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Canestrelli cookies are a little bit like shortbread cookies but lighter, with more of a crunch and a more in-depth flavor. These traditional Italian cookies are from Italy’s Liguria region and are buttery tasting with a delicious vanilla and lemon fragrance evident in every bite. You will want to add these Italian cookies to your baking plans. The flower shape is distinctive, and traditional Italian cookies are ideal for the holiday season, springtime, or Easter, too. Everyone will love these!

Italian Canestrelli Cookies.

Canestrelli are flower shaped cookies with hole in the middle and they make such a tasty treat with a morning cup of coffee or glass of tea.

There are so many delicious Italian cookies to try out or add to your cookie tray. Consider panetonne, Italian Rainbow Cookies, Limoncello Italian Wedding Cookies or Gingerbread Pizzelle.

During holiday baking season, a person gently sprinkles powdered sugar on a flower-shaped canestrelli cookie.

Why You’ll Love Them

Easy:  There’s nothing hard about making these melt in your mouth texture canestrelli cookies with hard boiled egg yolks, even though they look fancy. You’ll love the simplicity of the recipe.
Unusual: If you’re Italian these probably don’t seem all that unusual to you, but otherwise they will, and making them with hard boiled egg yolks in the shapes of flowers definitely sets them apart.
A great gift idea: If you are thinking about making canestrelli cookies as a gift, that’s a great holiday baking idea. They’re quick and easy to make. What’s even better is you can thread string or decorative ribbon through the holes in the middle of the canestrelli for a cute presentation!

Italian Christmas cookies dusted with powdered sugar on a plate.

Ingredients for Italian Canestrelli Cookies

To make canestrelli, you will need flour, powdered sugar, corn starch, unsalted butter, vanilla bean extract or vanilla essence, cooked egg yolks, and lemon zest.

The ingredients for a canestrelli cookie recipe are laid out on a marble table for holiday baking.

How to Make Italian Hard-Boiled Egg Yolk Cookies

For more detailed instructions with weights and measurements, jump to the printable recipe card.

Prepare the cookie dough: Process the flour, sugar, corn starch, and lemon zest in a food processor, then add the butter and vanilla and process again, and then add the cooked mashed egg yolks and blend them in.
Knead and rest the dough: After kneading the canestrelli dough on a floured surface, wrap it up in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least a few hours.
Shape the canestrelli Italian cookies: Roll out the dough and use a flower-shaped or canestrelli cookie cutter to cut out the cookies, then make a hole in the center of each one with a straw, miniature round cookie cutter or similar.
Cook them: Bake the cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet until very slightly golden, let them cool in the pan and then cool completely on wire racks before dusting with powdered sugar and serving.

A food processor being used to blend ingredients for Christmas canestrellis.

The Surprise Ingredient in Canestrelli Cookies

Canestrelli cookies are crumbly and the icing sugar on top means you have to take care when eating them! Unless you want to end up wearing it, that is. These tea time cookies are traditionally flower-shaped so you can recognize them easily. But just guess what the surprise ingredient is.

It’s something you wouldn’t usually find in cookies of any kind. And the answer is …hard-boiled egg yolks! These help give the canestrelli cookies their typical texture and a wonderfully rich finish.

Some flower shaped cookies are sitting on a cutting board.

Although lemon zest is the typical citrus flavor used when making these traditional Italian cookies, orange or even lime zest would also work. So, get creative with your cookie baking and maybe try more than one version. This is one of the nicest things to come out of northern Italy.

Flower shaped canestrelli cookies on a wooden cutting board.

What Does ‘Canestrelli’ Mean?

The name of these cookies is Italian (of course!) and translates to little baskets. This refers to the baskets which were traditionally used to let the cookies cool down after baking. Today we use wire racks. And we also have food processors to make life a little easier and ensure the delicious canestrelli come out perfectly.

Fresh baked cookies on a wooden board, lemon cookies with powdered sugar for some sweet treat.

According to legend, these cookies were first created over 500 years ago in Torriglia. That is a little village close to Genova. Back in the Middle Ages, these cookies were often used as a gift on festive occasions.

Some Italian cookies on a cutting board.

Whenever there was a religious feast or a wedding, a canestrelli recipe would make their anticipated appearance and everyone would see their characteristic flower-shape and know instantly what this treat was!

Canestrelli cookies with powdered sugar on a wooden cutting board.

Traditional Italian Cookies

The Ligurian version of these Italian hard-boiled egg yolk cookies is usually pale and flower-shaped. The pale color is important so keep an eye on them in the oven during the final few minutes of holiday baking. Golden brown isn’t what we are going for here with Italian egg yolk cookies.

Lemon cookies with powdered sugar on a wooden cutting board perfect for spring and summer.

Substitutions and Variations

Often, there are other varieties of authentic Italian recipes, and that is true for this cookie. One is the hard, waffle-shaped type from Piedmont. Another is made by sandwiching a pair of thin chocolate wafers with chocolate hazelnut cream.

Canestrelli cookies on a wooden plate.

How to Serve Canestrelli Italian Cookies

Enjoy them with coffee, tea or a glass of milk, string them together and give as a gift, or take them to a picnic lunch or potluck supper. And if you like authentic Italian cookie recipes, you might also want to try making nutellotti or pignoli Cookies.

Lemon shortbread cookies on a wooden cutting board.

How to Store Canestrelli

Store:  When baked, these cookies will keep fresh for 2 or 3 weeks in an airtight container.
Freeze: Freeze them for up to a couple of months if you like, then thaw in the refrigerator or on the countertop.

Some Italian cookies are sitting on a table.

Canestrelli Recipe FAQs

How do you ensure these come out well?

It’s important to use softened butter in this recipe but that doesn’t mean melted. Mixing melted butter with the other ingredients means your cookies won’t keep their shape. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator until it is well chilled. This means your canestrelli cookies will have the right texture. If they’re too soft they will spread over the baking sheet before they are cooked. Then your flowers will look – well, a bit less like flowers!

n the same vein, knead the dough quickly and briefly. Too much kneading will warm the dough too much. Some people like to knead it a piece at a time, because it’s easier this way. When removing the dough from the cookie cutter, use a spoon handle to help you and push it out gently. Put it straight on to the prepared cookie sheet.

After baking, make sure they are completely cool before dusting them with powdered sugar. Tips like this always help with Christmas baking, especially if you’re new to these types of Christmas cookies! And these old fashioned Italian cookies are definitely worth making for the family to enjoy.

Where can you get a flower cookie cutter?

If you don’t already have a flower shaped cookie cutter, you can find them online or at your favorite baking supply store. Or you could use another shape – but flowers are traditional!

Some flower shaped lemon cookies are sitting on a cutting board.

Italian Canestrelli Cookies Recipe

5 from 16 votes
By: Bella Bucchiotti
Canestrelli cookies, or Italian egg yolk cookies, are like shortbread and perfect for your Christmas baking list. Add these Italian Christmas cookies to your holiday baking plans!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 16 cookies


  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1/2 + 1 1/2 Tablespoon Cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 + 2 Tablespoon Cup corn starch
  • 2/3 Cup butter, cold
  • 1/2 Teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs, hard-boiled egg – yolks only
  • 1/2 zested lemon


  • Hard boil eggs and let cool. Remove shell, separate the white from yolk. Mash the yolk only with a fork. Set aside.
  • In a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, corn starch and the lemon zest. Then add the butter and vanilla. Process briefly, and then add the egg yolk. Process until combined.
  • Place on a lightly floured surface and knead until combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 325° degrees F. Prepare baking sheets and line with parchment.
  • Remove dough from fridge, and divide into two pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1 centimeter thickness. Cut with a small to medium size flower cookie cutter.
  • Use a straw or a small round cookie cutter to make a hole in the middle of the flower. Place cut out flowers on prepared cookie sheets and bake for approximately 12 to14 minutes. Note: the number of cookies this recipe makes will vary depending on the size of the cookie cutters you use.
  • Remove cookies from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before you move to wire racks to cool. Dust with powdered sugar.


Calories: 84kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 32mg | Sodium: 23mg | Potassium: 33mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 61IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

This is one holiday baking recipe you don’t have to be careful with, when it comes to the powdered sugar. In fact, some would say the more the better! There is no such thing as over-sugaring these finished canestrelli cookies. The soft blanket of powdered sugar certainly adds to their appeal! And who cares if they’re messy to eat. Italian Christmas cookie recipes are so worth it!

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Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti is a Canadian-based syndicated food, travel, and lifestyle writer, photographer, and creator at xoxoBella. She founded xoxoBella in 2015, where she shares her love for food, dogs, sustainability, fitness, crafts, outdoor adventures, travel, and philanthropy to encourage others to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places, and stand for a cause. Bella creates stress-free and family-friendly recipes for weeknight dinners and festive feasts.


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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Oh wow, what an interesting cookie recipe. I think I never saw nor taste anything like this. Boiled egg? So cool 🙂 I have to give this recipe a try. Cookies look light and delicious.