With Thanksgiving feasting almost behind us, it’s time to start thinking about all things Christmas! We’re watching Elf on repeat in my house and getting our favorite recipes together for holiday baking. And of course, that all begins with Christmas cookies. Today I’ve gathered 31 easy Christmas cookie recipes for you to try and are also delving into some fun Christmas cookie history!
Where Did the Tradition of Christmas Cookies Come From?
Baking cookies at Christmas time is a tradition that pre-dates Christmas as a holiday. It began with winter solstice festivals when people would celebrate the changing seasons and also indulge in a feast before the lean times of deep winter began. The pint-sized desserts they made during this period were not the same as the cookies we enjoy today since the same ingredients were not available, but the concept of wrapping up a feast with a bite of something sweet was the same!
By the Middle Ages, this tradition had become part of Christmas. Spices like nutmeg and cinnamon were beginning to become more common, while ingredients like sugar and butter were expensive delicacies saved for special occasions. Medieval cooks would save these ingredients for holidays like Christmas, then go all out making cookies for feasting and also gift-giving. This is where our tradition of giving cookies to our friends, family, and neighbors comes from. Because Medieval cooks were using expensive and rare ingredients, the cookies they baked were truly a gift in every sense of the word.
What is the Most Popular Christmas Cookie?
In the United States, the winner for the best Christmas cookie ever varies by state. According to a YouGov survey, chocolate chip cookies are the most popular nationwide at 78% of people saying they are their favorite Christmas cookie. It varies by region though with Peanut Butter Balls similar to these cookies from Cookies & Cups being 12% more popular in the Midwest. In California, the most popular cookies are Peanut Butter Blossoms, while New York gives that honor to Black & White Cookies.
Top 10 Favorite Christmas Cookies in the US
- Chocolate chip cookies – 78% say it’s their favorite cookie
- Sugar Cookies – 64%
- Double Chocolate Cookies – 61%
- Shortbread Cookies – 61%
- Brookies – 61%
- M&M Cookies – 61%
- Butter Cookies – 60%
- Peanut Butter Cookies – 60%
- Peanut Butter Blossoms – 60%
- Butter Pecan Cookies – 60%
When putting together the list of Christmas cookies below I tried to cover favorites from every state!
Why Do We Leave Cookies for Santa?
Many children love leaving cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve as part of their holiday celebration. But did you ever wonder where this ritual comes from? Although people have been leaving treats for St. Nick for ages, the formal tradition of leaving cookies for Santa began in 1930’s America during the Great Depression. During that time of great hardship, parents wanted to teach their children that even during times of great need it was important to give to others and show gratitude for whatever Santa was able to bring them. Talk about a pure-hearted holiday tradition that helps children remember the spirit of Christmas.
Children also leave treats for Santa in other countries, but not always cookies & milk. In Britain and Australia, children leave out Sherry and mince pies for Santa, while in Ireland St. Nick can expect a pint of Guinness along with his cookies. In France, kids leave a glass of wine for Père Noël and fill their shoes with hay and carrots for his reindeer.
31 of The Best Christmas Cookie Recipes
Now that we’ve explored some of the fun history of Christmas cookies, let’s get to the recipes, shall we? Here are 31 easy recipes – one for every day in December leading up to the holiday, plus more for good luck! Be sure to check out our roundup of the best sugar cookie recipes for even more ideas.
Gingerbread Man Cookies
If you want to conjure old fashioned Christmas vibes look no further than these classic gingerbread cookies. These cookies are crisp on the outside, soft in the middle, and perfectly flavored with molasses and holiday spices.
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Peanut butter blossom cookies look so fancy, but these beautiful bites are incredibly easy to make! Soft and chewy cookies with a crackly sugar crust are baked in the oven, then topped with a Hershey’s chocolate kiss while the cookies are still soft. Like the sugar cookies above, these Christmas treats are so simple kids can definitely help make them!
Perfect Spritz Cookies
These buttery cookies are classic, nostalgic and festive all at the same time! You’ll need a cookie press to create the elegant shapes. You’ll learn how to use a cookie press to make the most beautiful pressed sugar cookies with this recipe.
Perfect Snickerdoodle Cookies
I can personally vouch for how amazing these snickerdoodle cookies are since I’ve been using Shelly’s recipe since she first shared it 10+ years ago. This is the cookie my kids’ classmates would request anytime there was a school party and parents were baking up some fun treats. With that kind of reputation, you know these cookies are going to be a total winner for Christmas.
Polish Cream Cheese Cookies
Tender, buttery cookie dough wrapped around any kind of jam or jelly I want? Yes please! Also known as Kolaczi, these Polish cream cheese cookies are elegant and easy to make. Perfect for holiday baking extravaganzas!
Keto Peanut Butter Cookies
If you’re following the Keto diet you may think you need to skip the cookie tray – but not so! These easy peanut butter cookies are delicious, healthy and only need 4 ingredients. With zero flour they’re also gluten free treats that are a totally satisfying addition to your Christmas cookie offerings!
Gluten Free Peppermint Chocolate Cookies
If you’re gluten free or have guests visiting who are, these simple chocolate cookies are just the thing! Soft and chewy cookies are dipped in chocolate and then topped with crushed peppermint candies for a festive Christmas treat.
The Best Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
These 5 ingredient chocolate chip cookies are totally vegan and totally satisfying! Made with simple ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, these chewy vegan cookies are made with peanut butter and mashed banana.
Gluten Free Gingersnap Cookies
Made with molasses, spice and everything nice, gingersnap cookies are another classic Christmas cookie. They have similar flavors to gingerbread cookies but are drop cookies instead of cut outs. This version is so good you won’t even know these no-fuss cookies are gluten free!
Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies
Thumbprint cookies are usually filled with jam, but these next-level Christmas cookies are filled with salted caramel instead. Drizzled with chocolate and finished with a sprinkle of sea salt, these delightful cookies are a decadent as they are delicious.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ritz Cookies
These no bake cookies take the buttery, salty goodness of Ritz crackers and pair them with peanut butter and melted chocolate. These Christmas cookies are the ultimate salty-sweet combo and the could not be any easier to make!
Want even more Christmas cookie ideas? Be sure to check out our recipe finder, which has literally hundreds of the best cookie recipes for you to try!