The BEST Christmas Cookies EVER begin and end with this soft, chewy, simple sugar cookie recipe. Decorate them with royal icing and you have the perfect gift for neighbors and friends!
We love these Christmas sugar cookies, but there are so many different kinds of Christmas treats and candies it’s impossible to pick a favorite! If it’s cookies you are looking for, we have dozens of cookie & brownie recipes to last you all year long!
The BEST Christmas Cookies EVER
Baking a big batch of traditional Christmas cookies is one of our favorite family holiday traditions. It just doesn’t seem like Christmas until we’ve pulled out the cookie cutters and created Christmas delights with our children. There’s no need to buy them from the store; save lots of money and make them yourself! It’s such a fun way to spend an afternoon with your kids. Give these traditional Christmas sugar cookies a try or any of our tasty Christmas cookie recipes below!
Types of Christmas Cookies
Everyone has a different image that comes to mind when they hear “Christmas cookies”. For me, I think of colorful sugar cookies with sprinkles. Others might think of sliced icebox cookies or drop cookies with Christmas M&Ms. What the “perfect Christmas cookie” is for me could be something completely different for you. Or maybe you are searching for a new recipe to make your favorite. Either way, we wanted to make things easy for you to pick a Christmas cookie by classifying them into 7 main categories:
Rolled cookies are cookies that are made by rolling out a stiff dough and then using cookie cutters to cut various shapes. Shaped sugar cookies (like the recipe below) and gingerbread cookies are an example of rolled Christmas cookies. Rolled cookies are the easiest to decorate because they stay nice and flat, even after baking.
These are cookies where you “drop” the dough on the baking sheet and bake. This includes your basic chocolate chip cookie, oatmeal raisin cookies, monster cookies. Some of our favorite Christmas drop cookies are Elf Cookies, Chocolate Orange Cookies, and Turtle Cookies.
These cookies are made when dough or batter is poured or pressed into a pan, baked, then cut into squares or rectangles. Coconut Fudge Cookie Bars, lemon bars, and coconut pecan Nanaimo bars are some examples of Christmas cookie bars. Make these sugar cookie bars “Christmas-style” by adding crushed candies or Christmas sprinkles!
Molded Cookies (or shaped cookies):
Molded cookies are also made from a stiffer dough that is molded into balls or cookie shapes by hand before baking. Snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies are examples of molded cookies. Copycat Swig sugar cookies are also an example of a molded cookie because they are pressed down with a cup to give them their shape. Turn them into Christmas sugar cookies by using red and green frosting and then adding crushed Christmas candy over the top!
As the name suggests, no bake cookies are cookies that you don’t bake. The ingredients are usually heated in a heavy saucepan and then dropped onto a wax sheet to cool in order to keep their shape. Some of our favorite no bake cookies are our traditional no bake cookies. You can switch them up and make them Christmas style by swapping out the peanut butter for Nutella and then sprinkling crushed Christmas candy over the top while cooling.
Refrigerated (icebox) cookies:
Cookies where the dough is pre-made into a cylinder shape and then wrapped in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerated. After being refrigerated they are sliced into round cookies before baking (think of those slice & bake tubes at the grocery store). Most cookie doughs that can hold their shape and can be rolled into a ball can be made into an icebox Christmas cookie, including: homestyle sugar cookies, cherry vanilla cookies, and chocolate chip.
Sandwich cookies are made by “sandwiching” some kind of filling or frosting between 2 cookies. Homemade Oreos are the perfect example of a “sandwich cookie” and also happen to be my favorite kind of sandwich cookie. Ice cream sandwich cookies are another example and can have a holiday “twist” by using peppermint, eggnog, or any other Christmas-y flavored ice cream!
Christmas Sugar Cookies
Now that you know all the different Christmas cookie categories, you can see that Christmas sugar cookies can fall into several different ones. They can be rolled, molded, refrigerated, or made into bars. Any of these are great choices and all of them can be decorated in all sorts of Christmas flavors and styles. For this recipe, we are highlighting the “rolled” variety. In my opinion, they are the most traditional and most fun to decorate. Follow our guide and tips below to make these cookies perfectly every time!
How to Get Neat Edges on Christmas Sugar Cookies
I WISH I could take credit for this one because it is such an awesome baking hack. Full credit goes to Allie over at Baking a Moment. She suggests adding in some cornstarch to get the edges just right. She is the first person I have ever heard of who has done this and it worked beautifully! I swapped out a 1/2 cup of flour in my original sugar cookie recipe (our original recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of flour) for some cornstarch and it worked like a dream and I will always make cut-out cookies this way from now on! I give her full credit for this genius idea and highly recommend checking out her site for more genius baking hacks (and INCREDIBLY delicious-looking desserts and treats).
How to Roll Our Your Cookie Dough Evenly
Use a rolling pin with guides to help roll out your dough to a perfectly even thickness (this one is my favorite). I like the ones where you can adjust the thickness by removing and replacing the different-sized rings. That way you can make them any thickness you want. I like mine on the thicker side so I like to use the 3/8 ring when rolling out my cookie dough.
What Supplies Do I Need to Decorate Christmas Cookies?
- Christmas Cookie cutters
- Icing bags (reusable or disposable)
- Icing tip couplers
- Decorating tips – I used a Wilton #3 round piping tip for the outlines- you can get them on Amazon (here) for about $1 or any craft store
- Gel food coloring
- Squeeze bottles – these can be found on Amazon, at Walmart or any craft store for about $1 a piece.
- Toothpicks – These are to help you fill in the tiny little gaps and smooth over the icing
- Christmas Sprinkles – get creative and have fun with any kind of sprinkles you can find!
Christmas Cookie Icing
There are two schools of thought when it comes to the perfect sugar cookie: thick, creamy frosting atop a soft cookie, or shiny silky royal icing smoothly covering the cookie’s surface. For those shiny, beautifully decorated cookies, we recommend decorating Christmas cookies with royal icing. This recipe is so easy to make, and is enough to decorate dozens of your favorite Christmas cookies (see more on how to do this below).
If you’re not so much worried about presentation, but want to sink your teeth into a thick, creamy cookie, use our favorite cream cheese frosting. It’s so good, you could eat it by the spoonful! Top your Christmas sugar cookies with this luscious frosting, add some sprinkles or candies, and call it a day!
How to Decorate Christmas Cookies
You can decorate Christmas cookies like a pro– it’s easier than it looks! To decorate the Christmas Cookies like we did in the pictures above, we used royal icing and flood icing (flood icing is just royal icing that is watered down a little bit — you can find the recipes HERE). For sake of ease, we usually keep the royal icing white and use that for the outline but you can add color if you would like. Place the icing in a piping bag with a #3 round tip and outline the cookies. Then, thin the remaining icing out, place it in separate bowls, and add the food coloring.
Once you have it thinned and colored, pour the icing into individual squeeze bottles. Fill in the outlines on the cookies with the flood icing and then use a toothpick to fill in any little gaps (see pictures to get an idea of how this is done). You can do the swirl designs by adding dots of different colors over your base color and swirling with a toothpick. This is also how you get the “line of hearts” look (see picture below). Add sprinkles for more dimension and design. Be creative and have fun!
Can Christmas Cookies be frozen?
One of the biggest perks of making these Christmas cookies is the ability to make them ahead of time. Here are a few tips for freezing cookies:
- Make sure to freeze them individually, like on a cookie sheet, until they’ve cooled completely.
- Once frozen, you can layer them in a freezer safe container using wax paper or freezer paper in between the layers.
- It’s best if you freeze the unfrosted cookies, then frost before serving. But if you want to decorate the cookies with frosting, freeze completely not touching, until frozen solid. Then you can layer as directed above.
How Long Do Christmas Cookies Stay Fresh?
Once you’ve decorated your masterpieces, these yummy goodies will stay fresh when stored in an airtight container on the counter for about three days. If you freeze them, they’ll stay nice and edible for up to a month in the freezer.
Can You Take Christmas Cookies On a Plane?
If you’re planning to fly the friendly skies this holiday season, here’s a friendly reminder from our TSA friends: you can definitely bring homemade goodies like cookies, pies, or cakes on an airplane in your carry-on bags, as long as you allow it to be inspected by officials. So you can share your baked treats with loved ones no matter how many miles separate you. Which brings us to another point…
Can You Ship or Mail Christmas Cookies?
Yes! Put the cookie tin or airtight container in a heavy-duty cardboard shipping box and make sure the cookies are surrounded with shipping peanuts or newspaper. To keep your cookies soft and chewy, add a small piece of bread or slice or apple to the container, which helps keep their freshness.
More Delicious Christmas Cookies
In our professional opinion, the more Christmas cookies during the holidays the better! Here are some more of our favorites to make this time of year:
- Elf Cookies
- Chocolate Orange Cookies
- Grandma’s Soft Sugar Cookies
- Gingerbread Cookies
- Andes Mint Cookies
- White Chocolate Peppermint Bark Brownies
- Easy Crock Pot Peanut Clusters
How to Make the BEST Christmas Cookies Ever
- Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir until well combined.
- Cut COLD butter into cubes (they don't need to be perfect) and add to the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl if you are using a hand mixer).
- Add sugar and mix together until smooth and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.
- Add 1 egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract and mix until well combined.
- Add the flour/cornstarch mixture in and mix on low speed until crumbles form (if you are at a higher elevation and the crumbles seem a little too dry you can add a tablespoon or two of water--not too much though, you want it to be crumbly, not sticky).
- Remove crumbles from mixer and knead into a ball. Place between two pieces of parchment paper and roll out to about 3/8-1/2" thickness (however thick you want the cookies to be is how thick you want to roll it out-- these cookies aren't going to rise very much, if at all).
- Use Christmas cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the dough. Place cookies on a baking sheet lined with a baking mat or parchment paper.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool COMPLETELY before icing with royal icing or cream cheese frosting, (see links below for icing/frosting recipes)