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Soft Amaretti Cookies

Soft Amaretti Cookies

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Soft amaretti cookies are quite unlike their crispy cousins, so don’t get the two confused. With a chewy exterior and a soft, marzipan-like middle, they’re a treat for almond lovers everywhere.

Amaretti morbidi is what they’re known in Italy, morbidi meaning ‘soft’ in Italian (not morbid, I promise these are anything but). They’re naturally gluten-free, made with little more than almond flour, sugar and egg white with a splash of almond extract to amp up the almond flavor.

Amaretti Morbidi is a traditional Italian almond cookie recipe you'll adore!

This is a recipe originally posted back in 2013, and one of my all-time favorites, based on a cookie I enjoyed during our honeymoon in Italy. Not to be confused with the crunchy amaretti croccanti you buy by the bag (might I suggest making your next pumpkin pie with those?) these soft amaretti are chewy on the outside and almost marzipan-like in the middle. In other words, simply divine.

While the old recipe always got rave reviews, I’d gotten a few comments over the years noting that the cookies spread much more than the photo, and, if you know me, you know that I am very bothered by recipes that don’t behave as they should.

Being that it’s one of my favorite cookie recipes I figured it was time for an update (and while most bloggers would just update the old post, I’m a sentimental sap and want to keep my old photos and words preserved for posterity. Google probably won’t like the fact that I’m publishing this update as an entirely new post, but, whatever.)

So I set out to figure out the mystery of the spreading cookies.

Plate of Soft Amaretti Cookies

Soft Amaretti Cookies

Soft Amaretti Cookie Recipe

I spent an entire Saturday making batch after batch (I split the recipe into quarter size mini batches, weighing out everything precisely in grams, and noting each changed variable in my recipe notebook).

I tested beating my egg whites to soft peaks and stiff peaks and even tried egg whites than were just barely beaten to a froth. I tested cookies with and without a tiny bit of flour (spoiler: it makes no difference in the final cookie, so I ended up removing it completely from the revised recipe to make them 100% gluten free). I tested cookies baked on a single cookie sheet and stacked cookie sheets and longer bake times and shorter ones. I mostly baked from room temperature dough, but I also tried chilling and even freezing the dough first. With a few small variations (most notably the version I added a bit of baking powder just for kicks), most of my cookies ended up looking virtually identical.

I also tested increasing the quantity of egg white, which is what I suspected as the cause of spreading cookies. I whipped up batches with 60g, 64g, 68g, and 72g of egg whites (a 20% increase!) and popped them in the oven to see what would happen.

Surprisingly, the cookies with 20% more egg whites were a bit softer in the middle, but the cookies themselves weren’t anymore spread out than the control group.

Which really left me baffled.

Soft Amaretti Cookies are chewy on the outside and soft and almost marzipan-like on the inside

The one variable that seemed to make the biggest visual difference was actually different brands of almond flour, I assume because the moisture levels can vary so greatly from one brand to another (also how fresh the flour itself is). A cookie made with older/drier almond flour held its shape much more than a fresher flour.

Pictured below, left to right: Old almond flour from my pantry (probably from Costco or Nuts.com), Bob’s Red Mill, and Simple Truth almond flour. Bob’s was my favorite in the end, so the final cookies were all made with that. (Note that I didn’t test making my own almond meal from finely ground almonds, which would, I’m assuming, behave quite differently, as most home food processors simply can’t grind up nuts as finely.)

Testing variables: different kinds of almond flour have different moisture content.

So, anyway, here I was ready to chalk up readers’ mysterious spreading cookies to a particular brand or home-ground almond flour.

Then I woke up on Sunday to make a full batch of cookies using my final recipe for photos.

And what would you know, they looked completely different. Not entirely spread out, but they are noticeably flatter with larger, rougher cracks. Other than it being Sunday, the recipe was identical to what I had baked the day before. Go figure.

Pictured below, left: cookie baked on Saturday, right: cookie baked on Sunday.

In the end, I actually like the way they look better than the stiffer balls from Saturday, the cracks are more dramatic and, especially with a thicker coating of powdered sugar, really highlight the texture of the cookie. So maybe it was meant to be afterall.

Testing variables: one cookie was baked on a humid day, one baked on a dry day.

At this point I’m still not firm in my conclusions, but being that the weather on Saturday was cool and drizzly, and on Sunday it was dry and sunny (and much less humid), I suspect that humidity has a noticeable effect on these cookies. Although I would have thought the cookies baked on a humid day would have absorbed more moisture into the dough and spread more as a result, when in reality it seemed to be just the opposite.

Perhaps a drier, more air-filled meringue actually produces more defined cracks and causes more spreading? And on humid days we all know that getting really stiff peaks out of your meringue isn’t an easy task; the resulting softer, wetter meringue makes for less cracks and a firmer ball shape. That’s my current theory, anyway. At this point I have to wait for another humid day to test out if I’m right or not, but for now, I have updated the original recipe to include a speck of lemon juice to help the meringue whip up more stably, even on humid days.

Let me just say that while your cookies might not look identical to mine, maybe they spread more or cracked less or browned more on the bottoms, regardless of what they look like, they will still taste fabulous.

Here’s how to make them:

How to make Amaretti Morbidi cookies: Beat egg whites to medium-stiff peaks.

Beat your egg whites to medium-stiff peaks. The tip should lean ever so slightly, not curl or droop, and not stick straight up like an albumen alfalfa.

In my testing the egg whites that were beaten to stiffer peaks produced more defined cracks and slightly more spreading, but it was really a miniscule difference. Just try not to overbeat them (if they look like dry styrofoam or dish suds, you’ve probably overdone it).

A tiny bit of lemon juice brings up the acidity and helps form a more stable meringue, especially in more humid conditions (a pinch of cream of tartar would work in the same way).

How to make Amaretti Morbidi cookies: the dough should be sticky and yet still workable.

Stir the egg white into the almond flour. You could also pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the egg white and let your stand mixer do the work for you.

Let me just say: you are not making macarons. You’ll be here forever if you try to ‘fold’ in the egg whites. There’s no need to be delicate, smush and stir and smash the heck out of it.

I also found using my hands towards the end really helped bring it all together into a smooth, sticky dough.

How to make Amaretti Morbidi cookies: roll in powdered sugar

Soft Amaretti Cookies ready to be baked!

Traditional amaretti morbidi (soft amaretti) do use some bitter almond or even ground up apricot kernels (which have a similar intense almond flavor, believe it or not). Since bitter almond flour is pretty much impossible to find here in the States, I used a little almond extract instead to help amp up the almond flavor in its place. But by all means, if you have access to bitter almond flour, use it! 20g or so should do you just fine.

Recipe for Amaretti Morbidi, or Soft Amaretti Cookie

Want to see how these delightful little cookies are made (along with the chocolate, matcha and raspberry variations)? Check out the video:

With a chewy crystalized crust, crunchy browned bottoms, and a soft, marzipan-like center, these cookies are the ultimate almond cookie. Not to mention they are incredibly easy to prepare and ever so satisfying. They keep well and stay soft for days, making them perfect for make-ahead holiday parties and cookie gifts shipped across the country.

Soft Amaretti Cookies

Soft Amaretti Cookies

Soft amaretti (amaretti morbidi) cookies are a treat for almond lovers everywhere, with a chewy exterior and a soft, marzipan-like middle.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups (200g) almond flour or very finely ground almonds, sifted
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 large egg whites (about 60 grams)
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • confectioners’ sugar, as needed

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Stack two matching, heavyweight, light to medium colored cookie sheets one inside the other (stacking two cookie sheets together keeps the bottoms of the cookies from getting too brown). Line with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, sugar and salt until evenly incorporated.
  3. In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites and lemon juice until they hold soft peaks.
  4. Add beaten egg whites and almond extract to dry ingredients and stir until mixture forms a soft, sticky dough, kneading with your hands if necessary. No need to be gentle here, we’re not making macarons. ;)
  5. Lightly dust your hands with powdered sugar. Use a small cookie scoop to portion dough into 1-inch balls. Roll into a smooth ball, then roll in powdered sugar. Arrange on parchment or silicon-lined baking sheets, leaving 1 inch of space between cookies.
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until tops are cracked and bottoms are just barely golden (if you are NOT using doubled cookie sheets your cookies will brown much quicker, and will likely only need 25 minutes, so watch them closely). If you prefer crunchier cookies you can give them an extra 5 minutes or so or until the tops begin to brown too. Remove from oven; let cool a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  7. Cookies will keep at room temperature in an airtight bag or container, for up to 5 days.
All images and text © Lindsay Landis /

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50 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. I love amaretti cookies! They look so delicious and soft ?

  2. Hi.. awesome recipe..But we do not have almond flour..can replace it with all purpose flour>>thanks

  3. I think the answer maybe that your dough was rested over night. I know when I make triple batches of chocolate crinkles, the recipe says to refrigerate over night. Same thing goes for refrigerator cookies that sliced and baked.

    Can’t wait to make these!
    Tania

    • Guess it wasn’t clear but I actually made a fresh batch Sunday morning and those are the ones that spread. I did test a batch refrigerating the dough for 30 mins and it made no difference to the ones I baked at room temp.
      *shrug* I’m stumped.

  4. Definitely adding to the Christmas baking list! YUM!

  5. What step do you add the salt in?

  6. Have you ever tried making these with any other types of sugar besides white?

    • I have not, no. Seeing how finicky they were with plain white sugar, I’m really not confident it’d work very well (brown sugar, for example, has a lot more moisture in it than white and would likely cause very different results).

    • I tried them replacing the sugar with 1/2 Splenda and 1/2 xylitol.  They definitely need to bake longer in order to brown some. Next time I am going to try the Splenda or Truvia baking blends.  Got a soft dense cookie.  I also used liquid egg whites.  Will try with whites from the shell next also. 

      My husband and a diabetic friend thought they tasted fine.  Looking for a sugar free alternative.  

  7. Just found out about the spice Mahlab from watching British baking show and was looking for a cookie to add it to. It’s really got me intrigued. Have you heard of it? Do you think it would work in this recipe? Thank you!

  8. OMG I JUST MADE THESE AND AM IN LOVE! I accidentally made them bigger so only ended up with 13 cookies total but each one is going to be highly treasured. Mine also spread a bit more than the pictures – probably bc they were larger but maybe also because I did not knead the dough too much. I also used a brand new bag of Bob’s Red Mill almond flour so that might have also made it a bit more moist. So good and beautiful either way. Thank you for introducing me to my new favorite cookie!

  9. Can these be frozen? They look and sound heavenly.

  10. Have you ever tried to make these in a chocolate version? That would be yummy.

  11. Absolutely delicious! These turned out perfectly. I am going to try to make them with low carb sugar replacement and see how that goes.

  12. I love this recipe! The cookies are delicious.

  13. I just made these – delicious!!! The bottoms browned quickly so I took then out after 20 mins, and the inside I soft but I wonder if they are maybe still raw? They taste amazing anyway and have a nice crunchy outside with the very soft inside. I think this could be because I took them out once the bottoms looked brown and then left them on the cookie tray a few minutes before transferring to a cookie sheet. Only 22 came out of my batch, was expecting closer to 30. They’re the right size but perhaps next time I’ll make them a but smaller.

    • Guessing you used one cookie sheet vs two stacked ones? It really makes a difference with how quickly the bottoms brown. After 20 minutes the middles are definitely no longer raw, just a softer texture, and the outsides won’t be quite as chewy.

  14. Jest baked them, amazing!!! I added 1/4 cup of ground apricot cernels, delish!! Thank you for sharing the recipe and your thoughts!! Lots of love!

  15. If the dough have to be kneaded , why should the eggs be beaten?? All the air incorporated into the egg white would be flatten away with the kneading? . Correct me please :)
    Anyway those cookies looks heavenly, can’t wait to try them !

    • I’m no food scientist, but beating the whites changes the protein structure of the egg. It’s more than just air. :) I tested making cookies without beating (or just barely beating) and the cookies didn’t develop the signature cracks nor was the texture quite the same. Magic!!

  16. You are right on, moisture (among so many other factors) is super important in contributing to how sugar behaves. You’ve found the sweet spot.

  17. My sister’s kids are GF, and I collect recipes to send down batches of sweets once a week. I wasn’t sure how these would turn out, and now I am trying to convince myself not to eat them all standing over the cooling rack. My signature cracks were more like a single gaping chasm, but the edges of the cookies have that delicate meringue crunch. I will definitely be adding this to my list of recipes to keep.

    Have you tried subbing in amaretto or frangelico for the almond extract?

    Oh, and as a total side note, I find that Bob’s Red Mill blanched almond flour reacts differently than their unblanched almond flour in baking recipes, so that’s a possibility too.

    • So glad you enjoyed!!
      I think you’d need a lot more amaretto/liqueur for it to make an impact flavor-wise (vs extract which is very potent). I cannot say how that extra liquid might affect the final product.

  18. Thank you – this was delicious!  I did not have almond extract so I used vanilla.  I still got the almond flavor though.  I love lemon so I added a little more lemon juice and zest from my lemon.   Wow that really brought out almond and lemon.  Yummm!   This caught my eye since I’m Gluten Free so thank you very much!!!  

  19. Splendid! So quick and easy. For my third batch I used lavender extract instead of almond (probably a sacrilege), but delicious!

  20. EXCELLENT! I now have managed to make this recipe x 3 this week alone. I have always loved the Amaretti cookies found in the stores around the holidays, and never imagined that I could make them.

    This recipe is easy to prepare and I would consider (following directions) this to be a no fail recipe. The texture is slightly crisp on the outside and a chewy/moist center with a good amount of almond flavor – just like the ones I pay so much for.

    I am making them again this evening for a 70th birthday for a friend, and they are a huge Italian family. I know they will love these. Thank you for this classic recipe – this is the way I prefer to bake and cook. So very grateful, LS

  21. How much do you weigh each cookie?  I too enjoy using my scale and make perfect sizes.

  22. Can I adjust the sugar I put in? How would that affect the cookies?

    • I would not adjust the sugar in this recipe. Since there are only 3 main ingredients in these cookies, changing the quantity of sugar would likely make a big difference in the final product.

  23. it’s a nice and delicious cookie,but I think if you use a little less sugar, it would be better.

  24. I baked these last week, achieved perfect and beautiful cookies, just like the photos. They tasted amazing, thanks for the recipe! 
    BUT  today I baked a new batch for my family and friends and family to enjoy on Easter, but sadly the amaretti spread out so much! I got flat cookies instead of soft balls, I’m really bugged since i did not change anything and weighted all the ingredients just like the first try last well.. they still taste delicious, just a little more crunchy overall.

    • I have not been able to figure out why these cookies occasionally spread. Did you use a different brand of almond flour, perhaps? Or could you have over beaten your egg whites? Those two variables are my best guess. But I myself had two batches turn out quite differently on two different days, so who knows! 🤷‍♀️
      Luckily they are just as tasty even if they spread. 😉

  25. The cookie recipe I didn’t know I way missing! It’s almost like an Italian pignoli cookie (pine nut cookie) without the pine nuts. I was a little lazy and did a one-bowl version–I beat the egg whites, then added the dry ingredients, alternating between with sugar and the almond flour. It all seemed to incorporate just fine, and they baked up nicely and tasted great. The only downside is that I was only able to bake 1/2 at a time, and at 30 minutes a batch, they took a long time to cook. They did not take long to eat, though–my preteen boys and hubby got most of them before I could take my fair share! I’ll be looking for an affordable almond flour source so I can make these more often! (Maybe Costco? Any suggestions?)

  26. Such a luscious cookie for so little effort. And so few ingredients. Many thanks.

  27. I had made this recipe years back and noted that it was very very sweet so I tried again with 3/4 cups sugar. I loved the texture of the cookies and would definitely remake them but with even less sugar next time. If you’re using almond flour from Costco, it came out to exactly 2 cups of flour for me. Also, the cookies stuck to the parchment paper a bit for me but I was able to peel them off the paper without damaging the cookies at all! Oh and lastly, I pushed the balls of dough down just a bit with my finger as opposed to putting them into the oven as balls and they came out beautifully! Thanks for the awesome recipe :)

  28. I was having trouble with the cookies spreading. I’ve reduced the sugar content, and added more almond flour (to make a stronger dough) and it seems to have worked much better.

    Probably 150g of sugar and 350g of almond flour… I added more flour until it looked right (still sticky, but the dough can be torn and stay rough).

  29. These look terrific, I was thinking of subbing the lemon juice with lime juice. What do you think?

  30. I made these this afternoon. Half the batch was according to the recipe, but I added some chopped cocktail cherries to the other half. I had to add some extra ground almonds to offset the extra liquid but it worked really well. We’ve now got two new favorites!

  31.   Wow! These cookies are the real deal. Follow the recipe and watch your egg whites this is key. I did add a few drops of almond extract.  Don’t be tempted to over bake as they will dry out quicker.  Bake jus before you need them.  You can put this together rather quickly. Now I don’t have to travel to the import store for these.   

    Ms Lynn

  32. Exactly like the cookies I would buy at an Italian bakery , soft and chewy.  The only thing I added was the cherry on top because those are my favorite at the bakery. 
    Kids loved them claiming mine were better.  Will make again for sure (cheaper than the bakery they charge the cookies by weight).

  33. These look great! Is it possible to freeze the unbaked dough balls so I can bake them off as needed, or would that ruin the texture? If I did freeze them, would I do it before or after rolling them in powdered sugar? 

    Thanks!

  34. Thank you  so much for this age-old recipe,which has gone from generation to generation unchanged.Why change it? Then it is no longer the original ! And your several  trials, which I have done also,out of curiosity.There could be a few more things  to  make a difference in the results: egg whites from the fridge or room temp,or also bio eggs versus cheaper eggs, or drying time.. Will continue the trials! Either way the cookies are heavenly,always well received, no matter how they bloom!The pleasure of it all.

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