120 Healthy Holiday Cookies
120 Healthy Holiday Cookies
Stained Glass Window Cookies
We found that Jolly Rancher candies produced the brightest, most vibrant "stained glass." Be sure to use the original sweet candies, not the sour flavors. To crush, place each color in its own heavy-duty zip-top bag; crush with a rolling pin or meat mallet. You'll find sparkling sugar in craft or specialty stores, but you can also use turbinado sugar as a substitute.
Almond Butter Snickerdoodles
When Michaela Rosenthal's daughter moved out, she left behind an unopened jar of almond butter. Unsure of what to do with the butter, Rosenthal was inspired to reproduce almond cookies she'd had at an Asian restaurant. It took several attempts, but the result is a satisfying and healthy version of the treat.
Raspberry-Rosemary Jam Bars
Using fresh raspberries and making your own jam is actually pretty easy, and gives you a lot more control over the sugar content, which makes these desserts healthier, but also keeps them from being cloying or overly sweet. The real genius is in the rosemary, which adds a surprising adult twist on the taste—and will have guests asking you for the recipe.
Look for five-spice powder on the spice aisle or with the Asian foods in your grocery store. We love the sparkle of sanding sugar used to coat the outside of the cookies; you’ll find it in craft stores. Supermarket turbinado works well, too.
Matcha-Chocolate Crackle Cookies
These crinkly dark chocolate cookies are a great alternative to iced sugar cookies: not cloyingly sweet, easy to make, and with no artificial colors or flavors. Matcha gives the cookies a light green color and an earthy, faintly grassy flavor.
Roll-Out Holiday Cookies
This gluten-free recipe makes classic sugar cookies that are perfect for decorating to your liking with frosting and sprinkles. Shape them into pretty hearts for Valentine's Day, egg-shaped ovals for Easter, four-leaf clovers for St. Patrick's Day, and trees or stars for Christmas.
Almond-Currant Linzer Cookies
For these easy linzer cookies, we like the more updated look of off-center cutouts—but you can go more traditional by keeping the cutouts centered.
Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
You probably have everything on hand to make these chewy, chocolaty peanut butter cookies. To fit the cookies on a single sheet pan, divide cookies into 5 rows of 4. Pressing the cookies flat helps them bake quickly and get lovely crisp edges; otherwise they'll be too round and undercooked.
Matcha Biscotti With Bittersweet Drizzle
Bitterness rating: 3/10. If the dough’s stickiness makes it difficult to work with, dampen your hands slightly before shaping it.
This recipe, reminiscent of the classic black and white cookie, is a quick and easy gluten-free option that everyone will love. In addition to adding whole grains, sorghum flour lends a nutty flavor that pairs well with bittersweet chocolate.
With a double shot of chocolate and hazelnut flavors, kids and adults will rave over these filled cookies. The espresso powder is optional, but it intensifies the chocolate flavor.
Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies
Based on the classic whoopie pie, these soft sandwich cookies provide all the pleasures of traditional carrot cake in a fun-to-eat package, including the thick, tangy cream cheese frosting—especially the cream cheese frosting.
Iced Browned Butter Sugar Cookies
With nutty, caramel notes from browned butter and a fair bit of salt to balance the flavors, these cookies will become an instant favorite. You can roll out the dough right after combining all the ingredients—no chilling required. Look for pearlized sugar in gourmet markets or craft stores; the coarse crystals reflect light to give the cookies a sparkly, jewel-like appearance.
Ginger-Lemon Pinwheel Cookies
These cookies are impressive and don't take as much finagling as you might think. The key is to chill the dough before rolling and slicing.
Iced Gingerbread Biscotti
This biscotti recipe makes for a festive accessory to a cup of after-dinner coffee. It also makes a wonderful holiday gift! Be sure to let the cookie logs cool after the first bake so they slice cleanly and don't crumble.
Lemon, Lavender, and Poppy Seed Cookies
Simple homemade dough provides the ideal base for a cookie made with naturally sweet ingredients.
Salted Chocolate-Topped Shortbread
These whole-wheat cookies have the expected “short” texture of classic shortbread, plus an irresistible buttery flavor. Cultured butter is worth seeking out here; the richer flavor really comes through in a cookie like this where the butter is front and center. You can also use regular unsalted butter for a still delicious but slightly less complex flavor.
Using tahini in the filling instead of heavy cream helps keep sat fat in check. And tahini’s subtle flavor won’t overwhelm the chocolate in the way many nut butters might—though cashew butter would be a good, mild substitute if you have it on hand.
Chocolate-Dipped Almond Meringues
Dress up these almond-flavored meringue cookies by dipping half of each cookie in a glaze of melted chocolate.
Coconut, Lime, and Macadamia Cookies
Ideal for a hostess gift, potluck party or afternoon snack, this gourmet cookie combination will have you reaching for one more.
PB, Banana, and Oat Cookies
Lightly coat your hands with flour to make rolling the dough into balls easier. The dough freezes well. Freeze the dough after step 1, thaw in the refrigerator, then proceed with step 2. The powdered sugar coating gives these cookies an appealing cracked finish. Serve with coffee to echo the espresso.
Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
Add some color to your cookie tray with these jam-filled thumbprints. This recipe could also be your healthy alternative for the next school party.
Pine Nut Cookies
Almond paste is an ingenious way to flavor, tenderize, and sweeten our Pine Nut Cookies because it won't cause spreading like excess sugar or warm butter will.
Mexican Spiced Shortbread Cookies
"The inspiration for these sinfully rich-tasting cookies combines my obsession with shortbread, dulce de leche, and a restaurant cream cheese dessert," said reader and recipe developer Jennifer Brumfield.
Grapefruit-Campari Bars With Shortbread Crust
Treat yourself to a sophisticated riff on lemon bars. This grown-up treat embraces the bitterness in both grapefruit and Campari, balancing the flavor with a rich, buttery shortbread crust. When we create our healthier desserts, we think about where the fat will be best used—we strategically place it where it will make the most difference. Here, a good amount of butter goes into the whole-wheat crust to give it an irresistible shortbread-like texture. Just be sure to lightly pat the crust in place; if you press too hard and compact it into the baking dish, it will become dense and tough.
Rocky Road Cookies
Satisfy a sweet tooth in seconds. These decadent cookies are oozing with rich dark chocolate and creamy marshmallow.
Raspberry Linzer Windowpane Cookies
These beautiful raspberry cookies are easy to prepare. Cut them into shapes—round, rectangular, or even star-shaped. You can reroll the dough scraps, but chill them first.
Coconut Macaroons With Bittersweet Chocolate and Pistachios
Sweet and chewy coconut macaroons have always been an easy favorite for anyone following a gluten-free diet. We jazzed up these naturally gluten-free beauties by dipping them in bittersweet chocolate and studding them with salty pistachios.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Store up to one week in an airtight container—if they last that long. We suggest keeping a dozen in the freezer for emergencies.
Mexican Chocolate Cookies
These cookies—bittersweet chocolate that mellows the ground peppers' heat--earned our Test Kitchens' highest rating. They're lovely after dinner with a few last sips of red wine.
Make up to two days ahead, and store in an airtight container at room temperature. The chocolate and hazelnut coating adds textural interest to these airy, sweet treats.
Orange, Sesame, and Honey Cookies
Finish off an Asian-inspired dinner with a tray of these delicious, easy-to-make cookies.
Anise Tea Crescents
Rolling the cookies in powdered sugar while they're still warm results in a deliciously sweet, snowy coating.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints
The favorite sandwich flavor combination comes together in these adorable preserves-filled cookies. Use any type of jam or preserves.
Classic Iced Sugar Cookies
Whether you're welcoming kids home from school, baking a treat for a party, or enjoying an afternoon to yourself, these cookies are the just-right sweet you need. If you want to create colorful cookies, divide the icing into portions and use food coloring to tint it different hues.
Banana Rum Coconut Cookies
This finalist for the Ultimate Reader Recipe Contest was developed by Christine Dohlmar of Valrico, Florida. "I love oatmeal cookies, so I did my best to come up with a low-fat version," she explained.
White Chocolate, Strawberry, and Oatmeal Cookies
A mere one-quarter cup of butter yields crispy, light cookies and keeps calories in check. Dried strawberries lend fiber, color, and subtle sweetness. You can find them in larger supermarkets, or substitute raisins or dried cranberries. Because the dough is heavy, we used a sturdy stand mixer. You can use a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar, then stir in the remaining ingredients by hand.
Think of these as a variation of thumbprint cookies. Vanilla butter cookies are filled with fruit preserves and drizzled with a powdered sugar glaze.
Chewy Chocolate-Cherry Cookies
This cookie recipe contrasts the tartness of cherries with the sweetness of cocoa and chocolate chips for an elegant, delicious treat.
You can prepare and refrigerate these luscious bars a day or two in advance. They are actually easier to cut once they have been completely chilled.
Fig and Cream Cheese Bars
With the honeyed flavor of dried figs, a sweet cream cheese layer, and a buttery, crumbly crust, these bars garnered our Test Kitchens' highest rating. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Originally appearing in our March/April 1993 issue, these gingersnap cookies created by Elizabeth Graubard of Palm Harbor, Florida, have stood the test of time. We swapped flavorful butter for the original's margarine and still love the snappy flavor and crisp texture.
Truffle-Iced Sugar Cookies
You might find it hard to believe that these impressive cookies taste even better than they look.
Whole Grain Animal Cracker Cookies
These animal cracker cookies would make a great recipe to tackle with little kitchen helpers. Swapping white flour for a blend of white whole-wheat and oat flours provides fiber and a delightfully nutty sweetness that you aren't going to find on the supermarket shelf.
Green Pumpkinseed and Cranberry Crispy Bars
We loved this creative take on the traditional Rice Krispies bar. Green pumpkinseeds are also sometimes sold as pepitas. In humid weather, cool the bars in the refrigerator to keep them from becoming too sticky.
Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread
Dark brown sugar adds rich caramel notes to these cookies; turbinado sugar provides crunch.
Oatmeal, Chocolate, and Walnut Cookies
Chewy oatmeal and crunchy walnuts can completely transform the typical lunch box chocolate chip cookie, adding new flavors and texture while subtly increasing the cookie's nutritional value.
Buttery and sweet with a hint of spice, these favorite cinnamon-sugar cookies, otherwise known as "snickerdoodles," are right for any occasion.
Hello Dolly Bars
These bar cookies are also known as seven-layer bars. They take less than 30 minutes to make and call for just 8 ingredients, making Hello Dolly Bars the perfect dessert for taking along, well, just about anywhere.
Cranberry-Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate chips or cranberries might seem like the best part about these cookies, but it's really that each cookie is 75 calories.
Autumn Maple Cutout Cookies
Use real maple syrup for best results. These cookies may look like a seasonal treat but, they're so good that you'll want to enjoy them all year long.
Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
Brown sugar and butter underscore the tawny sweetness of the almond toffee bits. What's not to love about these crunchy, chewy cookies?
Macadamia and Ginger Cookies
This recipe is an adaptation of Italian amaretti. It calls for macadamias, but hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or pine nuts would also be good. Using nuts in baking allows you to incorporate their heart-healthy fats—and satisfying texture. If you are sensitive to ginger, use the lower end of the called-for range.
Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Given that both chocolate and coconut are not as bad as once thought, and given that they taste mighty good together, we made a batch of these toasty, chocolaty treats to celebrate. Like all sweets with few other nutrients, though, they are treats—perfectly healthy every once in a while.
Giant Chocolate Chunk Cookies
"My grandkids love these cookies because they're nice and big, with lots of chocolate chips. They're easy to freeze—just wrap individually in heavy-duty plastic wrap, and store in a zip-top bag," said reader Marie Rizzio.
Letting the dough rest at least 24 hours before baking allows the spices in this handmade version of the classic German cookie to mellow and meld.
Deep Dark Chocolate Biscotti
This decadent-seeming chocolate biscotti recipe is actually pretty healthy and features good-for-you ingredients like whole-wheat flour, flaxseed, and unsalted almonds.
Spicy Oatmeal Crisps
Pepper may sound like an odd ingredient for a cookie, but it complements the other spices well (although you can omit it if you prefer).
Swedish Almond Cardamom Stars
Don't substitute marzipan for the almond paste, because it's a bit too sweet for this buttery, lightly spiced cookie. Look for the almond paste in tubes, such as Odense brand, or in cans, like King Arthur brand.
These cranberry-oatmeal bar cookies strike a nice flavor balance: not too sweet and not too tart. Be sure to zest the orange before you squeeze the juice.
Cream Cheese Meltaways With Lemon Glaze
When shaping these buttery cookies, do not try to form perfectly smooth balls. If the dough is handled too much, the cookies will become heavy and dense.
Humble ingredients in these cornmeal-based cookies yield a light, subtly spiced sweet treat. The touch of lemon is a "refreshing surprise," says one reviewer.
Macadamia Butter Cookies With Dried Cranberries
We love these thick, satisfying cookies as humble as peanut butter cookies but not as crumbly. Dried cranberries provide a slightly tart counterpoint to the macadamia nuts' richness. The dough is somewhat sticky; chilling it briefly makes handling easier.
Crunchy Sesame Cookies
Roasted sesame-seed paste and dark sesame oil deliver a deep, nutty flavor. A touch of corn syrup and cornstarch ensure crispness.
Double-Vanilla Meringue Cookies
By using vanilla bean and extract, you’ll get double the vanilla flavor in these meringue cookies.
Maple-Walnut Spice Cookies
Store these frosted cookies between layers of parchment paper or wax paper to keep them from sticking together. You can bake and freeze the cookies up to a month in advance; bring the cookies to room temperature before frosting them.
Lemon-Honey Drop Cookies
These cute little cookies will be a hit for any occasion. Wrap them up in a sweet little box as a gift or arrange them on a platter for a light dessert treat.