Mantecaditos are Puerto Rican almond-flavored thumbprint cookies filled with sweet jams, fruit, or topped with sprinkles. They’re a favorite cookie of children and adults alike, especially during the holiday season.
Not only are these mantecaditos super simple to whip up, but they’re also freezer-friendly. As a result, you can make a ton of cookies ahead, pop them into the freezer, and have a quick treat for dessert, guests, or teatime.
*This is an update of a post originally written in December 2020. The article has been updated, but the recipe is the same.*
What Are Mantecaditos?
Mantecaditos, pronounced mahn-teh-cah-DEE-toes, translates to “little ice creams” in Puerto Rico.
Mantecaditos are shortbread thumbprint cookies often filled with guava paste, maraschino cherries, or nonpareils (sprinkles). I like to fill mine with all three.
This mantecaditos recipe is Puerto Rican because it was taught to me by my mother. Mantecaditos are enjoyed around the Caribbean islands, not just in Puerto Rico.
What Do They Taste Like?
Typically, mantecaditos have an almond flavor, but you can swap out the almond extract for vanilla, rum, or lemon extracts. I do think almond goes best in these cookies, though, especially if you’re going to fill them with guava paste or cherries.
Mantecaditos can be one-bite cookies or made larger to accommodate those with a more intense sweet tooth. As written, this recipe makes 4 dozen cookies. The bigger you roll yours, the less you’ll have.
What Do I Need to Make Mantecaditos?
To make mantecaditos, you’ll need all-purpose flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, unsalted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, kosher salt, egg, and almond extract.
We can discuss topping options later in the post.
Bake the cookies on sheet pans, baking mats, or parchment paper, and grab a cooling rack.
First, sift the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and ground cinnamon into a 2-quart mixing bowl, then set aside.
How Are Mantecaditos Made?
You need to use pure, unsalted room-temperature butter to make your mantecaditos crisp and crumbly, as shortbread should be.
Add the room-temperature butter, brown and white sugar, and kosher salt to a 4-quart mixing bowl.
When making mantecaditos, you want the cookies to spread only a little. Cookies that spread, or pan spread, occur when the butter and sugar are beaten until light and fluffy, and air is incorporated into the mixture.
We want to blend the butter-sugar mixture until it is pasty and slightly grainy. So, use a hand or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Begin mixing the ingredients in the bowl on low speed for one minute. Once the butter and sugars combine to form a thick paste, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and the beaters.
Blend the egg and the almond extract in the bowl at low speed for 1 minute.
Scrape down the bowl once more, then sift the dry ingredient mixture in.
Blend the dry ingredients into the butter mixture on low speed.
How Far Ahead Can I Make the Mantecaditos Dough?
At this point, the dough will resemble a coarse meal. Continue mixing on low or medium-low speed until the dough begins to hold together as pictured or for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stop when the cookie dough looks like thick oatmeal.
You should chill the dough for your mantecaditos for at least 30 minutes to achieve the best shape possible. If you were to roll and bake the dough now, the butter would melt too fast, resulting in a flat cookie.
Scrape the cookie dough onto a sheet of plastic film. Press it out into a rectangle that’s about 1/2-inch thick. Form it into a rectangle that is roughly 8 by 6 inches.
Wrap your rectangle in plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. You can make the dough for mantecaditos up to 24 hours ahead and store it wrapped in the fridge.
You can freeze the raw mantecaditos dough after rolling them into balls but before filling them.
Roll the dough into the balls and arrange them on a sheet pan in a single layer. Freeze the dough balls until solid, then transfer the balls to a freezer storage bag and freeze for 2 months. Thaw the cookie dough until it’s soft enough to press with the dent, fill, and bake as instructed above when you’re ready to bake them.
How Do I Form the Mantecaditos?
Cut the chilled dough into 1-inch squares. The baking powder and egg in the recipe cause the cookie dough to expand, so you want to make them smaller before baking.
Roll the squares of cookie dough between the palms of your hands to form them into balls.
What Are Traditional Mantecaditos Toppings?
The traditional fillings for mantecaditos are guava jelly, maraschino cherries, or nonpareils (or sprinkles).
Guava paste and guava jelly are not interchangeable in this recipe. Guava paste is much thicker and takes longer to melt than jelly does. Be sure to use jelly for this recipe.
Divide the mantecadito dough equally for the number of toppings you plan to use. Also, drain and dry your maraschino cherries well if that’s what you’re using. You don’t want them to leak juice into the cookies while they bake. It’s important to dry the cherries well to prevent mold from forming during storage.
Place each dough ball onto a sheetpan lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. You can firmly press the dough balls into the sprinkles if that’s what you’re topping your mantecaditos with.
How Do I Make Uniform Dents in Thumbprint Cookies?
Use a 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon to make the dents in your thumbprint cookies. They’re much more uniform and neater than using your thumb to press the dents into the cookie dough balls.
Pinch the dough together again if the ball breaks slightly on the side. Dip the measuring spoon into a small amount of flour if it starts to stick to the dough.
Continue pressing the spoon into the remaining dough balls to create their “thumbprints.”
Fill the dents in the mantecadito dough with guava jelly or a maraschino cherry.
How Long Does it Take to Bake Mantecaditos?
Bake the mantecaditos for 16-18 minutes at 350°F (177°C) or until they have golden brown bottoms but light brown sides. Baking for this time will result in browned cookies with a slightly soft interior.
Keep the other dough balls in the fridge while you bake the first pan of cookies if you only have one oven. You don’t want the butter in the dough to warm up more than necessary before baking the cookies.
Remove the mantecaditos from the oven once they’re done baking. Cool the mantecaditos on the sheetpan for 3 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack.
Bake the remaining cookies while the first batch cools.
How Do I Serve the Cookies?
Serve mantecaditos with cold milk, café con leche, hot tea, or hot cocoa once they’re cool.
They also taste great with a scoop of ice cream.
How Do I Store Mantecaditos?
Store the mantecaditos in an air-tight container at room temperature. Don’t keep them in the fridge because they’ll go stale faster.
Store mantecaditos at room temperature for 3 or 4 days. The cookies lose their crispiness after the second day, but they transform into this oddly satisfying firm-soft texture that is quite lovely.
Can I Freeze Baked Mantecaditos?
You can freeze mantecaditos after baking them, but the guava and cherry-topped cookies will be slightly soggier after you thaw them than freshly baked mantecaditos.
Allow the mantecaditos to cool and freeze them on a sheetpan until solid. Transfer the cookies to a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw them at room temperature when you’re ready to eat them.
How Can I Change Up This Recipe?
Here are more ways to change up your mantecaditos:
- Press chocolate candy kisses onto the baked cookies immediately after removing them from the oven.
- Replace the guava jelly with cajeta or caramel.
- Roll the mantecaditos in holiday-colored nonpareils instead of rainbow.
- Press your favorite nut into the center of the ball of dough.
So, you now have a weekend baking project to complete with the family. Pin this recipe to your cookie boards and don’t forget share it with your world.
Mantecaditos (Puerto Rican Almond-Flavored Butter Cookies)at Sense & Edibility
- sheet pans
- silicone baking mat
- hand mixer or stand mixer
For the Mantecadito Cookie Dough
- 2 1/3 cups (317 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
- 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (80 grams), packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (56 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) kosher salt
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
Optional Toppings (use one or a combination of the three)
- guava jelly (about 1/3 cup)
- maraschino cherries drained (12-48)
- nonpareils (about 1/4 cup)
Make the Mantecadito Cookie Dough
- Sift together the all-purpose flour, ground cinnamon, and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Set this bowl aside while you mix the remaining batter.
- In a separate mixing bowl, use your mixer to blend together the butter, brown and white sugars, and salt on low speed to form a thick paste. Mix for 1 minute, then turn the mixer off and scrape down the bowl and the beaters.
- Add the egg and the almond extract to the bowl. Blend again, on low speed, just until the egg is mixed into the butter and sugar mixture. Scrape down the bowl once more.
- Add the dry ingredient mixture to the butter mixture in two batches. Once the first batch has been added, blend it in with your mixer, again, on low speed. Stop the mixer and scrape down bowl and beaters before adding the remaining flour mixture to the bowl.
- Blend the dough once more on low speed just until the butter and flour combine to create clumps of dough in the bowl.Continue mixing on low or medium-low speed until the dough begins to hold together, or 1-2 minutes. Stop when the dough looks like thick oatmeal.
Chill, then Form the Cookie Dough
- Once the dough has come together, scrape the dough of the mixing bowl and onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Press the dough into a 8x6-inch rectangle that is roughly 1/2-inch thick.
- Wrap the dough in the plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes up to 24 hours.
- After the dough has had time to chill, cut the rectangle into 8 1-inch wide strips. Cut each of those strips into 6 squares of equal size creating 48 squares generally similar in size.
- Once the squares of dough are cut, roll them between the palms of your hands to form them into balls.Once you've formed a ball of dough, place it on a sheet pan lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Top and Bake the Mantecaditos
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C).
- If you're topping the mantecaditos with nonpareils: press the dough ball into the sprinkles to adhere them to the surface. Then, place the coated ball onto the sheet pan and press it down lightly to keep it from rolling.
- To fill the mantecaditos with maraschino cherries or guava jelly: press a dent into the surface of the cookie dough balls using the bottom of a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon.Fill the dents in the dough with a whole cherry or with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of the guava jelly.
- If you only have one oven, keep the pan of formed cookies in the fridge while you bake the first pan of cookies. Once all of the cookies are filled, bake them for 16-18 minutes or until lightly browned.
- After the cookies have finished baking, remove their pan from the oven. Replace that pan with another one to continue baking the remaining cookies. Cool the baked cookies on the sheet pan for 3 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Serve the Mantecaditos at room temperature and enjoy them with a cup milk, café con leche, tea or hot cocoa.
Mantecaditos Swaps and Substitutes:
- Press chocolate kisses onto the fully baked cookies after you pull them from the oven.
- Replace the guava jelly with your favorite flavor of jam or preserves.
- Roll the mantecaditos in holiday-themed nonpareils instead of rainbow.
- Press your favorite nut into the center of the ball of dough.
- After baking, cool the cookies completely.
- Transfer the mantecaditos to an air-tight storage container and store at room temperature.
- Don't refrigerate the cookies because the butter in the cookies will harden, and the flour in the dough will cause them to go stale faster.
- Store on the countertop for 3-4 days.
Mantecaditos Freezing Instructions:Before baking:
- Roll the dough into the balls and arrange them on a sheet pan in a single layer.
- Freeze the balls of dough, uncovered until frozen solid.
- Transfer the dough balls to a freezer storage bag and freeze for 2 months.
- Thaw the precise amount of cookies you want to bake it's soft enough to press with the dent, fill, and bake as instructed above.
- Allow the baked cookies to cool completely.
- Arrange them on a sheet pan in a single layer and freeze completely.
- Transfer the mantecaditos to a storage bag and freeze for 3 months.
- Thaw at room temperature.