Italian Anise Cookies

Very popular holiday sweets because these Italian Anise cookies are absolutely delicious and very festive looking too. This recipe makes a big batch of cookies so they’re perfect for a Christmas cookie exchange, as edible holiday gifts, or to bring along to a holiday gathering or family get-together.

As I was cleaning our closet the other day, I found my daughter’s 4th Grade Heritage Fair Cookbook. I remember the delicious content inside it which was all contributed by each member of the class.

We shared not just the recipes but the actual dish or sweet treat featured in the cookbook! We got to taste so many yummy family-favorite recipes that day.

What’s more? It was a showcase of recipes from various countries represented in the two fourth-grade classes! My dear Sophie featured a coconut rice cake from the Philippines.

What was noticeable was a good amount of delicious Italian recipes in the cookbook! One of them was this famous holiday Italian Anise cookie recipe which I’ve seen all over the internet but have never actually made. I thought with this recent discovery, my daughter and I ought to give these yummy cookies a try!

Well, we were not disappointed! In fact, we brought some of them to church the next day as treat for coffee time. Needless to say, we came home empty-handed!

Yes, they were a yummy compliment to the coffee we enjoyed. Now this coming holiday season, you can be sure it’s on my must-bake list.

Where do these Anise Cookies come from?

As the name connotes, these delicious anise-flavored cookies originated in Italy where they are considered seasonal treats, especially at Christmas celebrations or other festivities.

They are round-ish tender cookies covered in glaze and colorful sprinkles. While they are popular during the holiday season they can be made and enjoyed all year long.

Because of the anise extract added, these Italian cookies have a hint of licorice-flavored taste in them. Some people might be turned off by the licorice flavor of these treats, but for those who love it, it is such a yummy treat.

What can I use to substitute for the anise extract?

For me, who’s not exactly a fan of licorice – I think the cookies just contain the right amount of licorice flavor that’s not off-putting but in there to enhance the cookies’ overall flavor! So, I highly suggest trying to make it with anise extract first.

If you simply cannot stand the taste of anise, other substitutes can be used in place of it. You may replace the anise extract with vanilla or other citrus-flavored extracts. They would still be delicious!

Can I make a smaller batch of these Italian Anise cookies?

This recipe makes a big batch so if you wish to just bake a smaller batch, simply halve the recipe.

These cookies can be baked a couple of days before and stored until you feel like glazing them. This way, the cookies will look freshly made.

How do you store these Italian Anise cookies?

You may store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or freeze them for up to a month. Once the cookies have completely cooled but unglazed, place them in one layer on a cookie sheet and freeze. Once the cookies are frozen, place them in a freezer-friendly bag or freezer container. To thaw, remove the frozen cookies from the bag and let them thaw at room temperature. Glaze as instructed.

FOR FULL RECIPE & INSTRUCTIONS and to PRINT, SEE RECIPE CARD BELOW.

WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS FOR ITALIAN ANISE COOKIES?

  • 1/2 pound butter, softened.
  • 1 cup sugar – use white sugar.
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract – if you don’t fancy the taste of anise you can substitute with vanilla extract.
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3-3/4 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5-6 tablespoons milk – adjust amount based on the consistency you want (should be thin but creamy).
  • Assorted, multi-colored sprinkles

HOW DO YOU MAKE ITALIAN ANISE COOKIES?

In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and the extract using (anise or vanilla). Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Chill balls of dough for about an hour, or freeze for 15-20 minutes. Place cold dough balls on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 F for 9-11 minutes or just until the bottoms are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to achieve a thin but creamy consistency.

Dip cookies in icing; allow any excess to drip off. Top with sprinkles. Let stand until set.

How to Make Italian Anise Cookies

Very popular holiday sweets because these Italian Anise cookies are absolutely delicious and very festive looking too. This recipe makes a big batch of cookies so they’re perfect for a Christmas cookie exchange, as edible holiday gifts, or to bring along to a holiday gathering or family get-together.
4.95 from 20 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Desserts
Cuisine Italian
Servings 84 pieces
Calories 55 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • ½ pound butter softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tsp anise extract, (or vanilla extract)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt

For the Icing

  • 3-3/4 cups confectioner’s powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5-6 tbsp milk

To decorate

  • Assorted multi-colored sprinkles

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and the extract using (anise or vanilla). Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well.
  • Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Chill balls of dough for about an hour, or freeze for 15-20 minutes. Place cold dough balls on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at a preheated 350 F oven for 9-11 minutes or just until the bottoms are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
  • In a small bowl, combine the confectioner's sugar, vanilla and enough milk to achieve a thin but creamy consistency.
  • Dip cookies in icing; allow any excess to drip off. Top with sprinkles. Let stand until set.

Notes

TIPS & TRICKS
This makes about 7 dozen. If you only wish to make a half batch, simply halve the measurement.

Nutrition

Serving: 84piecesCalories: 55kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 1gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 39mgPotassium: 10mgFiber: 0.2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 87IUCalcium: 16mgIron: 0.3mg
Keyword How to make Italian Anise Cookies, Italian Cookies using butter recipe, Italian Cookies with Anise recipe, Italian cookies with vanilla extract, Old-fashioned Italian Cookies with Anise
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Last updated on November 10th, 2023 at 08:10 pm

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4 Comments

  1. March 28, 2023 / 10:46 am

    I make my cookies called ginetti with lemon or orange rind, and substitute almond extract for those who don’t like the anise flavour, you can substitute any flavour and make it your own. I do. Thanks Manila Spoon for your recipes. Ciao. Happy Easter everyone

    • abigail
      Author
      March 28, 2023 / 3:19 pm

      We’ve tried vanilla extract for this too and it was as yummy. Will need to try the almond and orange combo next time! Sounds yummy. Thank you for the suggestion and appreciate your kind support.

  2. Monica Armour
    November 10, 2023 / 6:47 pm

    How much salt? In the instructions it says to combine the flour, etc. and the salt but there is no amount of salt listed in the recipe.

    • abigail
      Author
      November 10, 2023 / 8:13 pm

      A pinch of salt. It was on the list of ingredients in the post. Updated it on the final recipe. Thank you for catching that. Hope you like the cookies!

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