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The last two cookies I’ve made on this site have been American-style, i.e.; on the larger side, with lots of flavors and other stuff going on. I like those, but I also like “quiet” European cookies, which are often simple, sometimes somewhat plain (like French sablés, or butter cookies), that let you focus on one or two flavors. Canistrelli fit that profile. Originally from Corsica, Canistrelli are flavored with anise and made with wine, and sometimes chestnut flour, which gives them a husky taste, but it’s not easy to find unless you live in Corsica.

The island of Corsica is the definition of “rugged.” Notable as the birthplace of Napoléon Bonapart (it’s most famous apéritif is Cap Corse, created by Louis-Napoléan Mattei) it lies between Italy and France, and was ceded to France in 1768 to settle a debt, which is still a point of contention to some local residents, who’d like their independence.

Corsica happens to be one of the of two places I’ve seen Romain, a native Parisian (and a trés Parisien driver, if you know what I mean…), become terrified on a road. People in Corsica didn’t seem to mind driving on whatever side of the mountain roads at high speeds, often preferring the opposite lane than the one they were supposed to be in. More than once we were surprised after rounding a sharp corner, suddenly faced with an oncoming car.

The other was in New York City, where this time, he was a passenger and stunned that I calmly navigated the aggressive drivers, quick-appearance highway exits, and pothole-filled roads. Nowadays I am now less scared of driving around Paris as his passenger, but the highways in and around New York are, admittedly, not for the timid. Or Romain.

What’s funny was when I was writing up this recipe, I did a search here on the blog for ‘canistrelli’ and landed on a post I wrote back in 2014 about our visit to Corsica.

One of the commenters said: “Quick, we need a recipe for canistrelli cookies.”  I’m sorry to say that I didn’t hop right on it. But a lot has happened between then and now, so if you’re out there – still waiting –  excuse the tardy reply

I’m not entirely sure if there is an official Canistrelli recipe or technique for making them, but last week I took an online cooking class and the instructor told us to line our skillets with parchment paper first, to make it easier to slide the dish from the pan when it was finished cooking. Even though a notable cookbook author advised me to do the same thing when cooking the same dish, some on social media felt otherwise. I never realized a 9-inch (22cm) circle of paper could cause so much commotion, but if a circle of paper was the worst problem I had…I’d consider myself lucky!

These Canistrelli get a double dose of anise due to the addition of anise seeds and pastis. Some Canistrelli have almonds (or other nuts) added to the dough, some do not. I’ve made this both ways and the cookies are prettier without the almonds, as you can make cleaner cuts, I do like the nutty flavor and crunch of almonds, so usually add them.

Canistrelli hew closer to cookies with an Italian heritage, such as biscotti, which can also be a little toothsome, and a little dry, since they’re often served for dipping in coffee or wine. I do like these with Cap Corse, a lively, quinine-flavored, family-owned Corsican apéritif flavored with local citrons, which Corsica is also famous for. It’s great in a spritz but also lovely on its own with a twist, perhaps with a splash of sparkling water. And, of course, a few Canistrelli served on the side…


Pastis adds to the anise flavor of these cookies along with anise seeds. You can use another anise-based spirit, such as absinthe, anisette, raki, or ouzo. You could, conceivably, use another liqueur (such as orange-based liqueur) although traditional Canistrelli are flavored with anise, so you might need to come up with a new name for your original creations if you don't use pastis or the optional anise seeds ;) As long as you've got anise in there somewhere, though, I think you're good to go.
(If you want to make your own pastis, there's a recipe in my book, Drinking French.)
Parchment paper makes these cookies easy to roll out. You could also roll them out on a well-sugared countertop and bake the cookies on a silicone baking mat. Just note the cookie dough is on the sticky side and the parchment paper really helps. Avoid chilling the dough overnight or anything like that as it can become too wet and soggy.
Nuts are not always added to Canistrelli and they do make them look a little rougher, which I don't mind. I use almonds but I saw some in Corsica made with hazelnuts, however you can leave them out.
Note: These cookies are quite firm after baking but will soften up a little overnight, so plan accordingly.
Course Dessert
Servings 25 cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups (200g) flour
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, lightly crushed (these are optional but I like them a lot in these cookies)
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) extra-virgin, olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) pastis, (see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) dry white wine, (or water)
  • 1/3 cup (40g) lightly toasted almonds, coarsely chopped (optional, see headnote)
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Adjust the oven rack to the upper to mid-third of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Prepare two sheets of parchment paper that are approximately 10 - 12-inches (25cm) squares or rectangles for rolling the dough. (To save resources, you can instead use the parchment sheets you've used to rolling the dough to line the baking sheet later.)
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and almonds and anise seeds, if using.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients with a spatula then add the olive oil, pastis, and white wine or water. Stir the mixture until it starts clumping together, then use your hands to gently knead the dough so it's cohesive, but won't be completely smooth if you used the almonds. The dough will be rather soft.
  • To roll the dough, sprinkle 3/4 tablespoon of sugar on one sheet of the parchment paper roughly in a 6-inch (15cm) circle. Place the dough on top of the sugar. Lay the second sheet of parchment over the dough and pat it down into a flat square shape with your hand. Lift the parchment paper, sprinkle the remaining 3/4 tablespoon over the top of the dough, replace the parchment, and roll the dough until it's about 1/4-inch thick, which is will be about an 8-inch (20cm) square.
  • To cut the cookies, trim the edges with a chef's knife or metal pastry scraper to make a neater square. Use the knife or scraper to cut the cookies into 25 squares.
  • Because the dough is rather soft, to place the cookies on the baking sheet, slide the blade of a chef's knife or pastry scraper under one of the rows of the squares of dough and transfer them onto the baking sheet. Don't worry if they look a little funky after you move them; they're rustic cookies and part of their charm is they can be a bit misshapen. You can reroll any scraps between the parchment to make a few more cookies if you'd like.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway during baking. Some of the cookies at the edges may get darker faster than the others. Feel free to move the cookies around on the baking sheet when you rotate the pan. If the cookies are not quite done after 20 minutes, turn the oven off but leave the cookies in the oven with the door closed until the cookies are light golden brown across the top, about 5 additional minutes.


Storage: The cookies are best after the next day; they'll soften up a bit to the right texture. The cookies should be kept in an air-tight container at room temperature. They'll keep for up to a week. 


    • Don Wilson

    Hi! First thank you for Drinking French… LOVE IT. But my question is for those who can find chestnut flour easily (Los Angeles). Would it use all chestnut flour or a proportion? Thank you!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Happy you like the book! I’ve seen some recipes that use about 1/3-1/2 part chestnut flour in place of the all-purpose flour but I haven’t tested it so can’t say exactly which is the best so you may need to experiment. If you do try it, let us know what works best for you : )

    • Alene

    I have chestnut flour because I have to be gluten free and have all kinds of non-wheat flours. Should I try to find a recipe with chestnut flour? Or do you think I could do some fancy substitutions to make this recipe gluten free but with chestnut flour? Jul’s is a blogger and cooking teacher in Tuscany and she might have something like this on her site. Her recipes, like yours, are divine! Thank you!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      You’ll need either regular all-purpose flour, and likely one of those gluten-free flours (I get asked about them a lot and listed some here) mixed with chestnut flour but don’t know if chestnut flour has enough gluten or whatever it is, to hold together in a cookie dough. Let us know what you try and what works.

    • Meryl

    I really dislike rolling out anything. Do you think I could make small balls and flatten with a glass dipped in sugar?

    • Sharon Wichmann

    I can’t wait to try this! I have searched often for recipes that use anise – I have one with prune plums that is a summertime favorite. Funny, I am not a fan of licorice, but this spice is just a treat to the taste buds, Thanks again, David!

    • Tim

    Your pictures and styling are always terrific.

    • Alene

    I will try it and let you know! I actually found a gluten free recipe for them, but a savory version. I think her site is Chocolate and Zucchini and she does use chestnut flour and, I believe, Cup4Cup gf flour.

    • angela billows

    This is my favourite kind of biscuit (cookie to non Brits). Thanks for the recipe. Also love biscotti, and sables, (sandy biscuit) so what’s not to love? I’ll definitely give them a go, maybe dunk them in a glass of rouge for an apero.

    • phyllis

    If you want to use chestnut flour (I have some) how much would you use? Mix with AP flour?

    • Caroline

    These sound amazing! If one were able to source chestnut flour, how much would you recommend subbing in for the wheat flour?

    • Caroline

    Ooh, sorry I see you answered above! Thanks!

    • Enrique

    Can I use sambuca? Does it qualify?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I think sambuca is anise-flavored so it qualifies as a yes.

    • April

    Do you think I could replace maybe 1/2 cup of the flour with almond flour and omit the chopped almonds? I have some coarse almond flour I am trying to use up and this looks like a possibility!

      • David
      David Lebovitz


    • Deborah

    Why not take a vacation to Rio or São Paulo. Then you can both be terrified, and neither Paris nor New York will hold any terrors. Or how about Stream of Consciousness driving around Boston? Now THERE’s an experience!

    • anne lutkus

    me voila moins bete.
    I thought I was going to read about singers in the papal choir.

    • Lisa S

    Can’t wait to try these! Do you think Pernod would work in place of the pastis?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, the flavor profile is very similar.

    • Joan harvey

    I have chestnut flour (I keep it in the freezer for pasta) and would like to use it for these cookies. Could I just follow the rest of the recipe and substitute the chestnut flour ? And if so, how much?
    Thank you!

    • Ann

    Rolling cookies out on silicone baking mats works good too. I always do my cut out cookies that way also

    • Terri

    Sorry to be that person, but is there a liquid substitution for the pastis if I want to make these sans alcohol? If not I’ll happily make anise biscotti. Thanks

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      They are traditionally made with liquor. You could likely swap out fruit juice (white grape or apple) but you should use the anise seeds to get anise flavor in the cookies, perhaps bumping up the quantity of those a bit – if you do try fruit juice, let us know how they turn out!

    • Emma

    Hello, I am Corsican and even my homemade canistrelli sucks (I don’t know why, I am good baker..) for the first time try a 25 % substitution to see if you like it and how it behaves, and see if you want more chestnut, but usually never go over 50 %,. Chestnut flour is very “heavy”. We do Corsican pulenda (polenta) 100 % chestnut, and it is good, but kind of natural ballast

    • Gavrielle

    I remember your Corsica posting very well – the picture you painted made me want to visit (and I’d never considered it before). If course, you’ve now put me off again with your description of the driving! If it can scare a Parisian driver… The “quiet” cookies look delicious.

    • Deborah

    Think I’ll try these and lightly press the dough into a greased pan and bake, then break them into rustic chunks ala Torta Fregolotti, another favorite Italian nutty short cookie/biscuit.

    • Nico

    Always looking for dessert recipes with olive oil–even better, no eggs!
    I dropped the sugar down to 90 grams, skipped the nuts, used Herbsaint (because we just had a heat wave and someone drank all the Ricard), and kept them in the turned-off oven for 10 minutes.
    Very importantly, when opening the oven to turn them, remember to stand back. I tend to forget how alcohol fumes concentrate every time I bake with booze.
    These are getting bookmarked for when I get to fraternize again.

    • Donna

    @Terri…Ricard makes an anis-flavoured beverage SANS ALCOOL!!
    It tastes very similar to the real deal version (without the ‘kick’). It is easily found in the major French supermarkets…and I imagine it could be found online as well!

    • Donna

    @Terri (bis)…The name of Ricard’s alcohol-free pastis is “Pacific”…I’m going to give David’s Canistrelli a go with this as a substitute!

    • Shelley Sorani

    So glad you’re doing some “quieter” European cookies as well as “calorific” American ones. My Roman husband loves ciambelline, little doughnut shaped cookies made with just flour, sugar, wine and olive oil and a big pinch of cinnamon. Do you know someone who has a really authentic recipe? I think your fans would love them!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve not made those but there are a number of Italian baking books out. Perhaps The Italian Baker by Carol Field has a recipe? You could look in the index online. Good luck with your search!

    • Stephanie Doublait

    So excited!!! These are vegan and I have all the ingredients in my house. I usually skip your pastry recipes bc I am sure there will be butter and eggs but something told me to read this recipe and I am so glad I did!! Thanks David. Long time follower. I met you twice in Paris, now living in Bordeaux

    • Susan

    Would Pernod work as a substitute for pastis?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes it has a flavor profile very similar to pastis and could definitely be used.

    • JanetM

    These are so addictive! I’ve made them twice this week. I didn’t have pastis. I did have black sambuca. They were an interesting color but tasted great. Will definitely be picking up some pastis for the summer and baking more of these!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you liked them & thanks for reporting back that the Sambucca worked :)

    • Sally

    Made these yesterday with Pernod and crushed anise seed, and the house still smells like anise. Marvelous. I subbed 1/3 cup chestnut flour (which in the U.S., like almost everything, is available in 24 hours from Amazon). I’m not sure I can detect it, but the cookies are great.

    • Jennifer

    I made these with quite a few deviations. I used Bob Red Mill’s gf 1to1 flour because my celiac friend was visiting. I used Sambuca because that’s what I had. Finally, I rolled the dough in Dutch Anijshagel (anise sprinkles) instead of sugar because it seemed like a good way to give it a triple dose of the anise flavor I love. They turned out great. One note, I over toasted my almonds, and that really became the dominant flavor. I will definitely make these again, but with regular flour and less toasted nuts.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Glad they worked out! Yes, overtoasted nuts can be overwhelming so now that you’ve got the template, and those anise sprinkles, you’re ready to go…again!

    • Alene

    This is great to know because I have to be gluten free! Thanks for the information !

    • Laura L

    Not only are these delicious, but they’re so easy and non-mess-making to make. My 8″ square of dough was thicker than 1/4″, so I rolled it bigger to get the right thickness. That was a plus, because it made more cookies!


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