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This is absolutely the best recipe for authentic Italian Butter Cookies you'll come across! Just like an Italian bakery, but better. These cookies are soft, flavorful and full of rich, buttery goodness. They are super easy and simple to make, you’ll never buy them from a store or the bakery again.
Whenever I see a platter of assorted Italian Butter Cookies, my eyes light up. Being from an Italian family, these classic butter cookies are something we have at the end of every holiday meal. It's tradition!
My complaint with Italian Butter Cookies
Italian Butter Cookies are probably the most delicious of all the Italian cookies. But, that deliciousness really depends where you get them from.
Grocery stores and Italian bakeries sell these cookies during the holiday season, but they are usually unpleasantly dry all the way through.
They are often crumbly, sandy and flavorless (it’s evident they don’t use real butter in those). My husband would argue that they're good for dunking in tea, but that's another story.
After making my own Soft Butter Cookies, I realized that I absolutely needed a homemade version of these classic Italian sandwich & (what I call) star cookies to add to my Italian recipes.
Now that I’ve made these from scratch, I will never, ever buy store bought again.
Italian Butter Cookies
These delicious Italian cookies are supremely buttery and rich with vanilla extract. They’re on the softer side, but they are not chewy. They simply melt in your mouth!
Since the ingredient list for these cookies is small, it's important to use high quality ingredients. I prefer to use unsalted butter for this recipe, and European / Italian butter for extra flavor.
The simple buttery flavor pairs so well with tangy raspberry jam and rich dark chocolate.
Sounds yummy, right? They are the perfect little bite of deliciousness. But to be honest, I always b-line it straight for the sandwich version.
For Bakery Style Butter Cookies
I've prepared these cookies in a few different ways. Both methods of forming the cookies include using a piping bag fitted with a large star tip attachment.
The sandwich cookies are held together by a layer of zingy, but sweet seedless raspberry jam.
This is the most common pairing but you can also sandwich these with chocolate ganache if you're not in the mood for a jam-filled center.
For the ‘star’ cookies, I piped the dough out on a baking sheet then added some rainbow sprinkles before baking. For others, I created a little divot to hold the ganache.
I used very good, high- quality melted chocolate to dip the ends of the cookies.
A pinch of colored sprinkles is just the thing to make these cookies stand out from the rest.
Powdered sugar could also be a good addition, though not traditional.
Homemade butter cookies are just absolutely divine. They are exactly how YOU WISH those store bought cookies tasted.
How to make this authentic Italian Butter Cookie recipe
These cookies are quite easy to make. This recipe requires just a couple of specialty items.
You’ll need large, heavy duty piping bags or a pastry bag to pipe out the cookie dough and a large star tip to achieve the shape of the cookie.
After mixing all of the ingredients, I stuffed the dough into the piping bag and fitted it with the large star piping tip to create the cookies.
To make the sandwich cookies, I piped 2” long strips onto a tray lined with parchment paper. The ends do not come off cleanly when the dough is released from the pastry bag, so I used a sharp knife to create a straight line on both ends.
For the star cookies, I simply held the piping bag vertically and squeezed dough out onto the parchment paper.
If you want to make chocolate-filled star cookies, you can use the back of a ¼ teaspoon dipped in flour to form a tiny well in the center of the cookie before baking.
When you go to put chocolate on those later, it will have a nice little area to fill up.
Do not overbake
You’ll need to keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t get too brown. I baked them for about 11 minutes to achieve a very soft, light golden brown on the edge. That way, they stay nice and soft.
The key is to take them out when they're lightly golden, if they bake too long they won't have the right bakery style texture. Overbaking will cause them to become very dry and crumbly – exactly what we’re trying to avoid!
Assembling the sandwich cookies
After the cookies cool completely on a wire rack, spread a tiny, tiny amount of jam on one of the cookies.
I promise you don’t need as much jam as you think. I used a little less than ¼ of a teaspoon of jam for each sandwich. You don’t want it to run down the sides of the cookies.
Once all of my sandwiches were made, I dipped one side of the cookies in melted chocolate and used a tiny amount of rainbow sprinkles. You cannot skip the chocolate!
Now, I did also make a non-jam, all chocolate version of these cookies for anyone that isn’t a fan of that raspberry & chocolate combination.
For that version, I used a thick ganache in the middle. They would also be amazingly delicious completely dipped in chocolate!
The chocolate versions were just as mouth-watering, but definitely stick with the jam if you want to go with that traditional, bakery style soft Italian butter cookie route that most are such a fan of.
You’re going to love this recipe!
These cookies are such a treat to have for special occasions and holidays. You'll want to make a double batch!
Make sure you store any leftovers in an airtight container once completely cooled so they stay fresh.
For more ideas and holiday baking inspo, try my butter cookies recipe. It is sure to be another delight at the table this holiday season.
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Italian Butter Cookies
- Total Time: 60 minutes
- Yield: 20 sandwich cookies or 50 star cookies
For the Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter (softened at room temp)
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoon milk + 1 teaspoon (or 7 tsp)
For Sandwich Cookies (if making jam sandwiches)
- ¼ cup seedless raspberry jam
- 6 oz milk or dark chocolate
- rainbow sprinkles
Chocolate Ganache (if making chocolate sandwiches/center of 'star' cookies)
- ¾ cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie trays with parchment.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar & salt until light and fluffy using a hand mixer.
- Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix on medium speed until well combined.
- Measure in the flour and mix until large crumbles form. Add in the milk and mix well. The dough should NOT form a ball. It should be sticky and have the consistency of very thick buttercream. If you stick your spatula in the dough and pull it out, some of the batter should stick - that's perfect! If you're dough is not sticking enough after adding all of the milk, you can add a bit more but avoid using too much as this can cause the cookies to spread and lose their shape.
- Transfer the dough to a extra large, heavy duty piping bag fitted with a large open star tip.
- For sandwich cookies, pipe the dough into 2" strips leaving 1 ½ inches between each cookie. Use a sharp knife to trim the edges to make a clean edge.
To make star cookies, hold the piping bag vertically and squeeze until your star shape is about 1 inch in diameter.
- *For star cookies, before baking, decorate with sprinkles if desired. Or, if you plan on filling them with chocolate, use a ¼ teaspoon that is floured to create a divot or well in the center of the cookie.
- Bake cookies in the oven until light golden brown on the edges, about 10 - 13 minutes.
- Transfer to a baking rack to cool completely, you can also allow to fully cool on baking sheet.
To Make Sandwiches
- Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 15 second intervals (stirring well in between each) until fully melted and smooth.
- For sandwiches, spread a little less than ¼ teaspoon of jam or ganache onto one side of the cookie. Sandwich together.
- Dip one end of the sandwich cookie in melted chocolate and lay on a rack. Add sprinkles and allow the chocolate to set at room temperature.
To Make the Ganache (can be used for sandwich cookies or as the center of the star cookies)
- In a large glass bowl, microwave the cream for about 30 seconds or until hot and almost simmering.
- Add in the chopped chocolate/chocolate chips. Allow the chocolate to sit in the cream for 3-4 minutes.
- Once the mixture had time to rest, stir the cream and chocolate together. The chocolate should be melted into the cream but feel free to pop the bowl back in the microwave for a few more seconds if needed.
- Allow the ganache to cool back down for a few minutes.
- Spread between the sandwiches or pipe the ganache into the wells of the star cookies.
- It's best for these to set in the fridge to firm up.
Recipe by Owlbbaking.com
*These cookies freeze really well! Freeze plain cookies and sandwich with jam before serving. Otherwise, best served within 4-5 days.
*Almond extract can be used in place of vanilla.
*Other great toppings on the melted chocolate include shredded coconut, chopped pistachios or chopped almonds.
- Prep Time: 50
- Cook Time: 10
- Category: Cookies
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Italian Butter Cookies, Bakery cookies, sandwich cookies, sprinkle butter cookies, bakery style, Italian bakery
Robin Edwards says
Thank you, Liz, for this wonderful recipe! I was so excited to make my favorite Italian bakery cookies, and nervous at the same time because I’d never tried piping cookies before. I totally enjoyed the experience (all right, piping the firm dough gave my bicep a real workout!), and was so proud to have learned a new technique that produced beautiful, delicious cookies that look like they came from a bakery (and taste even better!).
Thank you Robin!!! Your comment made my day!!! 🙂
I never got around to making these for the holidays but am excited to try them out anyway! Question on the star tip, I clicked the 2 links you provided in the post, one linked the Ateco 869 and one was 829. Which do you prefer?
These are thee best cookie ever, made them several times, delicious, light and hold up for quite some time!! 5 star cookie forsure, you won't be disappointed!!!♥️
Hania Castaneda says
Love the recipe! My mom made them and shared it with me. They are amazing. I just have a question, about how many calories does each cookie have? I’m planning on making them for a party and I know some of my friends are going to ask lol. Thank you!!!
These came out amazing! I am 2nd generation Italian-American and my Great-Aunt used to make big platters of these every Christmas or family celebration along with pizzelles. Baking these brought back so many memories of my childhood, and I feel grateful to be carrying on the tradition thanks to this recipe.
This is the best recipe ever! I've already made 4 batches and they come out perfectly every time and are so delicious. I can't keep my daughter away from them! Thanks so much for sharing and have a wonderful holiday season.
I tried these because I was tired if buying them in the store, being lured by the pretty packaging that delivered sawdust instead of buttery melt in your mouth delights. I sent some to my niece who shared with a neighbor. The response was 'how are these even homemade. ' well done to you because they are fabulous! My grandson is 4 he remembers having them last Christmas and asked for them again this year.
Hi Em!! LOL that is the BEST description of the storebought version of these cookies I've ever heard! Thank you SO much for the kind words, and I'm so honored you love this recipe and its become part of your Christmas tradition!! 🙂
I tried to make these the other night as a test run. I didn’t have piping bags so I used my Wilton Decorating Tool and I could not get the dough out! Maybe I mixed the dough???
Hi Kaitlin! If the dough is too thick, add a little more milk. It will come out easier!
I love this recipe. It is simple and delicious.
I made a half batch with 1/4 cup pecan butter, 1 tablespoon cardamom, 1 teaspoon ginger, and about a 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. So perfect! I would however ithe black pepper and halve the cardamom next time. Just for the balance of flavor.
OoOO I love the added flavors you used! Great ideas!
Do you think you can use a cookie press instead of a piping bag with this recipe?
Hi Carl! Although I have not tried this, I think using a cookie press with this recipe would work.
Did you try the cookie press? If so, how did it go? Depending on your success I may use mine. Thanks
I used a cookie press this Christmas. It worked great.
Liz, Thank you so much for this recipe. I have long been sucketed into buying grocery store cookies, because they market them so prettily. They always disappoint. I've tried other recipes and not been successful. These are Perfect! I have made 4 batches today, some to dip, some to fill and some to sandwich. They are heaven and I am pretty sure the folks receiving these at Christmas will think so as well.
Thank you so much for the kind words!!! I'm so glad you love the recipe! I make tons of these for Christmas too and everyone loves them!
I made these today and my first tray came out flat so I put the next tray after piping in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes and they still came out flat. Is there a certain brand of butter that I need to use. They taste great.
Hi Valerie! Oh no! I've heard that Imperial brand butter can cause issues with cookies like this, so I would stick to using Land o Lakes - I've also had good experience with Kirkland brand from Costco (that's the only kind I personally use). You could also try adding less milk to the dough as more liquid could make them spread. I hope that helps and your next batch comes out amazing!
Yes, mine were all flat too. I used Land O Lakes butter and followed the recipe to a tee. Don't know what went wrong, but my 15 year old grandson were making them due to his request and we were laughing the minute we saw them. They turned into flat kinda circles so we melted the chocolate and sandwiched them and, I must say, they tasted great and chocolate covers up a myriad on sins.
These were absolutely heavenly. Instructions were perfect, although I did add more jam (maybe 1/2tsp in total) to my sandwich cookies because I love the filling--just enough to keep from falling out the sides.
I am daydreaming about when I'm making another batch.
Thank you so much for the kind words, Kenny!! I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe!
These cookies look great! I’m excited to make this recipe next weekend. When I was a child these cookies would also be available in a chocolate version. Can I just add cocoa powder? If yes, how much and do I have to cut the flour if I add the cocoa?
Hi Dee! Great question!! I have not experimented with a chocolate version, but you could probably safely add 1/4 cup of cocoa powder and remove 1/4 cup of the flour in its place. I can't say for sure how it will impact the flavor and texture since cocoa adds a slight bitterness and changes the acidity of the cookie. But, starting off with a 1/4 cup swap should be ok! Hope that makes sense, let me know how it turns out! 🙂
The chocolate version came out great. I substituted 1/3 cup cocoa for 1/3 cup flour. The result was a slight chocolate flavor, not too sweet and not bitter. I used strawberry jam instead of raspberry, but either would have been delicious. Thank you for this amazing recipe that has bought back so many great memories of the family owned New York bakeries I loved as a child.
Yayy! So happy to hear it worked out well!! I'm going to have to try making a batch of chocolate ones soon. I'm so glad you enjoyed these cookies!! 🙂
I made these and I only had a 2D wilton star tip. It looked large to me, but it was way too small. I had to squeeze and squeeze and squeeze which ended up making the dough soft and they spread out too much. However they still tased great! I found other sites that recommend a ..63 inch "open" star tip. I think I am going to try that next time.
Thanks so much for sharing, Stephanie! Ah, that can happen. The larger open tip will definitely help!!
Made these several times for Christmas and New Years cookie trays -- they were absolutely delicious. Made a combo of raspberry jam sandwich cookies, chocolate dipped with sprinkles and chocolate thumbprint. Simple, soft and flavorful. Just like my Italian grandmother used to make. Thank. you!!
So glad you enjoy the recipe, Andrea!! I LOVE making all the assorted shapes too, it's fun to get all different kinds out of one cookie dough! My Italian grandmother always had them too, I love hearing that they were so similar to how yours made them! 🙂
Donna Malin says
I've just made these and I'm a bit disappointed with how they came out. My cookies seem to be a bit hard (baked them for 10 min.) They are not burnt at all just dont seem to have the right light and buttery taste as they should . Also can you reccommend a good chocolate to use ? I used Nestle semi sweet chips and the taste is way to overpowering . Thank you
Hi Donna! Oh no! Hmm, I wonder if the temp of your oven was too low and dried them out a bit? For these cookies, I like to use Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips. I hope that helps!
Donna M Dinehart says
Hi! Just wondering what you did to add sprinkles after they were baked?
Hi Donna! For the cookies that just have sprinkles, I added them before baking. 🙂 For the others that have chocolate, I baked the cookies first, then added the melted chocolate and lastly the sprinkles. Hope that helps!
Dawn C says
Do you use semisweet or dark chocolate chips? Which do most Italian bakeries use? I now live in the Midwest and miss these staples of home.
Hi Dawn! I always use semi-sweet chocolate chips because that's what I usually have on hand. I'm not sure what is typical of Italian bakeries, probably not milk chocolate though, so we're on the right track! Both chocolates will work very well for this recipe. 🙂
Patti Torrisi says
Hands down the best butter cookies I’ve ever made. Your instructions were perfect!
Thank you SO much for the kind words!!! I'm glad you loved the recipe!!
Marissa Valenti says
Hi! Most of the recipes for italian butter cookies call for baking powder but yours does not. Any idea what the difference would be? Thanks!
Hi Marissa! Baking powder helps dough to rise and I find this cookie is best without that airy crumb. The lack of baking powder helps to keep the shape of the cookies and for the sandwich cookies, I like the cookies to be more flat vs. a taller, puffy cookie (since you get 2 in one!)
Carol Weber says
I made these for my husband, fulfilling a lifelong dream. He thought they were German cookies for the longest time, and too hard to make at home. I used a Ziploc bag with a corner cut instead of a piping bag. I filled half with jam and half with ganache.
I did have an issue with the ganache, because I overheated the cream in the microwave, and it caused the chocolate to split. But I remedied that by whipping it back in shape. I also accidentally spilled a little bit too much milk in the dough, but it evened out and no spreading.
I made sure not to overbake, too. These are wonderful, thank you!
Thank you so much, Carol!! Really appreciate you sharing your experience too, I'm glad you & your husband enjoyed the recipe!! 🙂
Meryl edwards says
Thanks for the recipe. How many cookies does this yield?
Hi Meryl! This recipe will yield about 20 sandwich cookies or 50 star cookies. 🙂
These are amazing and remind me of being a little girl living in Long Island and my dad would take me to the bakery, we’d always buy the chocolate dipped raspberry jam sandwich cookies! I made these for Thanksgiving and both of my brothers said they are even better than that bakery.
I do have a question, can I make the cookies, bake them then freeze them before assembling? Or will that ruin the cookie? I’m wanting to bake now then fill them the day before Christmas to try to save some time.
Hi Carolynn! Thank you so much for sharing!! What a beautiful memory, these cookies definitely bring me back to having these cookies from NY too! Yes, you can definitely freeze them before assembling! I would thaw them uncovered to avoid any condensation on the cookie. 🙂
Ambre M says
Can you use this recipe in a cookie press?
Hi Ambre! You should be able to, yes! I haven't tried it though.
I did make this using my cookie press and it worked perfectly! Possibly better than the recipe that came with the press. 🙂
OooOoO! That's awesome!! I need to try this!
I used a press and it was a hot mess. The dough is a bit stickier than a spritz dough which made loading the press messy. Since parchment is not recommended with press cookies as they won’t stick to the pan to release from the press, the cookies stuck to the pan after baking, which meant a lot of broken cookies. The flavor of the cookie is much better than the recipe I use for spritz cookies, so I’m going to buy the large star tip and forego the press next batch!
Thanks for sharing, Laura! Oh no, that's not fun at all! I definitely recommend using a piping bag to make these cookies since the dough is stickier than spritz as you mentioned. I do have a masterclass for this recipe available as well on my members page and I walk through exactly how to make these. Here is the link to sign up if you're interested! 🙂
In my experience, cookie press does not ever work with parchment paper! I used this recipe on high quality (new) non-stick baking sheets (the Nordicware ones from Costco) and it stuck well and came off with a little bit of work.
I also had a bit of trouble getting it into the tube, we figured out that you put the plunger in about 1 inch, fill, pull it back another inch, fill... and repeat until the plunger is all the way back!
How many star cookies does this recipe make?
Hi Marianne! Whenever I make this recipe I do a mix of sandwiches and star cookies, but I imagine this would yield at least 40 star cookies if each cookie was no larger than 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
Maria Piragnoli Kapp says
I made this recipe and these are so delicious. Came out perfect.
Thanks so much for sharing!! This is one of my favorite cookie recipes!
My cookies seems to flatten alot when baking, they don't hold there shape. What can I do to prevent this?
Hi Denise! Sorry you're having trouble! Since we're in summer here, I'm betting the butter is getting too warm. Try chilling them in the fridge for 30min before baking (after they're already piped). Another cause could be that too much milk is added when mixing the dough. Not sure if you've found the dough to be dry and needing to add more milk. I have a masterclass available on my members page on how to make my Soft Butter Cookie recipe, which is what these cookies are based on. If you watch that it might be helpful as well. The only difference would be instead of making the swirls, you make the shapes as noted in this recipe. Hope that helps!! 🙂