Our Most Popular Holiday Cookies of All Time|Recipes Spots

  • on December 2, 2023
Our Most Popular Holiday Cookies of All Time


Overhead view of a variety of classic thumbprint cookies.
Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek

This year marks my fourth holiday season moderating the comments for Simply Recipes, and it’s easily one of my favorite jobs ever. The comments that you readers share create a thousand little windows into family traditions and seasonal joys. I celebrate your baking triumphs and troubleshoot issues (“Can I swap X for Y?”) in the comment threads.

The action ramps up big-time come December when millions of home cooks around the world seek out cookie recipes for holiday baking. I’ve made many of the recipes below myself. They’re honestly the top Christmas cookies on Simply Recipes in exact order. A lot of them come from our contributors’ own families, passed from generation to generation, and then to the entire internet. They truly have stood the test of time.

Chocolate Crinkles

Overhead view of chocolate crinkle cookies on a lined baking pan
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Bakes

These fudgy cookies are like individual brownies coated in a generous layer of powdered sugar. You don’t need a mixer to make them—in fact, they’re so easy I made them at age eight for a Girl Scout badge.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies on a plate with a striped linen underneath.
Michelle Becker

Peanut butter cookies are a delight any day of the year, but they round out a holiday cookie plate nicely. If you’re really banging them out, you can skip using a fork for the cross-hatch on top and press a meat mallet onto the dough balls instead.

7-Layer Magic Bars

Overhead shot of magic cookie bars ready to eat
Irvin Lin

Readers have an ongoing debate here. Our recipe calls to drizzle the condensed milk over the graham cracker crust, while many readers prefer to add it last, over all the other layers. Honestly, I’m team top layer; it acts as a glue to hold the layers together better. Either way works, though, and ultimately you wind up with irresistible bar cookies packed with coconut, chocolate chips, and nuts.

Gingerbread House

Close up of the front of a decorated gingerbread house.
Claudia Cash

A gingerbread house is made of cookies, so it counts, right? Here’s the recipe that people turn to over and over again. This thorough how-to provides a (totally edible) gingerbread dough that’s sturdy enough to stand up to construction specs. It includes a timeline for planning (there are tons of steps, after all) and a printable template for your house pieces.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Mexican Wedding Cookies
Irvin Lin

Whether you call them Mexican wedding cookies or Russian teacakes, these melt-in-our-mouth nibbles are packed with finely chopped nuts. I like to swap vanilla bean paste for the vanilla extract in mine. A few readers have reported success making these gluten-free by replacing the all-purpose flour with almond flour.

Classic Shortbread Cookies

Stack of Classic Shortbread Cookies with the Top Cookie Missing a Bite and a Cup of Coffee in the Background
Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

If you want buttery, British-style shortbread cookies, this is your recipe. They keep a long time and freeze like a dream. If you really want to go over the top, use a premium butter such as Kerrygold.

Thumbprint Cookies

Classic thumbprint cookies on a platter.
Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek

These festive cookies have jewel-like centers that gleam from dollops of jam. For extra flavor and texture, try rolling the shortbread-like dough in nuts before filling and baking. If you have extra cranberry sauce around, try that as a filling.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

decorated holiday sugar cookies on a plate
Claudia Cash

This recipe is contributor Steve-Anna Stephen’s Christmas cookie go-to. She loves decorating the cookies as much as eating them, so she includes an icing recipe and plenty of decorating tips.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut butter blossoms in a wide ceramic bowl.
Aaron Hutcherson

Did you now that peanut butter blossoms were created by Freda Smith of Gibsonburg, Ohio for the 1957 Pillsbury Bake-Off? You probably remember the steps: first, unwrap a ton of Hershey’s Kisses. Next, eat a few of them before they even make it to the cookies. The best part is how the kisses melt once they hit the just-baked peanut butter cookies. Warm from the oven, eating one is a delightful mess.

Candy Cane Cookies

Completed Candy Cane Cookies Recipe
Irvin Lin

Real talk: candy cane cookies are a bit of a pain to make. Their dough is on the dry side and tends to break as you’re shaping the twists. My best friend and I made these as kids with no issues, probably because we weren’t fixated on perfection. My advice as an adult is measure the flour with a light hand and not sweat a few breaks or cracks.

Chinese Almond Cookies

Overhead view of almond cookies on a cooling tray.
Michelle Becker

These beloved Chinese-American cookies are essential for Chinese New Year, but they’ve also rightfully joined the Christmas season as well. Almond flour and almond extract give them their trademark flavor.

Almond Crescent Cookies

Almond Crescent Cookies
Elise Bauer

Almond crescents are crumblier and more buttery than Chinese almond cookies. They hail from Austria and are sometimes called Viennese crescents. The dough can be dry, especially if you live in a dry climate or at elevation. If that’s the case, work a little milk or an extra egg yolk into the dough.

Red Velvet Cookies

Red Velvet Cookies with White Chocolate Chips
Irvin Lin

Contributor Irvin Lin came up with this recipe for Valentine’s Day, but over the years it’s become a Christmas cookie around here as well. Commenter Brian suggests, “For Christmas and swap out the white chocolate on top with some green M&M’s.”

Butter Pecan Cookies

A plate of butter pecan cookies
Elise Bauer

These nutty cookies have a shortbread-like texture. For even more pecan flavor, toast the pecans first.

Walnut Snowball Cookies

Overhead view of walnut snowball cookies piled on a parchment lined decorative baking pan with the top one cut in half to show the interior.
Simply Recipes / Cambrea Bakes

What’s the difference between these and Mexican wedding cookies? Not much, honestly, besides the nut of choice. The yield of this recipe is small, so consider doubling it. They freeze well.

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Man Cookies
Elise Bauer

Our founder Elise Bauer came up with this recipe because she “wanted gingerbread people I could EAT,” as opposed to dense cookies better suited for using as decorations only. And her recipe delivers, with complex spices and a just the right amount of molasses.

Nutella Cookies

Overhead view of nutella cookies and hazelnuts scattered on a white surface.
Simply Recipes / Annika Panikker

Nutella used to be nearly a contraband item in the States. I remember when my friend smuggled a jar home from Europe for me. Now you can get it most anywhere, so revel in that abundance with these irresistible cookies. They have chopped hazelnuts, chocolate chips, and Nutella in the dough.

Oatmeal Lace Cookies

A stack of oatmeal lace cookies
Irvin Lin

Oatmeal lace cookies are the easier-to-make cousin to Florentines. In fact, they’re even better, thanks to the texture and slightly nutty flavor the oats contribute. Reader Allie suggests, “Add melted dark chocolate drizzled on top. Delish!”

Heath Bar Cookies

A plate of Heath Bar Cookies
Elise Bauer

Heath bar cookies feature the flavors of English toffee, a classic holiday candy. You can use broken-up Heath bars in these cookies or buy a bag of Heath toffee bits instead.

Soft Sugar Cookies

Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies
Irvin Lin

Sugar cookies come in many varieties, and at Christmas the thin and crisp ones tend to get all of the attention. But there are holdout bakers who go for these soft and chewy ones. You can decorate them with frosting or just leave them plain.

Molasses Cookies

Molasses Spice Cookies
Elise Bauer

The Simply Recipes editorial staff includes some major fans of these cookies, which have the perfect balance of spices and molasses. They’re certainly moreish. “Don’t reduce the amount of sugar,” warns Elise Bauer, the author. “The cookies won’t be chewy if you do (I found this out the hard way and had to make a second batch).”

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies
Irvin Lin

A little mesmerizing, aren’t they? You can customize these slice-and-bake cookies with whatever food coloring you have on hand. This recipe includes raspberry extract for the red portion of the dough, but you can omit it or sub almond extract or peppermint extract.

Ultra-Thin Gingersnap Cookies

Thin Gingersnap Cookies stacked on plate
Elise Bauer

These aren’t your standard-issue gingersnaps. You shape the dough in a block and slice off the thinnest slices you can for cookies that are incredibly crisp. It’s our founder Elise’s mom’s favorite cookie. “The original recipe was passed along from food blogger to food blogger years ago,” Elise writes. “She claimed to have gotten the recipe from Chez Panisse when she asked for it while interviewing for a job.”

Pfeffernusse

Pfeffernüsse Spice Cookies
Irvin Lin

Skip the pfeffernusse at ALDI and bake your own; I promise it’s worth the effort. Pfeffernusse means “pepper nut” in German. The cookies don’t have nuts, but they do have a pinch of white pepper, as well as a cabinet of other spices. They only get better as they age, so bake them early in the season.

Persimmon Cookies

A plate of three iced persimmon cookies
Elise Bauer

If you’re baking with persimmons at the holidays, you likely live in California, where Hachiya persimmons (the kind used in this recipe) grow on decorative trees whose owners are desperate to rid of their many fruits. Gently spiced and seasoned with orange zest, these soft cookies bake up a bit like mini fruitcakes. Or rather, what you wish fruitcake were like.

Amaretti

Homemade Amaretti Cookies in a Bowl
Simply Recipes / Elise Bauer

Italian amaretti cookies go through a transformation as they age. They start out light and brittle on the day you bake them, then become chewy and moist as the days pass. Reader Helen commented that she accidentally added 1 tablespoon of almond extract instead of 1 teaspoon. “Loved the intense almond flavor,” she said.

Pecan Meringue Cookies

A plate of pecan meringue cookies
Elise Bauer (leads) and Sally Vargas (method shots)

Super simple meringues enlivened with pecans will lighten up your cookies tray. These are great to make when you have egg whites left from making Hollandaise or eggnog ice cream.

Date-Nut Chews

A plate of date-nut chews bar cookies
Steve-Anna Stephens

These bar cookies are old-school and not widely known. They date back to at least 1917 and are extra chewy from lots of eggs and not much flour. Their other name is Chinese chews, though there’s nothing Chinese about them. Add these to your cookie repertoire this year and they’re sure to earn a permanent place.

Article Categories:
Fruits · Spices

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