These Italian Chewy Almond Cookies or soft amaretti are a perfect little treat for marzipan lovers. This is also a perfect recipe to use up any leftover egg whites. Being flourless, gluten-free, easy, and quick to make are just a few other awesome bonuses of these delicious, aromatic cookies!
What are soft Amaretti
Amaro means bitter in Italian and these chewy almond cookies got their name ”Amaretti” from the bitter almonds used in the original recipes.
This recipe uses only almond extract to get the flavor of bitter almonds which are actually quite toxic I just found out!
Other than almond flour and almond extract, there are only 2 more essential ingredients in these cookies: egg whites and sugar.
Other ingredients listed in the recipe card are optional and make the cookies even more special, but if you don’t have the additional ingredients and really want these cookies, you can still make them.
I am always in search of recipes that use only egg-whites because very often recipes call for more egg yolks (like my favorite recipes which include custard, for example, Floating Island or Poppyseed Lemon and Tarragon Dessert). Amaretti cookies are one of the best ways to use up those leftover egg-whites.
Also, amaretti are unintentionally gluten-free! There is no flour in amaretti or any other ingredients with gluten, so that makes them perfect to enjoy even for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
If you often have leftover egg whites, save these other delicious recipes that use only egg whites:
- Meringue roulade with strawberries, rhubarb, and mascarpone
- Strawberry filled Cupcakes with White Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting
- Flourless and fudgy chocolate walnut cookies
PS. You can also freeze any unused egg-whites in an airtight container, for about 3 months.
Types of Italian Almond Cookies
There are actually two types of amaretti:
- Crispy ones which you can usually find being sold in bags in the store. They are hard and crispy throughout, with a very strong bitter almond flavor which is a bit too much if you ask me. If you make them at home you can of course adjust the bitter almond flavor to your liking with the amount of the almond extract used.
You can check out a great recipe for these on my friend Stefania’s blog.
- The second version, the one we are making, is soft (morbidi in Italian) amaretti, which are chewy, moist, and soft inside, with a lovely almond flavor. This version also uses slivered almonds on the outside which add a really nice textural element.
Also, I think these cookies might also go under the name of Ricciarelli. You know how many places have the same type of food with minor differences? I think this is one of those cases. In Italy, you can find many almond cookies across different regions and they will vary slightly.
I’ve had these cookies in Sienna where they call them Ricciarelli and I see they have a similar version in Sicily where they call them Soft Amaretti. Delicious beyond words in any case!
But Soft Amaretti and Ricciarelli are not to be confused with Cantuccini which are another type of Italian almond cookie but very different. Cantuccini are twice-baked (biscotti in Italian which actually means twice baked) and made with regular flour, unlike Amaretti, but they have whole almonds inside and almond flavor from the almond extract.
My recipe for Cantuccini or thin almond biscotti is a bit special. They are sliced very thin, as opposed to the usual Cantuccini which usually look like this. But the thinner version is so much better in my opinion. Hope you try the recipe!
Back to the cookies of the day!
These chewy almond cookies or Amaretti are honestly to die for.
Easy to make, need very few simple ingredients, moist, soft, chewy, full of almond flavor.
Even though I said marzipan lovers will love these, I must admit I’m not the biggest fan of marzipan, but I adore these cookies! And that’s because the bitter almond flavor is not so overwhelming.
How to make soft amaretti cookies
Amaretti cookies are made out of almond flour, sugar, egg whites and almond extract. That’s it! So simple right?
Originally they are made with bitter almonds which are not widely available (+ kinda toxic we found out), so we are using almond extract to flavor them, which works perfectly.
If for whatever reason you don’t wish to use almond extract, you could skip it and the flavor of the cookies will still be very much almondy and delicious, but less like marzipan. The choice is yours! I like to use a very moderate amount of the extract just for that extra kick of the flavor.
Essential ingredients to make chewy almond cookies:
- egg whites,
- almond extract.
Everything else that you can add and take amaretti to the next level:
- vanilla extract,
- orange zest,
- lemon zest,
- apricot jam.
How to make soft amaretti:
How to make almond flour at home
Almond flour, almond meal and almond powder are all essentially the same thing, just ground almonds. The difference is usually in how fine the almonds are ground.
Some recipes will tell you to use only store-bought almond flour because it won’t work if you made your own. That’s because the store-bought almond flour is ground finer and that affects the texture of baked goods.
I tested this recipe both ways and it’s ok to use home-made almond flour or the store-bought almond flour.
In fact, I always make my own almond flour from blanched slivered almonds, because it’s cheaper for me.
There will be a slight difference in texture though, with the home-made almond flour you will get a coarser texture in the cookie.
Also, if you use home-made almond flour, you may need more of it or use less egg white to get a workable texture and not one that is too sticky.
Play around, try it both ways and see which you prefer better.
To make your almond flour at home, you have to grind up blanched almonds in a food processor.
I usually grind slivered blanched almonds because it’s the cheapest and easiest. When grinding, be careful to not over process and make a paste/almond butter. The best way to do it in this recipe is by pulsing the food processor and grinding the almonds together with the sugar. The sugar will prevent the oil in the almonds to be released as much.
You should stop as soon as your mixture is nicely ground throughout.
You can also grind store-bought whole blanched almonds or even make the blanched almonds yourself, but that’s kind of annoying to make if you ask me. We want to taste these cookies asap right??
I strongly suggest using blanched almond flour because the skin of the almonds will affect taste and texture.
Storing Almond Cookies
How to store chewy almond cookies?
Store the soft amaretti cookies in an air-tight container. They will keep for at least a week.
Can I freeze almond cookies?
Yes, you can freeze them after they are baked.
Lay them on a tray next to each other and freeze. Then you can put all of them together in a zip-lock bag and put them back in the freezer. We freeze them separately first to prevent the cookies from sticking together.
Btw, you can also make these into some cute shapes, I played around and made a bunny (which you can see in the background of some photos) and a hedgehog. Aren’t they the cutest?
These soft amaretti cookies make a great addition to your favorite Christmas cookies or even as a gift for the marzipan lover in your life.
They are also a great treat to have with your coffee and pretend you are in a fancy cafe on the main square of some city in Italy. You’re welcome.
Chewy Almond Cookies – Amaretti
- 290 g blanched almond flour *
- 200 g sugar
- 90 g egg whites from 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp smooth apricot jam *
- 3-5 drops bitter almond extract *
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract optional
- 1-2 tbsp orange zest optional
- 1-2 tbsp lemon zest optional
- 1 egg white
- 150 g slivered almonds
- powdered sugar optional
- Whip the 3 egg whites for a minute or two by hand or with an electric mixer, until you get soft peaks. If you lift the whisk, the peak of the meringue will be soft and fold on itself.
- Add the salt, almond and vanilla extract. Mix until combined.
- Combine the almond flour, sugar and the orange/lemon zest (if using) together in a separate bowl.
- Add the whipped egg whites and the apricot jam to the almond mixture and fold it together with a spatula. The egg whites will deflate and the dough is ready when everything is nicely distributed and combined. *The dough should be sticky, but if you see that it doesn't hold the shape at all, you need to add more almond flour. Add as much as you need to get a dough that is sticky but workable. This will probably happen if you grind your almond flour coarser or if your got more egg whites.
- Preheat the oven to 160 °C (325°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a smaller bowl or a plate, whisk the egg white for a few seconds with a fork just to break it up.
- Place the slivered almonds on a plate, so that you can roll the almond mass into them.
- If you want your cookies to also have powdered sugar around, prapare also a bowl with sifted powdered sugar.
- Take a tablespoon of the prepared dough and shape it into an oval or a circle with your hands. If the mixture is too sticky, dampen your palms with water or egg whites.
- Now lightly roll the dough into the egg whites, so it gets wet and the almonds will stick to it.
- Place the cookie on the almonds, press and roll it over and around, so that almonds are covering all of the cookie. Don't worry if the cookies lose shape, they are meant to look rustic. You can easily fix the shape on the baking pan.*This part is a bit sticky and messy but, have fun with it and don't worry too much.
- If you are also using powdered sugar, this is the time to roll the cookie in it.
- Place the cookie on the prepared baking sheet.
- Repeat with the rest of the dough. You can also do a few cookies at a time, placing 4 cookies into the egg whites and them rolling them in almonds.
- The cookies don't really rise up that much, but they should be placed evenly apart, about 3 cm (1 inch).
- Bake for around 20-25 minutes. The almonds will be slightly toasted and golden on the outside. Leave them to cool on the baking mat and then place on a wire rack.Enjoy!
- You can use store-bought blanched almond flour or make your own by grinding whole or slivered blanched almonds in a food processor.
- You may need to use more almond flour if you ground your own, or if your egg whites were really big, or if it’s a rainy day and a lot of moisture in the air.
- Be careful with the amount of almond extract that you use, they are very potent. Try with less and next time use more if you want a stronger flavor.
- Different extracts have different potency.
- You can skip the almond extract but it’s the thing that gives these cookies that distinct bitter almond flavor.
- The apricot jam can also be skipped, but it’s there to make the cookies moister and more flavorful. You can also use orange jam or you can go crazy with any jam but be aware that it will change the look and the taste of the cookies. Have fun!
- The citrus zests are optional but they make the cookies even more aromatic and delicious.
- You can add some vanilla extract to the cookie dough.
- Amaretti can be made in many shapes. Try round, oval, crescent.
- They can also be baked without the slivered almonds on the outside, but they add great texture and flavor. Try rolling the cookie dough only in powdered sugar if you don’t want to use almonds on the outside. Skip dipping the cookie dough in egg whites if you roll them in sugar.
This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz