If you aren't a purist, for whom tiramisu is exclusively made with ladyfingers, and you are open to experimenting with ladyfingers substitutes, here is an excellent guide to the world of tiramisu variations.
What to use instead of ladyfingers in Tiramisu? This question often arises while making an Italian classic.
While the mascarpone cream based on "raw" egg yolks remains traditional for building authentic tiramisu, other alternative tiramisu fillings are available today.
But why not use the lightness of Pavesini biscuits, the decadence of brownies, and the spongy texture of madeleines for making a tiramisu recipe? But first and foremost, what are ladyfingers?
What are lady fingers?
Ladyfingers, or other spelling lady fingers, are Italian biscuits with characteristic elongated shapes and rounded corners resembling the thin delicate fingers of a woman.
Also called Savoiardi biscuits, they were born in Piedmont in the 1300s when Amedeo VI asked his cook Conte Verde to prepare a biscuit to welcome the French royalty at the Savoy court. The great success led to the name Savoiardi.
Made with three basic ingredients, such as eggs, lots of them, sugar, and type "0" wheat flour, original ladyfingers or Piedmontese biscuits create the perfect tiramisu base and layers.
Interestingly, made with similar ingredients, Sardinian and Sicilian versions of sponge biscuits differ from classic ladyfingers.
Sardinian Savoiardi, Pistoccheddus, or Pistoccu de caffei are a little larger, flatter, and harder than their Savoyard cousins.
The recipe with fewer eggs affects the biscuits' texture, but their shape is perfect for creating vertical tiramisu (tiramisù vertical in Italian).
Sicilian Savoiardi biscuits have a slightly rustic appearance and are as hard as the Sardinian version. Their texture is explained by using a higher oven temperature than classic ladyfingers.
Substitutes for ladyfingers
If you search the Internet, you will be surprised at the countless names of fancy-sounding cookies: ladyfinger biscuits, tiramisu biscuits, lady finger cookies, tiramisu lady fingers, sponge finger biscuits, tiramisu sponge fingers, boudoir finger biscuits, Naples biscuits, biscuits à la cuillère in French, and simply tiramisu fingers.
But how to replace lady finger cookies to maintain the perfect results and harmony of flavors in tiramisu dessert? Let's find out the best substitutes.
1. Pavesini biscuits
Pavesini cookies are the most common ladyfinger biscuit alternatives. They are low in calories (only nine calories per piece), small, thin, generously sprinkled with sugar, and easy to handle.
Pavesini biscuits were invented and patented in 1948 to differentiate their appearance from classic ladyfingers.
The texture of Pavesini cookies is less consistent than this of Savoiardi fingers. So this alternative should be brushed with coffee instead of dipping them.
Tiramisu with Pavesini (Tiramisù con i Pavesini in Italian) is the most popular variant of classic tiramisu, especially if made in cups or glasses. However, dipped in coffee, they tend to "dissolve," creating so-called deconstructed tiramisu.
2. Oro Saiwa cookies
Known since the 1950s, Oro Saiwa cookies or dry biscuits make a great ladyfinger substitute. Due to their neutral flavor, they don't interfere with the bitterness of the coffee and cocoa and the sweetness of the mascarpone cream and also provide the dessert with a pleasant texture.
Thanks to their rectangle shape, Oro Saiwa cookies allow the creation of Tile tiramisu with Saiwa Gold or Mattonella tiramisu in Italian.
As a result, the dessert will be a little less thick (the cookies are thin) and spongy, equally soft, and less caloric.
To make a single-portion tiramisu with Oro Saiwa, quickly dip two cookies in cold coffee, spread one layer of cream, and sandwich two biscuits.
3. Digestive cookies
Who knew that biscuits designed by two Scottish doctors to aid digestion would be used to make tiramisu? The digestive cookies are well known for making cheesecake, but you can experiment with them in tiramisu.
4. Pan di Stelle, or star bread
You will love a modern twist on tiramisu with these famous cocoa and hazelnut biscuits launched by Mulino Bianco. Pan di Stelle biscuits beautifully balance the bitterness of the coffee and the fatty flavor of the mascarpone cream.
5. Shortbread cookies
Shortbread cookies are another best alternative to classic ladyfingers. Due to their simple taste and high "porosity," they are perfect for dipping in coffee.
Dip them in cold or warm coffee for better soaking, and make a cookie layer at the bottom of your dish.
If you have chocolate shortbread or shortbread with dark chocolate chips, their use will elevate the flavor profile of tiramisu. In addition, the cookies' bittersweetness will greatly balance the sweetness of the biscuit base.
Also, download >> The Ultimate Fruit Flavor Pairing Chart
6. Margherite cookies
Also known as Biscotti Margherita in Italian, Margherite cookies are a great lady fingers alternative.
They have a dense texture compared to spongy ladyfingers, so it takes up to 10 seconds to soak in coffee to get the same effect as ladyfingers. Ensure the cookie outsides become soft to the touch while the insides stay dry.
7. Cat's tongues
Italian Lingue di Gatto or French Langues de Chat, made with simple ingredients such as flour, egg whites, butter, sugar, and vanillin, can also be used for preparing tiramisu.
The only downside of these cookies is that they don't soak very well, resulting in dry tiramisu. That is why many consider them not a good ladyfinger substitute.
8. Gingerbread cookies
Classic gingerbread cookies are another perfect substitute for ladyfingers in tiramisu. Give your Christmas dessert a delicious twist with gingerbread tiramisu.
9. Speculoos cookies
From Biscoff and Lotus cookies to speculaas and speculoos cookies, these European delicacies make the best base or a layer for speculoos tiramisu. Soaked with coffee or milk and layered with Biscoff-flavored whipped cream, they make a heavenly tiramisu treat.
10. Amaretti cookies
These classic Italian cookies are an excellent alternative to the authentic ladyfingers to make easy tiramisu cups.
Break cookies, brush them with cold coffee flavored with Grand Marnier, and alternate with the tiramisu cream. Finish the dessert with amaretti cookie crumbs and cocoa powder.
11. Biscotti al cacao, or cocoa biscuits
This Italian shortbread - soft cocoa biscuits - is a great alternative to classic ladyfingers. Dip biscotti al cacao in cold espresso coffee and alternate the layer of biscuits with mascarpone cream.
Or soak the cocoa biscuits in strawberry syrup, bringing a tangy taste to the tiramisu layer. You can also use crushed cookies with dried fruit to create a tiramisu base.
12. Biscotti integrali, or wholemeal biscuits
Biscotti integrali, known as wholemeal biscuits in English, is a healthy and delicious ladyfinger substitute. Made with wholemeal flour, butter, muscovado sugar, eggs, and lemon zest, they bring a beautiful flavor and rustic look to the tiramisu dessert.
13. Graham crackers
If you have a lazy weekend in mind and a delicious snack on hand, try to make a tiramisu with graham crackers.
They have the perfect shape for creating that signature rectangular dish. Just make sure they soak the right amount of coffee.
Graham crackers should get moist outside with the dry center inside. Alternate layers of crackers and cream until the dish is filled. Chill for 3-4 hours, and sprinkle with cocoa powder.
In Italy, all cookies are called "biscotti." A single cookie is called biscotto, whereas those in the plural are called cantucci.
Cantucci is the next ladyfinger substitute on the list. Twice-baked cookies are mainly used to make individually-served tiramisu - a spoon dessert in cups.
Due to their compact texture, dip cantucci a little longer than ladyfingers, but make sure they aren't soft. Then, remove them, crumble, and layer them with cream.
15. Pink champagne biscuits
Known as Biscuit Rose de Reims or Champagne biscuits, these are traditional French biscuits invented in 1960.
Champagne biscuits beautifully pair with lychee, like in this Lychee Cake and raspberries. So why not try to make tiramisu with pink biscuits and raspberries? Soak biscuits in cold coffee traditionally or in milk as a coffee-free option.
A romantic tiramisu for two made with renowned Biscuits de Reims and served with bubbly champagne is best for your St. Valentine's Day.
16. Sponge cake
Another excellent ladyfinger alternative is a classic - Italian sponge cake. Who doesn't like a simple and quick dessert?
Sponge cake allows for the preparation of the cake-style tiramisu. Just slice your sponge into two-three layers, soak it with strong coffee, and build your tiramisu alternating with the cream.
Refrigerate the dessert for 12 hours, and sprinkle with cocoa powder before serving.
17. Pound cake
Pound cake, like a classic sponge cake, is the perfect ladyfinger substitute for tiramisu lovers. Use it to make a traditional dessert base or make a "naked" tiramisu.
Start with placing cake layers on a plate and brushing them with cold coffee on both sides. Then spread half of the mascarpone cream and cover with another cake layer. Finish off with cream and cocoa powder.
18. Angel food cake
Another great choice to make tiramisu is to use angel food cake. Instead of using ladyfingers, get a store-bought angel food cake.
Its cake layers generously soaked with coffee get a beautiful flavor and gorgeous look when sliced. Spread tiramisu cream between layers and finish with the drizzle of the fudge ice cream topping.
Panettone and tiramisu... Combining two delicious desserts is a great idea, especially when you have a few leftover panettone slices.
The sweet fruity notes of panettone perfectly complement a creamy, luscious layer in tiramisu.
Start with thinly-sliced panettone and brush it with cold coffee. Then layer on tiramisu cream and create another panettone and cream layer.
Finally, chill tiramisu with panettone (tiramisù con panettone in Italian) for 3-4 hours before finishing with grated dark chocolate.
Using a leftover pandoro is another great idea for making tiramisu during Christmas time.
To prevent pandoro slices from soaking in too much coffee, let them dry at room temperature for a few hours. Get creative and add grated dark chocolate, dried fruit, fresh berries, or a few slices of orange.
But why limit yourself to leftovers? Use a fresh pandoro for making a decadent tiramisu with pandoro (tiramisù con il pandoro in Italian).
Treat your guests to Italian tiramisu with French madeleines from beautiful Lorraine. Create individual or sharing desserts, and put an extra twist by adding bergamot-flavored madeleines.
Start by dipping madeleines in cold coffee for 1-2 seconds, place them on the first cream layer, and top with cream to cover the madeleines. Chill the dessert for 4 hours, and sprinkle with unsweetened cocoa powder before serving.
Also, read >> Secrets Of The Madeleine Hump
Classic or pistachio financiers, made individually or baked as a cake base, are another good substitute for ladyfingers.
Alternate sponge cakes with mascarpone cream, like the madeleines above, or break financiers to make tiramisu in jars.
Tiramisu brownie (tiramisù brownie in Italian) is a one-of-a-kind dessert where the richness of Italian tiramisu is paired with the deliciousness of American brownies. As a result, the chocolate goodness can be easily made within an hour.
Granola? You read it right. Granola mixed with dried fruit makes a tasteful tiramisu base. You can also use this healthy mixture to make individually-served tiramisu.
French macarons are used to make single portions of tiramisu - tiramisu in jars. Made without coffee, the dessert is kid-friendly.
Crush macarons with your hands, and place them at the base of the jars. Then make a layer of cream, and crumble another layer of macarons. Finish with cream and cocoa powder.
Using chocolate or vanilla wafers seems like a last-resort idea to replace ladyfingers. However, using individual wafer cones looks intriguing.
In 15 minutes, you can whip up the mascarpone cream and fill cones (or crunchy waffle bowls), making your kids' party a delicious adventure.
Homemade or store-bought waffles can be used to make so-called tiramisu baskets or cestini tiramisù in Italian.
Top the waffles with the mascarpone cream, sprinkle with bitter cocoa, and decorate them with whipped cream. If you feel more adventurous, you can try to use waffles to replace ladyfingers in classic tiramisu.
With an impressive selection of popular substitutes for ladyfingers, you are now ready to create your own version of tiramisu.
From Pavesini biscuits to shortbread cookies and French madeleines, let the ingredients on hand guide you in coming up with the perfect treat. Your next tiramisu is promising to be the best!
If you travel to Italy, you will find dozens of brands making ladyfingers: from lactose- and gluten-free ladyfingers to vegan and eggless, and those made organically with honey and without palm oil. If you live in the United States, choose brands like Forno Bonomi, Balocco, or Matilde Vicenzi. They produce crispy ladyfingers, not cake-style ones.
While Italian ladyfingers and American Vienna Fingers have similarly round-ended finger-like shapes, they differ. Ladyfingers are light and airy cookies compared to dense Vienna Fingers sandwiched as two with vanilla cream.
You can use shortbread cookies instead of ladyfingers to make tiramisu or trifle. Shortbread has a light spongey texture, perfect for dunking in coffee.
Savoiardi or ladyfinger cookies are a star ingredient of tiramisu dessert. Still, you can replace them with Pavesini biscuits, numerous biscotti such as cocoa or wholemeal cookies, Oro Saiwa, Pan di Stelle, Margherite or amaretti cookies, sponge cake, pandoro, panettone, and madeleines.
French madeleines are a great alternative to classic ladyfingers. Due to their spongy texture, they are easily soaked with coffee making a delicious tiramisu layer.
You can find lady fingers in the baking aisle of your local store or, among other yummy treats on cookie or cracker aisles, also snack section.
You can buy ladyfingers in the bakery section of a grocery store, but rarely in the bread, cookie, or snack aisles. You can also purchase ladyfinger biscuits online on Amazon, Walmart, Costco, Kroger, Wholefoods, etc.