Christmas is cookie season, and the fact that cookies are inexpensive, easy to make in bulk, and downright delicious makes them the perfect food for giving as gifts. They're also undeniable crowd-pleasers. Who would turn down a tray of freshly baked cookies? Sugar cookies are the most traditional choice at Christmas, and we've got recipes for rolled cutout, soft and chewy, and Lofthouse-style versions. But if you'd rather try something else check out the rest of our 22 favorite Christmas cookie recipes, from holiday classics like chewy lebkuchen and spicy gingersnaps to homemade no-bake Star Crunch and the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.
Rolled Sugar Cookie Cutouts
Nothing says Christmas like sugar cookies. There are all different kinds, but rolled ones hold the most sentimental value to me. As a child, my mom would make them by the dozen for us to decorate and give to friends and family. Most recipes use a 1:2:3 ratio of sugar, fat, and flour, but we up the amount of sugar to keep the cookies from tasting too floury.
Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies
If you're more into soft and chewy sugar cookies, here are a couple of tricks to keep in mind: Use a cold egg to make the dough easier to handle, and add a generous amount of salt to bring out the cookies' richness and tame their sweetness. You probably already have a favorite way to decorate Christmas cookies, but if you're up for something new, try using aromatic, vanilla-infused sugar.
Lofthouse-Style Frosted Sugar Cookies
Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies
Most sugar cookies are made with white sugar, but brown sugar gets great results, too. The molasses-rich sugar gives the cookies a mellow caramel flavor, which is a little more interesting than what you get with white sugar. If you prefer chewy cookies then this recipe is a great choice—the cookies come out softer than ones made with white sugar.
PB&J Sandwich Cookies
There's nothing wrong with thumbprint-style peanut butter and jelly cookies, but we thought it'd be fun to recreate the classic sandwich more literally. To that end, we made peanut butter cutout cookies to sandwich around a filling of—you guessed it—peanut butter and jelly. You can use whatever jelly you like, but be careful to only put about a teaspoon in each cookie so it doesn't make too much of a mess.
Homemade Star Crunch
Star Crunch are a Little Debbie treat made with gooey caramel, creamy milk chocolate, crunchy rice, and tons of artificial flavorings and stabilizers. Our homemade version keeps it to the delicious basics with just homemade caramel, chocolate, and Rice Krispies. (Also, before the "batter" cools, it's an incredible topping for vanilla ice cream.)
Alfajores Con Cajeta (Vanilla Shortbread With Goat's Milk Toffee)
You're probably already familiar with dulce de leche, but have you tried its even more flavorful goat's milk cousin, cajeta? The caramel-like sauce can be used in the same way as dulce de leche—for instance, as a filling for buttery shortbread cookies called alfajores. These light, tender cookies are equally good paired with a mug of black coffee or a glass of Madeira.
Proper lemon meltaways are almost impossibly delicate—a cross between lemon shortbread and cotton candy that disintegrates the moment it touches your tongue. The cookies are traditionally made with cornstarch, which can make them unpleasantly chalky. Our solution is to use tapioca starch instead, which makes cookies that are just as delicate but with no starchy aftertaste.
Hazelnut-Raspberry Linzer Cookies
A cookie-sized version of the Austrian Linzer torte, Linzer cookies are made with a nut-based dough and sweet jam. This version uses hazelnuts—you might have trouble finding hazelnut flour in stores, but it's easy to make yourself. The cookies are traditionally formed with a special cutter, but standard ring cutters in multiple sizes will work.
These meltingly tender almond-flavored cookies are all about the sugar coating that gives them their name. The secret is to double-dip the cookies in powdered sugar after they come out of the oven. The residual heat of the cookies will melt the first coating into an even glaze, to which the second coating will then adhere.
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
Claiming to have "the best" recipe for something as ubiquitous as chocolate chip cookies might sound presumptuous, but we think we've earned it after over 100 tests and 1,500 cookies. We settled on a a technique that uses brown butter and an overnight rest to make cookies with the perfect balance of crisp edges and chewy center, lots of gooey chocolate, and a pleasant toffee-like flavor.
The Best Gingersnaps
We wanted our gingersnaps to really taste like ginger, so we used the spice in two forms: ground and freshly grated. The combination gives the cookies a deeply aromatic ginger flavor. We don't want them to be too intense, though, so we use molasses and whole-wheat flour to mellow them out just a little. The gingersnaps will look amazing straight from the oven, but give them a couple hours at room temperature to let them crisp up.
Easy One-Bowl Oatmeal Cookies
When we were testing oatmeal cookie recipes, we always thought that the second batch we cooked came out better than the first. It turns out that was no coincidence—resting your cookies for 45 to 75 minutes gives the oats time to soak up moisture, which in turn makes the cookies extra thick and chewy. We found that raisins just add unnecessary sweetness, so we prefer to use tart dried cherries or cranberries instead.
Old snickerdoodle recipes use what seems like a crazy amount of cinnamon—up to equal parts cinnamon and sugar. Using that much ground cinnamon will give your cookies an astringent taste, but you can keep the cinnamon content pretty high by replacing some of the ground stuff with freshly grated cinnamon.
We stick with ground cinnamon to make these simple snickerdoodles. There's no need to cream the butter first or add eggs individually—just mix everything together at once in a single bowl. We make the cookies 100% gluten-free by replacing all-purpose flour with our gluten-free flour blend.
Moist and Chewy Lebkuchen (German Spiced Christmas Cookies)
Lebkuchen are a German Christmas classic—soft, chewy gingerbread cookies coated with a sweet glaze. They're intensely spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cardamom, and also flavored with toasted nuts and dried fruit. To make our Lebkuchen extra moist we replace the white sugar with a combination of molasses and brown sugar and use more baking powder than baking soda.
Waffled Almond Sandwich Cookies
Long-time readers know that we're big believers in using waffle irons for more than just waffles. Case in point: A standard-type waffle iron is perfect for making crisp, lightly sweet almond cookies. The beautifully shaped cookies are delicious on their own, but to make them even better, sandwich them around filling like ganache or dulce de leche.
Chocolate Peppermint Snowflake Cookies
Christmas is a time for festively decorated cookies, and these fit the bill thanks to crushed candy canes. We use good unsweetened cocoa powder and add a half teaspoon of salt to bring out the chocolate flavor. The recipe is timed for a 4-inch snowflake cookie cutter—it's fine if your cookies are smaller, but check them for doneness earlier.
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Looking at these cookies you might expect gingersnap-levels of crunch. Don't let the cracked shells deceive you, though—underneath, the cookies are delightfully fudgy. We flavor them with cocoa powder and instant espresso powder, which give a nice chocolate flavor without excessive sweetness.
These crisp, buttery spritz cookies require a dough press and some practice, but once you try the vanilla- and cardamom-scented finished product you'll be totally satisfied with your investment. Chill your baking sheet before pressing so that the cookies keep their shape better.
Chocolate-Covered Caramel-Filled Shortbread Cookies (a.k.a. Homemade Twix)
I love Twix bars, but I'd love them even more if they were made with natural, high-quality ingredients. That's where this recipe comes in, with homemade shortbread cookies, buttery homemade caramel, and melted bittersweet chocolate. A sprinkling of coarse sea salt intensifies the flavor of both the chocolate and the caramel.
Soft and Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies
You read that right—these cookies manage to be soft and crunchy at the same time. We pull it off by starting with a moist, cake-like batter and adding both crunchy peanut butter and whole peanuts. The result are cookies with great textural contrast and an intense peanut flavor.