Canestrelletti or Canestrelli. My grandmother’s favorite Christmas cookies. Actually, they were my grandfather’s favorite and my grandmother always prepared them for him for Christmas. Of course, my mother carried the tradition that was passed down to me.

It would not be the holiday season without at least three if not four batches of those heavenly little morsels.

Just the right amount of sweetness with the perfect light crunch that will not break off in tiny pieces, with a hint of lemon.

Do not be scared by the amount of butter, once one will be in your hands and you bite into it, you will forget about the amount. You will be in love with them before you know it.


What are Canestreletti or Canestrelli?

All my life I heard them be referred to as canestreletti. which means smaller canestrelli.

Originally from the Piemonte and Liguria regions of Italy, Northern Italy. Deliciously soft and buttery texture cookies with a delicious lemony flavor.  They literally melt in your mouth.

Shortbread cookies that are well suited to any time of the day and night. Perfect with your morning espresso, cappuccino, or tea.

Excellent gift idea during the holiday season. Wrap them in a beautiful holiday decorative paper as a present to your family and friends.

Easy to make, you can make quite a few using the smaller cookie cutter. But most of all they will so wonderfully appreciate it as there are no others with such a distinct taste.

Canestreletti or Canestrelli

Why another recipe?

You will encounter numerous recipes that all differ from mine. I do not add vanilla extract. I also use a combination of powder sugar, a must or they will not taste the same, as well as granulated sugar.

However, the main difference, I use egg yolks versus cooked eggs. Mine are richer in flavor and texture and they will not flake away every time you bite into one.


It is a very simple recipe, but follow these suggestions for success;

  • Use fresh lemon zest. The flavor that it gives to those little cookies is out of this world. Barely a hint when you bite into it, but just the perfect uplifting from all other cookies.
  • Use non-salted butter that is brought to room temperature. Do not melt the butter as it will not allow your Canestrelletti to hold the shape.
  • Wrap the dough in plastic saran wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours. You want the flavors to blend.
  • Work your dough fast as the warmer it gets the softer and less manageable it will get for you. Dividing it and working into batches, will be idyllic.
  • Use any of your favorite cookie cutter shapes. Use smaller ones to better enjoy the flavors. I use small hearts, stars, and flowers. Make sure they are all the same size therefore they all will be baking evenly.
  • Although there is plenty of butter in those little cookies, I always use either parchment paper or a Silpat to prevent any from attaching themselves to the cookie sheet.
  • Wait until the canestreletti are completely cooled down before dusting a generous amount of powder sugar.
  • Do use some of the egg white to brush over the top of them prior to entering the oven. A beautiful golden coat will be kissing them once out of the oven.
  • Save the egg whites to make meringues.

How can you store your canestreletti or canestrelli?

Once cooled completely and dusted with powder sugar, the canestrelletti can be stored for up to 1 week in an airtight container. However, I am quite confident that you will have them all gone before the second day approaches. Prior to serving them, dust with a little more powder sugar.

I usually place them under a glass cloche cake stand. Anytime someone walks by, they reach in and help themselves to a few.

Looking for more delicious recipes?

Why not try making:

Butter Cookies

Brown Sugar Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies

Dried Cranberry Chocolate Cookies

Enjoy those sweet Italian Canestrelli this holiday season, and remember, they are the perfect sweet gift to give.

Equipment and ingredients used to prepare this recipe

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5 from 21 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4 dozen
Just the right amount of sweetness with the perfect light crunch that will not break off into tiny pieces, with a hint of lemon


  • ½ lemon rind 1/2 lemon rind finely grated
  • 3 cups unbleached flour 3 cups unbleached flour
  • ½ cup powder sugar 1/2 cup powder sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 egg yolks 4 egg yolks (save the egg white)


  • Mix all the above ingredients until you are able to roll the dough with some ease. 
  • Let it rest, covered in a dark spot for at least 30 minutes. 
  • Roll it out to a ¼ of an inch and use favorite cutters to make cookies. Place the cookies on parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. With a small brush, brush over a light coat of egg white.
  • Bake in the oven at 375F for 10 minutes or when golden.
  • Let it cool off and sprinkle powder sugar over it. 


Calories: 910kcal | Carbohydrates: 96g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 52g | Saturated Fat: 31g | Cholesterol: 317mg | Sodium: 17mg | Potassium: 126mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 1680IU | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 1.3mg

Giangi's Kitchen provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as a registered dietician does not calculate them.

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Canestreletti or Canestrelli

Originally published on December 18, 2018, updated on November 26, 2021.

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