Anise Cookies

published Oct 11, 2022
Anise Cookies Recipe

The soft, tender crumb paired with the cookie's gentle scent of anise are guanteed to delight the senses of everyone at a holiday function.

Makes3 dozen cookies

Prep35 minutes to 40 minutes

Cook10 minutes

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Credit: Kelli Foster

When I was growing up, one of my favorite parts of the holiday season was the annual cookie swap hosted by my mom or aunt. It started around the time I was 6, and year after year our extended family and friends crowded into our kitchen and living room, arriving with tightly packed tins and Tupperware filled with classic holiday cookies, like cut-out sugar cookies, spritz cookies, chocolate crinkles, and snowballs (my usual contribution). In the sea of festive tins sprawled across a dining room table, the thing I looked forward to most were anise cookies with a slick of icing and shower of rainbow-colored, crunchy nonpareils over top. These were the regular contribution from a family friend, who grew up baking them with her Italian American mother.

Inspired by the cookies I grew up eating, this version is a soft and tender bite-sized cookie that’s just sweet enough, with a fragrant, mellow flavor of anise in every bite.

What Do Anise Cookies Taste Like?

With a double dose of anise extract (in both the cookies and the icing), these soft, tender cookies have a distinct, yet mellow flavor of anise on every bite. And if you’re not familiar with anise, it has a sweet, fragrant aroma that’s reminiscent of licorice.

On their own, the cookies are just barely sweet to account for the blanket of anise-spiked icing that gets layered over top.

Credit: Kelli Foster

Can I Substitute Anise Extract for Anise?

While this recipe calls for anise extract, you will find other versions that pick up their anise flavor from anise seed. If a recipe calls for anise seed and you don’t have it, you can substitute anise extract.

Do keep in mind that anise extract tends to have a stronger and more concentrated flavor. As a rule of thumb, when using anise extract in place of anise seed or ground anise, I tend to use about half the amount called for in the recipe. This way the flavor isn’t overpowering.

What Do You Use Anise Extract For?

Find any recipe for baked goods that calls for vanilla extract and you can often swap in anise extract to impart a gentle anise flavor. It’s particular good in cookies, icings, whipped cream, puddings, custards, and even hot chocolate. Try it in the following:

Anise Cookies Recipe

The soft, tender crumb paired with the cookie's gentle scent of anise are guanteed to delight the senses of everyone at a holiday function.

Prep time 35 minutes to 40 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Nutritional Info


For the cookies:

  • 1 stick

    unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 2 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons

    anise extract

For the icing:

  • 1 cup

    powdered sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    anise extract

  • 1 tablespoon



Make the cookies:

  1. Cut 1 stick unsalted butter into 8 pieces and place in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Place 3 large eggs on the counter. Let both sit at room temperature until the butter is softened, about 1 hour.

  2. Place 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder in a medium bowl, and whisk to combine.

  3. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the bowl with the butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding the next.

  4. Add 2 teaspoons anise extract and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat on the lowest speed until just combined, 30 to 45 seconds.

  5. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

  6. Scoop 1 tablespoon portions of dough, and roll each one into a ball. Place on the baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart, up to 20 cookies per sheet.

  7. Bake for 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back. Continue to bake until cracked on top and light golden-brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes more. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and let cool completely.

Make the icing:

  1. Place 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons whole or 2% milk, and 1/4 teaspoon anise extract in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth and no lumps remain.

  2. Place the wire rack with the cookies over a baking sheet. Dip the top of each cookie in the icing, let any excess drip off, and return to the wire rack. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon nonpareils evenly over the cookies. Let sit until the icing sets, at least 1 hour.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The cookies can be baked up to 1 day ahead before icing and decorating. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Storage: Store iced cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.