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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!!
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!
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!
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.
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.
Cannoli Recipe Tips
- 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.
- 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
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.
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!
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.
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!
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
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Other Classic Italian Desserts
- 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.
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.
Originally published October 2022
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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!!!
Here is the link to the Cannoli Shells recipe, enjoy and let us know how it goes! https://www.theslowroasteditalian.com/cannoli-shells/
TSRI Team Member,
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!