The recipe I’m about to share can only be described as a magical. It’s a basic sugar cookie dough recipe—a really delicious one—that you can use to make ten easy Christmas cookies. In fact, you can make even more than ten flavors if you want. And it’s not even hard.
See what I mean? Magic.
The beauty of this sugar cookie dough recipe is that it’s easy to make and is a versatile base for adding different flavors. Also, it has just the right texture to make roll-out cookies or to shape into a log for cut-and-bake cookies. Then, store the dough in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to 2 months and slice and bake when you’re ready for fresh cookies.
I developed this straightforward and reliable recipe (my favorite kind!) by cobbling together my three favorite sugar cookie recipes and it has the best qualities of each: it’s buttery, not too sweet, and easy to work with. The resulting cookies taste delicious plain, with icing, or even better with mix-in’s, making this my all-around, go-to cookie recipe—and not just during the holiday season. Though they are best this time of year. In fact, I always make extra batches in December to have on hand for the next few months.
Just this week, I tripled the recipe to put together this tutorial. I did it all in one afternoon and was able to make many different kids of cookies without much more effort than I would have put into making a single batch of basic chocolate chip cookies. I felt like the Queen of Cookieland and I barely broke a sweat.
In addition to the basic recipe below, I’ve shared ideas for how to turn this cookie dough into 10 different delicious cookies. Honestly, though, my ideas are the tip of the iceberg. There are a few additional flavor thoughts at the very end of this post to get your gears moving—the possibilities are endless. Go with what you love!
Basic Sugar Cookie Recipe
By Jane Maynard of This Week for Dinner
Makes around 3 dozen 2-inch cookies
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, combine the butter and sugar at medium speed for 4 minutes. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat for 1-2 more minutes at medium.
- Reduce the speed of your mixer to low and add in the dry ingredients. As they combine with the wet, slowly increase the speed to medium-low. Mix until everything is just blended, being careful not to overwork the dough. Remove the dough from the mixing bow and divide in half.
- For roll-out, cookie cutter cookies: Make two thick discs with each portion of dough, wrap well in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. (The dough can be frozen for up to 2 months at this point.) When you are ready to bake, roll out the dough on a well-floured surface until it is 1/4-inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters.
- For slice-and-bake cookie dough: Form each half of the dough into a log that’s about two inches in diameter, squaring off the ends to make for even slicing. Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. (The dough can be frozen for up to 2 months at this point.) When you are ready to bake, slice the log into 1/4-inch thick discs.
- When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350º F. Place cookies on a parchment paper- or silicone baking mat-lined cookie sheet with about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for about 10 minutes; cookies should be set, but just very lightly browned on the bottom only. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Serve or store in an airtight container up to 1 week at room temperature or up to 2 months in the freezer.
Sugar Cookie Dough Option #1: Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
This is the most classic use of sugar cookie dough. Get out the rolling pin and cookie cutters and have some fun with the kids! You can eat the cookies plain, top with icing, or dip in sugar before baking. See step 4 in the recipe for how-to details.
Sugar Cookie Dough Option #2: Chocolate-Dipped Cookies
Melt 1 package of high-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave on high, 1 minute at a time, stirring at each minute mark until the chocolate is very smooth. Dip plain, sliced-and-baked cookies in the chocolate and let cool for a few hours on parchment paper.
Sugar Cookie Dough Option #3: Coconut Lime Cookies
In step 2, add in the zest of 2 limes along with the eggs and vanilla. After the dough has chilled in the refrigerator, but prior to baking, let the cookie dough log sit on the counter for about 10 minutes before rolling it in shredded coconut. Press the coconut into the dough with your hands, then slice and bake as directed.
Sugar Cookie Dough Option #4: Chocolate Chip Cookies
After all of the dry ingredients are incorporated into the dough in step 3, add 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips. Mix until just combined before continuing as directed.
Sugar Cookie Dough Option #5: Pecan Sandies
After all of the dry ingredients are incorporated into the dough in step 3, add 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans. Mix until just combined before continuing as directed.
Sugar Cookie Dough Option #6: Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies
In step 2, add in the zest of 2 lemons and 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds along with the eggs and vanilla.
Sugar Cookie Dough Option #7: Chocolate Cookies
Substitute 1/4 cup cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of flour throughout.
Sugar Cookie Dough Option #8: Sparkle Sugar Cookies
Once you cut the dough into slices, but prior to baking, dip them in granulated sugar. Press the sugar into the dough with your fingers so that it sticks.
Sugar Cookie Dough Option #9: Cranberry Cookies
After all of the dry ingredients are incorporated into the dough in step 3, add 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries. Mix until just combined before continuing as directed.
Sugar Cookie Dough Option #10: Snickerdoodles
Combine a 1/2 cup of sugar with anywhere from 1 teaspoon–1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (depending on how cinnamon-y you want your cookies to taste). Once you cut the dough into slices, prior to baking, dip them in the cinnamon sugar. Press the cinnamon sugar into the dough with your fingers so that it sticks.
Even more sugar cookie dough options!
Here are a few more ideas to get your creative baking juices flowing.
*Add ground cardamom to the dough.
*Substitute peppermint extract for the vanilla extract (reduce the total amount used to 1/2 teaspoon). These will taste great plain or chocolate-dipped (see above). Alternatively, roll the cookie dough log in crushed peppermint candy in the same way that I rolled the dough in shredded coconut for the Coconut Lime Cookies.
*Any kind of nut works great in this recipe, from pistachios to almonds to walnuts! Add chopped nuts to the dough as I did the mini chocolate chips (see above) or roll the cookie dough log in chopped nuts in the same way that I rolled the dough in shredded coconut for the Coconut Lime Cookies.
*Add orange zest. This would be great with cardamom, too!