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3 Impressive and Delicious Italian Plant-Based Dessert Recipes

Traditional Italian dolci rely on butter, eggs, and cream for rich flavor and mouthfeel. But with a few swaps, you can create delicious, inspired Italian desserts. Here are three luscious, dairy-free, egg-free, plant-based versions of Almond Biscotti, Coconut “Zabaglione” with Berries, and Pistachio and Coffee Semifreddo. Each uses organic white sugar, since regular granulated sugar incorporates the use of bone char to give the sugar its white color. Or you may opt for coconut sugar in any of these recipes. 

Almond Biscotti

(Photo Credit: The Clever Meal)

Use neutral-tasting sunflower oil for texture and a bit of semolina flour to make these “twice baked” vegan biscotti rich and extra crispy. 


2 cups whole wheat flour

½ cup semolina flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 pinch fine sea salt

½ cup granulated, organic white sugar 

1/3 cup sunflower oil 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup unsweetened almond milk, or more if needed 

2/3 cup chopped almonds

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Add the whole wheat flour, semolina flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a large bowl and whisk to combine and aerate. Next, add the sugar and whisk to combine. 
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and vanilla. Add the oil mixture to the dry ingredients, and then slowly add the almond milk. Mix to form a homogenous cookie dough, adding a bit more milk, if necessary. Finally, fold in the chopped almonds.
  • Divide the dough in half and shape it into 2 equal-sized logs. Place them on the baking sheet side by side and bake for about 25 minutes, or until firm. Remove from the oven, and cool on a baking rack for a few minutes before using a sharp knife to slice about one dozen ¾-inch cookies from each log.
  • Spread the cookies on the baking sheet, and return them to the oven to crisp, about 5 minutes per side.

Coconut “Zabaglione” with Raspberries

(Photo Credit: recipe30.com)

Zabaglione is a creamy Italian custard traditionally made with egg yolks, sugar and Sicilian Marsala wine which offers a touch of boozy, nutty notes. This plant-based remake uses creamy coconut milk to capture the thick, rich zabaglione lusciousness. Serve chilled coconut “zabaglione” with fresh raspberries, or dip biscotti in it for more fun!


1 ½ cups unsweetened oat milk

2/3 cup full-fat coconut milk

1/3 cup granulated, organic white sugar

¼ cup Marsala wine

½ cup cornstarch 

4 cups fresh raspberries, for serving 

  • Add the oat milk, coconut milk, sugar and Marsala to a blender and blend until foamy. Set aside.
  • Next, prepare a double boiler by filling a small pot 2/3 of the way with water and bring it to boil. Once the water is boiling, set a stainless-steel mixing bowl on top —make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water (remove some of the water if it does).
  • Lower the heat to simmer, add the milk mixture to the mixing bowl, followed by the cornstarch, and whisk to incorporate. Gently “cook” the mixture, whisking continuously, until it thickens, about 5 minutes. (If lumps form, continue whisking vigorously through them — they will break up).
  • Remove the custard from the heat, and cover the top with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the custard. This will prevent a “skin” from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour or more.
  • For serving, divide the raspberries into one cup portions, and add generous spoonfuls of the “zabaglione” on top.

Coffee and Pistachio Semifreddo

(Photo Credit: Taste.com)

Semifreddo is a “partially frozen” dessert that gets its decadent mouthfeel from egg yolks and heavy cream. This plant-based version uses chilled full fat coconut cream, and the liquid from canned chickpeas, called aquafaba to make a creamy semifreddo base. For best results, whip both the coconut cream, and the aquafaba in chilled, non-reactive bowls, such as stainless steel, glass, or ceramic. You will need to chill the canned coconut cream overnight before making this recipe. 


For the coconut cream: 

One 14 ounce can full fat coconut cream, chilled overnight in the refrigerator

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the aquafaba base:

One 19 ounce can chickpeas, liquid drained and reserved (use the chickpeas for another recipe)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

¾ cup of granulated, organic white sugar

4 ounces strong-brewed cold coffee

¾ cup chopped, salted pistachios, plus more for serving 

Plant-based chocolate sauce, store-bought, for serving (optional)

  • Line a standard 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan with a large piece of plastic wrap, leaving enough excess to hang over the sides. Set aside.
  • Make the coconut cream: Separate the solid coconut cream from its liquid (reserve the coconut water for a smoothie!) and place it in a cold, non-reactive mixing bowl. Using a hand-mixer, whip the cream on medium-low speed for 1 minute, next add the vanilla extract, and continue mixing until it resembles whipped heavy cream, about 2 minutes more. (If the mixture is too thick, add a bit of the reserved coconut water, 1 teaspoon at a time to thin it). Clean the hand-mixer, before making the aquafaba base.
  • To make the aquafaba base: In a separate chilled, non-reactive bowl, add the chickpea liquid, and using the now clean hand mixer, whip on medium-high speed until frothy and a bit thick, about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract, and cream of tartar, and continue mixing on low speed to incorporate, then slowly add the sugar, and mix, increasing the speed as needed, until thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. (aquafaba takes a bit more time to form peaks, but stick with it, they will form).
  • Add the prepared coconut cream to the aquafaba base and stir gently to combine. Next, add the coffee, and stir. Fold in the chopped pistachios.
  • Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf pan, folding the excess plastic wrap over the top and then tightly wrap the entire loaf pan in another layer of plastic and freeze for a minimum of eight hours, and up to overnight.
  • Before serving, run the sides of the pan under hot water to loosen and then flip the semifreddo onto a serving platter. Cut the loaf into slices, like a cake, and serve immediately, garnished with more chopped pistachios, and drizzles of plant-based chocolate sauce, if you like. 

Theresa Gambacorta

Theresa Gambacorta is a writer and cookbook co-author. Her writing has appeared in such titles as La Cucina Italiana, Spin Magazine, Men's Fitness, Muscle and Fitness, and Centennial's special interest publications. She is the co-author of chef Joey Campanaro's Big Love Cooking (Chronicle, 2020), chef Nasim Alikhani's Sofreh (Knopf, 2023), and the forthcoming vegan cookbook, Eat What Elephants Eat by activist Dominick Thompson (Simon Element, 2024).