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Start with This Easy Recipe to Make All the Christmas Cookies You Need

A plate full of decorated Christmas sugar cookies.
Jason Stitt/Shutterstock.com

If you wanna make several kinds of Christmas cookies but are short on time, there’s an easy solution. One basic recipe can unlock a wide array of delicious cookie varieties, without all the hassle.

Instead of scouring cookbooks and blogs for separate recipes, the secret of expert bakers is to start with a favorite sugar cookie recipe and upgrade from there. A basic sugar cookie provides a blank canvas for a number of different flavor modifications. Plus, they’re super easy to make!

This guide covers everything you need to transform one basic cookie recipe into five different, but equally yummy, treats.

Basic Sugar Cookie Recipe

A sugar cookie held up, with half broken off; a plate of sugar cookies seen from above
Baker by Nature/Handle the Heat

The secret to easily making a wide variety of cookies is to start with a simple, solid base recipe. By starting with a soft, slightly chewy, sugar cookie recipe, you’ll get a batch of beautifully textured treats to form the perfect flavor base for any modification.

If you already have a favorite sugar cookie recipe, you can just use that one. If not, look for one that has a subtle flavor and a texture you like. These Chewy Sugar Cookies, for example, have a secret ingredient (cream cheese) that gives them a particularly chewy, ever-so-slightly decadent twist. Try this recipe if you like your cookies extra-soft, but not crumbly.

If you prefer a tender cookie with classic, crackled tops, start with these simple Sugar Cookies. This simple recipe packs just the right amount of subtle vanilla flavor, along with a buttery, tender texture, that makes them the perfect base for many different cookie varieties.


Transforming basic sugar cookies into cinnamon-y snickerdoodles is one of the easiest things to do.

You can follow your chosen sugar recipe to the letter, but just add in the following steps before baking:

  1. In a separate bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.
  2. After rolling the cookie dough into individual balls, roll each lightly in the cinnamon and sugar mixture before placing it on the baking sheet.

Orange Vanilla Cookies

If citrus is more your style, you can turn a basic sugar cookie into a sweet, tangy orange vanilla cookie. All it takes is adding one new ingredient:

  1. Zest one medium-sized orange.
  2. Add the zest when creaming together the butter and sugar (before the eggs and dry ingredients are added).
  3. If you frost your cookies, you can add another 1 or 2 teaspoons of orange zest to it for even more of a citrus punch (optional).

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Thumbprint Christmas cookies filled with strawberry jam.
Ildi Papp/Shutterstock.com

Jam Thumbprint cookies are a childhood classic, and they’re not that complicated to make. Again, you just start with your basic sugar cookie recipe—you don’t even have to add any ingredients to the dough itself. The trick comes with how they’re baked and what happens after.

Follow these steps:

  1. Once you’ve formed the dough into individual balls, gently press your thumb in the center, making an indentation.
  2. Fill the indentation with a spoonful of your favorite jam.
  3. Bake according to the recipe, and then cool completely.

Frosted Cookies with a Twist

If you love frosted sugar cookies but are bored with your same old frosting recipe, give it a subtle boost with some almond extract.

Just follow these steps:

  1. Make a vanilla buttercream or cream cheese frosting according to your usual recipe.
  2. When you add the vanilla extract, add 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract, as well.

Cardamom Spice Sugar Cookies

For a more sophisticated, unexpected twist, try turning your basic sugar cookies into cardamom spice cookies. The secret is the flavorful spice blend.

Follow these steps:

  1. Prepare your sugar cookie recipe as usual up to the dry ingredients.
  2. Mix 1-1/2 teaspoons of cardamom, 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon in with your dry ingredients.
  3. Roll and bake according to your recipe.

If you want to make more than basic sugar cookies this year but are short on time, shake things up with any of these simple tricks. And, of course, having all the right cookie-baking gear will speed up the process, as well!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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