Typical Sicilian desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth

Sicilian food - a guide to sweets and desserts

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Do you have a sweet tooth? Sicily may be your spiritual home. Sicilian desserts are one of the highlights of a trip to Sicily so I suggest you prepare to indulge before you arrive.

The food of Sicily is unique and differs from that of mainland Italy.

It draws inspiration and techniques from cultures that have inhabited the island over many centuries. Ingredients such as lemons, almonds and pistachios were brought by the Arabs of North Africa and chocolate was later introduced by the Spanish.

Savoury Sicilian food is simple and delicious – think fresh seafood and citrus salads – but their desserts require more technique and skill. The results are simply incredible.


Sicilian food - 4 flavours of granita

I have an ongoing obsession with gelato, so I was especially keen to try the Sicilian version – granita. Much more icy than its mainland counterpart, granite is served in a glass with a spoon and is a bit like a frozen thick shake. Made by hand, the texture of granita can differ from region to region due to the method used in the freezing process.

Granita is made with freshest local ingredients and I’m sure the taste would be hard to replicate elsewhere for that reason. We tasted lemon, pistachio, almond and gelsi – a Sicilian variety of mulberry. The tartness of the lemon was offset by sugar and I was surprised overall that the granite we tried were not too sweet.

READ:   The missing bite .. a discovery of tastes in Italy

Sicilian cannoli

Sicilian cannoli - the best in the world

One bite. That’s all it took to know that all cannoli that had come before were a mere shadow of this treat. Cannoli are a delicious Sicilian dessert that have been exported around the world, but I’m here to tell you that you haven’t tasted them properly until you’ve tried cannoli in Sicily.

What’s the difference? The cream inside Sicilian cannoli isn’t cream but freshly made whipped ricotta flavoured with a little sugar and lemon. The ricotta filling is made daily and piped fresh to order which means the fried pastry casing stays crisp and crunchy. So apart from looking, smelling and tasting out of this world, you experience the sensory delight of the different textures of this dessert.

Fancy making cannoli yourself – here’s a recipe for cannoli that looks delicious but not quite the same


Granita with brioche

Granita with brioche from Messina

“Do you eat this often?” I asked my husband’s cousins in Messina. “Oh, yes, most days in summer,” they smiled. Yikes. The granite from Messina is an extreme dessert if you ask me and the people of this city eat it for breakfast!

[clickToTweet tweet=”The granite from Messina is an extreme dessert that is eaten for breakfast! #italy #ttot” quote=”The granite from Messina is an extreme dessert if you ask me and the people of this city eat it for breakfast!”]

The granite comes in different flavours – coffee, chocolate and strawberry. It is topped with chantilly cream and served with brioche, fresh out of the oven. You break pieces off the warm brioche and dip it into the granite and cream. It is one of the most incredible and decadent breakfasts I’ve ever eaten.

You can try the granite with brioche at Pasticceria Freni in Messina.

Cassata Siciliana

Cassata - a Sicilian dessert

I thought cassata was an ice cream dessert that we have sometimes in Australia. Actually, it is a delicious cake that inspired the ice cream dessert. The original beats the spin-off hands down.

Cassata Siciliana has its origins in the 17th century and it is a dessert with distinct baroque overtones. There is nothing simple about this layered cake and I’m sure a lot of patience and technique is required to make it.

A layer of sponge dipped in liqueur is topped with fresh ricotta sometimes mixed with chocolate chips. The cake and ricotta are then covered by a marzipan shell, followed by green icing. Usually, the cake is topped with glace fruit such as cherries. You can find the cake in small or large sizes throughout Sicily but it is said to originate in Palermo.

Marzipan Easter lambs or Agneddu Pasquali

marzipan easter lambs from sicily

This long running tradition in Sicily represents the Easter story and if you visit Sicily over Easter you will see these marzipan lambs everywhere in many different sizes. Made from marzipan, they are often stuffed with dried fruits, nuts and even marmalade made from local lemons and oranges.

I’m not a big fan of marzipan but the one I tried did not have an overwhelmingly strong bitter almond taste. It was very rich though!

Sicilian chocolate from Modica

Chocolate from Modica Sicily

The Spanish, having conquered Latin America, brought chocolate to Sicily. In Modica chocolate is made using traditional Mexican cold processing techniques. Cocoa beans are manually ground and processed in a bowl with sugar and then left to set in special moulds. The result is a thick and grainy bar that is sometimes flavoured with cinnamon or vanilla.

Traditionally Modican chocolate was melted in water to make hot chocolate but it can also be eater on its own. The best place to try this unique Sicilian chocolate is at Antica Dolceria Bonajuto – the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily.

Savouring the desserts of Sicily

Pistachio granita

In a world seemingly obsessed with franken-donuts and unicorn lattes, the desserts of Sicily more than hold their own. Centuries of tradition, technique and perfecting the balance of flavour and texture cannot be beaten.

What I love about Sicilian food culture and their sweet treats is the passion and use of local ingredients. Almost all the Sicilian food we tasted used the locally grown lemons, pistachios and almonds that are found in abundance on this Mediterranean island.

There is no rushing about and eating on the go either. People savour their food and are quite happy to wait ten minutes for fresh brioche to be pulled from the oven or ricotta filling to be piped fresh into cannoli. And believe me, it’s worth the wait.


Have you tried these Sicilian desserts? What did I miss?

Try making authentic Sicilian desserts at home



Love Italian food?

Check out these fascinating Italy food facts, discover an  Italian food festival and the cuisine of Venice as well as what it’s like to take a cooking class in Florence.

More about visiting Italy on our guide to planning your dream trip to Italy and highlights from travelling in Sicily.

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44 thoughts on “Typical Sicilian desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth

    • Katy says:

      Good on you! Let me know how it goes if you do make them. I suspect you need years of training (and eating!) to get them just right so you’ll just have to keep practising!

  1. Phoebe | Lou Messugo says:

    Gosh these all sound delicious and like you I love that they are made from fresh local ingredients and savoured over not rushed. Those marzipan sheep are adorable, but are the only thing on the list that don’t tempt as I can’t stand marzipan (even if I love almonds)! #farawayfiles

    • Katy says:

      Yes marzipan is not my favourite either but this was a bit less intense than the type I have tasted before. We had to try it.. because of the relatives! They would not take no for an answer!

  2. Lorna ✶ The Painted Globe says:

    Those Easter lambs! (I’m not keen on marzipan either, but would definitely still be tempted to try one.)

    This has got me seriously tempted to visit Sicily sometime soon – love indulging in local food!

  3. Clare Thomson says:

    I’ll always choose a dessert if there’s lemon in it so Sicilian desserts sound just about perfect for me. They also look incredible which really adds to the appeal. Those granatas and that cannoli! My boys would love to try some of those hefty breakfasts too! #FarawayFiles

  4. Annabel Kirk says:

    I reckon the lemon granita definitely counts as one of your five a day, the one I tried on our recent trip to Sicily was so tart (but delicious!). I love the marzipan lambs you photographed, such artistry! #farawayfiles

    • Katy says:

      I really admire the attention to detail on the lambs. I did some research and many of the lambs are made from a mould without the fleece detail. So I think these ones are extra special

  5. Amanda Afield says:

    I’m not convinced I have the skills to make my own cannoli… guess I’ll have to go to Sicily! 🙂 Everything looks so delicious! #farawayfiles

  6. Insider Families says:

    There is so much fabulous Italian food that I kind of forget about desserts. I’ve never been to Sicily but have been to the Amalfi Coast. Sicilian food sounds similar. Love those local ingredients! #FarawayFlies

    • Katy says:

      We went to the Amalfi Coast after our week in Sicily and objectively the Sicilian food is better, more creative and cheaper. And let’s face it, it’s a high bar to beat!

  7. Brooke of Passport Couture says:

    Since I’m someone with a HUGE sweet tooth, it’s hard not to want all of these delicious looking sweets! I admire them for using local ingredients, it’s always great when you travel and find places that value this aspect of their food and desserts.

    • Katy says:

      Brooke the Sicilians have so much pride in their cooking. We were taken to the specific place for THE BEST brioche and granita by our relatives. Nothing else would do!

  8. fifi + hop says:

    It’s a good thing I’m full from a late dinner, otherwise I’d be rading our fridge after reading this post! Not that anything could compare..Sicilian desserts look divine, especially the granita ;). #farawayfiles

  9. Kat says:

    I reckon the canoli will be my kind of dessert – imagine sinking my teeth into that freshly made whipped ricotta and the crunchiness of the pastry – sounds really yummy. Makes me crave for a delicious savoury dessert for afternoon tea later 🙂 #farawayfiles

  10. Wherejogoes says:

    Totally scrumptious! I’ve always heard cannoli mentioned on TV and in films (especially The Sopranos) but never knew what it was – I’d love to try one! I imagine the lemon flavours were really fresh in the desserts and how lovely that people are prepared to wait for freshly made desserts. Totally delicious, fab photos of gorgeous desserts. (What’s a unicorn latte?!) #FarawayFiles

  11. Hilary says:

    Yes, please, to all of it! It looks SO delicious! I love Chantilly cream, it’s the best, so I’ll be starting with that one! #farawayfiles

  12. Emily says:

    I’m not even a “dessert person,” but these sound right up my alley. That ricotta filling sounds worlds better to me than cream, personally. Yum.

  13. Ariana del Rio says:

    I have tried the authentic Cannoli in both Palermo and Cefalu and I must say, best I’ve ever had. Now I am not going to lie, I started drooling and dreaming of my return since I began to read this post. Amazing photos for the senses, just need to buy the ticket now 🙂

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Ariana. Palermo and Cefalu were the 2 main places we need to visit on our next trip to Sicily. I’ll be on the look out for their cannoli!

  14. Ahila says:

    The cannoli looks absolutely delicious. And, I’d love to try the granite with brioche for breakfast, if I visit Sicily. #FarawayFiles

    • Katy says:

      You really do have to try the granite with brioche Ahila but it’s so rich I doubt I would be having one every week let alone every day!

  15. Daniela || Ipanema travels to says:

    I’ve been to Sicily 2 times many, many years ago (20 & 15 years ago) and I don’t remember much of the food we ate there. But there’s one thing I will never forget – the ice cream I had in Agrigento!

  16. Juliette | Snorkels To Snow says:

    Wow these all look incredible and super tasty – free of any unicorn dust! Love the authenticity here. I’m also a sucker for gelato so would love to try their local version. I must admit, I’m very intrigued by the cannoli and the idea of fresh whipped ricotta rather than cream – it sounds very light and fluffy. I’d probably go to Sicily just for the desserts, if I’m honest with you. #farawayfiles

  17. Four Acorns says:

    Oh I want to try cannoli and granita now. And that fabulous looking brioche too! Nothing beats fresh, local ingredients, and a skillful hand.

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