Italian Christmas Cookies

5 from 8 votes

Make your holidays merrier with Italian Christmas Cookies infused with anise seeds and topped with colorful sprinkles for extra festive fun.

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If you’re looking for the perfect cookie recipe to whip up for the holiday season, these Italian Christmas Cookies have your name written all over them. They’ve got that light, cake-like texture and have been subtly infused with anise seeds for a unique flavor. What really sets Italian Christmas cookies off is the glossy glaze and colorful sprinkles on top, making them just as festive to look at as they are yummy to eat.

Decorated Italian Christmas cookies stacked on a round plate.
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What I genuinely appreciate about this Italian Christmas cookie recipe is its simplicity. The cookie dough takes mere minutes to mix together, and shaping it into balls is a fun, hands-on activity. Then they take a short trip to the oven, and before you know it, you’re at the best part – glazing and sprinkling these Italian holiday cookies. Whether you’re sharing with friends and family or keeping them all to yourself (I won’t tell!), these Italian Christmas Cookies are a wonderful addition to your holiday baking lineup.

Why you’ll love these Italian holiday cookies

  • Lightly Sweet: Unlike some cookies that can be overly, even cloyingly sweet, these Italian Christmas cookies are just sweet enough, and that lets the anise flavor shine through.
  • Versatile Decoration: With the glaze and sprinkles, you can customize the look of these cookies to fit any holiday or theme. You’re only limited by the variety of sprinkles in your pantry!
  • Easy To Make Ahead: These cookies can be prepared in advance, making them a perfect choice for busy holiday times. Just bake, cool, and store in an airtight container. Glaze and add the sprinkles when you’re ready to serve.
  • Crowd-Pleaser: These Italian Christmas Cookies are loved by kids and adults alike. Their pleasing flavor and festive appearance make them a hit at any gathering.

Ingredients for old-fashioned Italian Christmas cookies

  • All-Purpose Flour: This forms the base of our cookies, helping to provide structure and balance. The right amount of flour is essential for achieving that perfect cookie crumb texture.
  • Baking Powder: Here’s our secret to light and fluffy cookies! Just a teaspoon helps the cookies rise, creating a soft interior while maintaining a slight outer crunch.
  • Salt: It might seem strange in a sweet cookie, but a little salt goes a long way in enhancing all the other flavors in the recipe, giving depth and balancing the sweetness.
  • Anise Seeds: This ingredient sets our Italian Christmas Cookies apart from the rest! The anise lends a distinctive, warm, licorice-like flavor that’s subtle but oh-so-good.
  • Unsalted Butter: Softened and at room temperature, the butter is the base for a truly rich and tender cookie. It’s crucial for that melt-in-your-mouth texture we all love.
  • Sugar: We’re using regular granulated sugar in this recipe to provide the right amount of sweetness, which blends beautifully with the anise seeds and vanilla.
  • Egg: It binds everything together and also contributes to the soft and chewy texture of our cookies.
  • Vanilla Extract: A dash of vanilla enhances all the other flavors, adding a sweet, aromatic note that pairs wonderfully with the anise seeds.

For the Topping

  • Powdered Sugar: For the glaze, we’re using sifted powdered sugar. It creates a perfectly smooth and glossy icing for our cookies.
  • Milk: Just a bit of milk is needed to achieve the right consistency for our glaze. It helps make it smooth and easily spreadable.
  • Holiday Sprinkles: And finally, as needed, holiday sprinkles are added for that festive touch. Choose your favorite colors or shapes to make these cookies uniquely yours.
Ingredients for recipe before prepping in individual bowls: flour, sugar, rising agents, anise seeds, vanilla, an egg, and butter stick.

How to make Italian Christmas cookies

These cookies are really easy to make and taste amazing!

Make cookie dough batter

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Mix until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extra and mix until incorporated.
  3. Add the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix just until a few streaks of flour remain. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold any visible flour in by hand with a rubber spatula.
4 image collage making cookie dough batter in a stand mixer bowl.

Bake cookies

  1. Using a cookie scoop, scoop the batter, then roll it into round balls. Place on the prepared pan.
  2. Bake until the cookies are slightly golden brown.
2 image collage of recipe on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper before and after baking.

Decorate cookies

  1. Holding the cooled cookies upside down, dip the cookie tops in the glaze.
  2. Add desired sprinkles before the glaze sets.
2 image collage decorating cookies by first dipping them top side down into icing and then transferring to a cooling rack and sprinkling red and green sprinkles on top.

Tips for making the best Italian Christmas cookies

  1. Use Aluminum-Free Baking Powder: This is an important tip to keep in mind. Aluminum-free baking powder tends to create a better taste in baked goods, including these cookies. It helps them rise without leaving any metallic aftertaste.
  2. Softened Butter is Best: Make sure your butter is at room temperature before you start. It will cream better with the sugar, creating a smooth and fluffy batter, which in turn, makes softer, tender cookies.
  3. Don’t Overmix the Dough: When you add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, mix just until you no longer see streaks of flour. Overmixing can lead to a tough, dense cookie.
  4. Bake one sheet pan at a time to ensure the proper texture. Bake them right in the middle of the oven. You may need to bake them in batches depending on the size of your sheet pan.
  5. Check for the right glaze texture. The glaze should have the consistency of runny almond butter. You want the glaze to be slightly runny, but thick enough to set on the cookie. You can add more sugar if it’s too runny, and more milk if it is too thick. 
  6. Cool Completely Before Glazing: Let the cookies cool completely before dipping them in the glaze. If they’re too warm, the glaze can melt and become too thin.
  7. Decorate Right After Glazing: Add your sprinkles or other decorations immediately after glazing each cookie. The glaze sets quickly, and if you wait too long, the decorations may not stick.
  • Add anise extract. To really make the anise flavor pop, you can add 1 teaspoon of anise extract to the cookie dough batter and even some to the glaze. I would limit to ⅛ teaspoon for the glaze.
  • Swap Anise for Other Flavors: Anise is a traditional flavor in Italian Christmas cookies, but you can easily swap it for another flavor if you prefer. Try using almond extract or lemon zest for a different twist.
  • Try Different Toppings: While holiday sprinkles are the classic choice, feel free to use other toppings based on your preference or the occasion. Mini chocolate chips, crushed nuts, or even a dusting of powdered sugar can add a different look and taste.
  • Experiment with Glazes: Instead of a simple milk and powdered sugar glaze, consider flavoring your glaze with extracts. Almond, lemon, or even peppermint extract could add a festive touch.
Italian iced christmas cookies with decorated with holiday green and red sprinkles with a small bowl of extra sprinkles nearby and a cooling rack with more cookies.

How to Store Italian Christmas Cookies

Once the glaze has set, you can store the Italian Christmas cookies in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper to prevent sticking.

You can store them at room temperature for about 5-7 days.

How Long Will Italian Christmas Cookies Last in the Fridge?

There’s no need to refrigerate these cookies. However, if you prefer to keep them in the fridge, they can last for about 2 weeks. Just make sure they are stored in an airtight container to prevent them from absorbing any unwanted flavors from the fridge.

Can I Freeze Italian Christmas Cookies?

Absolutely, you can freeze the cookies either before or after baking. If freezing the dough, shape them into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer bag or container for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, just add a few extra minutes to the baking time.

If freezing after baking, wait until the glaze has fully set. Then, store them in a freezer-friendly container, separating layers with wax or parchment paper to prevent them from sticking together. They will last in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to enjoy, let them thaw at room temperature.

Frequently asked questions

Why did my cookies come out flat?

If your cookies are coming out flat, there are a few possible causes. One reason could be the butter being too soft or even melted before you incorporate it into the dough. It’s important to start with room temperature butter – it should be soft but still hold its shape. Overmixing the dough can also lead to flat cookies because it can develop too much gluten, leading to a dense, flat cookie. Lastly, make sure your baking powder is fresh. Baking powder can lose its effectiveness over time, which can lead to cookies that don’t rise properly.

Can I use a chocolate glaze?

Absolutely! You can definitely use a chocolate glaze if you prefer it over the traditional icing. Just melt some chocolate chips with a little bit of butter or coconut oil, and dip the tops of the cooled cookies in the chocolate. Then, let them sit until the glaze hardens. You can even sprinkle some holiday-themed decorations on the chocolate while it’s still wet for an extra festive touch. It’s all about personal preference and creativity!

Can I make these cookies ahead of time?

Yes, you can definitely prepare these Italian Christmas cookies ahead of time. The cookie dough can be made up to 3 days in advance. Just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to bake, let the dough sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes before shaping and baking.

Close up of a plate of Italian Christmas cookies with a bite taken out of one to show texture.

These Italian Christmas Cookies are the perfect treat to brighten up your holiday festivities. Their soft texture and festive glaze make them a hit at every Christmas gathering. So, put on your apron, preheat the oven and immerse yourself in the joy of holiday baking.

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Italian Christmas Cookies

Make your holidays merrier with Italian Christmas Cookies infused with anise seeds and topped with colorful sprinkles for extra festive fun.
5 from 8 votes
Servings 20 cookies
Course Dessert
Calories 98
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
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For the Cookies:

For the glaze:

  • ½ cup powdered sugar sifted
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Holiday sprinkles as needed


  • Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and anise seeds. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar. Mix at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extra and mix until incorporated.
  • Add the dry ingredients and process at low speed, just until a few streaks of flour remain. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold any visible flour in by hand with a rubber spatula. Using a 1-tablespoon sized cookie scoop, scoop the batter, then roll into round balls. Place on the prepared pan, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly golden brown. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.
  • Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely. While the cookies cool, make the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk the powdered sugar with the milk until smooth and glossy.
  • Holding the cooled cookies upside down, dip the cookie tops in the glaze. Add desired sprinkles before the glaze sets. Allow cookies to sit for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the glaze hardens and sets.


Calories: 98kcal, Carbohydrates: 12g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 20mg, Sodium: 55mg, Potassium: 15mg, Fiber: 0.2g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 155IU, Vitamin C: 0.01mg, Calcium: 17mg, Iron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine Italian
Course: Dessert

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Recipe Rating


  1. Nancy says:

    Just wondering if the anaise seeds break down or do they stay crunchy and whole 🤔. Are they in every bite. Thanks

    1. Yumna J. says:

      They actually break down and the taste is super subtle. You will not get a crunchy bite of anise seeds I promise!