Dec 16, 2013

Italian Anise Cookies. Vegan, Gluten-free, Oil-free.

Christmas Cookies: Day 8.

I know what these cookies are supposed to taste like… and look like. We enjoyed them during Christmas celebrations when I was growing up. I had fun experimenting with this recipe and decided to go for more of a crumbly texture than the traditional, softer anise cookie.

As far as the look? Well, unfortunately there just isn’t anything that is healthy that looks like powdered sugar, which is what these cookies are usually coated in. Instead I made a super fine dust out of some coconut sugar that I had and it stuck pretty well, but certainly not like powdered sugar on a batch of cookies made with a whole stick of butter would…

I love the flavor of anise and these cookies really deliver the goods on that note. I hope you’ve been enjoying my 12 Days of Christmas Cookies so far. It’s been a lot of work for me but a lot of fun as well!


~ dry

  • 2 cups gluten-free, all purpose flour (or whole spelt)
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour, potato starch or arrowroot starch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground anise seeds

~ wet

  • 1 TBS ground flax seeds + 3 TBS water
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup raw cashew butter
  • 2 tsp pure anise extract
  • ¼ cup minimally processed granulated sweetener for dusting (optional)


  1. Combine the flax with the water and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  5. Place all wet ingredients, including the flax mixture, in a small bowl and stir well to combine.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well until you have a smooth dough. Hands work well to mush it all together!
  7. Shape into balls about 2″ in diameter and place on the cookie sheet.
  8. Flatten just a little so that the bottoms are flat but the tops are still rounded.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown.
  10. Dust with a fine sugar of your choosing (optional). To make the sugar, simply place the granulated sugar into a blender and blend until fine.
  11. Cool and serve.

Makes 2 dozen. Enjoy!

Healthy cookie trails,

25 responses to “Italian Anise Cookies. Vegan, Gluten-free, Oil-free.”

  1. moonwatcher says:

    Hi Helyn,

    I've been posting gluten free vegan cookie remakes and I also come from an Italian background. I just recently posted my biscotti remake. I was thinking about trying to do an anise cookie remake–thanks for the inspiration!! These look great. 🙂

  2. Helyn says:

    Thank you! I just did biscotti too! Posting tomorrow 🙂

  3. Helyn says:

    Thank you Maria. Those look extra YUMMY!!

  4. Eve Lynch says:

    Helyn, your recipes amaze me — they are wonderful and different and very appealing to me. I've been printing out so many of them and will definitely make them. Unfortunately at this time of year I hardly have time to bake at all, so it might well be in January that I finally make everything I've had my eye on!

  5. Helyn says:

    Thank you so much, Eve! I understand about the holiday time crunch… spent the whole day shopping today! Enjoy!! 🙂

  6. I used to love an anise cookie that an Italian restaurant from my home town had. These might be. Good helthy substitute. I pore image all the work you have put into these cookie posts!

  7. Helyn says:

    Thank you Tami! I hope you'll try them!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am so excited by this recipe! I LOVE anise cookies. My grandmother always made them and they were always so delicious, but full of shortening! Can't wait to try your recipe!! BTW, they look just like Grandma's!!

  9. Helyn says:

    That's terrific! Let me know how they turn out for you. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  10. burghgrl says:

    Hi Helyn! Ohhhh, but you're an absolute angel for doing these! I can just imagine the WORK, time crunch etc. involved in all of it but many grateful people on this end of it!! As a new to gluten free baking person, i'm just confused. I thought…if you used an a.p. flour, then that…was it? I see you added tapioca starch to this, as well? I'm still trying to wrap my brain round all this…tapioca starch?? wht?? hmmmm….I'd appreciate anything you can say that might~ clarify. Italian cookies are my all time fav. as a child and now. I was wondering about the anise pizzelle's & wondering if I could just sub out with an ap flour, but now I see you're adding the starch, so i'm confused. THANK YOU!!!

  11. Helyn says:

    Hi "burghgrl" ! I understand. GF baking can be confusing! Looks like it's time for a GF baking post here!! Okay, let me explain. There are different types of GF flours and starches and they are usually categorized by weight. Tapioca is a starch that is "light" and I used more of it in this recipe because I wanted a very crisp and very light cookie. The AP blends are rather neutral. You can alter them by adding more light, heavy or medium flours/starches. Hope this helps and I have not attempted pizelles! Though I absolutely love them. I wouldn't add any extra starch of you're going to make them as it would make them too crunchy. If you try making them please let me know the outcome! YOU'RE WELCOME!!

  12. Kazumi says:

    Hi Helyn,
    I was looking for healthy anise cookie recipe for my husband, and found your recipe. He had been purchasing his favorite healthy anise cookie at a store, but the cookie company decided not make the cookie any more. That’s why I want to make it for him.
    Your recipe looks great! Most recipes on the internet use a lot of butter, which we don’t like. I’m wondering if I can substitute white whole wheat for GF flour. Gluten free is not necessary for us. If I use WWW, I don’t need to use tapioca flour? Can I also substitute other nut butters for cashew butter? I’d like to use almond butter instead.
    Any advices are appreciated. Thank you.

    • helynskitchen says:

      Hi there! Yes, absolutely you can use ww flour instead. And then, you wouldn’t need as much starch but you may want to add a tablespoon or two. The texture of the ones in the recipe was pretty crumbly and crunchy which is what I was going for and so without the tapioca you may wind up with a softer result, which is fine if you’re okay with that. Any nut butter will work. Hope he enjoys them!!!

  13. Kazumi says:

    Thank you very much for the fast reply!
    I’ll add a few tablespoons of starch. I can hardly wait to see he is smiling with the cookies.
    Thank you again!

  14. Hope says:

    helyn- I am going to make with ww flour and 1 Tbs tapioca flour now. Am ready to make my first EVER cashew butter in the blendtec for the recipe!!

    Questioning mind- how would w w pastry flour work with them???

    wish me luck…

    • helynskitchen says:

      Hope, I may be too late in responding but, yes, ww flour should work, though they may be a little bit more dense in texture. Hope they turn(ed) out okay! xo

  15. helynskitchen says:

    Oh! And I want to know how your cashew butter turned out! I’m not brave enough to try to make my own in the Vitamix!! Was it smooth enough? 😮

  16. Hope says:

    My husband was all delighted smiles when he came home, in thru the garage where the SMELL of what is cooking hits you the hardest in this house… and he loves the cookies… remembering when I made the old style for years…

    You nailed it Helyn- with the ww flour they were dense- great description- and you didn’t even get to sample one.. lol My spelt flour was old & I didn’t want to try it.. Next time I will use ww pastry flour. And yes there will be a next time. It made 16 cookies & fit perfectly in my Breville toaster oven. I will also cook 1 min less next time. There are only 4 left now… I must say after they sat awhile the anise taste was nice & strong. LOL the anise smell was enough to make you crazy while they were baking…

  17. Hope says:

    I was spooked by making my own- but it was too expensive to buy a jar just to try 1/2 C. I read up on making nut butters (pure procrastination) and did toast the cashews in a 400 degree oven till they browned- and in the Twister jar for the Blendtec was astounded at how awesome the butter turned out. Thought it was too stiff & blended a bit more and it was incredible! Thank you Helyn for pushing me outside my comfort zone! 1 C of cashews made slightly less than 1/2 cup butter. Now it is time for you to try it too.
    This also was the first time for me to chop the anise seeds in a coffee grinder- oh the aroma!!! All the years making the old style cookies from the blue Good Housekeeping Cookbook I rolled the seeds with a rolling pin between sheets of waxed paper as suggested- but WOW the difference… I am over the moon with what you have created!! And bless you for the photos- it made it so easy to “see” what I was supposed to do.

  18. Hope says:

    Just got a new coffee/spice grinder- so had to make these again. This was my 3rd time making them. I put the roasted cashews in my Blendtec Twister jar and made awesome cashew butter- and then ta-da … remembered to put the rest of the liquid ingredients in the Twister & blended it all smooth & creamy. Wrote it in my recipe copy so I won’t ever forget to do it this way again. WOW- so much easier!

    Poor hubby was on a cookie binge- the smell was unbelievable! and he was looking for excuses to have cookie breaks the rest of the day vbg

  19. Nancy says:

    I definitely want to try these. I had an Anise Cake but it was mostly eggs and sugar. I miss the taste of anise. These look like a great alternative. Can’t wait to make them

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