Indulge in the charm of Italian Ricotta Cookies—a soft, tender delight with a hint of lemon and a moist texture, courtesy of rich ricotta. Topped with a sweet, simple icing, these classic treats are a must-try recipe for any occasion.

Christmas ricotta cookies on a stack of plate with a glass of milk

If you haven’t tasted melt-in-your-mouth homemade ricotta cookies before, you are in for a treat! Deliciously moist and cake-like lemon cookies with ricotta cheese and silky vanilla icing are as delicious as they are refreshing.

  • Irresistably Moist: The ricotta adds a rich and moist texture to the cookies, ensuring a delectable treat with each bite.
  • Zesty Citrus Flavor: These cookies boast a delightful hint of lemon, adding a touch of citrusy freshness to each bite.
  • Cake-Like Perfection: With a cake-like consistency, these cookies offer a unique and satisfying texture that sets them apart.
  • Perfect for Sharing: Ideal for thoughtful neighbor gifts, cookie exchanges, or as a delightful addition to any cookie tray.
  • Simple Elegance: Topped with a sweet and simple icing, the cookies exude a touch of elegance that enhances their overall appeal.
ingredients for ricotta cookies on a counter

Ingredients Needed

For specific amounts, please refer to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.

Dry Ingredient Mix:

  • All-Purpose Flour – Use the fluff, spoon, and level method or a food scale for a foolproof ricotta cookie every time.
  • Baking Powder – Causes the cookies to rise and become soft and cakey. Baking powder can become less potent over time so make sure it’s fresh.
  • Salt – Enhances the overall flavor profile and balances the sweetness.

How To Measure Flour Properly: Did you know THE WAY you measure flour matters? The most precise way to measure your flour is by weight using a digital kitchen scale. 1 cup of flour weighs 125 to 130 grams. If you don’t have a scale measure your flour by scooping flour with a spoon into the cup. Don’t use your measuring cup as a scoop, as it packs the flour down and gives a different measure.

Wet Ingredient Mix:

  • Unsalted Butter – Softened so a fingertip press leaves a slight indent.
  • White Sugar – White granulated sugar.
  • Large Eggs – room temperature
  • Vanilla Extract – rounds out the tart lemon flavor with sweet aromatic notes. Pure vanilla is best, but for brighter cookies, use the clear vanillin used in the icing for ricotta cookies.
  • Almond Extract – imparts a distinct nutty and aromatic flavor, enhancing the overall richness and complexity of the cookies
  • Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese – A fresh, neutral-tasting whey-based cheese that adds creamy moistness to cookies.
  • Lemon Zest – Wash and dry your citrus before zesting.

Glaze For Italian Cookies

  • Sifted Powdered Sugar – Use a sifter or a fork or whisk to break up any lumps.
  • Vanilla Or Almond Extract – Adds a subtle flavor; use clear vanilla flavor to keep the glaze white. 
  • Milk or heavy cream– you could also use lemon juice or just water.
  • NonpareilsRed and green or rainbow nonpareils add a festive and decorative touch to Italian cookies!

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How To Make Italian Ricotta Cookies

Dressing them up or keeping them elegantly simple, assembling  Italian dessert cookies is pretty straightforward. For the best ricotta cookies, read through the recipe again after pulling together a whisk, electric mixer, cookie scoop, plastic wrap, parchment paper, baking sheet, and cooling rack. Ready? I am!

When you are making this recipe, you’ll want to use the full recipe at the bottom of the page.

For Cookies:

  1. Prep: Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven.
  2. Make The Cookie Dough: Whisk the dry cookie ingredients together. Beat sugar, butter, and lemon zest until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time then mix in ricotta and extracts. Gradually add the dry mix just until combined.
  3. Scoop & Bake: Scoop and shape cookie balls, place 2” apart on a baking sheet, and bake 12-18 minutes until light brown bottoms and pale tops; do not over-bake.
  4. Cool: Place Italian cookies on a wire rack to cool completely before icing
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Icing Italian Cookies:

  1. Whisk the glaze until smooth, apply it to the ricotta cookies by spooning the icing over the cookies or dipping the tops of the cookies into the glaze, and add nonpareils while the icing is still tacky but before it sets.

*Note: Ricotta cookie glaze sets up pretty quickly, so you don’t want to make it until ready to glaze the completely cooled cookies.

hand grabbing a ricotta cookie from a plate of cookies

Recipe Notes And Tips

Here are a few of my tips for getting the best ricotta cookies!

  • Make sure butter and eggs are room temperature.
  • Ensure the ricotta cheese is well-drained to achieve the desired cookie texture, as excess moisture can affect the dough’s consistency. Drain the ricotta if needed.
  • A tablespoon cookie scoop is a great way to get all of your cookies the same size, but if you don’t have one, just use a measuring spoon.
  • If the dough seems really sticky or difficult to handle, chill 1-2 hours before scooping to firm up.
  • You can refrigerate the dough up to 48 hours if needed, but not required. Cover the dough ball tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
  • The color of both baked and unbaked cookies will be quite similar. Watch for light golden brown bottoms to ensure they’re perfectly baked.
  • Make the icing to your desired consistency. Have a teaspoon or two extra milk to thin and extra powdered sugar to thicken to the desired consistency if needed.
  • Make sure cookies are completely cooled before icing.
  • Nonpareils can melt or bleed if the cookies are not completely cooled before icing the cookies. Allow the icing to set up just a bit before adding the non-pereils (icing should still be wet enough for the sprinkles to stick to the icing). Store in a cool dry place
Italian ricotta cookies in a Christmas tin

How To Store Baked Ricotta Cookies or Dough

You can make and refrigerate ricotta cookie dough up to two days in advance or freeze it for up to 3 months. Wrap securely to avoid moisture loss and freezer burn. Thaw the cookie balls overnight in the fridge and bake as directed.

Refrigerate –  Baked Italian ricotta cookies can stay on the counter in an airtight container in a cool dry spot for up to 5 days. I prefer to eat them rather than keep them! 😇 Baked cookies without the glaze can be frozen for three months.

a woman's hand holding a ricotta cookie with a bite missing.

Recipe FAQs

What do Italian Ricotta Cookies Taste Like?

Italian Ricotta Cookies have a delicate and moist texture with a mild, slightly tangy flavor from the ricotta cheese. The addition of almond extract often contributes a subtle nuttiness, while a sweet glaze or icing provides a touch of sweetness. The overall taste is a delightful balance of richness, tenderness, and a hint of citrus or nut flavor, depending on the specific recipe used.

What is ricotta cheese?

Ricotta is a fresh Italian cheese typically made from whey, a byproduct of cheesemaking. It’s fluffy, creamy, and slightly sweet, sometimes nutty. 

Ricotta adds creaminess and moisture to various dishes, from savory entrees to creamy or sweet desserts, just like these delightful ricotta cookies.

Do I need to strain the ricotta before using it in my cookie dough?

While many store-bought ricotta cheeses are pre-drained, it’s worth noting that certain varieties may retain more moisture, requiring drainage in a fine-mesh sieve before incorporating into recipes

Why are my Ricotta cookies not fluffy?

If your Ricotta cookies are not achieving the desired fluffiness, consider refrigerating the dough before baking. Chilling the dough helps control spreading during baking and contributes to a lighter, fluffier texture. Additionally, ensure proper drainage of the ricotta and avoid overmixing to maintain the ideal consistency.

Can I use part-skim ricotta cheese in Italian ricotta cookies?

Yes, you can use part-skim ricotta cheese in Italian ricotta cookies; however, the lower fat content will affect the outcome, usually in texture and moistness, but the flavor will still be fantastic. If you don’t mind a drier crumb, no problem. 

If that is all you have on hand, consider adding a little extra butter or heavy whipping cream to offset the fat loss.

a stack of four ricotta cookies

Serving Suggestions

These Italian Ricotta cookies pair wonderfully with a glass of cold milk or, iced coffee, an orange julius, hot tea, mulled wine, homemade chia tea or, red velvet hot chocolate.

Variations For Italian Dessert Cookies

There are many ways to vary the flavor of lemony Italian ricotta cookies. Here are a few ideas:

  • Add white chocolate chips or chopped almonds to the dough.
  • Dip the cookies in melted white almond bark.
  • Omit lemon zest and sprinkle or roll ricotta cookies in cinnamon sugar before baking.
  • Switch it up and use orange or lime zest to add a variety of ricotta cookies to a dessert tray.
  • For major lemon cookie fans, you can frost lemon ricotta cookies with lemon glaze by adding lemon juice or lemon extract to the icing or simply garnish with a bit of zest instead of nonpareils.
ricotta cookies with rainbow colored sprinkles
Holiday ricotta cookies photo collage

Like This Recipe?

I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a review below and let me know how you liked the recipe!

Italian ricotta cookies in a Christmas tin

Italian Ricotta Cookies

Yield: about 55 cookies
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 16 minutes
Total Time: 46 minutes

Ingredients

For Cookie Dough

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (480 grams)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ -2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 ¾ cups (15 oz) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

For Glaze:

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer with a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and lemon zest on medium speed until light and fluffy. 
  4. Add eggs one and a time, beating after each. Mix in the extracts, ricotta, and lemon zest until well combined. 
  5. Gradually add the flour mixture and on low speed mixing between each addition until everything is just combined and fluffy. The dough should be a little sticky, but workable
  6. Using a tablespoon or small cookie dough scoop (1 tablespoon), shape the dough into balls and place on prepared baking sheet at least 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake for 14-18 minutes or until the bottoms (underneath side) of cookies are lightly golden brown (the tops will be pale) Do not over-bake.
  8. Cool completely on a wire rack.

GLAZE (do not make until cookies are completely cooled)

  1. In a medium bowl, beat all ingredients until smooth (consistency should ribbon off a spoon)
  2. Spoon or spread glaze on cookies or dip the cookie tops into icing
  3. Decorate with nonpareils while icing is still a little wet, but before it sets.

Notes

**Always read through the entire recipe before starting.

It’s best if you can add the ricotta a little at a time - I usually add about ⅓ at a time, mixing between each.

Optional: After step 5 cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill for 2 hours (up to 2 days). 

Store-bought ricotta chees is often pre-drained, it's worth noting that certain varieties may retain more moisture, requiring drainage in a fine-mesh sieve before incorporating into recipes.

STORAGE:

You can make and refrigerate ricotta cookie dough up to two days in advance or freeze for up to 3 months. Wrap securely to avoid moisture loss and freezer burn. Thaw the cookie balls overnight in the fridge and bake as directed.

Refrigerate -  Baked Italian ricotta cookies can stay on the counter in an airtight container in a cool dry spot for up to 5 days. Baked cookies without the glaze can be frozen for three months.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 55 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 104Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 76mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 0gSugar: 15gProtein: 2g

Nutrition information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, and freshness of ingredients used and are just estimates. We encourage, especially if these numbers are important to you, to calculate these on your own for most accurate results.

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ricotta cookies on a plate with a glass of milk