Soft and chewy, with a crisp exterior, these Italian Lemon Amaretti Cookies (Amaretti al Limone) are authentic, simple to make, naturally gluten free, and dairy free. A delightful treat, they also make a perfect food gift. You may just need a double batch!
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Lemon Amaretti Cookies – Soft Italian Almond Biscuits
Italian Lemon Amaretti Cookies are perhaps best associated with Christmas here in the UK. In Italy however, they are simply one of the most-loved cookies… Often served alongside a strong espresso, given as gifts or eaten at celebrations.
But while we may be willing to shell out for the expensive and beautifully-packaged imported Amaretti cookies to give to loved ones and adorn our Christmas celebrations, making them at home is often overlooked. Maybe it’s because the expense suggests complexity. But in fact… these soft Lemon Amaretti Cookies are one of the simplest bakes. And when made at home, they taste more natural, are most definitely cheaper and (in my opinion) are more delicious than anything you’ll find in the shops.
Today, I’ll share with you my authentic Italian recipe for Lemon Amaretti Cookies… From my family with love.
Amaretti al Limone – An authentic recipe
Sometimes it is hard to know whether an ‘authentic’ recipe is truly authentic. But having grown up with an Italian heritage and in a family that had connections with the Italian food trade (and quite frankly loved great food), I am particularly picky that I get it right.
I can say I am confident that my Amaretti al Limone recipe is as authentic as you’ll find anywhere. A family tradition shared down the generations, this is the recipe for Lemon Amaretti that I share with you here today…
Crunchy vs Soft Lemon Amaretti Cookies…
Just to be clear, this particular Lemon Amaretti recipe is for Soft Amaretti Cookies… Yielding to the bite with a chewy centre and crisp exterior, they are known in Italy as Amaretti Mordibi (meaning ‘soft’). They should not be confused with their dry-baked crunchy cousins. While crunchy Amaretti Biscuits are indeed delicious in their own right, they are an altogether different bake, with very different ingredients.
Personally, I prefer the softer version… The firm, cracked outer shell that submits to the chewy, almost marzipan interior… A subtle, yet distinct citrus backdrop infusing each and every bite. They are indeed, utterly heavenly.
A naturally gluten free, dairy free recipe
For those of us who are required to eat gluten free, it is always a happy moment when we find a recipe that is naturally flourless and requires no extensive tweaking to make it safe. The good news is that my Lemon Amaretti Cookies are one such recipe. Made with just a handful of simple ingredients: egg white; ground almonds (almond meal); caster sugar (superfine sugar); lemon zest; and Limoncello (or alternatively lemon juice), they are not only naturally gluten free, but dairy free too.
Because there are no gluten ingredients in the recipe at all, this makes them perfectly safe for people with Coeliac Disease (Celiac). Nonetheless (as with all gluten free cooking), it is advisable to double-check ingredient labels (for this recipe, the ground almonds in particular), for any ‘may contain’ warnings. If you are new to label-checking and cross-contamination, head over to my page ‘Coeliac Disease + Food’ for more information.
I am also certain these cookies can be made VEGAN as well… If you use aquafaba (with a slight reduction in the amount) and a ¼ teaspoon of baking powder. We already have a tested recipe for Vegan Chocolate Amaretti Cookies.
Sourcing the right ingredients to make Lemon Amaretti Cookies
Although this Lemon Amaretti Cookies recipe is so simple that a batch can be made (and probably eaten) in 30 to 40 minutes, it is nonetheless important to get the right ingredients to make them…
In the recipe provided, I have specifically given the weight of egg white required. This is in part because egg size and weight varies from country to country. However, it also allows greater accuracy in gauging the consistency of the Amaretti batter. Too wet and they will be liable to spread.
It doesn’t matter whether you use fresh egg white from whole cracked eggs, or egg white from a carton. However, it is ESSENTIAL that the egg whites are pure and clean from any egg yolk or oil, so that they can be whipped to stiff peaks.
I would advise the mixing bowl is also super-clean. If unsure, wipe the inside round with a little lemon juice to remove any traces of oil.
In the US, ground almonds are (I understand) known as almond meal.
For Amaretti Cookie dough, I use standard white caster sugar (super-fine sugar in the US). Although golden caster sugar will work, it will make the cookies darker. Amaretti cookies are traditionally pale in colour.
In addition to caster sugar, you will also need icing sugar (aka confectioners or powdered sugar) for dipping and coating the cookies prior to baking.
The lemon in Amaretti al Limone comes from two sources:
- Lemon Zest – Use washed and dried unwaxed lemons to avoid any chemical coatings. If you can only find waxed lemons, scrub them well before zesting. And be sure to grate it very finely.
- Limoncello Italian lemon liqueur – This gives the most authentic result. However, if you prefer not to use liqueur or cannot find Limoncello, it’s fine to sub with lemon juice (to the amount stated in the recipe).
Lemon not your thing?
If you are not a lemon lover, then why not make my traditional almond Soft Amaretti Cookies instead? The recipe is almost the same as this one, but uses almond extract and Italian Amaretti liqueur (eg. Disaronno) instead of lemon.
Tips for rolling Amaretti cookie dough
While the dough for Lemon Amaretti Cookies is super-easy to make, rolling it into balls can be a sticky affair. To make it as easy as possible, here are my top tips…
- Make sure the two bowls of coating sugar (one for each of caster and icing sugars) are prepared and ready BEFORE you start rolling the cookie dough.
- Because the dough is very sticky, it helps to wear food-safe gloves when rolling. These prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers and are (interestingly) less likely to cling to the dough, making it easier to roll into balls.
- Roll each ball in turn, dipping in the two sugars and placing on the prepared baking tray before moving on to the next dough ball.
- For each ball, take a scoop of dough and drop into the caster sugar to partially coat it before picking up and rolling. This makes it hugely easier to handle and shape with minimal stickiness. Then roll again in both sugars before placing them on the baking tray.
Ready to make Lemon Amaretti Cookies?
Just below, you’ll find the recipe for my authentic Italian Amaretti al Limone. Just scroll a little further. I know you’ll love them. And once smitten, I feel sure these Lemon cookies will become as loved in your home as they are in mine.
If you do make them, please let me know. Nothing makes me happier than hearing my recipes are being enjoyed by others. Leave a comment, rate the recipe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, and if you’re on social media, why not share a photo too? The best places to find me are on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.
For lots of other gluten free recipe inspiration, did you know we also have an extensive Gluten Free Recipe Index? It’s the navigational hub of the blog, with hundreds of recipes shared for free. So why not grab a cuppa, head over and browse…
More Italian sweet treats to tempt you…
Italian Soft Lemon Amaretti Cookies (gluten free; dairy free)
- large mixing spoon
- 2 shallow bowls
- food gloves (optional)
- wire cooling rack
- 70 g egg whites (approx 2 large)
- 200 g ground almonds (almond meal)
- 170 g caster sugar
- 2 lemons – finely grated zest
- 20 ml Limoncello liqueur or 15 ml (1 tbsp) lemon juice
- 2½ tbsp caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- 2½ tbsp icing sugar (confectioners/powdered sugar)
- Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.
- In a large very clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.
- Fold in the almonds, sugar and lemon zest.
- Gently stir through the liqueur or lemon juice. You should now have a very thick, sticky dough.
- Tip the caster sugar and icing sugar for coating the cookies into two, separate shallow bowls.
- Scoop out walnut-sized chunks of the dough using teaspoon and roll into balls using your hands (the mix is very sticky, so food gloves may be helpful). It helps to drop the scoop of dough into the sugar to coat slightly before rolling…
- Roll each ball as you make it in the caster sugar followed by the icing sugar and place on the baking tray, leaving a slight gap between them.
- Bake for 14 to 17 minutes until crisp on the outside, but still quite pale in colour.
- Check the bake part-way through. If concerned that they may be browning, turn the oven down slightly.
- Leave to cool on the baking tray for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
© 2019-2024 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist