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Start a Holiday Tradition with Gluten-Free Pignoli Cookies

Our contributor shares her gluten free version of a traditional family holiday recipe for Pignoli cookies.

Pignoli cookies.

Pignoli Cookies by Danielle Kaye.

Holiday traditions are a language passed down from generation to generation. Each family speaks their own dialect. For some Italian-Americans, it’s all about pesci — that’s fish for those still learning Italian. For our family, it’s about pignoli, specifically Gluten-Free Pignoli Cookies.

Pinoli are pine nuts in Italian (though they're often called pignoli in the US). Pignoli Cookies are chewy almond-based cookie balls with a hint of crunch topped with fresh pinoli nuts. Their distinctive texture and nutty flavor is what makes them particularly delightful. Almonds and pine nuts come together to create the perfect gluten free cookie to be enjoyed with an espresso or even a Sambuca.

Every Christmas, three generations of women in my family would come together in the kitchen to bake batches of cookies. Each would bring a recipe or two, something inherited or learned or taught or loved. Some cookies have faded into memory, but Pignolis have always been a constant.

While traditionally made with almond paste, my version combines almond flour, egg whites, and sugar to create a substitute almost identical to the original. My grandmother taught me to find my voice. She also taught me this recipe, and this is how I’ve honored her and made it my own.

As you gather with loved ones this season, savor the foods that are the reminders of your traditions. For me, it’s Pignoli Cookies. Make them a new tradition if you like, something learned or taught or loved.

Pignoli Cookies

Pignoli Cookies

Recipe by Danielle Kaye
5.0 from 1 vote


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 1/4 cups 2 1/4 almond flour

  • 1 cup 1 sugar

  • Pinch salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon 1/4 lemon juice

  • 2 2 egg whites

  • 1 teaspoon 1 almond extract

  • 1 cup 1 pignoli nuts

  • Powdered sugar (for topping)


  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, sugar, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, add the egg whites and lemon juice. Use an electric mixer to whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  • Add the beaten egg whites to the almond flour mixture and fold to incorporate (this takes a few minutes to really come together).
  • Form the mixture into small balls (about a heaping tablespoon) and then roll each ball into pignoli nuts.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes until just barely starting to develop some color.
  • Cool on a wire rack and top with powdered sugar before enjoying!

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