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Chinese Almond Cookies

While their exact origins are unclear, almond cookies were likely developed by Chinese immigrants over a century ago, perhaps as an adaptation of the traditional walnut cookies of their homeland. Today, they can still be found on the counters of some old-school Chinatown bakeries, as well as in the snack aisles of suburban and metropolitan Chinese supermarkets. I recently rediscovered this childhood favorite of mine when I was given an instantly recognizable pink box of the individually wrapped variety.

Eating two or three of these cookies in a row in the same methodical way was strangely satisfying: from the outside in, saving the crown jewel — a single piece of blanched almond in the middle — for last. If you’ve ever eaten around the jammy part of a thumbprint cookie or the sweet cheese filling of a Danish to slowly relish those few bites at the end, you understand what I’m talking about.

For a packaged product, these cookies weren’t half bad. But after the initial nostalgia wore away, I wished the cookie could have tasted fresher and less as if it had sat on a shelf for several months (which it undoubtedly had). The almond flavor could have been more nuanced, the texture less dry and the almond garnish more snappy. I wanted to make a better version of these treats, which are really no more than just a twist on icebox-style slice-and-bake cookies.

A non-traditional approach to Chinese almond cookies

Almond cookies (as well as most Chinese baked goods) are traditionally made using lard, a more accessible and cheaper alternative to butter. I opted to use a combination of vegetable shortening (non-hydrogenated expeller-pressed palm oil is great, if you can find it) and unsalted butter instead. This helped maintain the slightly shortbready texture while adding a rich, buttery flavor. A small amount of cornstarch blended in with the mostly all-purpose flour base helped keep the cookies crisp and sandy rather than chewy. The trick to getting a greater depth of almond flavor was using a combination of almond meal and almond extract. Relying on extract alone can sometimes become overwhelming and artificial tasting.

The next step took a cue from icebox cookie preparation: rolling the soft dough into a log, wrapping it in plastic, and refrigerating it until firm. Once the dough was sliced into uniform rounds, it was time to decorate the centers. I passed over the typical shards of blanched almonds for less authentic — but exponentially tastier — whole salted roasted marcona almonds. Just prior to baking, the cookies got a light lacquer of egg wash to seal in the glossy finish. After removing the cookies from the oven and catching a whiff of the fragrant aroma, I knew I had hit my target. Bye bye forever, pink box.

Chinese Almond Cookies

Makes 30 cookies


1¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal or finely ground blanched almonds
¼ cup cornstarch
1½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons. unsalted butter, softened
½ cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons almond extract
2 eggs
30 roasted marcona almonds or blanched whole almonds


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add the almond extract and 1 of the eggs and beat until just incorporated, 1 minute. Add the flour mixture and beat on medium-low until the mixture comes together and forms a soft dough, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  2. Place the dough on a 26-inch-long sheet of plastic wrap and roll into an 11½-inch-long, 2-inch-diameter log. Roll tightly in the plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat an oven to 350F and set the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from refrigerator and slice into ⅜-inch-thick slices. Place 15 cookies onto each prepared baking sheet, about 1½ inches apart, and press an almond into the center of each cookie. Beat the remaining egg with 1 tsp. water and brush on top of each cookie.
  4. Bake 18 to 20 minutes until tops of cookies are golden. Let cool on baking sheet 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sandra Wu is a San Francisco-based food writer, editor and recipe developer who currently works as a test kitchen cook at Williams-Sonoma’s corporate headquarters.

Photo: Chinese almond cookies. Credit: Sandra Wu

Zester Daily contributor Sandra Wu is a San Francisco-based food writer, editor and recipe developer who currently works as a test kitchen cook at Williams-Sonoma's corporate headquarters.


  • CANDY TURCIOS 1·14·15

    Chinese cookies are my husbands favorite. Every now and then when I’m in New York chinatown I stop at a bakery and buy him some. Because of the staled lard flavor I always
    shy away, although I love almonds and sweets. For his birthday I decided to surprise him.
    I’m an avid baker so I had all the ingredient except the blanched almonds. After purchasing the almonds I got to work. After baking and the cookies looking great the time of resistance had arrived. All I have to say is OMG. Sandra you rocked. You made a believer out of me. This recipe is the best. It’s easy, simple and the end result is fenominal. My husband is in heaven. Out of so many recipies I’m glad I went with yours. Thank you sooooo much. 😉

  • CANDY TURCIOS 1·14·15

    Chinese cookies are my husbands favorite. When I’m in Chinatown New York I stop at a bakery and pick up a pink box. Because of the lard stale taste I always shy away from them although,I love almonds and sweets. Since I’m an avid baker for my hubbys birthday instead of a cake I decided to surprise him with something different. I seeked for a recipe and the deciding factor to go with your was your name and the mention of William Sonoma (My favorite hangout). After purchasing the blanched almonds I got to work. So far the house smelled great and cookies looked fabulous. After cooling the time of resistance had arrived.
    OMG! Sandra you rock my world. You made a believer out of me. My husband was soooo impressed. No more pink box. Sandra thank you so much. Eternally grateful. Candy 😉
    Thank you sooooooo much. 😉

  • Charlotte Hill 12·12·15

    I made these cookies a few days ago and they were very good. I accidentally used both eggs in the batter. The cookies were a cake like texture so I can imagine how good they will be when I make the recipe again using one egg. Thank you for posting this recipe. I use to get them when my parents would order chinese take out. I don’t eat them as often as I use to but it’s nice to have a recipe when I’m craving them.

  • Dee 1·10·16

    Could I use all butter instead of a mix? What would the measurements be? Thank you!

  • janet peters 6·6·17

    these almond cookies are without a doubt the most delicious, crispy, cookies I have ever made!! I blanched and fried the onions with a little sea salt but made no changes to the cookie dough. Simply fabulous, thank you so much for this gift!

  • janet peters 6·6·17

    I fried the almonds!! No onions!! My bad