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Cannoli Filling Recipe

Cannoli Filling made with ricotta and chocolate chips is a classic Sicilian dessert. This delicious pastry filling is sweet, decadent and incredibly easy to make. You only need 4 ingredients and about 15 minutes to whip up a bowl of goodness that is traditionally used to fill crispy cannoli shells.

A variety of cannoli filled with ricotta and chocolate chips. Some of the ends are covered in crushed pistachio, some are dipped in chocolate with a maraschino cheery on the end.
Assortment of cannoli

This cannoli cream filling is perfect for use in making cannoli cake or cannoli cupcakes, as filing for cream puffs and a number of other desserts. I often make this and serve it as a cannoli dip, which is always a big hit! It really is a versatile dessert recipe that you will use over and over again.

While traditional cannoli can be found in any Italian bakery and even many grocery store bakeries these days, there is just nothing quite like homemade cannoli. You can easily find premade shells that you can fill with this creamy filling, but my cannoli shell recipe will have you rethinking that strategy. They are delicately crisp pastry shells that when paired with this creamy ricotta filling make the best cannoli you will ever have! Give them a try!

If you love ricotta desserts, you will want to try my traditional Ricotta Pie with a pasta frolla crust. It is creamy, sweet and delicious. Like eating a cannoli pie!

What is Cannoli Cream made of?

While cannoli can be filled many different fillings from patisserie cream, to puddings, or mascarpone, the most traditional filling is made using ricotta cheese. Typically the ricotta is sweetened and mixed with chocolate or candied fruits. This version includes the all the classic ingredients but adds mascarpone to create a smooth creamy filling that is perfect for cannoli but so much more!

Cannoli dip with a maraschino cherry and cannoli chips.
Delicious as a dip

Cannoli Filling Recipe Ingredients:

  • Ricotta Cheese: Whole milk ricotta is best for this recipe. Ricotta has a lot of water in it which can make the filling runny. Low fat ricotta will have more water then whole milk and will not work as well in this recipe.
  • Powdered Sugar: Powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar) is very fine and will create a velvety texture. I recommend using this over granulated sugar.
  • Mascarpone Cheese: Mascarpone is a milder smoother Italian version of cream cheese. It helps to thicken the ricotta if it is a little to moist. The addition of the mascarpone is really optional.
  • Almond Extract: Almond flavoring is a traditional flavoring for cannoli filling but you can also vanilla extract.
  • Mini Chocolate Chips: Mini chips work best in this recipe especially if you are going to use a pastry bag to fill the cannoli shells.

How to Make Cannoli Filling

  • Add the ricotta, sugar, mascarpone (if using) and almond extract to a medium bowl. Using a hand mixer or a whisk, mix until completely combined.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Use to fill cannoli shells or as a dip for cannoli chips.

Tips for Making the Best Cannoli Filling

Cannoli lined up in a row, filled with ricotta and chocolate chip cream.
Crunchy and flaky

How to Avoid Runny Cannoli Filling

  • As I mentioned, ricotta that is purchased in the grocery store is usually watery. If you were to use it straight out of the container, the result would be a runny filling. For best results the ricotta needs to be drained and have as much liquid removed as possible.
    • Here are some options for draining the ricotta:
      • Place it in a cheese cloth. Twirl the cheese cloth tightly around the ricotta and squeeze it gently. Continue squeezing the ricotta until you have removed most of the water.
      • You can also spread the ricotta out on paper towels. Cover it with another paper towel and soak up as much water as possible. Repeat this several times.  
      • Place the ricotta in a fine mesh strainer set over a large mixing bowl, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. This will allow any water in the ricotta to pass through it. You can also place some pie weights on top of the ricotta to help push some of the liquid out. 

Two ways to get a smooth ricotta filling

  • One way to create a velvety filling is to strain the ricotta through a fine mesh strainer after you have drained it. Then mix it with an electric mixer or whisk until smooth.
  • Another option is to put the drained ricotta in the food processor for a couple of minutes. The food processor will cut through the curds in the ricotta and whip it up.

Suggestions for Thickening Cannoli Filling

  • The best way to get thick cannoli cream is to drain the ricotta but if your cream is still too thin, you can try a bit of cornstarch to the mixture and mix it well. Add the cornstarch one teaspoon at a time until you get the texture that you are looking for.
  • Another alternative is to add about 1/4 cup of heavy cream to the filling and beat it until it starts to thicken. Add additional cream if it is still not thick enough.
A bowl of cannoli filling topped with a cherry and cannoli chips and surrounded by mini chocolate chips, cannoli shells and a bowl of cherries.
Sweet and creamy dip

Cannoli Cream Alternatives

There are many ingredients that can be added to the ricotta to enhance the flavor of your filling.

  • Orange zest is a common addition on the island of Sicily where oranges are plentiful.
  • Lemon zest or lemon extract can also be added in, although this is not typically used in traditional Sicilian cannoli.
  • Dried or candied fruit is also commonly added to the filling or used to decorate the ends of the cannoli.
  • Cinnamon and brown sugar would make this perfect for fall gatherings.
  • Pistachios can be chopped and sprinkled on the ends of the filled cannoli. This is also a very traditional addition in Sicily.
  • Amaretto can be used as a substitute for the almond extract.
  • The possibilities are endless!

How Else Can I Use this Cannoli Filling?

This is a delicious substitute for whipped cream in cream puffs. In Sicily it is often used as a filling for a layered sponge cake. My favorite way to use this filling is to serve it as a cannoli dip with strawberries. And of course it is perfect just on a spoon!

Chocolate dipped cannoli shell filled with ricotta and chocolate chips and topped with a cherry surrounded by other cannoli.
Assorted cannoli

Cannoli Cream FAQ

Does cannoli filling need to be refrigerated?

Yes it does. This filling contains cheese so it should be covered with plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container and refrigerated. It will keep for up to a week if properly stored.

Can you make cannoli filling ahead of time?

Yes. The filling can be prepared several days in advance and kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Can this filling be frozen?

Yes it can. You can spoon the filling into plastic freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to 2 months. Make sure to squeeze the air out of the bag before sealing it. Then thaw it in the refrigerator before using it.

What is Ricotta Impastata?

You know when you get cannoli from a bakery how perfectly smooth and dense the filling is? Well the reason for that is the Ricotta Imapastata. Ricotta Impastata literally means “mixed ricotta” or “ricotta paste”. It is a firmer, drier and creamier ricotta. Impastata is specifically made to have a lower moisture content and therefore is perfect for making cannoli filling. Most bakers use Ricotta Impastata to make cannoli cream for cakes, cannoli and other desserts. Unfortunately it is not easy to find in normal grocery stores.

What are cannoli?

Cannoli are crispy, tube shaped pastry shells that are traditionally filled with creamy sweetened ricotta cheese and chocolate chips. Cannolo in Italian means “little tube” and is the proper term for just one, while Cannoli is used when referencing the plural or more then one.

Where do cannoli come from?

Cannoli have a long history in Sicily. It is believed that they originated in Palermo sometime between 827-1091 AD. They were a popular dessert eaten during Carnivale in the weeks leading up to Lent. The pastry has since become a staple on Italian dessert tables year round. I dare to say that it is a favorite dessert in most parts of the US as well!

I love to get your feedback so if you tried this Cannoli Filling Recipe or any other recipes on this website, please leave me a comment below.  I hope you enjoy our recipes and look forward to hearing from you!

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Chocolate dipped cannoli shell filled with ricotta and chocolate chips and topped with a cherry surrounded by other cannoli.

Cannoli Filling Recipe with Ricotta

This traditional filling for cannoli made with ricotta and chocolate chips is incredibly easy to make. Sweet and creamy you will find many other uses for this delicious recipe.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian, Sicilian
Servings 12 pieces
Calories 131 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 15 oz Ricotta Cheese whole milk, drained
  • 6 tbsp Confectioners Sugar Add more if you want a sweeter filling
  • 1/3 cup Mascarpone Cheese optional
  • 1/2 tsp Almond Extract
  • 1/3 cup Mini Chocolate Chips

Instructions
 

  • Add the ricotta, sugar, mascarpone and almond extract to a medium bowl. Mix until completely combined.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Use to fill cannoli shells or as a dip for cannoli chips.

Notes

Store bought ricotta is often watery and needs to be drained before using in this recipe. 
Here are some options for draining the ricotta:
  1. Place it in a cheese cloth.  Twirl the cheese cloth tightly around the ricotta and squeeze it gently.  Continue squeezing the ricotta until you have removed most of the water.
  2. You can also spread the ricotta out on paper towels.  Cover it with another paper towel and soak up as much water as possible.  
  3. Place the ricotta in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and put it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

Nutrition

Serving: 12gCalories: 131kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 5gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 37mgPotassium: 38mgFiber: 1gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 256IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 88mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Ricotta, chocolate chips, cannoli, traditional, holiday desssert
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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5 Comments

    1. Hi Luann, I have only made this with cow’s milk ricotta, but I think you should be able to substitute sheep’s milk ricotta without a problem. The most important thing is to make sure that the ricotta is drained so that the filling is not runny.

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