What can I substitute for cannoli shells?

Cannoli are a delicious Italian pastry that are made with a crunchy fried pastry shell that is filled with sweetened ricotta cheese. The cannoli shell is what gives the pastry its signature crisp texture. However, frying the shells can be time consuming and messy. If you want the taste of cannoli but don’t want to fry the shells, there are several substitutes you can use to get a similar texture and flavor.

Quick Answer: Substitutes for Cannoli Shells

Here are some quick answers for substitutes for cannoli shells:

– Store-bought cannoli shells – Many grocery stores sell pre-made and pre-fried cannoli shells that just need to be filled. This is the easiest substitute.

– Baked pastry shells – Make a pastry dough and bake it into tubes or cones to mimic cannoli shells. Brush with egg wash to get crispy texture.

– Wonton wrappers – Fill fried or baked wonton wrappers with cannoli filling for an easy substitute.

– Ice cream cones – Stuff cannoli filling into ice cream cones for a fun, portable version.

– Tuile cookies or pizzelle – These thin, crispy Italian cookies can be shaped into cylinders around a filling.

– Pie crust – Roll out pie dough scraps, cut into circles and wrap around cannoli forms to bake cylindrical shells.

– Wafer cookies – Use crispy cylindrical wafer cookie shells as an edible vessel for the filling.

Store-Bought Cannoli Shells

The easiest shortcut for getting cannoli shells is to simply buy them pre-made. Many major grocery stores now sell boxes of ready-to-fill cannoli shells in the bakery or deli section. Brands like Liguori, DeLallo, and others make cannoli shells that have already been fried into the classic tube shape. These pre-made shells provide the same crispy, flaky texture and tube-shaped form as homemade shells, eliminating the work of having to fry and shape them yourself. They are available either plain or sometimes with a light cinnamon sugar dusting. To use store-bought cannoli shells, all you need to do is fill them with the sweetened ricotta filling. Using ready-made shells cuts down on active cooking and frying time significantly. The only potential downside is that pre-made shells lose their crispness faster than homemade, so they are best filled and eaten soon after purchasing. Overall, store-bought cannoli shells offer the easiest shortcut for authentic cannoli flavor with a lot less effort.

Baked Pastry Shells

For a homemade cannoli shell substitute, you can bake cylindrical pastry shells to mimic the shape and crispy texture. This takes more effort than using pre-made shells but will be fresher than grocery store varieties. To bake cannoli-style shells:

– Make a pastry dough – Use your favorite pastry dough recipe, substituted with white whole wheat or almond flour if desired. The dough should be pliable enough to roll out and wrap around molds.

– Roll dough into circles – On a floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out 4-inch circles using a biscuit cutter or small bowl tracing template.

– Wrap around molds – Wrap the circles loosely around cannoli tube molds, small dowels or even clean pen tubes. Seal the edges with egg wash and pinch together gently. The molds will create the hollow center for filling.

– Brush with egg wash – Beat an egg and brush over the outside of the wrapped dough cylinders. This gives them a shiny, crisp exterior when baked.

– Bake – Place the wrapped molds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375°F for 12-18 minutes until golden brown. Cool before gently removing molds. Fill as desired.

Baking creates a nicer presentation and fresher flavor than pre-made shells. However, it does take more active time. Ensure the dough is thin so the shells get very crisp in baking. Let shells cool completely before filling so they harden.

Fried Wonton Wrappers

For an easy fried substitute, crispy wonton wrappers can mimic cannoli shells when shaped into cylinders. Purchase square egg roll or round wonton wrappers, available in most supermarkets. To use:

– Cut wonton wrappers into 3-inch rounds using a sharp knife or biscuit cutter. Cover with a damp paper towel to prevent drying out.

– Fill a skillet with 1 to 2 inches of neutral oil. Heat to 350°F.

– Fry the wrappers, a few at a time, for 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

– Immediately wrap the warm fried wrappers around a cannoli mold, small dowel or pen. Hold for a few seconds until shaped, then slide out the mold.

– Cool completely before filling the wonton shells.

Frying wonton wrappers creates a flaky, crispy texture similar to cannoli shells. Their neutral flavor lets the filling shine. The fried wrappers become more brittle as they cool, so fill them soon after frying for the best texture. Overall, fried wonton wrappers offer an easy fried substitute for achieving cannoli shells with less work.

Ice Cream Cones

For a fun presentation and portability, you can substitute cannoli shells with ice cream cones! This works best with wafer cones rather than cake cones, since wafer cones have a nice crispy texture that stands up well to filling. To use:

– Insert a piping tip into the bottom point of an ice cream cone to create a small hole. Twist gently as you push it in.

– Pipe the filling upwards into the cone until it is generously filled. Start with less filling, as it will expand once inside.

– Top with chopped nuts, chocolate chips or candied fruit for garnish.

– For picnic-friendly cannoli, insert a piece of foil into the pointed end of each cone to prevent leaks.

Ice cream cones provide a built-in crispy vessel for holding cannoli cream. Their crunchy, rounded wafer texture mimics fried shells. The sweetness of the cones also complements the rich ricotta filling. For best results, use freshly filled cones right away before they have time to get soggy. Present them tipped on their sides for an adorable individual serving.

Tuile Cookies

Tuile cookies are paper-thin, crispy French cookies that can stand in for cannoli shells when shaped into rolled cylinders. Tuiles have a delicate texture that shatters into flakes when bitten. To use tuiles as cannoli shells:

– Prepare a classic tuile batter made with butter, sugar and flour. Spread into very thin rounds on a baking sheet.

– Bake at 350°F until lightly browned at the edges, about 5-7 minutes. Remove immediately to shape.

– As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, quickly wrap them around a cannoli mold, rolling gently to create a curved tube shape. Hold in place for 1 minute until cooled and set.

– Carefully slide off the mold. Fill the tuile cylinders with the ricotta filling. Top with chocolate chips or fruit.

– Store shaped tuile shells in an airtight container if not filling immediately to maintain their form.

Tuiles require some effort since the baking and shaping must be done quickly while the cookies are still warm and pliable. But their delicate crunch mimics the texture of fried pastry beautifully. Their neutral flavor also lets the filling shine. For an elegant presentation, tuile cannoli shells can’t be beat.

Pizzelle Cookies

Pizzelle are traditional, flavorful Italian waffle cookies made with a special iron that imprints their crisp, thin shape. They are less fragile than French tuiles, providing another option for a cannoli shell substitute. To shape pizzelle into cannoli shells:

– Make pizzelle dough according to any traditional pizzelle recipe. Bake the cookies in a pizzelle iron until lightly golden.

– Immediately after cooking, while still warm, wrap the round pizzelles around a cannoli mold to create a cylinder shape. Hold for 20-30 seconds until cooled and set.

– Gently remove the cylinder from the mold. Fill the pizzelle shells with sweetened ricotta filling just before serving.

– Store any unfilled pizzelle cylinders in an airtight container to maintain their shape for later use. Re-crisp in a low oven if needed.

With their signature crisscross imprinted pattern and crisp texture, pizzelle make beautiful edible vessels for cannoli filling. Their round edges and tube-like shape when rolled mirror traditional cannoli shells. Pizzelle’s hint of anise flavor also complements the ricotta filling nicely. Take care to shape them while still warm and pliable. When made well, pizzelle offer a satisfying substitute for achieving that ideal cannoli crunch.

Pie Crust

Pie dough is already tailor-made for baking crisp, flaky shells. For cannoli, simply cut and shape pie crust into cylinders. Here’s how:

– Prepare your favorite pie crust recipe or use ready-made pie dough. Chill thoroughly so it rolls out cleanly.

– On a floured surface, roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 4 or 5-inch rounds using a biscuit cutter or small bowl.

– Brush the edges of each round lightly with egg wash or water. Then gently wrap the dough around metal cannoli tubes, small dowels, or even clean pen tubes or chopsticks.

– Seal the overlapping dough edges by pressing with a fork to crimp them together. Any scraps can be re-rolled to make more shells.

– Arrange the wrapped dough tubes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush all over with egg wash and prick the shells with a fork 2-3 times to allow steam to escape.

– Bake at 375°F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown all over. Cool before gently sliding out the tube mold. Fill and enjoy!

Pie dough creates tender, flaky cannoli shells with ease. The rich taste of butter pairs perfectly with the creamy filling. For added flavor, sprinkle cinnamon-sugar on the shells before baking. With a beloved baking staple like pie dough, you can achieve authentic cannoli texture using ingredients you likely have on hand.

Wafer Cookie Shells

For an easy crunchy shell, look no further than the cookie aisle! Factory-produced wafer cookies are available in long cylinders perfect for filling with cannoli cream. Popular brands like Stella D’oro make these cookies in different flavors like vanilla, chocolate, rainbow, etc. To use wafer cookies as cannoli shells:

– Select wafer cookie rolls that are around 4-5 inches long, with an inner diameter wide enough to fill with ricotta cream. Avoid creme-filled versions.

– Use a serrated knife to carefully cut the wafer cookies into individual cylinders. Try not to crush them.

– Gently twist open the cookie cylinders to access the hollow center. You can also use a chopstick or skewer to help open a channel if needed.

– Use a pastry bag or spoon to pipe or spoon the filling into the wafer cylinder until generously filled.

– Top with chocolate chips, sprinkles or chopped nuts if desired.

The crisp, round cookie cylinders provide built-in edible vessels for the filling – no shaping required. Their delicate wafer texture mimics the light crunch of cannoli shells wonderfully. For an easy assembly, wafer cookies offer a whimsical way to deliver all the flavors of cannoli in a fun, shareable form. Kids will love the rainbow colors too!

Tips for Filling and Serving Substitute Cannoli

Once you’ve shaped your desired shell substitute, follow these tips for filling and serving perfect cannoli:

– Chill the filling – Use a traditional ricotta filling recipe. Chill the filling for at least 2 hours first so it is stable for piping or spooning into shells.

– Use a pastry bag – Fill a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip with the chilled ricotta cream. Twist the top and pipe into shells for neatness and control.

– Work quickly – Fill shells just before serving to prevent sogginess. Wait until shells are completely cool before filling.

– Fill generously – Cannoli shells should overflow with luscious filling when bitten. err on the fuller side.

– Finish with garnishes – Dip cannoli ends in chopped pistachios, chocolate chips or candied fruit for decoration and added crunch.

– Store filled cannoli in the fridge in a covered container and consume within 2 days for optimal texture and flavor.

– Consider mini sizes – Substitute shells make perfect single-serving petite cannoli when using a smaller cutter size.

With these filling and assembly tips, your substitute cannoli shells will deliver the perfect taste and texture of this iconic Italian treat. Now enjoy this delicious classic without all the frying hassle!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about substituting cannoli shells:

What is the closest substitute to the real cannoli shell?

The closest substitute is store-bought or pre-made cannoli shells. They provide the same taste, crispy fryed texture and tube shape as homemade.

Can I use spring roll wrappers instead of wonton wrappers?

Yes, spring roll wrappers can be used. Cut them into smaller rounds and fry into cylinders like wonton wrappers. They will have a similar crispy, flaky texture.

What can I use if I don’t want to fry a shell?

Baked options like pastry dough, pie crust or tuiles provide the same crispy texture without frying. Wonton wrappers can also be lightly baked instead of fried.

Should I bake or fry ice cream cones?

Ice cream cones can be used right out of the box without any prep. Their crisp wafer texture provides a perfect vessel for filling as-is.

Can I use crepes or spring roll wrappers instead of pie dough?

Crepes and spring roll wrappers don’t mimic the rich, tender texture of pie dough as well when baked. Pie dough makes the most authentic baked shell substitute.

How do I make a chocolate cannoli shell?

Add cocoa powder to the dough before baking or frying to make chocolate shells. 2 tablespoons per cup of flour works well. Or dip baked shells in melted chocolate to coat them.


Cannoli are a delicious Italian treat, but frying the traditional shells can be inconvenient. Luckily, a variety of baked or store-bought alternatives can still deliver the same satisfying crunch and delicious taste. Options like ready-made cannoli shells, wonton wrappers, ice cream cones, tuiles and more allow you to skip the frying step while still enjoying the iconic crispy shells filled with luscious ricotta cream. With a little creativity, you can create cannoli whenever the craving strikes without the hassle. So next time the urge hits for this Sicilian classic, reach for one of these handy substitutions for crispy shells and let the filling begin!

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