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Anise Pizzelle Recipe (Classic Italian Wafer Cookies)

Anise pizzelle dusted with powdered sugar on red plate.
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This Italian Anise Pizzelle recipe is a Christmas time favorite in my home and the star of every holiday cookie platter. Accented with the traditional licorice flavor of anise, these lightly-sweetened, golden, thin, crispy wafer cookies are pressed into a beautiful and delicious star design on either an electric pizzelle iron or a traditional stovetop ferratelle iron.

Anise pizzelles dusted with powdered sugar on red plate.

These classic Italian cookies are so attractive and very easy (and fun!) to make. You just need six ingredients, a pizzelle maker and a bit of “pressing” time, which is actually a great opportunity to create Christmas memories with family and friends.

There was many a long night with my mom growing up where we started making a quadruple+ batch of anise pizzelles after dinner that took us into the wee hours of the morning, as we continued to press two pizzelles at a time while falling asleep at the table.

Those were the days and the memories that I cherished the most about the holidays.

We love to serve these pizzelles on their own with a cup of coffee, or pair them with other holiday cookie recipes like Buttery Pecan Snowballs, Czechoslovakian Layer Bars with Nuts and Jam or Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Sea Salt and Nuts. They are an essential element to our annual cookie trays for family and friends and also make delicious party favors when wrapped in decorative bags.

What is Anise?

Anise extract is made from fragrant star anise and has the flavor of black licorice. It is a key flavoring for liqueurs worldwide, such as anisette, absinthe, ouzo and sambuca and is a common ingredient in baked goods, as in this Anise Pizzelle recipe, Italian biscotti and German springerle cookies.

While this pizzelle recipe is flavored with anise extract, it can easily be flavored with other extracts like vanilla, almond, lemon or orange, all of which are popular flavors for pizzelles.

You can also use more pungent anise oil, which is discussed in the recipe below.

Handwritten copy of pizelle cookies recipe from many years ago.
Mom’s Original Recipe for Pizzelles

Many sources cite pizzelles as the oldest known cookie in the world! They are from the Abruzzo region of Italy and, legend has it that these biscuits were developed for a festival that celebrated the chasing out of snakes that had overrun a small village. Who knew?

And, back in the day they were not made with electric pizzelle irons, but rather with a handheld ferratelle iron that was positioned over an open flame and rotated manually. (See photo below.) Over the years, these ferratelle would be made with family crests on them in some parts of Italy, to be passed down to each generation. I would love to find a manufacturer to do that for me today!

The word “pizzelle” is derived from the word “pizze” which means “round and flat” (like a pizza). The “elle” part of the word means small (the diminutive). So pizzelle are small and flat.

Whether the more common electric or traditional stovetop iron is used, the procedure is more or less the same to make anise pizzelle: place some dough between two hot iron plates, close the iron to cook the pizzelles while the iron stamps a decorative snowflake or other pattern onto both sides of the cookie (generally different on each side), then remove once cooked to cool. Repeat over and over. The pizzelle has a lovely crisp texture once it is cooled.

Pizzelle cookies might just be one of the most versatile Italian dolci! Serve them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, weddings, or any random weekday. They can also be turned into cannoli or made into cookie sandwiches!

Ingredients for Anise Pizzelle

Here is the short list of ingredients needed for Italian pizzelles:

  • Butter: I use salted butter, but unsalted can be used as well. The butter needs to be melted, then cooled a bit. Margarine can be used if you desire.
  • Sugar
  • Eggs: Use large eggs.
  • Flour (sifted): The base of the cookie dough. Use all-purpose flour and measure it precisely by sweeping the top of the cup with a flat edge.
  • Baking Powder: Sift this along with the flour directly into the batter.
  • Anise Extract: For the defining licorice flavor of Anise Pizzelle. More pungent anise oil can be used in a much smaller quantity. See recipe for details. Also, the anise extract can be easily switched out for almond or vanilla extracts, two other very popular pizzelle flavors. (You can also try a 50/50 anise/vanilla or almond/vanilla flavoring.)

How to Make Anise Pizzelle, Step-by-Step, with Pro-tips!

First, preheat the pizzelle maker and make the pizzelle batter:

  • Combine the cooled, melted butter with the sugars in a mixing bowl and mix until creamy using either a hand mixer or paddle attachment with a stand mixer.
  • Then add the eggs and the anise extract, then the sifted flour and baking powder and continue to mix until all ingredients are well combined.

Next, cook the pizzelles:

  • Drop slightly rounded tablespoons of batter on to the center of the bottom iron, then firmly close and latch the unit shut. Bake 45 to 90 seconds or so depending on the iron.
  • Once finished, carefully remove each pizzelle from the iron and transfer it to a cooling rack. The cookies will be soft and pliable for a few seconds until they cool, then will crisp up quickly.
  • Repeat this process with the remaining batter.

Then, cool and store the pizzelles:

  • Let the pizzelles cool completely, ideally on a wire rack, before storing. They will crisp up as they cool.
  • Do not store pizzelles in the refrigerator as the humidity and moisture will make the cookies lose their crispness.
Close up of Anise pizzelles dusted with powdered sugar on red plate.

If you like these Anise Pizzelles, check out this Sicilian Ricotta Cheesecake–so light and creamy with a bright citrus flavor and orange almond graham cracker crust!

Pizzelle Making Pro-Tips

  • The batter is very thick and sticky. So, when you scoop it up with a spoon, it will stick to the spoon so you will have to push it off with your finger to get it onto the pizzelle maker.
  • The trick to full even pizzelles is to be sure to clasp the iron shut. This firmly presses the sides together and helps the batter spread more evenly over the entire surface.
  • Avoid overfilling the pizzelle iron, as excess batter can ooze out and make a mess. Start with a small batter in the center and let it spread naturally as you close the iron. Having said this, you will most likely have a bit of batter squeeze out around the edges. This can be removed with a knife while the cookies are cooking. Simply scrape round the outside of the iron while it is latched shut.
  • Generally, the pizzelles are ready when the steam slows down coming out of the pizzelle maker. At this point, you can gently lift the top of the pizzelle maker a bit and check if the outside is a nice light golden color. After one or two rounds, you will be an expert!
  • During the few seconds that they are still pliable, you can shape them into cones, rolls, or leave them flat.
  • I generally store my cookies in tins and not plastic as I feel they hold their crispiness better and will not become as soft as if they were stored in plastic containers.
  • Practice makes perfect! Making pizzelle can take some practice, especially when getting the portion, timing and consistency right. Don’t be discouraged if your first batch doesn’t turn out perfectly. It often takes a few tries to get the hang of it.
Overhead view of Anise Pizzelle cooling on wire rack.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Italian pizzelle cookies:

What is the best way to store pizzelles to keep them crisp and fresh and how long do they last?

First, let the pizzelles cool completely, ideally on a wire cooling rack, before storing. They will crisp up as they cool.
 
I store my pizzelles in bundles of six or so layered with parchment paper that are then placed in dry metal tins. As moisture is the enemy of crisp pizzelles, some people will store a piece of bread with them to absorb any moisture. I have never done this. I generally store my cookies in tins and not plastic as I feel they hold their crispiness better and will not become as soft as if they were stored in plastic containers.
 
Do not store pizzelles in the refrigerator as the humidity and moisture will make the cookies lose their crispness.
 
Pizzelles can be stored at room temperature for up to two weeks, but are best within one week for ideal texture. Over time, even well-stored pizzelles will lose crispness.

Can you freeze Anise Pizzelles?

Yes. Once the pizzelles are completely cool, layer small groups of them between layers of parchment, then store them in a sturdy airtight container for up to three months. (They may break if they are stored in a plastic bag.) Unwrap and thaw them at room temperature when ready to enjoy. They will defrost quickly.

Can you make pizzelles without a pizzelle iron?

Quite honestly, no. While you can make a pizzelle batter and cook it on a griddle or in a waffle iron, you will not yield the same thin, crispy texture with the beautiful, signature pattern.

Anise pizzelle dusted with powdered sugar on red plate.

Variations, Substitutions and Serving Ideas for Anise Pizzelle

Here are a few notes on variations and substitutions for this Italian cookie recipe:

  • Extracts and Flavors: Feel free to experiment with different extracts and flavors based on your preferences. For example, you can replace anise extract with vanilla, orange, lemon or almond extract for different flavor profiles. If you use a citrus extract, use some of the respective zest as well.
  • Margarine can be used in place of butter, if you pefer.
  • Sprinkle Cinnamon Sugar over the pizzelle when it is still warm for a sweet, aromatic touch.
  • Mold Them! If you are feeling creative, quickly work during the few seconds that the pizzelles re hot and pliable before they get crisp to mold them into cannoli shells (around a dowel), edible sundae cups (around a ramekin) or into a cone to be filled with ice or whipped cream.
  • Dip the end in melted chocolate!

Kitchen Tools for Anise Pizzelle

To make these delicious Italian waffle cookies, you’ll need the following:

Close up of Anise pizzelles dusted with powdered sugar on red plate.

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Anise pizzelle dusted with powdered sugar on red plate.

Anise Pizzelle Recipe (Classic Italian Wafer Cookies)

Michele
This Italian Anise Pizzelle recipe is a Christmas time favorite in my home and the star of every holiday cookie platter. Accented with the traditional licorice flavor of anise, these lightly-sweetened, golden brown, thin and crispy wafer cookies are pressed into a beautiful and delicious star design on either an electric pizzelle iron or a traditional stovetop ferratelle iron.
4.89 from 9 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 36 cookies

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup melted butter, cooled (2 sticks)
  • cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp anise extract or ½ Tbsp anise oil (See Notes below.)
  • cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 4 tsp baking powder, sifted
  • Powdered sugar, for finishing (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the pizzelle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on your equipment, you may need to lightly coat the top and bottom surfaces with a nonstick cooking spray. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for directions on this.
    (Side note: I do not grease the iron, but I generally discard the first two pizzelles as they often stick.)
  • Then, make the pizzelle batter. Combine the cooled, melted butter with the sugar in a bowl and mix until creamy using either a hand mixer or paddle attachment with a stand mixer.
    1 cup melted butter,, 1½ cups sugar
  • Then add the eggs and the anise extract and continue to mix.
    6 large eggs, 2 Tbsp anise extract
  • Next, sift in the measured amount of flour and baking soda directly into the bowl and continue to mix until all ingredients are well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
    3½ cups all-purpose flour,, 4 tsp baking powder,
  • To make the pizzelles, drop slightly rounded tablespoons of batter on to the center of the bottom iron, then firmly close and latch the unit shut. The batter is very thick and sticky. So, when you scoop it up with a spoon, it will stick to the spoon so you will have to push it off with your finger to get it onto the pizzelle maker.
  • As every iron varies, bake as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions or until golden brown (approximately 45 to 90 seconds or so depending on the iron).
  • Generally, the pizzelles are ready when the steam slows down coming out of the pizzelle maker. At this point, you can gently lift the top of the pizzelle maker a bit and check if the outside is a nice light golden color. After one or two rounds, you will be an expert!
  • Once finished, use either a nonstick spatula or mini-tongs to carefully remove each pizzelle from the iron and transfer it to a cooling rack. The cookies will be soft and pliable for a few seconds until they cool, then will crisp up quickly. During the few seconds that they are still pliable, you can shape them into cones, rolls, or leave them flat.
  • Repeat this process with the remaining batter.
  • Enjoy your pizzelle cookies as they are, or dust them with powdered sugar for an extra touch of sweetness.
    Powdered sugar,
  • Let the pizzelles cool completely, ideally on a wire cooling rack, before storing. They will crisp up as they cool.

Notes

  • Salted butter is preferred, but unsalted butter can be used as well.
  • The yield is approximate as it depends on how large or small the pizzelles are.
  • More pungent anise oil can be used in place of extract in a much smaller quantity (1/2 Tbsp for this recipe).
  • Feel free to experiment with different extracts and flavors based on your preferences. For example, you can replace anise extract with vanilla, almond, orange, lemon or coconut extract for different flavor profiles. If you use a citrus extract, use some of the respective zest as well. You can also try a 50/50 anise/vanilla or almond/vanilla flavoring.
  • Also, I suggest taste testing a small bit of batter (by making one quick small pizzelle) to see if there is enough extract for your taste. Then, increase it from there if needed.
  • The trick to full even pizzelles is to be sure to clasp the iron shut. This firmly presses the sides together and helps the batter spread more evenly over the entire surface.
  • Avoid overfilling the pizzelle iron, as excess batter can ooze out and make a mess. Start with a small batter in the center and let it spread naturally as you close the iron. Having said this, you will most likely have a bit of batter squeeze out around the edges. This can be removed with a knife while the cookies are cooking. Simply scrape round the outside of the iron while it is latched shut.
  • Practice makes perfect! Making pizzelle can take some practice, especially when getting the portion, timing and consistency right. Don’t be discouraged if your first batch doesn’t turn out perfectly. It often takes a few tries to get the hang of it.
  • I store my pizzelles in bundles of six or so layered with parchment paper that are then placed in dry metal tins. (I generally store my cookies in tins and not plastic as I feel they hold their crispiness better and will not become as soft as if they were stored in plastic containers.)
  • Do not store pizzelles in the refrigerator as the humidity and moisture will make the cookies lose their crispness.
  • Pizzelles can be stored at room temperature for up to two weeks, but are best within one week for ideal texture. Over time, even well-stored pizzelles will lose crispness.
  • Pizzelles can also be frozen: Once the pizzelles are completely cool, layer small groups of them between layers of parchment, then store them in a sturdy airtight container for up to three months. (They may break if they are stored in a plastic bag.) Unwrap and thaw them at room temperature when ready to enjoy. They will defrost quickly.
 
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8 thoughts on “Anise Pizzelle Recipe (Classic Italian Wafer Cookies)

  1. 5 stars
    Perfect Pizzelles! Thank you! 🇮🇹💚🇮🇹🤍🇮🇹❤️🇮🇹
    We just made these yesterday for a family gathering and the recipe and instructions were perfect! The only thing that was off, was the cookie count by 5 or 6. This recipe made about 30 cookies for us! We will definitely be reusing this recipe anytime we make Pizzelles again, thanks again!

    1. Hi Chris! I’m so happy that you enjoyed this pizzelle recipe-it’s one of my favorites! Thank you for your comment and feedback. 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Outstanding recipe! Perfect instructions. Every detail of every recipe here is so well thought out, exceptional!

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you for the recipes! Hope I have some time to try the pizzelles.

  4. 5 stars
    This is almost the exact recipe given to me by my neighbor’s grandmother over 40 years ago. Her recipe called for margarine instead of butter. I think it’s because margarine was less expensive and used in many baked goods instead of butter. I am hoping to make my next batch using butter. Another difference is her recipe called for 1oz each of anise, rum, and brandy extracts and 6T vanilla. Brandy extract is impossible to find today so I double up the anise. I tweaked the recipe by adding 1 oz of lemon extract which adds a lovely flavor. Everyone says my Pizzelles are the best. Thanks for sharing

    1. 5 stars
      Butter works just as well and will make a crispier cookie

  5. 5 stars
    We’ve been using a different recipe for a while but I’m excited to try your recipe! Bonus: I recently inherited my Grandmother’s Pizzelle iron and am excited to use it!

  6. 5 stars
    This recipe was delicious! Just like the memory of mom’s 🙂 Great tips, too!

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