Gluten Free Ossi de Morto cookies resemble bones and the name literally means “bones of the dead.”  I know that seems a little odd, but these cookies are typically made and served on All Souls’ Day and at christenings.  The Italians believe that the bones are symbols of the beginning and the end of life.   So, I hope, now, this doesn’t seem so creepy.

Many different cultures have a day where they celebrate and remember their loved ones, be they relatives or not, that have passed from this life.  Italians choose All Souls’ Day to remember.  It’s celebrated every year on November 2nd and is an extension of All Saints’ Day celebrated on November 1st.   And there are many different ‘names’ for that particular day:  Feast of all the Faithful Departed, Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of the Faithful Departed and Day of the Dead.

Gluten Free Ossi de Morto are made all over Italy.  There are many variations of these cookies and, like most recipes, each particular region has their own version.  I’ve seen them made more like a biscotti with almonds from the first harvest in September, or flavored with cloves, Strega (an herbal liqueur) or Sambuca (an anise flavored liqueur).  Most are shaped like bones, but I’ve seen them round and square and rectangle as well.

Well, my version has been passed down from my mother, so this is the version I’m familiar with.   It’s a sweet, chewy cookie that’s flavored with anise oil or anise extract.  The regular wheat flour version of this cookie requires that you shape the cookies and let them sit overnight before baking.  That allows the cookie to dry on the outside so that when you put it in the oven, the cookie expands but the dough can’t escape anywhere but to ‘ooze’ out the side of the cookie.  That’s awesome.

Well, because this gluten free version contains xanthan or guar gum, it seems to dry faster.  What that means for this cookie is that you don’t need to let it dry overnight.  I’ve found that 3 to 4 hours is enough.  I’ve let the shaped dough sit overnight and you don’t get that oozing – the cookie is way too dry after that amount of time.  So, yay to gluten free.  You just cut your waiting time in half.

One other important thing to note for this cookie.  You have to sift the dry ingredients three times.  I know you don’t want to (me either) and, you’ll note that in most of my recipes I don’t even suggest that you sift, but it’s kind of important for this one.  So, please don’t skip this step.

Mary Frances Farina

Yields About 5 dozen

Gluten Free Ossi de Morto (Bones of the Dead) Cookies

3 hr, 25 Prep Time

10 minCook Time

3 hr, 35 Total Time

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  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise oil or 1 teaspoon anise extract
  • 4 cups (1 pound) Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (.5 ounces) Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon guar or 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan
  • 3 cups (13.5 ounces) Gluten Free Farina All Purpose Flour


  1. Beat eggs in an electric mixer until light and fluffy – about 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add anise oil or anise extract and mix on low for 30 seconds.
  3. Combine confectioner’s sugar, baking powder, gum and flour. Sift 3 times. Please do not skip this step.
  4. Add 1/2 of flour mixture to eggs and mix on low 30 seconds. Continue to add remainder of flour mixture and mix until combined. Scrape bowl, if necessary.
  5. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Taking about an 1/8th of the dough, roll into a rope about 1/2″ in diameter.
  7. Cut into about 2″ lengths, cutting on a diagonal.
  8. Roll dough in the middle of each cut piece to create a skinnier piece in the middle with bigger ‘bones’ on the end.
  9. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Let sit at room temperature, uncovered, for 3 to 4 hours until outside is dry.
  10. Bake 350F oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Dough should ooze a bit out the sides of the cookie.
Cuisine: Italian | Recipe Type: Cookie

Buon Appetito and Happy All Souls’ Day!

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