The premise of the holiday cookie swap is always all fun and games. A festive, nondenominational way to celebrate with friends or co-workers during the holiday season while eating lots of baked goods. Pure, wholesome good times all around. It's supposed to be an egalitarian gathering where everybody goes home with plenty of cookies, and thus, everybody wins. Ha! Suuuuure.
Now that you've been invited, the game is on. Your cookie has to outshine all others. It must be tastier, more unique, more tempting to the eye, more evident of your baking abilities than everyone else's. (Why does it always come to this? Why can't you just be chill?) It must disappear from the table faster than all others, proving its superiority. Nevertheless, you have that one Pinterest-loving co-worker, and you will not be shown up again this year.
So whether you're trying to clinch the entirely-in-your-head title of Cookie Swap Champ, or just looking for some fresh Christmas cookie inspiration, we pulled together this list of our best holiday cookie recipes from the archives. Bake on.
Candy Cane Cookies Recipe
This simple sugar cookie gets a little lift with the help of the humble candy cane. The result is like a scented candle aroma designed specifically to trigger nostalgia, and it'll send you straight to Netflix in search of It’s a Wonderful Life.
Christina Tosi's Cookie Dough Cookies Recipe
This chocolate chip cookie is triply foolproof. First, it’s a recipe from Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi, queen supreme of excellent sweets. Second, it’s the kind of perfectly gooey you think you can only find in a bakery. Third, she made it on camera with us too, in case you’re feeling uncertain of your recipe reading ability.
The Perfect Gingerbread Man Cookies Recipe
Romance novelist Lynn Hubbard gave us this recipe for gingerbread cookies, as inspired by her erotic e-book in which a lost young woman stumbles upon the cabin of a well-endowed anthropomorphic gingerbread man. You can keep their salacious backstory to yourself at the office holiday party, though.
Pentagram Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
Certainly one way to stand out from the cookie swap crowd—or to thoroughly confuse your very wholesome family—would be to take up a decidedly pagan motif with these pentagram-printed gingerbread cookies.
Crispy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Recipe
Oatmeal raisin cookies always feel a little bit like your mom trying to trick you into eating your vegetables, but that’s kind of ridiculous—there’s still two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar going on here.
Cardamom Almond Cookies Recipe
These cute little cookies may look simple, but they're surprisingly sophisticated, with a warm hit of cardamom and crunchy toasted almonds. Not your run-of-the-mill, standard holiday fare, but festive nonetheless.
Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
Great British Bake Off star Ruby Tandoh reminds us that not all cookies must be made with butter. In her cookie recipe, olive oil, dark chocolate, and a garnish of flaky sea salt lend a sophistication to a cookie standby, without skimping on the indulgence.
Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
If you’d ask us our opinion of dried cranberries and white chocolate individually, we’d probably say we prefer to take a pass. But put 'em together in this cookie recipe, and you’ve got some converts. For something even more unexpected, swap in your favorite dried dark fruits, like blueberries or cherries.
Salted Peanut Butter Cookies Recipe
Once again, we went straight to the experts for this classic. Peanut butter cookies are one of the most simple cookies to have have in your arsenal, so you should have a good one. You can't go wrong with this recipe from the good folks at Ovenly.
White House Holiday Cookies Recipe
Do you, too, miss the days when joyous fluff balls, Bo and Sunny Obama, roamed the snowy grounds of the White House? Flex your royal icing piping skills and commemorate them with this sugar cookie cut-out recipe from White House executive pastry chef Susie Morrison. Or decorate them like your own beloved canine.
Tahini Shortbread Cookies Recipe
Be the maverick who uses savory ingredients in your sweets. Made with tahini, then rolled in toasted sesame seeds, these shortbread cookies are nutty, soft, buttery and just a tad salty—perfect for the person who never wants to order dessert.
Mariah Carey's Sugar Cookies Recipe
We tried really hard to get to the bottom of the infamous cookie from the pop diva behind our favorite holiday tune. We couldn’t quite get there, but you can still give this sugar cookie recipe a try, and don't act like you won't be dancing around the kitchen, using your mixing spoon as a mic to belt it out.
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
Whether you're the lone vegan in a sea of butter- and egg-eaters, or you're looking out for that one plant-based co-worker or friend who never has anything to eat, these vegan chocolate chip cookies from baker and food writer extraordinaire Alicia Kennedy will satisfy just about anyone.
Classic Sugar Cookies Recipe
Use this perfect blank canvas of a simple sugar cookie dough to create envy-inducing sweets. Whether it's sprinkles, royal icing, buttercream icing, or sugar crystals, it's time to let your creativity run wild.
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever Recipe
These are the best chocolate chip cookies ever, and Culinary Director Farideh Sadeghin stands by them. We throw down that gauntlet, and we encourage you to do the same. Crispy exterior, gooey inside, over a pound of chocolate, and sprinkled with salt on top. Perfection.
White Chocolate Eggnog Cookies Recipe
This eggnog-inspired cookie has all of the flavors of the festive holiday beverage, but without any of the icky reservations about drinking a room-temperature beverage with raw eggs in it.
Chocolate Chunk Sprinkle Cookies Recipe
Brightly colored sprinkles and a touch of sea salt make these chocolate chunk cookies extra special, like if a funfetti cake and a chocolate chip cookie had a chewy, delicious love child.
Cocoa-Almond Uglies Cookies Recipe
When it comes to good cookies, we trust Dorie Greenspan, who's written a whole book full of them. Her gluten-free cocoa-almond cookie recipe might not be the prettiest cookie in the pile, but they taste beautiful.
Did you know that you can make snickerdoodles, and that they don't just magically appear as a treat from Mom? Well, now you do. This snickerdoodle recipe is simple, classic, and irresistible.
Chewy Ginger Snap Cookies Recipe
Who says a ginger snap cookie has to have a "snap" at all? We prefer them soft and chewy and perfectly spiced. If you do too, this recipe's for you.
Miso Brown Butter Cookie Recipe
With miso for a savory kick, white chocolate for sweetness, and ground coffee for just enough bitterness to round it all out, these unconventional cookies will be the talk of the swap.
Vegan Chocolate Cookies Recipe
Like powdered-sugar-dusted clouds but made of chocolate, these super-easy vegan cookies are sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Toasted Walnut Shortbread Recipe
A shortbread cookie dough is the perfect blank canvas for adding whatever other mix-ins your little heart desires—fruit zest, herbs, spices—but we suggest starting with toasted walnuts.
Black Cardamom Molasses Cookies Recipe
These kinda-like-a-gingersnap molasses cookies get a sophisticated lift from black pepper, black cardamom, and enough warming spices to keep you cozy on even the most cold and dreary winter days.
Chocolate Hazelnut and Pretzel CBD Cookies Recipe
Hazelnut spread and salty pretzel chunks seriously level up what's otherwise a standard chocolate chip cookie, while a little bit of non-psychoactive CBD oil kicks your whole vibe down a notch. CBD might be all the rage right now, but give your buds a heads up when you bring this to the cookie swap just in case it's not their thing.
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