If you love Italian cookies, you are going to love these adorable little lemon ricotta cookies with a little crunch and a light glaze icing that are perfect to make at the holidays. These Italian ricotta cookies can even be decorated with festive sprinkles and given away during the holiday cookie exchange, brought to a potluck or passed around after dinner.
Italians love to use ricotta cheese in cakes, cookies and pastries, and these delicious cookies are no exception. Ricotta cookies are good for you, they are a great source of protein and have a zesty lemon flavor and light lemony powdered sugar glaze that makes them sweet and tasty and loved by all.
stand mixer to mix the dough, you can also use an electric mixer if preferred
spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl
several cookies sheets or baking sheets (cookie tray is fine too) to bake the cookies on
medium bowl and large bowl for stirring the various ingredients together at different times
wire rack for cooling ricotta cookies
whisk for making the frosting glaze
cookie scoop or spoon for forming cookies
Because the dough needs to chill for 2 hours, these ricotta cookies take a little under 3 hours to make from start to finish, but you can use the time they are chilling to make the frosting and then prep other parts of your meal while you wait.
All-purpose flour 4 cups (500 grams) – be sure to whisk the dry ingredients, including the all-purpose flour, together before adding it into the recipe.
Baking powder (2 1/2 teaspoon) – use fresh baking powder that will give your cookies a nice lift. Some people substitute with baking soda, but we didn’t find the results as reliable when using baking soda.
Salt (3/4 teaspoon salt) – use kosher salt when making this yummy recipe.
Unsalted butter 16 tbsp (225 grams) for dough + 1 tbsp (15 grams) for frosting – you should let the butter soften at room temperature before using it in the dough, and then actually melt the butter you are going to use for the glaze.
Granulated sugar 1.75 cups (350 grams) – regular granulated sugar is used for to make the cookie dough.
1 lemon (for 1 tsp lemon zest and 2 Tbsp lemon juice for frosting) – use an organic lemon only, because you will be using the rind for lemon zest and so the lemon should not be treated with any chemicals.
Ricotta cheese 2 cups (500 grams) – whole milk ricotta cheese that has been drained of its liquid works the best for this recipe, although you can use part skim ricotta cheese, just make sure it is very well drained as it tends to be watery.
Vanilla extract (1 tablespoon for dough + 1 teaspoon for icing) – if you want, you can substitute the vanilla extract with almond extract, which adds a nice, warm, nutty flavor to the Italian ricotta cookies.
Eggs (2 large) – this recipe calls for 2 large eggs.
Powdered sugar 3.5 cups (420 grams) – use powdered sugar for the frosting so that you get a smooth and shiny glaze.
Milk (5 tablespoon approximately) – any kind of milk is fine to use for the frosting, you should add it slowly so that you get the perfect glaze consistency. You can add more milk to make it a bit thinner or more powdered sugar to make it a bit thicker.
Sprinkles (optional) – these white cookies with white frosting look great with colorful sprinkles like red, green, yellow and blue, or colored sugar or even food dye to change the color of the glaze.
How to make ricotta cookies step by step
1. Cookie dough dry ingredient prep: Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and mix together with a whisk and set aside photo 1-2.
2. Make the cookie dough: Using an electric stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat sugar, butter and the lemon zest until it is light and fluffy, being sure to scrape down the sides occasionally photo 3-4.
Add the ricotta and vanilla extract to the butter mixture and mix in on medium speed photo 5-6.
Then add the eggs to the mixture one at a time and blend photo 7-8–9-10.
Last, add flour mixture and mix very briefly on low speed, just until combined photo 11-12.
Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, cover with plastic wrap and chill the dough in the fridge for 2 hours.
Make the glaze: First melt the butter and put it in a mixing bowl along with the powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and milk and whisk until smooth photo 13-14.
If the frosting is too thick, add more milk 1 tsp at a time until you get the right consistency, which is thinner than a cake frosting but thicker than a doughnut frosting. Set in a cool place or in the fridge until you are ready to use it photo 15-16.
Prep oven and form cookie balls: After an hour and forty minutes of chilling the dough, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out one spoonful of chilled dough, shape it into a ball with your hands and place it on the lined baking sheet. Form ricotta cookie dough balls until you have used all the remaining dough, spacing the balls 2 cm from each other photo 17.
Bake the cookies: Put the cookies in a preheated oven to bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly golden brown. Remove and let cool on the baking sheet for several minutes until firm and then transfer the warm cookies to a wire rack to cool completely photo 18.
Frost the cookies: When the cooled cookies are ready to be glazed photo 19, remove the frosting glaze from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature, stirring until smooth and slightly runny, you can add a tsp of milk if it has hardened too much. Take a spoonful of icing and drizzle over the top of each cookie. Add sprinkles immediately if you are using them so that they harden into the glaze photo 20.
Leave the cookies at room temperature until the icing has set and then serve.
Expert tips for the best ricotta cookies
Perfect icing. Depending on how liquid your frosting is, you can either spoon it on or use a pastry bag to gently squeeze it on top. If you like very thick icing, you can also spread icing on top, but be aware that it will be less shiny and you will not be able to stack the cookies on top of each other for storage in an airtight container if the frosting is thick and doesn’t fully set.
Extra lemony taste. For a super lemon taste for these lemon ricotta cookies you can add a few drops of lemon extract to the glaze.
Chocolate surprise: Add white or dark mini chocolate chips to the dough at the very end before forming them into dough balls. Do not over stir.
Festive colors: Add festive colored sprinkles on top of the frosting before it sets. You can also use food dye to color the white frosting various colors. Another option is using red or green colored sugar for this cookie recipe.
Go orange. Add orange zest and orange juice instead of lemon zest and lemon juice if you want to make orange ricotta cookies instead of lemon ricotta cookies.
Almond cookies with almond extract. You can also skip the lemon or orange all together and add almond extract instead of vanilla extract for a ricotta cookie with an almond taste. You can even add a bit of chopped almonds for an even intenser almond flavor and then use almond extract in the frosting for an almond flavored glaze, absolutely delicious!
Try other cookie recipes:
How long can I store ricotta cookies?
You can store these delicious ricotta cookies in the fridge in an airtight container separated from each other with a layer of parchment paper. They will stay good for 4 days in the fridge, but be sure to remove them at least one hour before serving so they come up to room temperature.
Can I freeze ricotta cookies?
Yes, lemon ricotta cookies will stay good in the freezer for up to 3 months, and should be fully defrosted at room temperature and eaten right away, do not refreeze or put in the fridge. Consider not frosting the cookies and putting the unglazed cookies into the freezer, later you can defrost them, make fresh icing and add the glaze before serving them.
Can I make the dough ahead of time?
Yes, you can make the dough up to 2 days in advance and store in the fridge until you are ready to bake the ricotta cookies fresh the day you want to serve them and then glaze.
Italian Lemon Ricotta Cookies
500 grams all-purpose flour2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder3/4 teaspoon salt225 grams unsalted butter room temperature350 grams granulated sugar1 teaspoon lemon zest500 grams ricotta1 tablespoon vanilla extract2 large eggs
15 grams unsalted butter melted420 grams powdered sugar5 tablespoon milk1 teaspoon vanilla extract2 tablespoon lemon juice fresh squeezed