Perfect Italian Ricotta Cookies with a twist of lemon! Learn how to make Lemon Ricotta Cookies with a pillowy soft texture and a citrus icing on top.
Why this Recipe Works
Ricotta Cookies are a classic Italian treat with a cake-like texture and buttery flavor. The ricotta cheese in the dough makes them soft and appealing–without adding even a hint of cheese taste.
Usually, I change up the flavor of my Ricotta cookies by using different extracts. Almond, anise or orange extract are delicious alternatives to the traditional vanilla.
For these Lemon Ricotta Cookies, I used vanilla extract along with fresh lemon zest and juice. The bright tangy lemon is the perfect counterpart to the smooth vanilla.
Then, there’s the lemon icing. Thicker than a glaze but thinner than most cookie frostings. It sets on top of the cookies in a beautiful sugary layer and melts in your mouth when you take a bite.
Ricotta cheese: You’ll need a full 15 ounce container of fresh ricotta to make these.
Vanilla Extract: Make your own vanilla extract for cookies with the best vanilla flavor. Or use lemon extract for even more lemon zing. Orange and almond extracts can also be used.
Lemon: You’ll need the juice and zest of two full lemons for this recipe.
How to Zest and Juice a Lemon
Zesting a lemon is the process of removing the zest (the outermost layer of skin) from the peel. The easiest way to do this is with a microplane grater or a zester.
Place the unpeeled whole lemon on a cutting board. Slide the sharp side of a grating tool across the surface of the lemon skin to remove the zest.
The zest should be very fine.
If you don’t have a microplane grater or zesting tool, use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest. After peeling the zest off the fruit, use your knife to chop it into fine pieces.
If you accidentally include some of the white peel with the zest, you’ll need to separate it from the zest before adding to the cookies! The white peel is bitter and will add a funky flavor to your baked goods.
To juice a lemon: Hand held lemon squeezers work wonderfully for getting all the good juice out! You can also juice your lemon by hand.
Lemons are easiest to juice when at room temperature. If you keep your lemons in the fridge, microwave them for 10 to 15 seconds before juicing. This softens them up and helps you get as much juice as possible out of each one.
If you’re juicing he lemons by hand, it’s common for seeds to get squeezed out along with the juice. The easiest way to prevent this is by using a simple citrus reamer or a fork.
Cut the lemon in half and place the fork or reamer in the center, while holding over a bowl. Twist the lemon while pressing down on the center.
Check the juice and discard and stray seeds that wound up in the bowl.
Once your lemons have been zested and juiced, it’s time to make Lemon Ricotta Cookies!
How to Make Lemon Ricotta Cookies
Make the cookie dough. Start by beating butter and sugar together until creamy. Beat in the ricotta, lemon juice, zest, extract and egg until well combined.
Gently mix in flour, baking powder and kosher salt until a dough forms.
Bake. Drop batter by the spoonful onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. The cookies should be a bit golden brown on the bottoms and edges.
Add Icing. Make the frosting by whisking together powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and a bit of milk.
Dip the top of each cooled ricotta cookie in to the frosting. Let set for about 1 hour to let the icing firm up a bit.
Store these Lemon Ricotta Cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. I put a layer of wax paper between them to keep them from sticking together.
These cookies stay good for up to 4 days. But in my house they usually disappear long before then!
Tips and Tricks
- Measuring flour: For best results, always spoon flour into a measuring cup and level off the top. Too much flour will make the cookies tough. See my guide for how to measure flour for more tips!
- Adjust baking time for dark cookie sheet: On a darker baking pan, these brown more quickly–closer to 13 minutes. Using my shinier cookie sheet, they take 15 – 16 minutes. Use parchment paper if they stick.
- Cook completely: Under baked ricotta cookies will fall apart when you try to dip them in the icing. Make sure the edges are golden brown before you remove them from the oven.
- Best icing: The icing should be pour-able but not so runny it drips off the cookies. Use more or less milk in the icing to achieve the desired consistency.
Yes, you can freeze these cookies. Freeze the cooled ricotta cookies before dipping into the frosting. When ready to eat, thaw overnight and dip into frosting before serving.
This Ricotta cookie recipe bakes more quickly on a dark cookie sheet. If you’re using a dark baking sheet, check the cookies after about 11 minutes for done-ness!
If the cookies stick to the cooling rack, chances are good they were under baked. Use a spatula to remove stuck cookies from the rack.
Prevent sticking by being sure the cooked are golden brown at the bottom before removing from the oven. You can also place a sheet of parchment paper on top of your cooling rack to prevent accidental sticking.
No, they don’t taste anything like cheese! The ricotta makes the cookies so light and soft, but adds no cheesy flavor.
I would not recommend using skim or part skim ricotta. The fat in the cheese is essential for flavor and texture.
More Easy Cookie Recipes
Zesty lemon and soft ricotta come together in one heavenly cookie.With a sweet icing and delicate crumb, you’ll want to make Lemon Ricotta Cookies all year long.