9 Best Christmas Cookies from Around the World + 3 Tips
Christmas cookies are to Christmas what chocolate eggs are to Easter. They’re easily one of the best parts of Christmas eating.
If you’re looking for inspiration for your Christmas baking, you’re in luck: we’ve collected some of the very best Christmas cookie recipes from all over the world.
Many modern Christmas cookies trace their roots back to Medieval Europe, with popular ingredients like almonds, ginger, cinnamon, dried fruits, and black pepper.
Why not try something new this Christmas? Who knows, it might just become your go-to family recipe for decades to come.
Best Christmas Cookie Ideas
Some of the best Christmas cookies are the simplest – others are more elaborate. Christmas cookie traditions vary throughout the world. There’s plenty of variety and creativity in these.
Sugar Christmas Cookies – Vanilla Biscuits with Sugar & Icing
Traditional sugar cookies have a history that reaches as far back as 7th century Persia. Modern sugar cookies were allegedly introduced in 17th century Pennsylvania.
Regardless, these have been well-loved for a very long time. The simplest recipes call for butter, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt.
These are cut into shapes using cookie cutters (great for kids) and baked. They’re then frequently iced using colorful homemade icing.
This is usually made of icing sugar, egg whites, corn syrup, and a bit of water, as well as food coloring if you choose to add it.
Italian Christmas Cookies – Pizzelle
Pizzelle originated somewhere in Southern Italy, where two provinces still argue over who first made them to this day.
These classic cookies look a little like waffles, and you’ll need a Pizzelle Press specifically for making them.
Besides that, the recipe is actually quite simple: all you need is flour, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla or anise extract, and some baking powder.
The finished pizzelle can be dusted with icing sugar or shaped into a cone or ‘bowl’ to fill with cream and fruit. So in essence, it really is a little like a crunchy waffle-style cookie.
Though they’re actually a lot more like the Norwegian Krumkake, which we’ll tell you about further down in this article.
German Christmas Cookies – Gingerbread
German Lebkuchen are pretty much nothing like the gingerbread we know elsewhere in the world. They’re nutty, spiced treats full of lemon or orange peel and usually coated in chocolate or sugar.
You can find plenty of recipes online, but make sure you look out for real German ones.
These should include, amongst other ingredients, a mixture of nuts, Lebkuchengewürz (gingerbread spice mix), candied lemon peel, candied orange peel, and Backoblaten, a type of thin, edible baking wafer.
Homemade German Lebkuchen are fragrant and tend to be beautifully decorated with almond halves and sugar. They’re chewy rather than crunchy, and taste delicious on their own or alongside a hot mug of mulled wine.
Chocolate Christmas Cookies – Crinkle Cookies
Crinkle Cookies seem to originate some time in 20th century Minnesota. They’re soft cookies that taste a little like fudgy chocolate cake.
Their unique texture and appearance make them a really fun, easy cookie to bake and even gift at Christmastime.
To make them, you’ll generally find recipes asking for sieved high-quality cocoa powder, sugar, oil, eggs, flour, baking powder, and icing sugar.
The latter is used for rolling balls of dough in before the cookies are baked in the oven. When they bake, the powdered sugar layer splits, giving them their traditional crinkly appearance.
Christmas Butter Cookies – Buttery and Dipped in Chocolate
Butter cookies actually have their origins in Denmark and are similar to shortbread.
They’re made using a mixture of flour, sugar, salt, plenty of butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. You can find them baked in a variety of shapes, so feel free to be creative when baking these.
Some are also dipped in a bittersweet chocolate ganache once baked. If you want to have fun with them, you can then add sprinkles. The latter combined with the relatively small number of ingredients make these a fun bake for kids and adults alike.
Medieval Christmas Cookies – Yule Doll Biscuits
One of the oldest Christmas cookie traditions was that of the yule dolls: cookies shaped like animals or people. These were enjoyed after a period of fasting for the Advent period, so people must have really looked forward to them.
Yule Doll Biscuits contained a mix of (something like) butter, honey, flour, nutmeg, saffron, orange, and currants.
Modern versions generally contain a little bit of bicarbonate of soda, too. The yule ‘dolls’ used to have little faces made of the orange peel and currants as well, making them a fun recipe to make with kids.
British Christmas Cookies – Stained Glass Cookies
These are such fun to make, especially when you involve little children. All you need is butter, sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla extract, flour, and Jolly Ranchers.
Roll out your cookie dough and cut out shapes, taking care to also cut out the inside of each cookie by using a smaller cutter. Hearts and stars work very well for this.
Add crushed Jolly Rancher candies to the middle of each cookie on a baking sheet, and bake. This will result in melted candy in the middle of each cookie, making them look just like stained glass.
South American Christmas Cookies – Alfajores
Alfajores probably came from the Middle East before making their way to Spain and, finally, South America in the 1600s.
These delightful sugar cookies are filled with dulce de leche and coated in dried coconut. They’re made by baking two layers of shortbread-style cookies. These are then filled with dulce de leche.
Finally, each cookie is rolled in desiccated coconut. They’re not technically a Christmas cookie, as South Americans tend to enjoy them any time alongside a delicious coffee.
Apparently, Alfajores are amongst the five most popular cookies in the world, so they’re worth making.
Norwegian Christmas Cookies – Krumkake
Norwegian Krumkake are a traditional Christmas cookie, though they look a lot like a Pizzelle or unleavened waffle.
They’re made by mixing butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, milk, water, salt, cornstarch, and flour. Krumkake are then ‘baked’ using a hot cookie iron. While they’re still warm and pliable, they can be shaped into cones.
Krumkake are then, traditionally, filled with some kind of cream. Simple vanilla cream or pastry cream, chocolate mousse, lemon curd, and berry-flavored creams are all popular choices.
Gluten-Free Christmas Cookies
Gluten-free Christmas cookies are easier to achieve now than ever before. There are many different gluten-free flour options available on the market, most of which you can easily use to substitute for regular flour.
Vegan Christmas Cookies
Vegan Christmas cookies are easily made by substituting any animal-derived ingredients with vegan alternatives.
Butter can be replaced with vegan butter or coconut oil, milk with oat or almond varieties, and eggs with aquafaba or yogurt.
There are also plenty of options when it comes to vegan baking chocolate. Some of the most popular vegan brands include Pascha, Pure Food, and Hu.
Traditional Christmas Cookies
As you’ll see from our extensive list above, there are plenty of traditional Christmas cookie recipes available from all over the world.
From Medieval European cookies to South American, Norwegian, and German varieties, every country and era has their own special recipes.
Use one or several of the above to create your own traditional Christmas bakes, and enjoy them year after year.
Easy Christmas Cookies
The easiest Christmas cookies tend to have few ingredients – Danish butter cookies, traditional shortbread, and sugar cookies are among the easiest.
These are all also quite similar in style and ingredients. You’ll find that the best way to work with any kind of buttery dough like this is to chill it well before rolling out a sheet.
That way you’ll be able to cut out even shapes that don’t melt or smudge while you’re transferring them to the oven.
Tips and Ideas on How to Decorate Christmas Cookies
The best part of baking Christmas cookies is arguably the decorating (besides eating them — we know you thought it too.) This is a fun task that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. Below are some of our favorite tips for decorating your special Christmas cookies.
Use High Quality Ingredients
Many Christmas cookie recipes call for only a few ingredients. It therefore makes sense to buy the best possible ones, so they’ll be especially good. High quality vanilla extract, for instance, is well worth it, as is good, fairtrade chocolate.
Follow the Recipe
As with all baked goods, cookies turn out best when you really follow the recipe.
Baking isn’t well-suited for experimenting (unless you’re a very experienced baker, that is.) Pick a recipe you like that ideally already has some good reviews, and stick to it.
Take Your Time
Taking the time to bake and setting out ingredients such as butter and eggs in advance, so they can warm to room temperature, makes sense.
Rushed baking rarely turns out very good. Taking your time with your baking has the added benefit of making it an enjoyable, mindful activity.
Simple Recipe for Christmas Cookies: A Guide
Arguably the simplest cookies you can bake start off with butter and sugar. Here is a basic recipe for tasty sugar cookies you can make yourself or with the help of little kids.
- 1 cup of softened salted butter
- 1 cup of caster sugar
- 1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 3 cups of all purpose flour
- ¾ tsp of baking powder
And here is how you do it:
- Preheat your oven to 350 F and prepare two baking sheets with baking paper.
- Whisk the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy.
- Add the egg and vanilla extract to the mixture and whisk until well combined.
- Mix in the flour and baking powder until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.
- Flour your work surface lightly and roll out the dough until it’s about ⅛” in thickness. If you like, chill your dough a little first so the cookies are easier to cut out and don’t lose their shape.
- Using cookie cutters of your choice, cut out all of your sugar cookies.
- Gently transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets and bake each finished sheet for about 5 minutes or until light golden brown.
Once your cookies have fully cooled, you may ice them with a basic homemade icing. Decorate with sprinkles or sugarpaste decorations of your choice. Merry Christmas.
Best Quotes & Captions to Write on Christmas Cookies
You may wish to bake some cookies with festive messages on them. These are great to hand out to friends and neighbors or as little festive treats for teachers and postal staff.
Regardless of who you bake your cookies for, below are some simple but sweet messages you can write on your Christmas cookies:
- "Merry Christmas"
- "Dear Santa"
- "Merry Grinchmas"
- "Joyeux Noel"
Alternatives to Christmas Cookies
Not everyone can or wants to bake Christmas cookies. Perhaps you already have a relative who makes the best cookies or you’re just not a fan of cookies (if the latter is the case, we’d ask you to reconsider.) Either way, below are two wonderful alternatives to Christmas cookies.
Christmas cake was once called the ‘Twelfth Cake.’ It was made to mark the end of the 12 days of Christmas on January 5th. Originally, these were a little like the well-known Italian Panettone cakes and featured lots of enriched fruit.
Other sources claim Christmas cake was once a simple plum porridge, which was made for people to break their religious fasting.
Modern Christmas cake should feature lots of fruit, brandy, butter, brown sugar, and ground almonds. It should be made well in advance and ‘fed’ the brandy for a few weeks before being iced.
Festive Cheese Board
If you don’t enjoy sweet bakes or can’t have them for dietary reasons, don’t despair. A festive cheese board can be just as good, if not better.
The best cheese boards usually serve a selection of local and classic cheese varieties. Serve a mix of soft, hard, and mold-ripened cheeses alongside jams, jellies, and crudités.
You may also wish to serve fruit such as figs and grapes. If you’re wishing to serve a larger cheese and charcuterie board, add some varieties of local cold meats as well.
If your guests enjoy the odd tipple, don’t forget to also add some wine options or beers.