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Do Cannolis Need to Be Refrigerated?

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Cannolis are one of the ultimate decadent treats in life — a crisp pastry shell stuffed with a sweet, creamy, cheesy filling, then sprinkled with chocolate and nuts.

Simply delicious, and unlikely to last for long in any household! But what if you unexpectedly find that you have more cannolis than you can eat?

So, do cannolis need to be refrigerated? Filled cannolis do need to be refrigerated, as the cheese-based filling quickly deteriorates at room temperature. To keep cannolis in peak condition, it is best to store the pastry shell and filling separately and combine the two just before you consume them.

If you’ve got a batch of cannolis that needs to be kept in pristine condition, keep reading to find out all the best hints and tricks!

What Are Cannolis?

Cannoli is a rich and decadent Italian dessert, consisting of a tube of fried pastry dough stuffed with a creamy, sweet cheese filling.

The pastry shell is made from flour, eggs, sugar, and butter, as well as an unusual ingredient – marsala!

Marsala is a sweet alcoholic drink that adds a distinctive flavor and sweetness to the pastry, as well as ensures it is just the right level of flakiness.


Cannoli dough is rolled out and cut into circles, which are then formed into a tube using a cannoli mold. These are then deep fried in oil until they are crisp and golden, then left to cool.

Cannoli filling consists of a blend of smooth cheese — normally ricotta, but sometimes mascarpone. This is mixed with powdered sugar for added sweetness. The filling often also contains a hint of lemon or orange zest for added freshness.

This filling is piped into the prepared cannoli shells, and another light dusting of powdered sugar is applied. The finished cannoli are sometimes dipped in melted chocolate or sprinkled with chopped pistachios and chocolate chips.

Want to make your own cannoli at home? Check out this video from Food Network on YouTube:

Do Cannolis Need to Be Refrigerated?

Cannoli may be absolutely delicious and sublime, but the combination of crisp pastry and a soft dairy-based filling makes them incredibly tricky to store!

Any pastry will quickly go soft in the presence of a soft filling with a high liquid content, and cannoli are no exception. And this problem is only exacerbated when they are kept in the fridge!

So, is it essential to keep cannoli in the refrigerator, or can they be stored at room temperature?

The filling of most cannolis is a blend of soft cheese, such as ricotta or mascarpone. This means that they must be kept refrigerated to keep them safe to eat.

Unfortunately, they will not stay in their best condition when stored in this way, so we advise that you eat filled cannolis as soon as possible. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!

Do Unfilled Cannolis Need to Be Refrigerated?

empty cannolis

The good news is that there is a way to keep cannolis fresh for longer, especially if you are making them yourself.

This is because the unfilled pastry casing used to make cannoli does not need to be refrigerated.

In fact, they are best kept away from the refrigerator altogether, as chilling any type of cooked pastry is a surefire way to make it soggy!

Whether you’ve bought some premade cannoli shells like these, or made them yourself with the video above, the best way to store them is in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Make sure the cannoli shells are completely cold before placing them in the container and lay a dry paper towel under them to absorb any moisture.

Cooked cannoli shells can be stored in this way for up to a week, perfect for when you want to prepare a batch in advance for a party!

Do Filled Cannolis Need to Be Refrigerated?

Filled cannolis need to be refrigerated if they are not going to be eaten within an hour or so.

This is because cannolis normally contain a dairy-based filling, such as ricotta or mascarpone cheese.

If cheese is left out at room temperature for too long, there is a big risk of food poisoning.

This is because bacteria can quickly colonize food that is not chilled, particularly dairy or meat products, and will multiply to the point where they can cause serious gastrointestinal illness.

filled cannolis

The problem with chilling filled cannolis is that the pastry will become soggy and unpleasant, due to the combined effects of moisture from the filling and cold air in the refrigerator.

If you buy your cannolis from an authentic Italian bakery, you will notice that they are normally made to order. This is because nothing beats freshly made cannoli, and these decadent treats are not designed for long storage.

So it is a good idea to only fill your cannolis just before you want to serve them in order to keep the pastry crisp, flaky, and in perfect condition.

How Long Can Cannolis Sit Out at Room Temperature?

Any food item that contains cheese can only sit out at room temperature for two hours before it must be discarded. In warmer temperatures, this time limit is reduced to just one hour.

In reality, two hours is very little time at all! If you’re buying freshly prepared cannoli from the bakery, you have just two hours from the time you purchase them until they need to be either refrigerated or consumed.

And if you’re in a heatwave, the race is on as this time is reduced to just one hour!

As heartbreaking as it might be to have to discard your cannoli treats, these time limits must be adhered to.

Soft cheeses such as ricotta and mascarpone are particularly susceptible to bacterial contamination if left out for too long at room temperature.

There are two reasons for this that we will explain.

1. Temperature

At temperatures of 40°F and above, any bacteria and microorganisms that are present will start to multiply up to five times faster. Most households maintain a room temperature of 68°F, which is just perfect if you are a colony of bacteria!

2. Air Exposure

If filled cannoli are left uncovered, they will be exposed to higher numbers of bacteria from the air. This can create a bacteria density two or more times higher than in cannoli stored in a sealed container!

What Happens When Filled Cannoli Are Left Out for Too Long?

Cannoli pastry shells filled with cheese filling will in all likelihood look and smell completely fine if left out for more than two hours, but don’t be fooled!

When filled cannoli have been sat out at room temperature for too long, invisible bacteria will have multiplied to levels that will cause foodborne illness.

So, although your cannoli might look, smell, and even taste normal, hidden nasties could be lurking inside!

How Long Can Filled Cannolis Be Kept in the Fridge?

OK, so we’ve discovered that filled cannolis should be kept in the fridge, but for how long?

It is important to emphasize that cannolis do not keep well in the fridge once they have been filled. The cheesy filling is rich in moisture, which will cause the pastry to become soft and chewy.

But if you have no choice, a batch of filled cannolis can last for up to three days in the fridge. They will still be edible after this time, although the pastry is not going to be as crisp and flaky as a fresh cannoli.

To keep them in the best possible condition, wrap each individual cannoli in plastic wrap, and then a layer of aluminum foil.

Put the wrapped cannolis in an airtight container in the refrigerator, far away from any strong-smelling foods such as fish.

How to Store Cannolis for Longer

The good news is that although cannolis do not store well in the fridge, we’ve got some tricks up our sleeve to keep them in peak condition for longer!

If your cannoli rolls are not yet filled, this greatly increases the length of time they can be stored for.

This is a good option if you are preparing a batch of cannolis for a party, as you can get the casings and filling prepared in advance, then put them together just before your guests arrive.

A ricotta or mascarpone filling can be stored for up to a week in the fridge, and the pastry shells will last for the same length of time in an airtight container kept in a cool, dark place.

But what if you need to fill your cannoli shells the day before a party — are there any other ways to keep them in peak condition for longer? 

Traditional Italian dessert cannoli with orange slices, pastry shell lined with melted chocolate.

Melted chocolate can be used to increase the shelf life of cannolis.

This can either be applied to the inside of the pastry case before the filling, or the outside of the cannoli can be coated in chocolate.

When the chocolate hardens, it forms a barrier between the filling and the crisp pastry shell. This will help the pastry to keep its shape and crunchiness for a day or two.

The choice of cheese can also affect how well your cannoli will store in the fridge. Although ricotta is the traditional ingredient used for cannoli filling, mascarpone is lower in moisture and less likely to make your pastry go soggy.

For the ultimate prepare-in-advance option, try filling cannoli shells with ice cream instead of creamed cheese. These can be stored in the freezer for up to one month, and do not need defrosting before you eat them.

However, don’t be tempted to freeze cannolis that have been filled with a cheese-based filling. The high water content of this filling means it will separate when thawed, causing the pastry shell to become soggy and even fall apart.

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