Christmas Cookie Spectacular: A Sweet and Sparkly Guide
Hark the herald angels sing: It’s time for cookies! Here are our 32 favorite Christmas cookie recipes to bring the razzle-dazzle to your holidays.
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Mexican Wedding Cookies, Christmas Sugar Cookies, and Classic Holiday Gingerbread Cookies. Photograph by Nader Khouri
Everyone wants the holidays to be sweet: with the ones we love, the shimmering twinkle lights at night, and especially the dizzying array of edible joy that Christmas cookies bring. ‘Tis the season for bakers to don their finest aprons, grab their sparkliest colored sugars and dragées (those little shiny balls you really can eat), and fill the kitchen with the warm scents of vanilla, spice, and good cheer.
The Christmas cookie recipes below were carefully chosen to dazzle the eyes as well as the mouth, stir up some holiday fun in the kitchen, and bring bright eyes and merry spirits to each home.
Wondering how many to make? This is no time to skimp, especially with so many types of Christmas cookies. A bright cookie plate has the power to deliver both comfort and joy, so if you're not quite ready for an in-person cookie exchange this year, consider hosting one through the post office, or shipping your best home-baked cookies to loved ones. There’s never been a better time to drop off a dazzling plate of holiday cheer to say thank you to friends, or to give the neighbors a delicious surprise. It’s amazing what good a package of beautiful and delicious cookies can do. Speaking of which, while you're baking, be sure to plan on plenty for your own nibbling!
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Photograph by Nader Khouri
How to make Christmas cookies: North Pole edition
The good news about making Christmas cookies is that unless you’re a contestant on a cooking show, each cookie doesn’t have to be perfect! In fact, some of the sweetest cookies are the ones with a goofy gingerbread smile or the sprinkles just a little askew. However, there are some tips and tricks for planning ahead, making icing, plus storing or shipping them properly.
How do you make icing for Christmas cookies?
Not all recipes call for icing, but in this article's collection below, the instructions are simple — usually a quick whisk of powdered sugar with a few spoonfuls of milk, water, or freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice, and occasionally a bit of vanilla extract. Then stir in a drop or two of food coloring for the holiday shades you desire.
Some recipes like Christmas Sugar Cookies require royal icing, which is similar but also includes egg whites and a bit of lemon juice; this icing hardens once it dries to retain its shape.
How long can you store Christmas cookies?
The general wisdom is that Christmas cookies last about a week. To keep Christmas cookies fresh, store them in a sealed airtight container, with waxed paper separating each layer. Try to keep chocolate ones separate from other types such as cut-out cookies. Homemade cookies have no preservatives (yay), though that means they won’t last forever … but is that usually a problem? These will likely go fast!
Can you freeze Christmas cookies? For how long?
Some cookies freeze well, though it can be hard to keep decorated cookies from getting dinged or smudged. But those without additional adornment on top, like the stamped shortbread cookies below, can be frozen for up to a month. To freeze Christmas cookies, layer them in an airtight container with waxed paper or parchment paper between them.
There is another option, too: Many of the cookie recipes in this story have dough that can be frozen up to three weeks in advance. Then simply thaw, slice, or shape, and bake! You'll have freshly baked cookies before you can say, “Kris Kringle."
How do I ship cookies?
The key to avoiding breakage en route is to not give the cookies much space to jostle inside the box. Waxed or parchment paper in between layers also helps minimize shifting and bumping, and plenty of padding generally means most cookies will arrive intact … and even any broken bits still taste good!
Traditional Christmas cookies
Do you have visions of classic cookies dancing in your head? Make all your sugar plum dreams come true in a twinkling with these time-tested recipes.
These traditional cut-out Christmas cookies are fun to decorate and sure to charm all who see them. The butter cookie dough comes together easily, and the royal icing is simple and can be customized to include your most merry holiday colors. If you're wondering how to decorate Christmas cookies, this Yummly guided video recipe shows you several easy techniques.
These traditional ginger Christmas cookies are chewy and soft, but with a little holiday heat from the ginger and cloves. The white chocolate icing recipe and design are simple enough for beginner bakers — but they’ll look and taste like they came from a bakery.
These Mexican wedding cookies are also known in certain regions as Russian tea cookies, but whatever you call them, they are certain to delight: Like a fluffier shortbread, they are delicate, studded with pecans, and coated in powdered sugar so you can pop them like sweet winter snowballs.
Royal icing, dragées, and colored sugars make decorating these Christmas cookies a seasonal celebration for bakers great and small. The light molasses and light brown sugar in the dough provide depth without overwhelming the warm spicing. Try them alongside a mug of warm apple cider or cool glass of eggnog.
Simple. Buttery. Spritz cookies are traditional Christmas treats that rarely get the applause they deserve: They’re the Bob Ross of the holiday cookie plate, and in this recipe they’re happy little trees. As he noted on his show, The Joy of Painting, “There’s nothing wrong with having a tree as a friend.” Especially when you can eat it. Note that you'll need a cookie press to make them.
These charming cut-out cookies use a simple vanilla dough, and the recipe provides easy-to-follow decorating instructions. The darling wreaths will fill all with good cheer.
Ooo la la! Unique Christmas cookies to steal the show
Embrace the spirit of the holiday season while strutting your cookie stuff with these foodie-forward recipes. Coconut snowmen, red and green ombré fades, edible gear for snow day fun, funky 80s holiday sparkle, and snowball cookies with a surprise inside are but some of the treats that await you below.
Store-bought sugar cookie dough gives you a jump-start on making these adorable cookies. Once they're baked, add a quick lemon icing plus coconut or sparkling sugar, pretzels, and candy to create snowmen or women.
Here's another one that adds some bling to store-bought sugar cookie dough. Fill cookie cutouts with smashed candies like Lifesavers, and watch them bake into transparent beauty! Be sure to use nonstick baking mats like Silpat, or parchment paper to prevent sticking.
These charming, easily shaped and decorated Christmas cookies are a perfect addition to your edible winter wonderland.
These choco-tastic winter treats capture what’s best about the Christmas cookie season: a deep chocolate flavor in both the cookie and decadent melted chocolate drizzle on top, plus a piquant chill from the peppermint flavor layered into the cookie and as a cool crunch on top.
‘Tis the season for festive almond cookies scented with matcha and raspberries, in a glorious red and green ombré fade. You’ll want to post these.
Everyone has munched on a jam-filled thumbprint cookie, but these buttery shortbread wonders bring the razzle-dazzle to your holiday dessert table with caramel! Purchased salted caramel sauce makes them a snap to prepare, and quicker to disappear than the shake of a reindeer’s tail.
Embrace your inner 80s Christmas with these red and green glittering zebra-striped shortbread cookies. The best part? Creating the black and white stripes is easy, even for new bakers who don’t have an ugly Christmas sweater. And like, duh. They’re delicious.
Mint and chocolate are a classic holiday combination, and these are one of the more charming types of Christmas cookies: a dark chocolate sandwich cookie around a snowdrift of peppermint and white chocolate ganache, rimmed with icy shards of peppermint sweets.
The classic snowball cookie gets a decadent upgrade by swapping out pecans for hazelnuts, plus a festive surprise filling of Nutella.
German Christmas cookies … and thereabouts
The culture that invented gingerbread men understood the joy of decorating tiny figures, pretending they exist in a snow-dusted world and then, well, off with their heads! — in a delicious approach to relieving holiday stress.
Create a sweetly-spiced gingerbread family with these classic holiday delights. These traditional Christmas cookies date back to the Middle Ages, when gingerbread was elaborately designed and occasionally decorated with gold leaf. Our modern take is still redolent with molasses and fragrant spices, but the icing and styling can be as fanciful or simple as you choose. These bake up crisp like gingersnaps, and stay fresh for 1 week.
Inspired by the Austrian Linzer tart from the 1600s, these cinnamon-scented hazelnut cookies look like a stained glass window in the late winter sun.
These crisp, slim, deep brown cookies hail from the Netherlands and are a treasured Dutch treat often made in the shape of a windmill. For the holidays, a German springerle mold is used to press the elaborate images into the dough — but you can also use cookie cutters in a pinch.
Italian Christmas cookies
Buon Natale! Italy is a country of many regions, cultural distinctions, and climates; as a result, their Christmas cookie offerings are varied and delightful, from snowflake-shaped pizzelle to treats featuring sunny ingredients like figs, pistachios, and olive oil.
Figs, chocolate, orange, and nuts form the filling of these Sicilian holiday cookies that are a more ebullient version of a Fig Newton, dipped in a vanilla glaze and scattered with colorful sprinkles.
Christmas tree cookies make any holiday table sing with good cheer. With ingredients like olive oil, pistachios, and lemon inspired by classic Italian Buon Natale cookies, they’re sure to add to any holiday feast. Mangia!
These anise-scented Italian Christmas cookies are crispy, delicate, sweet wafers, and are almost like eating a giant snowflake. A sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar completes the snow-powdered scene. (Feel free to swap in vanilla if you’re not a fan of anise.)
Crunchy cranberry and pistachio biscotti are the perfect accompaniment to a Christmassy espresso or cup of tea, and these gild the Italian lily with a final brushstroke of white chocolate.
Easy Christmas cookie recipes to make and share
This year as families are regathering, sharing the Christmas spirit in a tangible way that people can touch, smell, and feel may make everyone happier than ever. With these easy cookie recipes you can jump into the holiday baking spirit no matter your skill level or how much (or little!) time you have.
This fudgy, five-ingredient recipe starts with store-bought fudge brownie cookie dough. You'll create craters in balls of dough, then fill the baked cookies with a quick, silky chocolate ganache. Add crushed candy canes for a minty crunch.
These stamped shortbread cookies require only three ingredients! (Though you could go rogue and add a dash of salt for good measure.) Cookie stamps make elegant decorating simple, and it’s easy to add a drop or two of food coloring if pale gold is not your Christmas cookie ideal.
Citrus comes into season in the winter, making these delicate orange cookies dipped in chocolate fresh and bright in the mouth. Only eight ingredients, plus no need to chill the dough, means you can get them into the oven quickly.
A sprinkling of coarse sugar atop each star gives these chocolate Christmas cookies a sparkling holiday shimmer. The dough comes together easily to make three batches at once; each can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge for a few days, or frozen up to one month.
Put down that tube of cookie dough and step away! Escape to a frosty 1950s winter wonderland with these charming slice-and-bake cookies, boasting cheery maraschino cherries, a dusting of coconut, and a drizzle of white chocolate. The dough can be made in advance and kept in the fridge or frozen, so you can slice the exact number you need. They’re also great for baking fun with Santa’s littlest elves.
The best Christmas cookies are the ones you're in the mood for, and while you can make snickerdoodles any time of year, your family's December tradition may call for rolling balls of butter cookie dough in cinnamon-sugar to create the much-loved treats.
If you're a peanut butter lover, no holiday cookie collection is complete without peanut butter blossoms with a chocolate kiss in the center.
Here's another much-loved cookie recipe that transcends the seasons, and is always welcome on a Christmas cookie platter — especially when it includes semisweet, dark chocolate and milk chocolate chips.
Is it a cookie? Or a truffle? It’s somewhere jubilant in between. Best of all, these no-bake, snow white cream cheese cookie truffles can be made in advance and frozen for whenever the moment calls for minty magic.
Two kinds of dark chocolate ensure a depth of flavor in these chocolate Christmas cookies, a worthy match for our depth of desire for peace: in our homes, our families, across our nation, and for all humankind.
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