Authentic Cannoli Filling Recipe (How to Make)

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Cannoli Filling is what you’ll find inside one of the most scrumptious Italian desserts ever created – a Sicilian cannoli!! This decadent, dreamy ricotta cream filling is sweet, bright and lemony, and it’s kissed with tiny chocolate chips. Best of all, you can whip up a batch of cannoli filling in less than an hour!! This is the best cannoli recipe! 

cannoli filling.


Knowing how to make cannoli filling can be sort of dangerous… you may be tempted to eat all of it straight from the bowl! 

But please don’t – Make my cannoli shell recipe and serve up a scrumptious Italian dessert for Christmas!

Fair warning – the sweet ricotta filling is addictive!

It tastes just like what you’re ordering from Italian restaurants! (and I think that we can all agree Italian pastries are the best!)

ingredients for connoli filling.

Cannoli Filling

Light, smooth, and creamy ricotta cheese takes the stage with a light dusting of cinnamon, homemade whipped cream, a whole lemon’s worth of zest, and just enough sugar for a beautiful balance of tangy and sweet. 

This rich cannoli filling recipe is so mouthwatering just to think about – just wait until you taste it! It just might be my favorite cannoli flavor. 

I have to admit, I have a slight obsession with cannoli recipes, because the creamy and crunchy textures and lemon flavor are everything you could possibly want in an Italian dessert! 

You can find the same light and crispy goodness in Cannoli Ice Cream Cones and Pizzelle Cookies.

Sicilian cannoli filling.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Ricotta – A lovely Italian cheese with just a touch of sweetness and a silky smoothness. 

    I don’t recommend substituting, but cottage cheese is your closest match. 
  • Heavy Whipping Cream and Powdered Sugar – These ingredients come together to make whipped cream, used to fluff up and fill out the cannoli filling. 

    There are some alternatives and customizations to homemade whipped cream – check out my recipe for details!
  • Lemon Zest – The zest of one whole lemon offsets the sugar, complements the ricotta cheese, and brightens the whole dessert! 

    If you’re seeking a strong lemon flavor, you’ll want to add lemon juice (just a bit so the filling isn’t runny) or lemon extract.
  • Mini Chocolate Chips – The final touch for a bit of extra chocolate flavor! 

    Some find the texture of chocolate chips takes away from the smooth center – if you’re one of them, try a chocolate syrup drizzle over the shell instead. 
ricotta cannoli filling.

Cannoli Recipe Tips

  1. Making perfect whipped cream – A short stay in the refrigerator will chill your mixer bowl and attachments, which makes whipping the cream so much easier and faster!

    Important Note! Don’t use a glass mixing bowl – the difference in temperature could cause the glass to crack.
  2. Drain the Ricotta – It can take time to drain the extra liquid from the ricotta. Don’t rush this – give it at least 30 minutes. 

    Too much moisture will make the cream runny. Give it a couple of passes through the sieve at the end to make sure you have as much water out as possible.

Storing and Serving

Store the filling in a piping bag fitted with a pastry tip. It keeps for up to 3 days in the fridge, so you can make it one day and bake the cannoli shells the next day.

Important! Definitely do not fill your cannolis shells until you’re ready to serve the cannoli. They’ll get soggy and mushy -not at all delizioso

Cannoli Filling FAQ

What is cannoli filling made of? 

It’s traditionally made with ricotta cheese and sugar. As we know it today, it also contains heavy whipping cream, whipped and sweetened with sugar. 

From here on, the recipe varies from person to person! I also include cinnamon, lemon zest, and chocolate chips.

Can I make my own homemade cannoli shells?

Absolutely. I prefer to buy mine already made and ready at the local grocery store, but if you want to give it a go at making homemade crispy shells, I think that sounds like a great plan. 

Find a simple recipe for homemade shells, and then come back and use my recipe for the filling. You can even get mini cannoli shells to make a delicious mini cannoli treat. The creamy ricotta filling will pair perfectly with any size.  

I think that pre-made cannoli shells make the process simple and a quick treat to make for special occasions. 

What do Italians call cannoli? 

Italians call cannoli… Well, cannoli! Sort of.

Cannoli is actually the plural form of the singular cannolo, which is how Italians refer to a single shell filled with the cream. Cannolo means “little tube” in Italian.

Cannolis are often also referred to as cannoli Siciliani – Sicilian cannoli!

Can I substitute cream cheese for ricotta in a cannoli filling? 

I wouldn’t – cream cheese is much thicker and its flavor is stronger than ricotta.

But maybe that’s what you want! Those seeking less sweetness, more richness, and a denser cream overall may enjoy this variation of the classic ricotta-based cream. 

Do I need special equipment to make this simple recipe? 

Not at all. Making an Italian cannoli and then adding the cannoli cream filling is a breeze. Using a pastry bag can help with he creamy filling, but besides that you don’t need anything extra for filling the pastry shells. 

Extra Topping Ideas

You don’t have to stop with chocolate chips! Cinnamon chips compliment the cinnamon in the filling.

A sprinkling of lemon or orange zest will add some vibrancy, and cocoa powder would be beautiful next to the powdered sugar! Be creative!

Dark chocolate chips or even a drizzle of melted chocolate can be a fun way to change up the cannoli cream recipe.

Traditional cannoli is great, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t shake things up. 

One of the most popular variations is to make a Pistachio cannoli. You could just add some crushed pistachios on the ends of the filled cannoli – it’s as simple as that. 

ricotta cannoli filling.

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cannoli filling closeup.

ricotta cannoli filling.

Cannoli Filling

Donna Elick
Cannoli filling is the definition of creamy, tangy, and rich. Indulge in a classic Italian treat with my ricotta cannoli filling recipe!
5 stars from 2 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 30 minutes
rest time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Method Mixed
Servings 20 shells


  • 16 ounces ricotta
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips


  • Place the ricotta in a fine mesh sieve over an empty bowl and allow it to drain for at least 30 minutes. You want to remove as much of the liquid as possible from the ricotta. Meanwhile, place a metal mixing bowl and electric mixer whisk/beaters into the freezer to chill. *See Notes
  • Add heavy cream to the chilled mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat cream at high speed until stiff peaks form. Add the powdered sugar to the cream and whisk to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the drained ricotta, vanilla, lemon zest, and cinnamon. Use a silicone spatula to gently fold in the whipped cream. Cover and chill the filling until ready to fill the cannoli.
  • Scoop filling into a piping bag fitted with a tip to fill each shell with the prepared cannoli filling. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips over each end and dust the filled cannoli with powdered sugar.

Donna’s Notes

Heavy cream whips up much easier if both the bowl and mixer attachments are cold. I suggest popping them both into your freezer while you wait for the ricotta to drain. I use a stainless steel mixing bowl for this because it retains the cold temperature for longer than a plastic bowl. A glass mixing bowl is not recommended – the extreme difference in temperature may cause it to crack.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 88cal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 23mg | Sugar: 6g | Fiber: 0.1g | Calcium: 55mg | Iron: 0.2mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
cannoli filling.

Originally published October 2022, updated and republished November 2023

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  1. Yummy! We love a good cannoli! I have made them a few times but never put lemon zest in mine. Can you give us your shell recipe? My metal tubes are ready to go!!!

  2. 5 stars
    The lemon zest just adds this nice citrus kick, bringing this recipe up even more!! Recipe worked up very well and was easy to understand. Definitely adding this to my home recipe book!

  3. 5 stars
    Tasted phenomenal. I have nowhere within a 2 hour drive to buy cannoli shells, so I used it as my frosting for a from scratch yellow cake. The best of both worlds. Thank you

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