A classic Sugar Cookie Recipe that’s perfect for baking cutout cookies with your family and friends. Make it a holiday tradition!
One of the traditions I passed down from my childhood to my kids is making cutout sugar cookies during the holidays. When my daughter moved away from home, she made this sugar cookie recipe with her roommates and was shocked to find that they had never made them!
Yes, making a homemade sugar cookie recipe takes a bit of extra time to make with the chilling time, rolling out the dough, cutting out the cookies, and decorating them but it is time well spent with people you love.
Beat the butter and shortening to combine.
Why use shortening when making cookies?
When making cookies I like to use a combination of shortening and butter. Shortening helps the cookies rise more and gives them a light texture while preventing the cookies from spreading too much. On the other hand, butter brings flavor and helps make the cookies crispy.
The recipe I used growing up, from a vintage Betty Crocker cookbook, called for all shortening so you can choose that option. As far as using all butter, that works too but make sure your cookie dough is very chilled and remember that your cookies will spread more as they bake.
Then, add the granulated sugar and beat until light in color and fluffier in texture, about 2-3 minutes.
Can you substitute brown sugar for granulated sugar?
This sugar cookie recipe calls for all granulated sugar which is the traditional way to make them. That being said, you can use brown sugar instead of/or to replace part of the granulated sugar when making cookies but it will change the outcome of the cookies. Brown sugar has more moisture than white sugar so the cookies will be more moist and chewy. In addition to that, they will also be more brown in color and have a light molasses flavor.
Next, add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
What flavors can I add to sugar cookie dough?
Sugar cookie dough can be flavored depending on what your family likes. I always make mine with pure vanilla extracts. You can also try adding lemon extract or orange zest or a citrus flavor. Or if you like almond flavor, add a little almond extract.
Other options include adding spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or anise. You can even add herbs like lavender or rosemary depending on how you plan to use the cookies.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then, add it to the mixing bowl and stir until combined.
Why mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl?
This sugar cookie recipe says to mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl before adding them to the mixing bowl. Mixing the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl is important because it disperses the leavening ingredients such as baking powder (or baking soda in some recipes) into the flour. It also does the same thing for the spices. No one wants to get a clump of the baking powder or salt in one cookie.
Finally, cover the cookie dough batter and refrigerate it for at least one hour.
Do you have to chill sugar cookie dough?
Chilling sugar cookie dough solidifies the fats so that they melt slower in the oven and prevent the cookies from spreading too much. When making cut-out sugar cookies, you want the shapes you cut out with cookie cutters to still be identifiable after baking.
Cold cookie dough is also much easier to roll out than softer, stickier cookie dough. But all that to say, NO you don’t HAVE to chill sugar cookie dough as long as you can roll it out (you’ll need to dust it with a lot of flour) and are okay with a little more spread of the cookie shapes.
This sugar cookie recipe says to chill the dough for at least one hour in the fridge but another option you have is to make the dough the night before and chill it in the fridge overnight! That way the dough is ready to go when you are.
Wondering how to chill cookie dough faster?
I do have a couple of tips for chilling cookie dough faster! The first is to spread the dough out more in the bowl and up the sides…more surface area means it will chill faster. If it is all in one big clump the dough in the middle will take longer to get cold.
Another way to get it to chill faster is to put the bowl in the freezer instead of the refrigerator…a colder temperature means faster chilling.
Once the dough has been chilled, take out a portion of it and return the rest to the fridge. Roll the sugar cookie dough out to about 1/8-inch thick, on a flour-covered surface. If helps to dust the top of the dough with flour as well.
Use cookie cutters to cut out various shapes depending on the season or holiday.
What are some cookie cutter alternatives?
If you don’t have any cookie cutters, you can still use this sugar cookie recipe and make shapes using an alternative method. You can use a knife or a pizza cutter to cut the dough into shapes. This works particularly well to quickly cut out triangles or diamonds. Triangle shaped cookies can be made into Christmas trees, Santa hats, gingerbread houses, ice cream cones, and watermelon slices.
Another option is to use a drinking glass to make circles. Circle cookies can be made into wreaths, faces, balls, peppermint candies, snowmen, penguins, donuts, eyeballs and so on the options are endless!
If you have a certain shape you really want to make and are missing the cookie cutter, cut the shape out of a piece of paper (freehand or print one from online). Then, use a knife to trace around the shape in the sugar cookie dough.
Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the cookies at 400˚F for 5-7 minutes and then cool them completely.
What should I do with the scraps of sugar cookie dough?
You can make more cookies by re-rolling the leftover scraps of dough you get when using this sugar cookie recipe. Gather all of the scraps of dough that were between the cut-out sugar cookies and use them to form a large ball of dough. Return the ball to the refrigerator to chill again. Continue rolling out dough and cutting shapes from the rest of the chilled dough in the bowl.
The final step is to decorate the cookies! Since this post is packed with information about the sugar cookie recipe, I made a whole post dedicated to decorating cookies and it includes four icing recipes and techniques for using them! Find my sugar cookies icing guide here.
Want more cookie recipes? Try these next:
These cute Gnomes Cookies are surprisingly easy to make and are super fun to decorate with your choice of a buttercream or cotton candy beard.
Make pretty pink Peppermint Cookies with a candy cane crunch are topped with smooth peppermint buttercream frosting and sprinkled with crushed candy canes!
Our favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies are chewy, gooey and slightly crisp on the outside. This easy recipe results in flatter cookies that taste amazing!
These Hot Chocolate Cookie Cups made with sugar cookie dough are filled with hot chocolate ganache, have a pretzel handle and mini marshmallows on top!