This easy sugar cookie recipe is fun to make, and the results are delicious! It yields lightly sweet, buttery sugar cookies that are perfect for decorating!
When I was a kid, my family’s sugar cookie recipe was the first thing that brought us back into the kitchen after Thanksgiving. We’d spend the weekend after the holiday rolling out dough, cutting out festive shapes, and decorating the cookies once they were baked. To me, baking sugar cookies still feels like the first sign that Christmas is on its way, and this easy sugar cookie recipe is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season!
It’s festive, fun, and simple to make, and the cookies themselves are delicious. They’re thick, delicate, and soft, with scrumptious crispy edges. Growing up, we always added almond extract to our Christmas sugar cookies, so I had to use it in this recipe, along with lemon zest (of course) and vanilla. None of these flavors is overbearing, but they combine to make the cookies taste rich, warm, and slightly tangy.
These sugar cookies are tasty, lightly sweet treats on their own, but they’re also a blast to decorate! We dressed up ours with royal icing (recipe below) and matcha sugar for a natural pop of color, but this cashew frosting or this simple glaze would work just as well. Happy baking!
How to Make Sugar Cookies
Want to learn how to make sugar cookies? Here’s what you need to do:
First, mix together the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
Then, cream together the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat in the egg, vanilla and almond extracts, and lemon zest, and then add the flour mixture, 1/3 at a time, and mix until everything is well combined.
Next, chill the dough. Shape the dough into 2 disks, wrap it in plastic wrap, and transfer it to the fridge to chill for 2 hours.
After the dough has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Be careful not to roll the dough too thin here. To get thick, soft sugar cookies, aim for it to be about 1/4-inch thick. If it gets much thinner, the cookies will be crispy instead of soft.
Once you’ve rolled out the dough, use cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes. Re-roll the dough, as needed, to get as many cut-outs as you can!
Then, it’s time to bake. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper and transfer the cut-outs to the baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, until the cookies are just beginning to brown around the edges. Let them rest on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.
To decorate, wait for the cookies to cool completely before topping them with royal icing (recipe below), frosting, or this simple glaze. I topped my royal icing with a little baking sugar mixed with matcha, and these Supernatural White Sequins.
Best Sugar Cookie Recipe Tips
- Chill the dough for at least 2 hours. We tested baking these sugar cookies after just one hour of chilling, and here’s our takeaway: don’t cut the chilling time short! Their warm, tangy flavor improves exponentially when they chill for an extra hour. If the dough is too stiff to work with when it comes out of the fridge, let it rest for 5 minutes at room temperature before you start rolling it out.
- Bake one sheet at a time. Because temperatures vary throughout an oven, bake one sheet at a time for the most even cooking. You don’t want cookies on the bottom rack to burn before the top rack starts to brown!
- Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 2 minutes after they come out of the oven. If you move them too early, they will crumble. Let the cookies set up for a full 2 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.
- Wait for them to cool completely before decorating. It’s tempting to start decorating these guys right away, but your cookies need to be at room temperature before you decorate them. Otherwise, the frosting will melt! I like to make my cut-outs a few days in advance and then freeze the cookies to frost on another day.
More Favorite Holiday Treats
If you love this sugar cookie recipe, try one of these easy recipes next:
- Perfect Oatmeal Cookies
- No Bake Cookies
- Best Peanut Butter Cookies
- Lemon Cookies
- Vegan Gingerbread Cookies
- Coconut Macaroons
- Cranberry & Pistachio Chocolate Bark
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup butter, softened
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- Royal icing, pictured - recipe below
- Glaze from this recipe
- Cashew frosting from this recipe
- Coarse sugar mixed with a tiny bit of matcha powder
- Supernatural White Sequins
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
- Cream the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat well, then add the vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon zest and mix again. Add the dry ingredients, one-third at a time, mixing until well combined. Divide the dough into two balls and flatten into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to chill for 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to ¼-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes. Transfer to the baking sheets and bake, one sheet at a time, for 10 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling. Cool completely before icing.
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 5 to 6 tablespoons water, more as needed
Recipe adapted from Disney’s Family Cookbook by Deanna F. Cook. Royal icing recipe from wilton.com.
How many cookies does this make?
Hi Ashley, it makes about 3 dozen cookies, though the exact number will depend on the size and shape of your cookie cutters.
P.S. I forgot to add, I made the cookies with country crock plant butter instead of regular and they were spectacular.
I made these (Halloween style) with my daughter today! I wish I could add a picture, they turned out perfect. I even made the royal icing, and it turned out wonderfully for my first attempt. Next time I’ll try to make it thinner! The cookies are only lightly sweet which perfectly balances with the sweet frosting.
I use baking stones so mine baked closer to 12 min. Skipped the almond extract cause it’s not my favorite flavor. Thanks Jeanine!
I’m so glad you enjoyed them!
Made this but regret it all the way. The dough is impossible to use in room temperature, it sticks on the counter/ parchment paper / stencils… We needed to cool the dough again and again after 10 mins of working on it. So disappointed 🙁
I think that this recipe is so incredibly delicious! Thank you for using at home ingredients, to help make this recipe easier.
Can you make the cookies without cream of tartar?
Just made these and they turned out great. I only had vanilla (no almond or lemon). More buttery/like shortbread than expected but the recipe worked well. I made the dough the day before, then left on counter to soften before rolling. Made 30 cookies. Gonna ice them soon! I think the flavor will balance well (adding the sugary icing).
The vegan sugar cookie has egg, I thought vegans don’t eat eggs
This recipe isn’t labeled as vegan.
Is it possible to make one Vegan 🙂 My son has egg allergies but I wish I could replace the egg buy something else without the dought behind too friable.
you can try and do a flax egg
1 Tbsp flaxseed meal (ground raw flaxseed)
2 1/2 Tbsp water
Add flaxseed meal and water to a dish and stir. Let rest for 5 minutes to thicken. Add to recipes in place of 1 egg (as original recipe is written).
It’s not an exact 1:1 substitution in every recipe because it doesn’t bind and stiffen during baking quite like an egg does. But I’ve found it to work incredibly well in pancakes, quick breads, brownies, muffins, cookies, and many other recipes.
this is satisfying
I would also like to know if the dough is freezable, how long it can stay in the freezer and how long to thaw before using. Thanks for your response!
Hi Stacy, I haven’t tried freezing the dough, so I’m not sure.
LOVED this cookie recipe! Made them with my son and we both enjoyed them a lot. Even making the frosting was easy and delicious. I am not a big fan of sugar cookies, with these were perfect – not overly sweet, buttery, crumbly. Thanks!
Is it ok if I leave the dough, wrapped in the fridge 24 hours or so? Won’t be able to bake tonight but hope they will be ok tomorrow
What can be used to replace the merengue powder?
Hi ML, I don’t have a substitution, it’s what makes this particular icing stiff. You could make a glaze from this recipe instead: https://www.loveandlemons.com/shortbread-cookies/ or the (stickier) or frosting from this recipe: https://www.loveandlemons.com/vegan-sugar-cookies/
Corn syrup is what I use instead of meringue powder.
Now I need to look for our cookie stencils. This is a cool recipe.