The Best Holiday Cookies and Expert Tips to Make Them Perfect Every Time


By Sara Bonisteel, Epicurious.com

A good Christmas cookie is a memory wrapped in wax paper. It conjures warm thoughts of holidays spent with loved ones and promises of new experiences yet to begin under the tinseled tree.

See also: The Rules of Regifting

We at Epicurious believe that just as you can never give or get too many presents, you can never have too many holiday cookie recipes in your recipe box. So, 10 editors of Epicurious and Gourmet Live swapped our most beloved family recipes, from Vanilla-Cherry Chocolate-Chip Cookies and red-and-green-sprinkled Santa's Whiskers to Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies and Pecan Pralines. Be sure to read our guide to cookie swaps for tips on hosting your own.

Below is our gift to you, 10 treasured recipes in this virtual Christmas cookie swap:

Simply Splendid Sugar Cookies

Tanya Steel, Editor-in-Chief
"I love this one because it has almost as much whole wheat as all-purpose flour and less sugar than most versions. It's from my book, Real Food for Healthy Kids, and it's our go-to cookie when we are craving something crisp and sweet. We make it every Christmas Eve and leave it out for Santa. It turns out he loves them as much as we do."



Thumbprint Cookies

Siobhan Adcock, Managing Editor
"Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my grandmother always has a platter of Christmas cookies under wrap and ready to serve-after all, you never know when someone's going to stop by for a holiday visit, and certainly no self-respecting cook would be caught short without five or six different kinds of holiday cookies at the ready!

"When I was younger, I was partial to the frosted wreath cutout cookies with bows made of cinnamon Red Hots, but now that I'm older I love the thumbprint cookies. The bright red jam is pretty and festive, and I like to invite my friends' kids over to roll the dough into balls and press their thumbs in the center."

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Lauren Salkeld, Senior Editor
"Peanut butter kiss cookies have been a Salkeld family favorite for as long as I can remember. They're perfect for us because we're all hopelessly addicted to peanut butter, chocolate, and the peanut butter and chocolate combo. Smooth peanut butter is the norm, but we're chunky fans so we've been known to use that instead. And one year, when we ran out of vanilla, we discovered almond extract lends an extra layer of nuttiness that we really enjoy."


Santa's Whiskers

Sara Bonisteel, Senior Editor
"My Grandma J, Ethel Hughes Johnston, served these refrigerator cookies every Christmas, along with a spread of gingersnaps, rum balls, and sugar cookies. The name comes from the toasted coconut, and if you squint you might catch a glimpse of the old guy in the array of candied cherries and pecans. We grandkids loved these cookies best of all, and I make them every year without fail to bring my late grandmother's spirit to my holiday festivities."


Gingery Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Esther Sung, Associate Editor
"It thrills me to no end that my mom, an immigrant, was baking cookies from scratch many, many years ago as a way to connect with her American-born children. My mom's version called for walnuts, but I prefer to add in chopped crystallized ginger, which brings a lingering warmth with every bite-perfect for when it's chilly."



Related: Easy Holiday Cocktail Party Bites

Bourbon Balls

Carolina Santos-Neves, Assistant Editor
"These were certainly the kids' favorite growing up. Maybe it was because they have no nutritional value, or perhaps it's the bourbon. Our favorite part? Using our hands to mix everything together! If you don't have bourbon around, rum works just as well. And adding a few tablespoons of peanut butter to the mix is highly recommended!"



Viennese Crescents

Patricia Reilly, Senior Copy Chief
"Long ago and far away in the days before digital recipe boxes, a New York Times recipe clipping worked its way into steady rotation in my kitchen at holiday time. Over the years, the recipe became a family favorite, evolving along the way, as such things do. But here's one thing that never changes: I get as much pleasure out of making these cookies-shaping the fragrant crescents by hand-as I do from eating and gifting them."


Vanilla-Cherry Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Kendra Vizcaino, Editorial Assistant
"I love these cookies because they're not too sweet, and they have a variety of textures. If you're in the mood for a cookie with chewiness, crunch, or softness, this cookie has aspects of each."





Christmas Wreaths

Kelly Senyei, Associate Editor, Gourmet Live
"The holidays don't officially begin in my family's home until we fire up the burners for the first (of what's sure to be dozens) of the season's batches of Marshmallow Wreaths. Every year for the past 15 years we've been making this dessert, and some of my earliest memories in the kitchen with my mom are of molding the bright-green mix into wreath shapes and tacking on the cinnamon-flavored candies. In addition to the individual treats, we often craft an entire batch of the mix into one giant wreath for the ultimate festive and edible centerpiece."

Pecan Pralines

Megan Steintrager, Senior Editor, Gourmet Live
"Buttery, nutty, and so caramel-y sweet they make your teeth hurt, pecan pralines have always been a highlight of my Christmas visits to my mom's family in Louisiana. This recipe comes from a family friend who is one of the best cooks I know-and that's saying a lot when you're talking about denizens of South Louisiana. Made with two homegrown Louisiana ingredients-sugar and pecans-plus butter and cream, they're a sweet bite of bayou country."


More from Epicurious.com:

The Ultimate Christmas Guide from Epicurious
Mario Batali's Traditional Italian Christmas Eve Dinner
One-Dish Wonders: Our Favorite Casserole Recipes
Blue-Ribbon Chicken Recipes