Soft and tender Italian Sugar Cookies are easy to make with just a few ingredients. Dipped in icing and topped with colorful sprinkles, these cookies are perfect for the holidays or any occasion.
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I love a good cookie and given that my Amish Sugar Cookies have been so popular, I thought you’d enjoy an Italian Sugar Cookie. Such a simple cookie but soft and tender and perfectly sweet with the glaze. And sprinkles! Rainbow nonpareils are really cute any time of year, or dress them up with Christmas colors for the holidays.
These cookies were traditionally flavored with anise, but I don’t know much of anyone that enjoys the flavor of black licorice, so I use a combo of vanilla and almond extracts in this version. You can use whichever you prefer – all vanilla, or all almond, or a mixture.
Below is a list of the main ingredients you’ll need along with some helpful tips and suggestions for substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full, printable recipe card with amounts & instructions.
Italian cookies are made from everyday, pantry staples like flour, sugar, shortening, eggs, and extracts.
FLOUR – To make this recipe accessible, I use all purpose white flour. Traditionally, they would be made with self rising flour, and they still can. If you want to go that route, skip the AP flour and baking powder.
SUGAR – Granulated white sugar.
SHORTENING – Vegetable shortening makes for a tall, tender cookie.
BAKING POWDER – Like I said, the flour + baking powder combo adds carbon dioxide which provides lift.
EGGS – Three large eggs.
VANILLA & ALMOND EXTRACT – The combo of both vanilla and almond extract creates so much flavor.
For the icing/glaze, you’ll need powdered sugar, milk or heavy cream, melted butter, and vanilla extract.
Tools found on Amazon to help you
- Mixing Bowls – I love that these have the grippy bottom so they don’t slide all over your counter.
- Silicone Mats – Silicone mats (or parchment paper) help the cookies bake evenly and also help with cleanup!
- Cookie Scoop – I highly recommend using a cookie scoop for any cookie recipe. I have various sizes.
- Sprinkles – I say optional but are they really? Sprinkles should be required.
How to make Italian Sugar Cookies
STEP ONE: Make the dough. First, whisk together the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Then, in another mixing bowl, beat the shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add in the eggs and extracts and continue beating until combined. Finally, add half the flour, mix, then the last of the flour.
STEP TWO: Bake. Use a cookie scoop to portion out the dough to baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 400° or until just golden.
STEP THREE: Make the glaze. While the cookies are cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk (or cream), melted butter, and vanilla extract until smooth. Adjust if necessary – it should be a bit thin/runny, but *too* thin.
STEP FOUR: Assemble. Place the cooled cookies onto a cooling rack and spoon approximately one tablespoon of glaze over each cookies (alternatively, you can dip them) and immediately sprinkle with cookies. Let them cool/set for 30 minutes before enjoying!
How to store them
Store leftovers cookies in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to a week.
Can you freeze them?
Yes, you can freeze these cookies. You can freeze the dough in balls (scoop out to a pan, cover, and freeze until solid, then move to a ziptop freezer bag) and bake from frozen.
Alternatively, you can freeze baked cookies. I find it best to freeze before glazing them, if possible. So bake, freeze, then thaw at room temperature and glaze when ready.
What makes a tender cookie?
Shortening, a fat, makes cookies tender. When shortening is mixed into flour, the fat coats some of the flour and protects it from the liquid in some recipes. This prevents gluten from developing, making the cookies more tender and less chewy.
Need more cookie recipes? Try these:
Need more specifially Christmas cookies? Try These:
Click here for my entire collection of cookies recipes.
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Italian Sugar Cookies
For the Cookies
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3 Eggs at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
For the Icing Glaze
- 2 cups powdered icing sugar
- 4 Tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons butter melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
- sprinkles as desired
To make the cookies
- Preheat oven to 400°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In another large bowl, using a hand mixer on medium, beat together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Beat in eggs and extracts for 30 seconds, then add half of the flour mixture. Beat until fully incorporated, then add remaining half of the flour mixture.
- Use a cookie scoop to portion out the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets. For a more smooth appearance, you can roll the cookies into balls but that is optional.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just lightly golden and cookies start to crack on top.
- Allow cookies to cool completely before frosting.
For the Icing Glaze
- Whisk together powdered icing sugar, milk, melted butter, and your choice of flavor extract. Adjust the consistency with additional powdered sugar or milk, it should be thin.
- Spoon approximately one tablespoon of icing onto each cookie. Come back and add sprinkles once the glaze has started to set (so the sprinkles don't just roll off).
- Allow icing to set for 30 minutes before serving or storing.
Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.
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