There’s one thing that no holiday season is complete without. No, we’re not talking about snow or family or presents. We’re talking about cookies. Yes, while you can technically eat cookies any time of year, Christmas is the ultimate cookie holiday. Every holiday party worth its salt has at least a few platters full of these sweet delights. But no two cookies on that platter were created equal. Some are going to go much, much faster than the others. So we made it our business to rate our favorite holiday cookies from worst to best.
There’s nothing particularly healthy about oatmeal raisin cookies — like all cookies, they’re loaded with sugar and butter — but they sure do taste like they’re good for you. And that’s a bummer. A staple of childhood lunchboxes across the country, oatmeal raisin cookies should be relegated to weekday cookie status, not for a special occasion.
Pfeffernüsse translates from German to English as “pepper nut,” and that’s what these cookies are made of. Yes, black pepper combines with anise, cloves and other spices for a holiday cookie that has quite a bite to it. Let’s just say this ethnic holiday cookie is an acquired taste.
Trust us; we love a perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. But like the oatmeal raisin cookie lower in this ranking, a chocolate chip cookie is a little pedestrian for the holidays, don’t you think?
There’s something simple and delightful about a shortbread cookie. At its core, this cookie has just a few simple ingredients, but it brings a lot of delight. Shortbread can then be customized for the holidays with some festive ingredients and decoration, but there are better alternatives on the cookie tray.
Nothing says homemade cookie tray quite like a peanut butter cookie. With those fork-made crosshatches and the perfect crumbly yet somehow still oh-so-soft texture, this cookie is comfort in a bite. But like most cookies on the bottom half of our ranking, these are a delight but not particularly festive for the holiday season.
For the uninitiated, pecan tassies are like tiny pecan pies. Really! And just like a proper pecan pie, they’re delicious. But because they’re bite-sized, they’re beautiful and a perfect addition to any holiday cookie tray. So why are they just No. 10? Well, as anyone who has ever made a pecan tassie will tell you, they’re a pain in the butt to make. Maybe just stick to a classic, regular-sized pecan pie.
When all the other other lunchbox cookies are relegated to bottom five status, why do M&M cookies crack the top 10? Well, because of those fun and festive red and green chocolate-coated candies, of course! Nothing says says Christmastime is here quite like that iconic color scheme.
A holiday cookie needs to be three things to be considered a classic. It needs to be sweet and delicious, of course. It needs to have a festive color scheme or flavor profile. And it needs to be beautiful when presented on a tray. The thumbprint has all three things. This jam-filled cookie recipe is endlessly customizable and always a winner.
Tiny and buttery, Spritz play a very particular roll on the holiday cookie tray: they make the perfect space-filler. Their small size means they’re the perfect bite-sized treat after you chow down on an entire turkey dinner, and the simple dough can easily be dyed red, green or other fun holiday colors.
Somewhere between a cookie and a brownie, chocolate crinkles are the answer to the holiday question: Why don’t more cookies taste like cocoa? The powdered sugar topping that shows through the cracks of a perfectly baked crinkle mimics snow on the sidewalk, making this cookie as celebratory as it is scrumptious.
Fun to say but even more fun to eat, Snickerdoodles are a childhood favorite that still hold up as you grow old and tired. Any cookie covered in cinnamon and sugar has to be a winner, right? Especially when it’s pillowy soft and warm right out of the oven.
If you think about the classic holiday flavors of the season, it’s peppermint, hot cocoa and gingerbread. Yes, no festive season is complete without this molasses and spice cookie. It’s warming, inviting and oh-so-perfect for those long, cold December nights. Whether you like your gingerbread snappy or soft and doughy with tons of icing, you have to admit, it’s the perfect holiday delight.
The young and young at heart all love the peanut butter blossom. How can you improve on a classic like a peanut butter cookie? Roll the whole thing in sugar and put a Hershey Kiss in the middle. When baked right, these cookies are so soft they melt in your mouth. Whether you remove the chocolate and then eat the cookie or eat this all in one bite, there’s no denying this cookie is a classic for a reason.
Speaking of cookies that just melt in your mouth, don’t downplay the snowball. This festive treat just screams holiday season. It looks like a freakin’ snowball, after all! How fun is that! Traditionally, this cookie is made with chopped pecans (or other nuts), which adds to the warm festive feeling of this treat. But if you want to make a snowball truly feel like Christmas, consider this peppermint snowball recipe.
There’s one cookie that no holiday season is complete without: the cutout sugar cookie. Yes, every family has a signature recipe for this simple yet purely delicious treat. And it’s everything the holiday season should be: decorative, super sweet and full of traditions. How many families spend their holiday season baking sugar cookies and cutting them into stars, snowflakes, Santa hats, reindeer and Christmas trees? Baking and decorating these cookies with globs of royal icing and sprinkles is pure holiday happiness and makes these cookies deserving of the No. 1 spot on our list. And if they’re not No. 1 on yours, consider these 101 other amazing holiday cookie recipes instead.
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