Christmas Cookie Guide: Traditions Old & New

Christmas cookies are one of those traditions that has an extra special aspect: shareability. Making batches and batches of cookies means you can spread the joy and share them with neighbors, friends, and family. Plus, making them is often a sweet memory of its own that almost rivals the joy of eating them!

This year, we’ve gathered a few heritage, traditional, and all-American cookie recipes to share with you all as you enjoy this final week before Christmas and the rest of the Christmas season. So gather the family, get out the ingredients, and join our contributors in adding one (or all) of these delicious cookies to your Christmas traditions.

New Traditions

Chocolate Fudgy Sugar Cookies
From the kitchen of Jamie Levenhagen

The story: I started making this recipe the year my boyfriend (husband now) came back from a 2 year deployment. He absolutely loved them! I’m not even sure where the original recipe came from. Every year since he requests them for Christmas. The recipe has changed over the years to accommodate more to our tastes. This year the kids called them the Chocolate Fudgy Sugar Cookies. They are a family favorite!

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2 cups of flour

1 tsp of baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

4 ounces Bakers Unsweetened Chocolate

1 cup of soft butter

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla


  1. Mix flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
  2. Warm chocolate and butter in a double boiler. When melted add 1 cup of sugar, egg and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. Stir in flour mixture slowly.
  4. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375F.
  6. Take cookies and roll into balls. Roll in remaining 1/2 cup sugar.
  7. Place on Parchment paper and lightly press down so sides crack.
  8. Bake for 8 minutes. (If you like crispy cookies bake up to 10 minutes.)


Notes: We love to double this recipe. We’ve also added 1 1/2 cups of sugar during the double boiler method instead of 1 cup. Extra sugar for some sweet families. It really is the easiest recipe we’ve found and changing it up can be so fun.

Candy canes crushed can be added.


Generational Traditions

Sand Tart Cookies
From the kitchen of Leslie Atherholt

The story: I have been making sand tarts for as long as I can remember. It all started in our rowhome’s small kitchen! First as the “nut girl” – placing the walnut piece on the cookie at the appropriate time in my Dad’s decorating process. Next I was allowed to put sprinkles on – but only if I ignored my Mom’s “Dave, that’s too much!” When I had a kitchen of my own, and children to teach, the process moved to my house. I was promoted to roller and cutter, Mom manned the oven and my Dad taught my kids, one by one, the decorating process. Whipped egg whites – walnut – cinnamon – sprinkles. So many wonderful memories watching my children grow up with this holiday tradition. It still happens each year (I think we missed one right after my dad died), and we pause before we begin to remember. Everyone gets a new cookie cutter each year to build their collection in hopes that after I’m gone, our tradition survives.

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1.5 cups sugar

1/2 pound butter

3 eggs

4 cups flour

2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla


Cream sugar and butter, add eggs one at a time until combined

Mix in flour, cream of tartar and baking soda until combined

Mix in vanilla

Roll thin, cut fun shapes, decorate with whipped egg whites, cinnamon, sprinkles and walnuts.

Bake at 300° for 10-12 minutes, switching racks, until lightly golden.



The official, un-official order of the decorations is to brush the cookies with whipped egg whites, place a walnut (or piece of walnut) in the center, sprinkle with cinnamon, decorate with sugar sprinkles.

American Traditions

Early American Christmas Cookies
Recipe found on



For cookie dough:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground coriander (very mild flavor; add 1-2 teaspoons allspice if stronger, spicier flavor is desired)
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup milk

For topping:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

From the recipe notes: “These coriander-spiced Christmas cookies are based on a recipe from Amelia Simmons’ cookbook, American Cookery, published in 1798. Cookies can be eaten the same day, or can be stored for several weeks in a stoneware container for the flavor to develop. The original 1798 recipe recommends storing these cookies for 6 months for the best flavor and a softer texture.” – Holly Tree

Heritage Traditions: German Cookies

Pfeffernüsse Cookies
Recipe found on

PC: Haley,


2 ¼ cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground all spice
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (113 g or 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (150 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
1 teaspoon anise extract, (or vanilla if you prefer)
½ cup (87 g) confectioners’ sugar

From the recipe notes: “Pfeffernusse are small German spice cookies, although they are also popular in Denmark and The Netherlands. The most distinctive ingredient being black pepper (Pfeffernüsse translates to peppernuts). They also contain either anise seeds or anise extract to give it that licorice flavor.” – Haley, at 

Want to share your own family cookie tradition? Tag us (@weareamericanmom) in your Instagram Stories and use #AmericanChristmasCookie.