Ugly But Good Cookies (“Brutti Ma Buoni”) (Paleo, gluten-free)

These Ugly But Good Cookies have a funny name but are more fun to eat!

Called “brutti ma buoni” in Italian, these classic Italian hazelnut cookies need just 4 ingredients.

Toasty hazelnuts are folded into sweetened whipped egg whites for a crunchy, chewy treat.

Plus, they’re naturally gluten-free and easy to make refined sugar-free/Paleo as well!

Italian meringue cookies on a white plate next to a bowl of hazelnuts

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Ugly But Good Cookies – “Brutti Ma Buoni”

Before we even get to the recipe, how cute is the name?

Called “brutti ma buoni” or sometimes “bruttibuoni” in Italian, this translates to “ugly but good.”

And as you can see, they’re not the prettiest of cookies. They look like lumpy little rocks.

But more importantly, they taste fantastic.

Eggs whites are sweetened with sugar (or coconut sugar for refined sugar-free/Paleo) and whipped until stiff to make a simple meringue. Then toasted, chopped hazelnuts are folded in and small scoops are baked until the inside is a bit chewy and the outside is crunchy.

Invented in Tuscany in the 19th century, these classic Italian meringue cookies are served at Christmas and Easter. But once you make them, you’ll definitely want them more than twice a year.

 

What you need for Ugly But Good Cookies

Ingredients:

 

Ingredients:

hazelnut meringue cookies on a white plate next to a green napkin with hazelnuts on it

How to make Ugly But Good Cookies

First, heat the oven to 400°.

Add the hazelnuts to a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. You want the nuts to be toasted and the skins to start splitting.

Lay the nuts on a kitchen towel and let cool a little.

Turn the oven down to 300°. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

Fold the towel over the nuts and rub them vigorously to remove the skins. Not all the skins will fall off which is okay. You can also use your fingers to pick off the skins if you have the patience.

Add the peeled nuts to a food processor and pulse a few times until you have a nubbly mix of smaller bits and larger chunks. I don’t even mind if some hazelnuts remain whole – it’s the combination of textures that make the cookies interesting.

You can also chop the nuts by hand. Again, you’re looking for a mix of textures.

Whip the egg white with a pinch of salt with a hand mixer or a whisk. You’re looking for stiff peaks: when you hold the hand mixer or whisk upside down, the egg whites should hold their shape in stiff little peaks.

Then continue whipping the egg whites while you add the sugar one spoonful at a time. The egg whites will lose some of their air you just whipped into them and might become sticky but that’s okay.

Then use a spatula to stir in the hazelnuts.

Drop 1 tablespoon/1″ scoops onto the lined baking sheet about 1.5-2″ apart from each other. They’ll spread a little bit as they bake.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want them (the longer they bake, the crunchier they’ll get). Rotate the pan 180° halfway through the baking time.

Let cool completely on a wire rack and then dig in.

 

Make ahead instructions

These Italian hazelnut cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days. They might get a bit chewier as they sit.

They can also be frozen: place the cooled cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer. Once frozen, store the cookies in a freezer-safe container or baggie in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Thaw overnight in the fridge. The cookies might be chewier than when first baked but they’ll still be delicious.

 

Substitutions and variations:

  • You can use almonds instead of hazelnuts or use a 50/50 mix of both. Toast the almonds with the hazelnuts but don’t bother peeling.
  • You can add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the egg whites.
  • You can add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the egg whites.
  • You can add 2 teaspoons espresso powder to the egg whites.
  • You can add the grated zest of 1 lemon or half an orange to the egg whites.

Italian hazelnut cookies on a white plate and a green napkin next to a bowl of hazelnuts

Other cookies and baked goods you might like:

  1. Paleo Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  2. Paleo “Peanut” Butter Cookies
  3. Olive Oil Apple Bread
  4. Pecan Molasses Bread

 

Other Christmas recipes you might like:

  1. Olive Oil Polenta Cake
  2. Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake with Kahlua Whipped Cream
  3. Christmas-Spiced Pork Tenderloin
  4. Italian-Stuffed Pork Loin

 

Other Easter recipes you might like:

  1. Italian Cassata Cake (gluten-free)
  2. Lamb Ragu
  3. Caesar Deviled Eggs
  4. Kale Salad with Granola Croutons

 

Ugly But Good Cookies on a white plate next to hazelnuts and a bowl of hazelnuts
Italian meringue cookies on a white plate next to a bowl of hazelnuts
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Ugly But Good Cookies ("Brutti Ma Buoni") (Paleo, gluten-free)

These classic Italian cookies have toasty hazelnuts folded into sweetened meringue. Chewy, crunchy, and they only need 4 ingredients!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: brutti ma buoni, buttibunoi, italian hazelnut cookies, meringue cookies, ugly but good cookies
Servings: 12 cookies
Author: Don Baiocchi

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup / 3.35 oz. / 95g hazelnuts
  • 1 egg white
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/3 cup / 1.95 oz. / 55g sugar or coconut sugar (for refined sugar-free/Paleo)

Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 400°.
  • Add the hazelnuts to a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the nuts are toasted and the skins are starting to split.
  • Let the nuts slightly cool on a kitchen towel.
  • Turn the oven down to 300°. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Fold the towel over the nuts and rub them vigorously to remove the skins. You can also use your fingers to pick the skins off. It's fine if not all the skin falls off.
  • Add the nuts to a food processor and pulse until you get a nubbly mixture of smaller bits and larger chunks (even some whole hazelnuts are okay). Or chop by hand to achieve a similar texture.
  • Using a hand mixer or whisk, whip the egg white with the pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Keep whipping while you add the sugar a spoonful at a time. The egg whites might lose some of the air you whipped into them and become sticky but that's okay.
  • Stir in the hazelnuts. Drop 1 tablespoon/1" scoops onto the parchment-lined baking sheet about 1.5-2" apart from each other (the cookies will spread a bit as they bake). Bake for 15-20 minutes (the longer they bake, the crunchier they'll get), rotating the pan 180° halfway through baking.
  • Set the baking sheet on a cooling rack and let cool completely before digging in.

Notes

Make ahead instructions
The cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days. They might get a bit chewier as they sit.
They can also be frozen: place the cooled cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer. Once frozen, store the cookies in a freezer-safe container or baggie in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Thaw overnight in the fridge. The cookies might be chewier than when first baked but they'll still be delicious.
Substitutions and variations:
  • You can use almonds instead of hazelnuts or use a 50/50 mix of both. Toast the almonds with the hazelnuts but don't bother peeling.
  • You can add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the egg whites.
  • You can add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the egg whites.
  • You can add 2 teaspoons espresso powder to the egg whites.
  • You can add the grated zest of 1 lemon or half an orange to the egg whites.

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