Based on my grandma’s recipe, these classic Italian rainbow cookies (or Tricolor cookies) are vibrantly colored and full of almond and sweet jam flavor! They’re easy to make, and well worth the process for an elegant Christmas cookie that wows! Oh, and they’re secretly vegan!

Classic Italian Rainbow Cookies (Tricolor Cookies)

Yes, this is actually a family recipe that I made entirely vegan!

My mom’s side of the family comes from Palermo, in Sicily (and they’re very proud of it ha!). So when planning The Banana Diaries Cookie Week this year, I wanted to make sure I came up with a few family classics that we normally enjoy around the holidays.

This Italian rainbow cookie recipe actually comes from my grandma. Italian rainbow cookies, also known as tricolor cookies, tricolore cookies, or seven layer cookies, were actually created by Italian immigrants who came over from Italy (although there is some debate that they are found in Italian pasticcerie).

italian tricolor cookies stacked

There is actually a very similar recipe called Pasticcini Arcobaleno that’s traditionally found in pasticcerie around Christmas time.

Anyways, these rainbow cookies became a very popular cookie in Italian American bakeries, and since Jewish neighborhoods often ran into the Italian ones, they started to show up in traditionally Jewish bakeries as well, switching out the colors for blue and white.

So I asked my grandma for any family recipes we had, and she quickly scribbled this one onto a sheet of paper. If you’ve never had a rainbow cookie, then you’re in for a treat.

They’re soft and chewy, with notes of raspberry or apricot between cake-like cookie that’s full of fresh almond flavor, all sandwich between a thin layer of chocolate.

bitten Italian tricolor cookie

It’s quite literally my favorite Christmas cookie, and the one I always filled my plate up with as a kid.

The best part? I got the full approval of both my mom and grandma that these vegan Italian rainbow cookies taste just like the traditional! SERIOUSLY!

Now, I did mention that I veganized these tricolor cookies, but don’t worry. They’re extremely simple in terms of ingredients, and I promise you, you won’t be able to tell that they’re vegan!

For these rainbow cookies, you’ll need:

  • Vegan butter
  • Sugar
  • Almond Paste (NOT marzipan! Be sure that you are indeed using almond paste!)
  • Applesauce
  • Dairy free milk
  • Aquafaba
  • Flour
  • Chocolate
  • Raspberry jam
  • Vegan red and green food coloring

As you can see, we swapped out the eggs with two ingredients: applesauce and aquafaba. The applesauce acts as the egg yolks, and the aquafaba acts as the egg whites when we whip it into stiff peaks. But don’t worry- the actual method is kept just the same as the classic!

single italian rainbow cookie

You’ll also note that there are no leavening agents in these cookies! Baking back then was very simple, and they often used only what they had access to, which wasn’t very much.

In terms of equipment, I recommend a stand mixer or a hand mixer, two large bowls, three baking sheets, and some parchment paper.

I actually made these cookies entirely with a hand mixer, so don’t worry- it can be done!

How to make Italian Rainbow Cookies

Now, just because these Italian rainbow cookies have been veganized does not mean that they’re harder to make. Actually, the process is quite simple (even easier than the classic!), it just takes some patience.

That’s what my grandma kept emphasizing to me: patience, patience, patience.

vegan italian rainbow cookies

There are a few more steps to making this classic Italian-American dessert than most cookie recipes, even vegan ones, but trust me these cookies are so worth it!

I recommend reading the full instructions down below in the recipe card before beginning. Also make sure to give yourself several hours to prepare the cookies. It’s a waiting game!

I also made a little video tutorial to help if you’re more of a visual person! Be sure to follow along with the recipe card as well though to ensure you’re not miss measuring!

You’ll often hear these Italian rainbow cookies being called an Italian rainbow cookie cake, or the tricolor cookie cake. That’s because the dough is not really a traditional dough, but almost like a cake batter (and a lot of it).

To start, you’ll simply cream together the vegan butter and sugar. Then add in the almond paste and beat again.

Next, you’ll add in the dairy free milk, applesauce, almond extract, and vanilla extract. Now, I highly recommend keeping the almond extract in (but don’t add more than the recipe calls for! These cookies taste very almond-y already! I recommend using Rodelle or Nielsen-Massey). Creamy everything together once more, then sift in the flour. Fold the mixture until it reaches a consistent dough batter.

Then, whip the aquafaba into stiff peaks. Fold the aquafaba into the dough until it’s completely distributed throughout.

Divide the batter into 3 bowls

Color one bowl green and the other bowl red.

Then spread each batter onto its respective cookie sheet, almost as if the cookie batter was a sheet cake. The batter will be very thin, so don’t worry- you do indeed have enough batter, but it will be thin!

These cookies bake fast- you’ll only need a few minutes in the oven, and then allow the cookies to cool for 10 minutes.

Assemble the rainbow cookies

Because the cookies bake a bit thinner than traditional Italian rainbow cookies, you’ll need to cut the cookie sheets in half and stack them on top of each other before assembling.

To do this, simply cut each cookie sheet crosswise, and carefully flip one half onto the other. You should yield a square-like rectangle instead of a definitive rectangle from the cookie sheet.

Then you’ll use the green layer as the bottom, and keep it on the cookie sheet, as you’ll need to transfer this to the fridge again. Spread 1/4 cup of raspberry jam onto the green layer top, then place the white layer on top. Spread the remaining raspberry jam on top of that layer, then place the red layer on top.

Chill the rainbow cookies with weights

This part is crucial. Once you finish with topping the red layer, place a piece of parchment paper on top, along with several heavy flat objects, such as books or large plates. Place the cookie layers into the fridge with the weights on to chill for 3 hours.

You really need all of those 3 hours.

Once chilled, you can remove the cookies from the fridge, and spread the chocolate onto the top of the red layer. Place the cookies back into the fridge to set the chocolate, then remove again, carefully flip the cookies, and spread the final layer of chocolate.

Slice the rainbow cookies

What I love about this recipe is that you slice this rainbow cookie cake into tons of little rainbow cookies!

This recipes yields about 36 cookies, you can cut more or less by making your cookies smaller or larger.

But that’s really it! Once they’re sliced, you can enjoy and be completely fooled that these rainbow cookies are even vegan 😉

Storing Rainbow Cookies

Many like to leave their cookies at room temperature, but I don’t recommend that for these rainbow cookies.

I recommend storing these Italian cookies in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Alternatively, you can store these cookies in the freezer for up to 3 months.

stacked tricolor cookies

Can I make these Italian Rainbow Cookies gluten free?

You can most definitely make these secretly vegan Italian rainbow cookies entirely gluten free as well!

The wonderful part about this recipe is that the only ingredient that needs to be swapped is the flour. Swap in gluten free 1:1 baking flour at an equal ratio. I recommend Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 baking flour or King Arthur’s.

Unfortunately, you can’t make these cookies nut-free, as they’re heavily reliant on the almonds.

italian rainbow cookies

I hope you love these rainbow cookies as much as I do! Seriously, this recipe is my favorite of all time. I mean, I love all my cookie recipes, but this one is especially close to my heart, as it’s my grandma’s.

If you make these Italian tricolor cookies, be sure to leave it a review and rating below so that others may find the recipe! As always, I absolutely love to see your beautiful creations on Instagram and Pinterest, so be sure to tag me there!

Happy rainbow cookie baking!

More vegan Christmas cookies:

Vegan Sugar Cookies

Paleo vegan Molasses Cookies

Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

Easy Vegan Thumbprint Cookies

Vegan Reindeer Cookies

Want to save this recipe for later? Add it to your favorite recipe board on Pinterest!

Classic Italian Rainbow Cookies (Tricolor Cookies)
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Classic Italian Rainbow Cookies (Tricolor Cookies)

Italian Rainbow Cookies (Tricolor Cookies with Video!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 6 reviews
  • Author: thebananadiaries
  • Prep Time: 30 + 200 for chilling
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 36 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegan


Based on my grandma’s recipe, these classic Italian rainbow cookies (or Tricolor cookies) are vibrantly colored and full of almond and sweet jam flavor! They’re easy to make, and well worth the process for an elegant Christmas cookie that wows! Oh, and they’re secretly vegan!


  • 1 1/2 cups vegan butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 ounces almond paste (not marzipan)
  • 1/4 cup dairy free milk
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free 1:1 baking flour)
  • 1/3 cup aquafaba
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • Red and green vegan food coloring
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam (or 1/4 cup raspberry and 1/4 cup apricot)
  • 1/2 cup melted vegan chocolate chips


  1. Prepare three medium baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
  2. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to cream together the vegan butter and sugar until smooth and the sugar has dissolved into the vegan butter.
  3. Then add in the almond paste and continue to cream the butter mixture with the marzipan until smooth.
  4. Next, add in the dairy free milk, applesauce, almond extract, and vanilla extract, and use a hand mixer again to cream until smooth.
  5. Once smooth, add in the flour, and fold together until it becomes a consistent dough and there are no more dry streaks. Set aside.
  6. In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer or stand mixer to beat the aquafaba and cream of tartar until the aquafaba reaches stiff peaks.
  7. Fold the aquafaba into the dough mixture until it is completely incorporated into the dough.
  8. Divide the dough into 3 bowls. Add 5-7 drops of red food coloring to one bowl, and 5-7 drops of green food coloring to another. Leave the third as it is. Mix in the red food coloring in one bowl, and the green in the other. Set aside.
  9. Pour the red dough batter onto one baking sheet, and use an offset spatula or knife to spread the batter until it reaches the edges of the pan and completely covers it. Repeat for the green and the yellow/white batter with the remaining baking sheets.
  10. Bake each baking sheet for 8-12 minutes, or until the batter has set and the toothpick comes out clean. It won’t be super puffy and thick, but it should look set. Remove from the oven and allow the baking sheets to cool for 10 minutes.
  11. Once cool, take the green baking sheet and use a knife to cut the cookie cake in half crosswise (so cutting the length side in half). You should have two almost squares now. Carefully fold one square on top of the other by using the parchment paper to flip the square. Spread 1/4 cup raspberry jam on top. Repeat for the white/yellow cake, slicing it in half and flipping the half on top of itself. Then carefully transfer the white/yellow cake to be on top of the green layer. Spread 1/4 cup raspberry jam on top of the white cake layer. Then cut and fold the red layer in half, and carefully transfer the red layer to be on top of the white layer. You should now have the green layer on the bottom, the yellow layer in the middle, and the red layer on top.
  12. Cover the top of the red layer with a piece of parchment paper and place heavy books or dishes on top of the cookie layers. Place the cookie layers, covered and weighted down, in the fridge to chill for 3-4 hours.
  13. Once chilled, remove from the fridge and remove all weights. Spread half of the melted chocolate on top of the red layer, spreading the chocolate just to the edges. Then chill the cookie in the fridge for 10 minutes to set the chocolate. 
  14. Once the chocolate has set, remove from the fridge once more, carefully flip the cookie, and spread the remaining chocolate on the other side of the green layer until it reaches the edges. Place the cookie into the fridge again to set for 10 minutes.
  15. Remove from the fridge and slice into 36 cookies. Enjoy!
  16. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week or the freezer for up to 3 months.