Cannoli Dip is a lightly sweet recipe that tastes like cannoli filling but with the convenience of a quick and easy dip, made with ricotta cheese and flavored with orange zest, semisweet chocolate, and crunchy pistachios!
There's something just so satisfying about a good dip. Whether it's rich and decadent, light and healthy, or sweet and dessert-like, it's hard to beat shoveling up a big scoop of deliciousness on a fabulous dipper. And this delectable Cannoli Dip is the latest addition to my list of favorite dips!
If you've ever had a cannoli, you already know the wonder that is a tube-shaped, fried pastry shell filled with a light, creamy, delicately sweet concoction. However, making authentic cannolis from scratch is a time-intensive labor of love. So what if I told you that this Cannoli Dip is an easy, shortcut way to enjoy the same flavors and textures except in a matter of minutes?!
Traditional, authentic cannolis usually feature some or all of the below ingredients:
- Ricotta. I recommend whole milk ricotta for the creamiest texture. It will need to be drained ahead of time, so be sure to plan ahead (maybe start that step the day before!) with your timing of this recipe.
- Powdered sugar. Unlike regular granulated sugar, powdered sugar will dissolve smoothly and completely. And while this is intended to be a lightly sweet recipe, if you would like it sweeter, you can add an additional ¼ cup powdered sugar.
- Fresh orange zest. This ingredient is optional but recommended for fresh flavor. I also think that orange is a lovely pairing with the chocolate included in this dip. At 1 teaspoon of zest, the orange flavor is definitely going to be noticeable. So it's okay to go with the lesser amount, if you like. Or if you want the orange flavor to be even more subtle, start with ¼ teaspoon and then taste. You can always add an additional ¼-teaspoon at a time until the orange flavor suits you. Also keep in mind that the orange flavor will intensify just a bit as the Cannoli Dip is chilled.
- Pure vanilla extract. The flavor shines through, so use the good stuff.
- Chocolate. Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips are stirred into the dip for both flavor and texture.
- Pistachios. Just before serving, I like to garnish my bowl with chopped (roasted and salted) pistachios for flavor and color and crunch!
You may notice a missing ingredient from the above list...
Many Cannoli Dip recipes rely entirely on cream cheese for their base, or cream cheese at least plays a hefty role, thereby overshadowing the ricotta. And since I already have several cream cheese-based fruit dips on the site, I wanted this recipe to be lighter and not taste like cream cheese...you know, more akin to real cannoli filling.
That being said, when I first whipped together all of my ingredients, I determined that a bit of cream cheese might be warranted in this recipe after all. I found that just a small amount results in a creamier texture without overwhelming the delicate ricotta flavor of this dip.
- Cream cheese. After testing my Cannoli Dip recipe both ways, I decided that it indeed benefited from a modest amount of cream cheese. So while you may certainly leave it out, I do recommend adding just half a block for a smoother, creamier texture. Or if you'd like to stick with the Italian theme and you don't mind buying a tub of Mascarpone cheese in addition to your ricotta, that could be substituted for the cream cheese instead.
How to Make Cannoli Dip
(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)
As mentioned above, you need to allow enough time to drain your ricotta. Popping it in strainer the day before and letting it drain in the fridge overnight is usually the easiest.
- Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and line with cheesecloth or paper towels.
- Scoop ricotta cheese into the strainer, fold cheesecloth/paper towels over the top, and weigh it down with a bowl. (The photo below shows the paper towels unfolded, after draining, just so you can see the ricotta through the bowl.)
- Place in the refrigerator and allow to drain for at least 6 hours. When it's done, you will end up discarding ¼ to ½ cup of watery liquid.
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend the ricotta and powdered sugar until creamy.
- Blend in the vanilla and the orange zest.
- Add the softened cream cheese to the bowl. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat the mixture until creamy and slightly fluffy.
- Blend in the chocolate chips.
- Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes, but ideally an hour.
- Just before serving, garnish with chopped pistachios.
Other Ideas for Flavoring Cannoli Dip
It's easy to customize the flavor of this recipe to your liking.
- Almond extract. This would be a nice flavor in place of (or in addition to) the vanilla extract. Keep in mind that almond extract is more intense than vanilla, so I'd start with ¼ teaspoon, taste, and go from there.
- Cinnamon. Again, a little bit goes a long way.
- Lemon zest. A lovely addition. However, if you decide to flavor your dip with lemon zest instead of orange zest, you may consider omitting the chocolate chips.
- Candied citrus zest. For garnish, as it's sometime used in traditional cannoli recipes.
- Candied cherries. Another garnish idea. I think this would be an especially nice complement to the mini chocolate chips in the dip!
I served my Cannoli Dip with fresh strawberries and store-bought pizzelle cookies. However, there are plenty of other yummy things you could use for dippers!
In addition to your favorite fresh fruit, here are a few other ideas:
- Cannoli shells.
- Broken sugar cones or waffle cones.
- Vanilla wafers.
- Shortbread cookies.
- Graham crackers.
- Chocolate-striped cookies.
- Rolled wafer cookies.
How Long Will Cannoli Dip Last?
You can make this recipe about a day ahead of time. Just before serving, give it a good stir and then garnish with pistachios.
Cannoli Dip will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 or 4 days. But know that after a couple of days, any leftovers could start to become a little separated or watery, particularly if you didn't drain your ricotta well enough.
And there you have it, friends...an exquisitely flavored, light-and-lovely dessert of Cannoli Dip!
This recipe is perfect as a special treat. Or it would be great for a multitude of get-togethers, from baby or bridal showers to cocktail hours to a Valentine's Day soirée.
Hope you enjoy!
More Fabulous Dessert Dips
- Fluffy Chocolate Fruit Dip
- Cream Cheese Caramel Apple Dip
- 4-Ingredient Lemon Fruit Dip
- Warm S'mores Dip
- 16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ to 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest, optional
- 4 ounces (½ block) cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¾ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ¼ cup salted pistachios, chopped, for garnish (optional)
- Fresh strawberries, Pizzelle cookies, broken sugar or waffle cones, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, shortbread cookies, etc.
- Set a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl and line with cheesecloth or several layers of paper towels. Scoop the ricotta cheese into the strainer, fold over (or lay more) cheesecloth/paper towels over the top, and weigh down with another (somewhat heavy) bowl. Place in the refrigerator and allow to drain for at least 6 hours but up to overnight.
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend the drained ricotta and powdered sugar until creamy. Blend in the vanilla and the orange zest. Add the softened cream cheese. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until creamy and slightly fluffy. Add the mini chocolate chips and fold in until just combined. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes but ideally 1 hour.
- Just before serving, sprinkle the Cannoli Dip with chopped pistachios. Serve with fresh strawberries and pizzelle cookies, or your preferred dippers. Store leftovers, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 or 4 days.
- If you're not sure how "orange-y" you want your dip, start with ¼ teaspoon of zest, and then taste before adding more (¼-teaspoon at a time). Or for a "plain" Cannoli Dip, you can omit the orange zest altogether.
- Mascarpone may be substituted for the cream cheese.
- The longer you beat this dip, the fluffier it will become.
- You can make this dip up to 24 before serving...any longer and it could start to get watery. If necessary, stir before serving and don't garnish with the pistachios until the last minute.
- Similarly, any leftovers could start to separate and/or become watery after a couple of days, depending on how well you drained the ricotta. Stirring should take care of it if this happens.