The United States of Holiday Cookies
From fruitcake cookies to chocolate saltine toffee, these are the most uniquely popular holiday treats in each state.
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Infographic by Drew Gliever
It is officially the holiday cookies 2021 season! From now until New Year's Day, holiday Christmas cookies will dominate the edible landscape. In regular years there are so many events that require colorful mounds of sugar and spice and everything nice — office holiday parties, white elephant exchanges, holiday cocktail parties, and, of course, cookie swaps. But this year, we’re taking our joy where we find it, and that may be right in our own kitchens — possibly with multiple baking sheets and batches of cookies to enjoy.
Now, not every person likes every shape that sugar and spice take. Cultural influences, geographic slants, and holiday tradition have a lot to do with what kind of cookies we like and dislike, so we drilled down to the most searched-for holiday cookies (or treats) for each state.
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Cookie research methodology
Knowing that taste preferences are influenced by where you live, I got together with one of Yummly's data scientists, Saranyaa VR, to analyze holiday cookie searches from state to state. There was a lot of data to sift through. First, we should note that if we were to look at the most searched cookie recipes for the holidays, from coast to coast the favorite holiday cookies would probably be some slight variation of sugar cookies or chocolate chip cookies. With that in mind, we went in sweet pursuit of the uniquely popular cookie for each state. Put (very) simply, Saranyaa searched the data state by state to find a cookie that's particularly popular among that state's Yummly users. Below are the results from one of the sweetest research project we've done all year. Some of the cookies are expected, others not so much, but they're all festively tasty and worthy of baking this holiday season.
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Alabama: Fruitcake cookies
Alabamans love to stick to tradition, and there are few holiday traditions that stand out as much as the holiday fruitcake. While it's one of those desserts people love to hate, perhaps making it into bite-sized versions makes the tradition easier to ~~
In Alaska, holiday bakers are looking for biscotti, the Tuscan cookie baked twice to stay nice for long periods. In Italy, these semi-sweet cookies are an All Saints Day tradition, but the cranberries and chocolate in this recipe lend them holiday cheer.
It's hard to pin down why this Brownie Macaroon is the choice holiday cookie in Arizona. The 'macaroon' has Italian origins (it is very closely related to the French 'macaron'), but only about 4.4% of the Arizona population is Italian, so the interest in this over-the-top macaroon might be just that they're tasty.
Arkansas: Peppermint bark
Arkansans might be looking for peppermint bark on Yummly, but it's a peppermint bark cookie that catches their eyes. Who can blame them? It's a two-in-one treat with the frostiness of a peppermint patty and the dark chocolate wafer cookies that we love.
If you've never heard of a persimmon cookie (or a persimmon), you're not alone. Persimmons are a sweet orange fruit. They grow abundantly in California this time of year, so it makes sense that California Yummly users are drawn to this cookie.
Colorado: Christmas tree
Coloradans love cookies in the shape of pine trees — because what other shapes are found on the side of a mountain? And they don't stop at the two-dimensional version — they go straight for the 3D meringue version. And why wouldn't they? These cookies are adorable. And they’re gluten-free.
Connecticut: Coconut macaroons
You've seen them before and you'll see them again: macaroons are the favorite in Connecticut, too. Connecticut has one of the biggest populations of Italian people in the country, so tracing the cultural origins of the selection isn't as hard as in Arizona.
Delaware: Chocolate sugar
Delawarians give a lot of love to this chocolate sugar cookie. It's a basic chocolate sugar cookie, but instead of being dotted with chocolate chips, it's weighed down with chocolate chunks. What I wouldn't give to go to a cookie swap in Delaware...
District of Columbia: Gingerbread
In the District of Columbia, perhaps holiday bipartisanship begins with the humble gingerbread man and woman. Many agree that gingerbread cookies are among the best holiday cookies.
Linzers are Austrian jam sandwich cookies with cutouts that make a little stained glass-like window to the jam and have a light dusting of powdered sugar. Florida does have one of the largest populations of Austrians in the United States, but we're not discounting Florida's abundance of fruit that can be worked into the linzer jam as the motivation behind this selection.
Georgia: Red velvet
In Georgia, they apparently eat with their eyes, because while looking for "red velvet cookies" this adorable rose-shaped sandwich cookie is the one that gets the most views in the Peach State.
No surprises here — if I had macadamia nut trees in my backyard, I'd be baking these cookies for the holidays, too.
Idaho: Cookie truffles
Theorizing why Idahoans are looking specifically for cookie truffles (besides the fact that they're delicious, no-bake treats) is tough, but the reason they stop at this one is pretty clear: peppermint tastes like winter.
Illinois: Turtle cookies
While the state reptile of Illinois happens to be the painted turtle, I'm pretty sure people of the Prairie State go after this one because it's insanely delicious. Chocolate cookie dough is rolled in chopped pecans with a thumbprint to hold a bit of caramel sauce. If that's not delicious enough for you, drizzle it with chocolate. It's not hard to understand why this is a favorite holiday treat in Illinois.
Hoosiers may have been influenced by their neighbors to the east who have had a decades-long affair with buckeye candies. These truffles are very similar to buckeyes, the only real difference is the crisp rice mixed into the peanut butter cookie dough filling rather than straight peanut butter. There's not a sweet tooth this truffle wouldn't win over.
Iowa Yummly users can't get enough of chocolate crinkle cookies — a recipe that may have seeped into The Hawkeye State from neighboring Minnesota. According to Let's Eat Cake, Betty Crocker begged a Minnesota baker for her molasses crinkle cookie which spawned all sorts of versions including the chocolate crinkle that Iowans love at Christmas.
In the search for toffee, Kansans called off the dogs at Easy Homemade Toffee. It's not clear who or when this easy-peasy masterpiece was conceived, but it's reached holiday tradition status in Kansas.
Kentucky: Bourbon balls
Does this really need an explanation? As the birthplace of bourbon, Kentuckians work it into many occasions — this one's just a way to get it into the cookie swap parties without a bottle.
Louisiana: Pecan pralines
Aside from the fact that pecan pralines are dizzyingly delicious, they’re also one of the signature sweets of New Orleans. They use loads of brown sugar and pecans, because they are more common in Louisiana than almonds (which is what French pralines are made with). On a holiday or any day, Louisianans take personal pride in what they eat, and share what represents their home state.
Maine: Whoopie pies
If you're not familiar with whoopie pies, they're kind of like a cake sandwich — two layers of domed cake with frosting in between. They also happen to be Maine's state dessert. It's been a favorite as far back as 1925.
Maryland is known for its crab (with Old Bay seasoning) and the state dessert is Smith Island cake, but for holiday cookies, they're looking for the simple snickerdoodle. It's a head-scratcher but we're not going to analyze a decidedly delicious choice.
The anisette cookies Bay Staters picked out are very much Italian. As one of the most Irish states in the country, you might have been expecting something with Celtic flavor, but Massachusetts has a sizable Italian population, too. In fact, Boston has the 4th largest Italian population, which might explain the enthusiasm for anisette cookies.
Michigan: Frosted sugar
Michiganders like to keep it classic with frosted sugar cookies. The ones they like are a bakery-style favorite that can be cut round or into holiday shapes.
Minnesota: Russian tea cakes
In Minnesota, they're looking for Russian tea cookies. If the buttery cookies look familiar, it's because they're the same as Mexican wedding cookies, snowballs, and pecan balls. Whatever you decide to call them, they are 100% delicious and are one of the most popular holiday Christmas cookies.
Mississippi: Salted caramel
This is the cookie Mississippians had in mind when they typed "salted caramel" into the search box. It's a simple sugar cookie with a shallow hollow where the caramel can pool for a gooey bite.
Missouri: Gooey butter
Every Missourian already guessed that the gooey butter cookie would dominate searches from the Show Me State. The gooey butter cookie is derived from the gooey butter cake which originated in St. Louis. It's a uniquely Missouri treat.
Montana: Saltine toffee
It seems topography has no bearing on the kind of holiday treats people choose. Like Kansans in the Great Plains, the people of the mountainous Big Sky Country lean toward toffee for the holidays, too, but this one has the added crunch of saltine crackers.
Nebraska: Popcorn balls
Cornhuskers, not surprisingly, gravitated toward Chewy Caramel Popcorn balls in their search for a holiday recipe. There's no state dessert in Nebraska, but this is the one they might consider. (It would also go well with the state soft drink: Kool-Aid.)
Nevada: Chocolate peppermint
Nevadans are always looking for the jackpot and they found it while in search of chocolate-peppermint treats. The treasure buried inside this cookie is a pure, frosty nugget. The cookie dough is wrapped around a peppermint patty, sprinkled with candy cane pieces, and baked.
New Hampshire: Mint
With pumpkin as the state fruit, some might have guessed New Hampshirites would be looking for pumpkin cookies. But they were typing "mint" into the Yummly search box, and settled on a homemade mint-chocolate cookie dipped in white or dark chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy canes.
New Jersey: Cannoli
With an Italian population of 1.5 million, it's no surprise New Jersey lists cannolis as the favorite treat.
New Mexico: Royal icing
New Mexicans just want a perfectly pretty iced cookie. They searched for royal icing and this is the iced cookie they viewed the most. If you're not familiar with royal icing, it's made with egg whites and powdered sugar to make a hard glaze on cookies. It's great for designing cookies with clever details.
New York: Rainbow cookies
It's New Jersey's neighbor to the north that has the biggest Italian population and it shows with New Yorkers' selection of Italian rainbow cookies. They're made up of layers of almond sponge cake in the colors of the Italian flag, held together with jam.
North Carolina: Haystack
These are adorable and delicious, which is probably why Tarheels bypassed North Carolina's official state cookie to view haystacks.
North Dakota: Spritz cookies
People in the Flickertail State are sticking with tradition. They go for classic spritz cookies that are as delightful to look at on the holiday table as they are to nibble on.
Every season is buckeye candy season in Ohio. These candies — the state dessert — are chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls made to look like the nut from the Ohio buckeye tree.
Oklahoma: Chocolate fudge
On the hunt for chocolate fudge, Oklahomans stumbled upon these Chocolate Fudge Pomegranate Cookies. They deviate from tradition in the most delightful way.
Oregon: Mint chocolate
They're on opposite coasts, but Oregonians share the same latitude and similar taste in holiday cookies as New Hampshire Yummly users. Though in the case of Oregon, people were more focused in their search — they tacked "chocolate" onto their "mint" query when they found this cookie.
Like many states in the Northeast, Pennsylvania's population is made up of a lot of Italians, making pizzelles a holiday favorite in the Keystone State.
Rhode Island: Meringue cookies
It looks like visions of holiday cookies are similar in the minds of Rhode Islanders and Coloradans alike. While they used different words to search for the right cookie, these little egg white tannenbaums are what they were looking for.
South Carolina: Snowball cookies
It doesn't snow much in South Carolina, and Yummly users in the Palmetto State may have been searching for "snowball cookies" so they could get a little taste of the white stuff for the holidays. These are much like the Russian tea cookies that Minnesotans like, but South Carolinians went for the ones with a Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) surprise inside.
South Dakota: Oreo
The Mount Rushmore State picked out one of the more unique cookie recipes even while searching for one of the most iconic American cookies. It's a cream cheese dough rolled in Oreo crumbs and baked, resulting in what looks like an Oreo crinkle cookie.
In Tennessee, a search for "caramel" translates to Snickers Caramel Cheesecake Cookies when it comes to holiday treats.
In Texas, "brittle" is the preferred treat, but Texas Yummly users also want it fast. This recipe can be ready in 30 minutes.
While searching for "coconut," Utahns went for these Coconut Lime Shortbread cookies. It's one of the best ways to put the lime in the coconut. The sprinkle of lime zest on the delicately frosted shortbread gives these cookies festive appeal, which may be what attracted Utahns to them.
Vermont: Hot cocoa
I don't know about you, but when I think of Vermont, hot cocoa in a ski lodge on a snow-capped mountain is what comes to mind. Vermonters are leaning into their picturesque reputation for their favorite cookie.
Virginia is for lovers, and what food says love better than a Hershey's Kiss? While there are many blossom cookies they could have chosen, Virginians opted for the peppermint candy-cane version of Kisses, anchored by a chocolate crinkle cookie.
Washington: Molasses cookies
Washingtonians are sticking with tradition and searched with focus for simple molasses cookies. They're derived from gingerbread, which is a classic holiday treat, but molasses ginger cookies are traditionally baked into circles and have a soft, chewy texture.
West Virginia: Chocolate saltine
In Montana, the hunt was for "saltine toffee." In West Virginia, they were on a quest for "chocolate saltine." But this is the recipe both states landed on as their favorite holiday dessert.
Wisconsin: Cutout cookies
Wisconsinites are all about simple pleasures. In this case, simple pleasures come in the form of snowmen, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and candy canes — all made of sugar cookies, among the most popular of all Christmas desserts.
Wyoming: Crumb bars
Wyoming Yummly users want to spread joy with crumb bars, and singled out the festively tinted strawberry crumb bars as their favorite.
Did we miss your favorite? When the tray goes round, the best Christmas cookies are in the eye of the beholder. What sort of cookie will be in the belly of the eater — gingersnaps, oatmeal cookies, eggnog cookies? Whether you prefer ice cream cookie sandwiches, marshmallow cookies, or the nutty kinds like pistachio or almond cookies, you can bake cookies and spread Christmas cheer all year round. Check out these articles to learn more: