These festive Anise Cookies are soft, flavorful, and have just the right amount of sweetness. The licorice-like flavor of the anise pairs beautifully with the tender cookie and sweet glazed icing. These Italian Anise Cookies will make a perfect addition to your Christmas gathering!
These Anise Cookies are classic Italian cookies and a holiday favorite in my house. If you love the anise flavor as I do, you’ll absolutely love these. But even if you don’t, it’s easy to skip it and sub in a little more vanilla – or lemon! – for a really tasty bite.
Whether you make these with anise or without, these Christmas cookies are always a huge hit with friends and family. And with the addition of the icing and sprinkles, they’re eye-catching on a cookie tray.
Anise cookies are soft, tender, and incredibly easy to make. The cake-like texture of the cookie will melt in your mouth, and the subtly-flavored icing will make your taste buds sing. The anise flavor is very clearly there but isn’t overpowering. Stick with the one teaspoon listed in the recipe to not overdo it.
I hope you enjoy these anise Christmas cookies as much as I do!
What You’ll Need
This classic Italian cookie is a holiday favorite. If you love the anise flavor, you’ll love these tasty Christmas cookies. Scroll down to the recipe card for specific quantities.
To Make the Anise Cookies
- Unsalted Butter: Make sure the butter is at room temperature.
- Milk: I used 2% for this recipe.
- Anise Extract
- Vanilla Extract: Be sure to include it. It helps balance the anise.
- All-Purpose Flour
- Baking Powder
- Sprinkles: These are optional, but fun.
For the Icing
- Powdered Sugar
- Heavy Cream
- Vanilla Extract
- Anise Extract
Make the Cookies
- Preheat the Oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Prepare the Baking Sheets. Line baking sheets with a layer of parchment paper or silicone baking mats. This will prevent the cookies from sticking to the pan. Set them aside.
- Cream the Butter and Sugar. Add the butter and sugar to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until they’re light in color and fluffy. You should be able to see the color change happen and know it’s at the right point.
- Add the Eggs. Add the eggs to the creamed mixture one at a time, mixing well after each addition. The batter will look thin and a bit curdled at this stage, and that’s ok.
- Add the Milk and Extracts. Add the milk, vanilla extract, and anise extract and mix until well combined. The batter will still look thin and curdled/separated.
- Add the Dry Ingredients. Mix in the flour and baking powder until everything combines into a cohesive dough. Take care to not overmix.
- Form Balls of Dough. Use 1 1/2 tablespoons of cookie dough to create evenly-sized cookie dough balls. Place them on the prepared baking sheets. I like to use a cookie scoop to ensure all my cookies are the same size. If you don’t have one, you can use a tablespoon to do the same thing.
- Bake. Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes. The cookies should look done, but the bottoms should only just begin to brown. I like to switch the baking sheets halfway through the cooking time, so they cook evenly. If you don’t do this, the bottom baking sheet may need another minute after you take the top one out.
- Cool. Allow the anise cookies to cool on the pan for several minutes, so they don’t crumble. Then, place them on a cooling rack to cool completely.
Make the Icing
- Combine the Ingredients. Combine the powdered sugar, heavy cream, anise extract, and vanilla extract in a small mixing bowl. Whisk the ingredients together until they’re fully combined. If the icing seems too thin, you can add a little bit of powdered sugar. If it looks too thick, add additional heavy cream.
Decorate the Cookies
- Ice the Cookies. Dip the tops of each cookie into the icing, allowing the excess to drip off. Place them back on the cooling rack. Add your choice of colorful sprinkles to the tops and allow the icing to fully dry.
Tips for Success
- Measure Flour with a Scale. You’ll notice in this recipe that I include both a measurement and a weight for the flour. I recommend using a scale, so your cookies don’t end up dry or overly dense. If you decide to use a measuring cup, spoon in the flour and scrape off the top with the flat side of a knife. This will help prevent over-packing.
- Make the Cookies the Same Size. Measure each of your cookie dough balls, so they’re evenly sized. This will help ensure they bake evenly. Otherwise, some may end up overdone while others are a little underdone.
- Don’t worry if the Cookies Crack. Sometimes these cookies crack when they bake. Don’t worry about this; you can cover up any imperfections with the icing!
- Cool the Cookies Before Icing. Let these anise cookies cool completely before you add the icing. If they’re still warm, the icing won’t set and may melt off.
Other Variations to Try
These cookies are a dream if you love the anise flavor as I do. But if you’ve never liked it, you can substitute the anise extract with other flavors.
- Additional Vanilla. This is the easiest substitution. You’ll wind up with a more mild Italian cookie with lovely hints of vanilla.
- Sub with Lemon. Adding lemon extract in place of the anise will make these Christmas cookies incredibly bright and delicious.
- Sub with Almond. Using almond extract will make these Italian cookies taste like an amaretto dream. The nutty flavor works really well with the texture of the cookie.
- Make the Substitutions Just in the Icing or the Cookie. If you like anise but don’t love it, consider making one of the above substitutions just in the cookie or the icing. This will still give you a mild anise flavor without it being in both components.
You can store these anise cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3-4 days. The color from the sprinkles will bleed a bit after about 24 hours. So, if you want the cookies to look perfect when you serve them, wait to decorate until the day of. The icing comes together really quickly and sets in no time at all.
You can! Cookies freeze really well, and anise cookies are no exception. Arrange them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put them directly in the freezer. Once the Italian cookies are frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze them for up to 3 months.
While you can freeze the anise cookies when they’re frosted, you’ll note some color run from the sprinkles when you thaw them out. If you want to avoid this, freeze unfrosted anise cookies and decorate them at room temperature.
Can I Freeze Anise Cookie Dough?
Anise cookie dough is 100% freezable. Roll the cookie dough per the recipe instructions and place the dough balls in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Place the entire cookie sheet in the freezer until the dough is frozen solid. Place the frozen cookie dough balls into a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months.Print
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: 24 cookies
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Italian
Festive Anise Cookies are soft, flavorful, and have just the right amount of sweetness. The savory licorice-like flavor of the anise pairs beautifully with the tender cookie and sweet glazed icing. These Italian Cookies will make a perfect addition to your Christmas gathering and delight your guests with their unique flavor.
To Make the Anise Cookies
- 1/2 cup (112g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (104g) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tbsp (30ml) milk (I used 2%)
- 1 tsp anise extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups (390g) all-purpose flour (measured accurately)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Sprinkles, optional
For the Icing
- 1 1/2 cups (115g) powdered sugar
- 3/4 cup (180ml) heavy cream
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp anise extract
To Make the Cookies
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixer bowl on medium speed until light in color and fluffy. You should be able to see the change in color happen and know it’s ready.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. The batter will end up thin and curdled/separated.
- Add the milk and extracts and mix until well combined. The batter will still be thin and curdled/separated.
- Add the flour and baking powder and mix until combined. Don’t over-mix.
- Create balls of 1 1/2 tablespoons of cookie dough and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cookies just look done and just before the bottoms begin to brown.
- Place the cookies on a cooling rack to cool completely.
To Make the Icing
To make the icing, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until well combined. If it seems too thin, you can add additional powdered sugar. If it seems too thick, add additional cream.
Decorate the Cookies
- Dip the tops of each cookie into the icing and allow the excess to drip off. Add your choice of sprinkles to the tops and allow them to dry.
Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3-4 days. The color from the sprinkles will bleed a bit after about 24 hours, so if you want them to look nice when you serve them you may want to ice them and add sprinkles shortly before serving them.
Keywords: Italian anise cookies, anise cookie recipe, Christmas cookies, Italian cookies
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I was craving these cookies for Xmas.. so happy I found this recipe! They came out gorgeous!! I also added a little anise extract to the frosting .. so yummy
Glad you enjoyed them!
I made these for my husband’s cookie swap at work. They were a big hit! I used almond extract with a little vanilla in my icing and it was fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.
So glad they were a hit!
This recipe looks fantastic. Being that my mom is Swedish, anise flavored anything is a hit in my family.
I was wondering since I don’t have anise flavored extract, could I use anise seeds (crushed, of course) as I do have a bottle on hand ??
I didn’t test them with the seeds and haven’t ever used them, so it’s hard for me to say.
I’m going to give it a try with crushed anise seed and see how it goes. I may even roast them lightly first. I’ll try to remember to let you know (I have an acquired brain injury so my memory isn’t that great).
Hi Amy, I’m dying to make old fashioned Christmas cut out cookies for the holidays. My mother always used anise I hers and now that I have a granddaughter, I would like to pass the tradition on to her. I see the traditional cookie has 161 calories per cookie and your sugar cookies are too soft, any suggestion? The cookie should be crisp and we would like to decorate. Love your posts & recipes.
I’d probably recommend these cutout cookies and then add some anise extract to them.