These three cookie recipes require only a few ingredients and can be easily customized with simple swaps.

Easy, Last-Minute Cookie Recipes to Make This Holiday Season
Thomas J. Story

Making cookies around the holidays is basically a festive requirement for any celebrating household with a working oven. Though sometimes it can be daunting to source a dozen ingredients and dirty all of your bowls as you combine dry and wet ingredients, and melt chocolate over a double boiler.

So this holiday season, we put together some easy recipes to help you whip up cookies that are totally delectable, super simple, and look like a million bucks (and like they took a million bowls to make). When it comes to simplifying sweet treats, you want to focus on flavor and technique. I’m here to share a few tips and variations to put your best cookie forward this season. 

An easy recipe to start with is a simple shortbread. Our sheet pan Scottish shortbread only requires five ingredients. Start by beating the sugar and butter until “fluffy.” I find that most mistakes with cookies come from not fully understanding the terms used in the first few steps of a recipe. For instance, if a recipe says to combine sugar and butter until creamy or fluffy, this is to ensure the sugar is dissolved into the fat properly.

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Here’s a quick hack: To test if your initial cookie mixture is sufficiently creamy, pinch a small amount between your fingertips and feel for sugar granules. If there are none, you’re ready to move to the next step. If you can still feel course bits of sugar, keep mixing. This important step stops you from having to overmix your dough once you add dry ingredients, which means your cookies won’t come out tough due to overworking the flour. 

Jeffery Cross

So, after combining the shortbread’s butter and sugar, you’ll want to see a pale color and soft mixture (that when pinched is smooth between fingertips). From there, a combination of all-purpose flour and rice flour is added to these cookies for a bit of crunch as well as a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

By baking them in a rimmed baking sheet, you don’t have to worry about rolling the dough, cutting out cookies, or spacing them sufficiently. Just evenly distribute the dough across the pan and bake until light brown. 

This recipe is a great jumping-off point for a flavor-infused shortbread using additional ingredients like lemon, ginger, or peppermint. To upgrade the flavor profile, add a teaspoon of extract to the butter and sugar mixture just before adding the flour. For an even more eye-catching cookie, cut your shortbread into small squares and top them with royal icing for a festive look.

Alex Farnum

Now, this next recipe requires one important tool: an electric mixer. If you don’t have one, you can beat the egg whites by hand, though it may take some teamwork in the kitchen. Before I got a stand mixer, I took turns with friends whipping egg whites until stiff peaks formed; with a whisk attachment on a stand mixer or hand mixer, you can achieve peaks with ease. Our recipe for white Christmas dream drops produces treats that are like mini pavlovas and, similarly to shortbread, only require a few ingredients.

Vanilla extract can be subbed for peppermint or almond if you’re looking for a more unique flavor profile, and mix-ins can be tailored to personal taste as well. While many home cooks fear making meringues, all it takes is one successful batch of these cookies to curb all future premonitions.

The trick to meringues is being patient with the egg whites as they whip up, so don’t stop before they reach stiff peaks. Over-beating is harder to do than under-beating in this case. Plus, it’s pretty fun to test the mixture by holding the bowl over your head to see if the whites are really as stiff as they need to be. If you’re nervous to actually put it over your head, you can just hold a beater up straight to see if the mixture stays in place. 

To add an elevated touch to these chewy meringues, dip the edges in melted chocolate and then finely crushed bits of peppermint candies. 

Annabelle Breakey

Looking to lean into a slightly “healthier” recipe? Try these oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. This recipe combines three classic cookie flavors—peanut butter, oatmeal, and chocolate chip—into one easy-to-make drop cookie perfect for serving a crowd, as one batch makes about five dozen.

Personal touches are easy to add here, as you can swap chocolate chips for white or peppermint chips, or replace peanut butter with almond or cashew butter for a different nutty flavor.

For a quick and easy upgrade, try turning these cookies into ice cream sandwiches. Soften your favorite ice cream to a spreadable but still scoop-able consistency by leaving it on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes. Scoop softened ice cream onto the flat side of one of the cookies, then top with another cookie and freeze for 10 minutes. You’ll want to assemble them shortly before serving so the cookies don’t get too hard in the freezer. 

For more cookie recipes to make this holiday, check out 77 of our favorite cookie recipes here, and subscribe to our food and drink newsletter for more tips and tricks to try in the kitchen. 

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