Anise cookies are classic Italian Christmas cookies! My version can be baked right away (no chilling required!) and is topped with a simple icing.
Italian Anisette Cookies
An Italian style Christmas cookie, these tender and pretty anise cookies are begging to join your Christmas cookie tray! They have a distinct anise flavor; if you’ve never had it before, it tastes like black licorice. Not everyone enjoys its potent taste, but if you do, you’ll love these cookies!
These cookies are hearty, not chewy, and almost biscuit-like. They melt in your mouth (unless you over-bake them, make sure the bottoms are JUST barely light golden at most) and are just very unique.
I actually developed this recipe last year and have made them quite a few times since then. I can’t wait to hear how you all like them!
What You Need
All of these ingredients are pretty straightforward, although you may need to buy some anise extract if you aren’t baking with it regularly.
- Anise extract. A key ingredient! If you’ve ever made classic Italian biscotti, you’ve ever probably tried anise extract. If you aren’t a fan of anise, you can make these cookies without it; check out my tip below for instructions.
- Sugar. We’ll sweeten our anise cookies with granulated sugar and then use powdered sugar in the icing.
- Eggs. Your eggs should be at room temperature for the best results. If you forgot to set yours out ahead of time, use my trick to quickly bring eggs to room temperature.
- Corn syrup. This is optional, but it will help your icing set up with a firm, glossy finish (just like my sugar cookie icing!). Remember, corn syrup is not the same thing as high fructose corn syrup!
- Nonpareil sprinkles. A classic topping, rainbow nonpareils are optional but add some fun to what would be an otherwise very simple cookie appearance. Of course, you could use any sprinkles here really; festive colors would be pretty too!
SAM’S TIP: If you aren’t a fan of anise, you can skip it and increase the vanilla in the dough to 2 teaspoons. If you do this, you’ll basically be making my classic Italian cookies.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Anise Cookies
- Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
- Stir in the eggs and extracts on low speed.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then gradually add them to the wet ingredients.
- Roll 1 tablespoon scoops of dough between your palms before placing on parchment lined baking sheets (if you don’t have parchment, just use an ungreased baking sheet). Bake, then let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely before covering with icing.
- Whisk together the sugar, milk, corn syrup, and extracts. Check the consistency: the frosting should ribbon off the whisk. If it doesn’t, add more milk a small splash at a time.
- Spoon the icing over the cookies, then top with nonpareils if desired. Once the frosting has set, enjoy!
SAM’S TIP: Unlike other cookies, these anise cookies will stay very pale when they are done (so it can be easy to over-bake them!). The bottoms will be the only thing that turns a light golden brown color, so check them to know if they are done.
Frequently Asked Questions
Anise tastes like licorice (true black licorice, not twizzlers or red vines). It also tastes similar to fennel, though anise is stronger and sweeter.
I’m personally not a big licorice fan and will not eat black licorice, but I do love these anise cookies!
Yes! In fact, anise cookies are also called Italian anisette cookies. They are a classic Italian Christmas cookie (just like pizzelle!).
Yes! You can store these cookies in an airtight container in the freezer for several months. To thaw, let the cookies sit at room temperature. Note that you can freeze the cookies with or without the icing.
Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a recipe that is very similar to this one–perfect for those of you who aren’t anise fans!
- 1 cups (125 g) powdered sugar
- 1 – 2 Tablespoons milk
- 2 teaspoons corn syrup optional
- ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon anise extract
- Nonpareils for decorating
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar and cream together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- Add eggs, anise extract, and vanilla extract and use mixer on low-speed to stir well.3 large eggs, 2 teaspoons anise extract, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a separate, medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Gradually (in 3-4 parts) add dry mixture into butter mixture, stirring until completely combined after each addition.
- Scoop dough into 1 Tablespoon-sized scoop, round dough by rolling gently between your palms, and place on baking sheet, spacing cookies at least 2” (5cm) apart.
- Bake cookies in 350F (175C) oven for 8-9 minutes. The bottoms of the cookies should be very lightly browned but the tops should still be pale. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for several minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.
- To prepare the glaze/icing, whisk together sugar, milk, corn syrup, and extracts until smooth. Frosting should have a ribbon consistency, if it is too thick add more milk, a small bit at a time.1 cups (125 g) powdered sugar, 1 – 2 Tablespoons milk, 2 teaspoons corn syrup, ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract, ⅛ teaspoon anise extract
- Drizzle icing over completely cooled cookies. If desired, sprinkle with nonpareils before icing hardens. Allow frosting to set before enjoying.Nonpareils
StoringStore in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
FreezingThese cookies freeze well and will keep (iced or not) in an airtight container for several months.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.