Christmas is cookie season, and it's not hard to understand why. Inexpensive, easy to make in bulk, delicious, and crowd-pleasing—who would turn down a tray of freshly baked cookies?—cookies are the perfect food for giving as a gift during the holidays.
Decorated sugar cookies are the most iconic choice at Christmas, and we've got recipes for all kinds: rolled cookies to cut into shapes, soft and chewy cookies to bedazzle with sprinkles, and even a DIY Lofthouse-style version to frost in holiday colors. But if you're looking for variety, check out the rest of our favorite Christmas cookie recipes below, including holiday classics, like chewy lebkuchen and spicy gingersnaps, plus homemade no-bake Star Crunch and the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.
Nothing says Christmas quite like sugar cookies, and, while there are all different kinds, rolled cutouts in holiday shapes hold the most sentimental value for me. When I was a kid, my mom would make them by the dozen for us to decorate and give to friends and family. This recipe is perfect for gifts and care packages, too—the ample fat, in the form of both butter and refined coconut oil, gives the cookies a longer shelf life along with rich flavor and texture. Though most sugar cookie recipes use a 1:2:3 ratio of sugar, fat, and flour, a higher proportion of sugar here keeps the cookies from tasting too floury.
If soft and chewy sugar cookies are more your style, our recipe offers a couple of tricks: Use a cold egg to keep the dough cool, making it easier to handle, and add a generous amount of salt to bring out the cookies' richness and tame their sweetness. You may already have a favorite way to decorate your Christmas cookies, but if you're up for something new, try using aromatic vanilla seed–infused sugar as an alternative to sprinkles.
Those pale, cakey, and extra-sweet cookies that come in clamshell packs at the supermarket—called "Lofthouse" Cookies—are among my favorite special treats. This recipe will allow you to re-create that puffy, soft texture at home, not to mention frost them however you like. The key ingredient here? Bleached cake flour, such as Swans Down—using unbleached flour will leave your cookies too chewy and inadequately sweet.
Most sugar cookies are made with white sugar, but brown sugar produces great results all its own. Its molasses-rich formula gives the cookies a mellow caramel flavor that's a little unexpected and definitely more interesting than what you get from plain granulated sugar. And if you like your cookies chewy, this recipe is a particularly good choice—the cookies come out softer than ones made with white sugar.
There's nothing wrong with thumbprint-style peanut butter and jelly cookies, but it's also fun to re-create the classic sandwich a bit more literally. To that end, this recipe produces soft, rich, and salty-sweet peanut butter–infused cookies that you'll then use to bookend a filling of—you guessed it—peanut butter and jelly. Use whatever jam or jelly you like, but be careful to put only about a teaspoon in each cookie, so it doesn't squish out the sides.
For the uninitiated, Star Crunch is an old-school Little Debbie snack of gooey caramel, creamy milk chocolate, and crunchy rice, plus the artificial flavorings and stabilizers typical of packaged sweets. Our homemade version, essentially a no-bake cookie, keeps it to the delicious basics, using just homemade caramel, chocolate, and Rice Krispies. (Pro tip: If you're not planning on sharing these, the "batter" pre-cooling makes an incredible topping for vanilla ice cream.)
You're likely already familiar with dulce de leche, but how about its even more flavorful goat's-milk cousin, cajeta? The caramel-like sauce can be used in much the same way as dulce de leche, and it's terrific as a filling for the buttery shortbread sandwich cookies called alfajores. Tapioca starch in the dough leaves a less starchy taste than traditional cornstarch, and helps keep the cookies soft, so the cajeta doesn't escape when you bite into them. 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. As with the alfajores, we use tapioca starch instead of the usual cornstarch here, producing cookies that are just as delicate but lacking any chalky aftertaste. The simple dough is blitzed up in a food processor, which helps to release essential oils from the lemon zest and make the cookies especially bright-tasting.
A cookie-sized version of the Austrian Linzer torte, Linzer cookies are stamped out from a nut-based dough, filled with sweet jam, and heavily dusted with powdered sugar. This version uses hazelnut flour alongside all-purpose; if you have trouble finding hazelnut flour in stores, it's easy to make yourself by toasting the raw nuts and grinding them in a food processor. A specialized Linzer cookie cutter is required to form these treats the traditional way, but using standard ring cutters in different sizes will work just as well.
These meltingly tender almond-flavored cookies are all about the signature powdered sugar coating that gives them their name. The secret to achieving the most generous and uniform sugar blanket is to double-dip the cookies in 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. If you prefer, swap toasted walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans for the almonds.
Claiming "the best" recipe for something as ubiquitous and beloved as chocolate chip cookies might sound presumptuous, but after over 100 tests and 1,500 cookies, we think this recipe earns the title. We settled on a technique that uses nutty brown butter and an overnight rest to yield cookies with the perfect balance of crisp edges and chewy centers, lots of gooey chocolate, and a pleasant toffee-like flavor. Don't have 24 hours to make a batch of cookies? Try Stella's much less demanding Quick and Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies, which incorporate hand-chopped chocolate for deliciously melty pockets and streaks throughout, or Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies for a terrific dairy- and egg-free alternative.
In our opinion, gingersnaps ought to really taste like ginger, which is why this recipe incorporates it both ground and freshly grated, giving the cookies a deep, complex, and spicy aroma and flavor. Meanwhile, the mellow flavors of molasses and whole wheat flour keep the cookies from tasting overly intense. Though the gingersnaps will look and smell very tempting straight from the oven, you'll want to give them a couple hours at room temperature to let them crisp up.
When we were testing oatmeal cookie recipes, it always struck us that the second batch we baked came out better than the first. That turned out to be no coincidence: Resting your portioned cookie batter for 45 to 75 minutes before baking gives the oats time to soak up moisture, which in turn makes the cookies extra thick and chewy. Instead of the pure sweetness of raisins, we prefer to use tart dried cherries or cranberries as our mix-in.
Many snickerdoodle recipes call for a huge amount of cinnamon—up to equal parts cinnamon and sugar, a proportion that can give your cookies an astringent taste. You can avoid that outcome and keep the spicy flavor prominent by replacing some of the ground stuff with freshly grated stick cinnamon. A blend of coconut oil and butter keeps these snickerdoodles plenty rich, moist, and chewy.
By replacing all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend, you can make snickerdoodles that are 100% gluten-free, yet just as crisp and tender as the originals. There's no need to cream the butter first or add eggs individually—just combine the sugar and all the wet ingredients at once in the stand mixer bowl before adding the dry ingredients.
Lebkuchen are a German Christmas classic—soft, chewy gingerbread cookies coated with a sweet glaze. Their intense spiciness comes from a combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cardamom, while toasted nuts and candied orange zest add extra flavor. To make our lebkuchen especially moist and soft, we replace the white sugar with a combination of molasses and brown sugar and use more baking powder than baking soda—the latter step helps to produce a cakey consistency.
Longtime readers know that we're big believers in using our waffle irons for more than just waffles. Case in point: An American-style (as opposed to Belgian) waffle iron is perfect for making these crisp, lightly sweet almond cookies. They're wonderful on their own, but even better when sandwiched around a gooey filling, like ganache or dulce de leche.
Christmas is a time for adding a festive touch to your baked goods, and the pretty snowflake shape and crushed candy cane topping of these cookies fit the bill nicely. We use good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder and add a healthy amount of salt to help bring out the chocolate flavor. The baking time here is built around a four-inch snowflake-shaped cookie; if your cookies are smaller, be sure to check them for doneness earlier.
Looking at these cookies' crackly shells, you might expect gingersnap levels of crunch. But don't be deceived—they're delightfully soft and fudgy underneath. A combination of cocoa powder and instant espresso powder gives them a nice chocolaty flavor and a pleasant hint of bitterness to balance out the sweetness.
Staples of Christmas cookie gift boxes, spritz cookies require a specialized spritz dough press, and a little practice to get the shape right. But once you try the crisp, buttery, vanilla- and cardamom-scented finished product, you'll want to make these every holiday season, if not more often, and the investment will pay off. Chill your baking sheet before pressing to help the cookies keep their shape better.
As good as Twix bars are, they're even better when reproduced in cookie form using real butter, cream, and high-quality chocolate. That's where this recipe comes in, combining homemade shortbread cookies, homemade caramel, and melted bittersweet-chocolate disks. A sprinkling of coarse sea salt intensifies the flavor of both the chocolate and the caramel.
You read that right—these cookies manage to be both soft and crunchy at the same time. We pull it off by starting with a moist, cake-like batter, to which we add both crunchy peanut butter and whole peanuts. The resulting cookies benefit from great textural contrast and an intensely peanutty flavor.
With plenty of lemon zest in the dough and fresh-squeezed juice in the filling, these crisp ginger sandwich cookies, a DIY version of Carr's Ginger Lemon Cremes, taste refreshingly bright, making a nice change of pace from the usual holiday gingerbread. If you store them in your fridge, they'll remain snappy and flavorful for up to a month—not that they'll last that long.
To make the richest, most hazelnutty hazelnut cookie possible, we grind whole nuts into a smooth homemade butter, a substitute for the store-bought stuff that's both more flavorful and less expensive. Milk chocolate helps complement the hazelnut flavor without overpowering it, and a finishing drizzle of tempered chocolate (either dark or milk) gives these cookies an impressively elegant appearance.
This otherwise-classic slice-and-bake shortbread is made special with brown butter, toasted sugar, and one of our favorite dessert enhancers—malted milk powder—for a cookie that's exceptionally warm, nutty, and rich. Thanks to their low moisture content, these sandy shortbread cookies will keep for weeks in an airtight container, so start laying in a supply now for the holidays! For another recipe that capitalizes on the unique flavor of malted milk powder, check out our Malted Chocolate Chip–Pecan Cookies, too.
Satisfyingly crunchy and not too sweet, real Italian-style almond biscotti are the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon cup of coffee or an after-dinner glass of Vin Santo. A small amount of chopped anise seed in the dough isn't enough to make the cookies taste licorice-y, but it does help elevate the almond aroma. Because these biscotti are so lean, they'll keep for up to three months once baked and cooled, so they're an excellent addition to gift tins or care packages.
Using melted white chocolate to replace some of the butter in a typical sugar cookie formula leaves these cookies incredibly rich, tender, and infused with white chocolate flavor, while swapping in toasted sugar for plain white sugar tempers their sweetness. The toasted sugar also serves to highlight the flavor of the dry-roasted macadamia nuts. Since these cookies are lower in lactose due to the reduction in butter, they won't brown as you might expect; pull them from the oven once they're puffed and firm around the edges.
Reproducing the deeply caramelized sweetness of the Belgian Biscoff (speculoos) cookies you might buy at the grocery store relies on either real Belgian candi sugar or darkly toasted sugar, while their gentle, floral spiciness requires Ceylon cinnamon. Once you have those two ingredients, there's not much to whipping up a batch of these elegant-looking crispy cookies. A pastry wheel is handy for getting those pretty fluted edges right.
Whether you know these sugar-dusted pecan shortbreads as Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, or any other name, they're a cinch to make when you use a food processor to chop the pecans and mix the dough all at once. Toasting the nuts and the powdered sugar beforehand is an easy way to give the cookies a deeper flavor. Use a small cookie scoop to keep them petite and evenly shaped—that way, you'll get a better ratio of powdered sugar coating to cookie inside.
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