, and means “little tube”.
Cannoli are fried pastry dough formed into a tube (thanks to a cannoli mold or form) and filled with a creamy filling that is generally made from ricotta cheese and powdered sugar.
The filling may also include a wide variety of other things such as candied fruit, chocolate or chocolate chips, nuts, cinnamon, vanilla, mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, and/or various other things.
You can generally find cannoli at your local grocery store bakeries or Italian specialty grocery stores and bakeries. Give them a try!
Equipment You May Need
- Cannoli Form Tubes – Cannoli shells are generally formed around a metal tube (sometimes called cannoli tubes, forms, or molds) for frying.
- Rolling Pin – A good quality rolling pin is needed to roll out the pastry dough before cutting.
- Round Cutter – You can use a round cookie or biscuit cutter to cut out the dough. Some people prefer to cut the dough in an oval shape. A 4-inch size is good, but you can use a smaller or larger size.
- Dutch Oven (or large pot) – You’ll need a large pot or dutch oven for frying the shells.
- Spider (or tongs) – A large metal spider strainer is great for getting the fried tubes out of the hot oil (as well as placing in the oil), or large long tongs would also work well.
- Pastry Brush – A small pastry brush will help to brush the beaten egg on the pastry dough so it can stick to the other side of the pastry dough around the tube.
- Thermometer – An inexpensive thermometer is a must to monitor the oil temperature. Try to keep the temperature as constant as you can.
(Full printable recipe card is at bottom of post.)
Cannoli Shell Ingredients
- Flour – Regular all-purpose flour.
- Brown Sugar – Light brown sugar (rather than dark brown sugar). Make sure you get any clumps out. Could also try granulated sugar.
- Salt – Just a little.
- Butter – Unsalted butter. If you only have salted, you may want to adjust the additional salt. Could also try shortening or lard instead.
- Eggs – You’ll need two large eggs. One for the pastry dough, and one to brush on the dough to help the dough adhere to itself and seal.
- Marsala Wine – A little marsala wine in the dough is traditional but some people have good luck using a little vinegar and water mixture (or white grape juice).
- Vegetable Oil – You’ll need quite a bit to fill a large pot a few inches deep for frying. You could also use Canola or even try using Peanut Oil (if no nut allergies…) if you prefer.
How to Make Cannoli Shells
Step One: Mix together flour, brown sugar, and salt.
Step Two: Work cold cubed butter into flour mixture until crumbly. You can use a pastry cutter, your hands, or even a fork or two knives. You could also use a food processor to cut in the butter by pulsing.
Step Three: Mix in wine and a beaten egg until dough comes together.
Step Four: Form dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least an hour or more until cold.
Step Five: Take about a third or half of the dough (keep the rest in the fridge), and roll out on a lightly floured work surface until about 1/4-inch thick or thinner. You want as thin as you can get without the dough falling apart.
Step Six: Use a 4-inch round cutter and cut out dough into rounds. Repeat with remaining dough. You can use any size cutter you’d like for mini or larger cannoli shells.
Step Seven: Wrap a dough round around a metal cannoli tube. Brush a little beaten egg on the dough where it meets and press gently to seal.
Step Eight: Fill a large heavy pot or dutch oven with a few inches of vegetable oil. Heat over medium-high heat to 365 degrees F.
Step Nine: Using tongs or a spider strainer, place dough wrapped molds in hot oil and cook about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Turn over as needed. Cook the shells a few at a time being careful to not overcrowd the pan.
Step Ten: Remove shells from oil and place on paper towels to cool. Repeat frying with remaining shells.
Step Eleven: When the shells are cool, remove molds from pastry shells by gently squeezing the metal molds and very gently twist until the shells slip off.
Step Twelve: Cool the cannoli shells completely before filling.
(Full printable recipe card with full details is at bottom of post.)
Cannoli Shell Filling Ideas
- Cannoli Cream – Homemade Cannoli Cream is easy to make and of course the more authentic and traditional choice. Sprinkle some mini chocolate chips and/or pistachios on the ends if you’d like.
- Cannoli Dip – These Chocolate Cannoli Dip, Orange Almond Cannoli Dip, Pumpkin Cannoli Dip, and original Cannoli Dip are all great options and thicker fillings.
- Whipped Cream – Homemade or store-bought sweetened whipped cream or defrosted whipped topping would be a delicious filling. Add your favorite flavorings, extracts, or even liqueurs to the whipped cream. Chopped fruit or your favorite “mix-ins” would also be great additions.
- Mousse – Any flavored mousse would be delicious.
- Pastry Cream – A thick pastry cream would work well. You could even mix-in a little whipped cream or whipped topping to thicken and stiffen.
- Pudding – Like pastry cream, you could mix a little whipped cream or whipped topping with pudding. Lots of great pudding flavor options.
- Frosting – Try your favorite frosting and add your favorite chopped fruit or mix-ins. This Marshmallow Frosting or Cream Cheese Frosting are great options. You could also dip the shells in melted chocolate on the ends (or drizzle on top) for chocolate-dipped cannoli shells and fill with this simple Peanut Butter Frosting.
- Serve cannoli right after filling if you can, otherwise the shells start to get soggy.
- Serve with a great cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or dessert cocktail (this Cannoli Martini would be fun).
- After filling the cannoli shells you can dust with powdered sugar or drizzle melted chocolate over the shells (let cool to set).
Quick Tips for Best Results
- Be sure to refrigerate the dough and roll as thin as you can without the dough breaking.
- Maintain the oil temperature as well as you can (using a thermometer) to prevent the shells from over-browning if oil is too hot or becoming soggy if oil is not hot enough.
- Be careful taking the shells off of the metal tubes. They can break or crack easily. I’d suggest making a few more shells than you need just in case any break.
- To fill the cannoli shells, you can use a small narrow spoon or preferably a pastry bag (or resealable bag with the corner cut). Be sure to use a tip on the pastry bag that is large enough for any filling to fit through (mini chocolate chips can get stuck in some smaller tips).
Cannoli Shell FAQ
How should I store cannoli shells?
Any leftover cannoli shells should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Can I freeze cannoli shells?
I would not recommend freezing the shells.
How long will the cannoli shells last?
The shells will last at least a few days or up to a week at room temperature.
Can I make cannoli shells without wine?
You can try a little vinegar mixed into water (or some people like white grape juice).
Can I bake cannoli shells?
I don’t recommend it but you can give it a try. For baked cannoli shells, I’d suggest lightly greasing the metal tubes before wrapping them with the pastry dough. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. I’d try baking at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes or so to start. Some people also have good luck with an air fryer.
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 without doing a lot of testing.
Vegetarian – It’s vegetarian.
Low-Carb – You can try a low carb brown sugar substitute, but hard to get around the flour in this recipe so still some carbs.
Gluten-Free – You can try a gluten-free baking flour substitute but I have not tried so not sure how well they will fry.
Other Italian Dessert Recipes You May Enjoy
- Cannoli Cheesecake – A fun cannoli-inspired dessert! One of my son’s favorite desserts.
- Spumoni Cake – Beautiful striped cake with flavors of cherry, pistachio, and chocolate.
- Italian Sprinkle Cookies – Small cookies dipped in an easy glaze and covered in colorful sprinkles.
- Tiramisu Martini – Delicious dessert cocktail inspired by the popular Italian dessert.
Hope you enjoy this homemade Cannoli Shells recipe. Tell me in the comments what you filled the Italian pastry shells with!
You might also like these Cannoli Cream Strawberry Shortcakes!
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, and salt.
- Add cold cubed butter to flour mixture. With pastry cutter or your hands, work butter into flour mixture until it becomes crumbly.
- Add the marsala wine and 1 beaten egg and stir until well combined and dough comes together.
- Form dough into flat disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Place about a quarter to a half of the dough on lightly floured work surface (leave remaining dough in fridge until ready to use). Roll dough with rolling pin until thin (about 1/4-inch thick or less).
- Using a floured 4-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out dough into circles. Repeat rolling and cutting with remaining dough.
- Wrap one dough round around a metal cannoli tube one at a time. Seal the overlapping dough edge with remaining beaten egg and press dough together gently to seal.
- Fill large heavy pot or dutch oven with a few inches of vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat to 365 degrees F.
- Using long tongs or a metal spider strainer, place dough wrapped molds in hot oil and fry about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Only add a few at a time, and turn molds over halfway through cooking as needed. Be careful to not overcrowd pan and maintain oil temperature.
- Remove shells from oil with tongs or spider and place on paper towel lined surface to cool. Repeat frying with remaining shells.
- When shells are cool, remove molds from pastry shells by gently squeezing molds and very gently twisting shells until they slip off of molds.
- Make sure shells are cooled completely before adding filling of choice.
(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.)