Easy Sugar Cookies

These cut-out sugar cookies are fun and easy to make. They have crisp edges and thick, soft middles. Enjoy them plain or decorate them with royal icing!

Sugar cookie recipe

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 fun and easy to make, and best of all, it’s delicious. These sugar cookies are thick 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. Enjoy them plain, or decorate them with royal icing for an extra-festive treat.

Sugar cookie recipe ingredients

How to Make Sugar Cookies

Want to learn how to make sugar cookies? Start with these ingredients:

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flourSpoon and level it to avoid packing too much into your measuring cup.
  • Baking soda – It helps the cookies puff up slightly in the oven.
  • Cream of tartar – It’s not just for snickerdoodles! Cream of tartar keeps these sugar cookies soft and gives them a slightly tangy flavor.
  • Unsalted butter – Let it soften at room temperature for 1 hour before you start to bake.
  • Powdered sugar – Have you ever eaten sugar cookies that had a grainy texture? By using powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar, you don’t get any graininess in this recipe! It make these cookies soft, tender, and lightly sweet.
  • An egg – It adds richness and makes the cookies soft and chewy in the middle.
  • Vanilla and almond extract – For warm depth of flavor.
  • Lemon zest – For brightness.
  • And sea salt – To make all the flavors pop!

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Ready to bake?

Start by making the sugar cookie dough. In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, vanilla and almond extracts, and lemon zest, and then add the flour mixture, 1/3 at a time. Mix until everything is well combined.

Sugar cookie dough

Next, chill the dough. Shape the sugar cookie dough into 2 disks, wrap both in plastic wrap, and transfer them to the fridge to chill for 2 hours.

After the dough has chilled, use a rolling pin to roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Be careful not to roll the dough too thin. 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.

Rolled out cookie dough on lightly floured surface

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. Transfer the cut-outs to several cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats. Bake, one sheet at a time, for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are just beginning to brown around the edges. Let each batch rest on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Cut-out cookie dough

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 baked cookies to frost on another day.

Easy Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookie Icing

My preferred sugar cookie icing is royal icing because it’s easy to pipe into defined lines. You can also loosen it to fill in shapes as needed. You can find the recipe I use in the recipe card below!

If you prefer to decorate these cookies with a simpler glaze, whisk together 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon milk or almond milk. Drizzle it over the cookies for a sweet pop of flavor.

Top either icing with your favorite sprinkles or colored sugar, if desired.

How to Store Sugar Cookies

Store sugar cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Can you freeze sugar cookies?

Yes! These sugar cookies keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let them thaw at room temperature before enjoying.

Best Sugar Cookie Recipe

More Christmas Cookie Recipes

If you love this sugar cookie recipe, try making these Christmas cookies next:

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Sugar Cookies Recipe

rate this recipe:
4.94 from 46 votes
Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
We love this cut-out sugar cookie recipe! These easy sugar cookies have crisp edges and thick, soft middles. They're delicious plain, but they're also perfect for decorating.

Ingredients

Decorating options

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
  • Cream the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, scraping down 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.

Notes

Royal Icing
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons water, more as needed
Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the meringue powder and 5 tablespoons water. Mix until smooth and glossy. Transfer half of the frosting to a piping bag with a #3 tip for piping thin lines (i.e., the snowflakes) and for outlining filled-in shapes. For flooding/filling in cookie shapes, add more water, ½ teaspoon at a time, to thin the icing to a runny consistency. There are some helpful tutorial videos here.

Recipe adapted from Disney’s Family Cookbook by Deanna F. Cook. Royal icing recipe from wilton.com.

33 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Amanda
    12.23.2023

    5 stars
    These are amazing cookies. So easy and simple to make. The sea salt just makes these extra good and yummy! I love that they are not crazy sweet. I followed the recipe exactly as written and found these to be my new favorite cut out cookies.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.24.2023

      I’m so glad you loved them!

  2. Laura
    12.22.2023

    5 stars
    Yes! These were so delicious. I only used 1/4 tsp lemon zest. I made them 1/4” thick. I only got about 16 5” trees, stars, and gingerbread men. And 5 3” snowflakes.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.22.2023

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them!

  3. Annie
    12.21.2023

    Just made these today as my first attempt at sugar cookies in several years. Not bad! Could be a touch sweeter, but then again, I don’t usually frost or ice cookies, and I imagine that’s where most of the sweetness would come from.

  4. Holly
    12.20.2023

    Can these be made dairy free by using vegan butter. We are ok with the egg

  5. Alex
    11.08.2023

    Would these be any good to make a gingerbread house? We don’t really like gingerbread so looking for an alternative biscuit…

  6. Salina
    10.31.2023

    Could you put fondant on top of these cookies? Do you have a recipe for it?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.31.2023

      Hi Salina, I’m sorry, I don’t have a recipe for it.

  7. Ashley Begley
    12.22.2022

    How many cookies does this make?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      12.23.2022

      Hi Ashley, it makes about 3 dozen cookies, though the exact number will depend on the size and shape of your cookie cutters.

  8. Alyssa
    10.19.2022

    5 stars
    P.S. I forgot to add, I made the cookies with country crock plant butter instead of regular and they were spectacular.

  9. Alyssa
    10.19.2022

    5 stars
    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!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.21.2022

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them!

  10. Katy
    12.05.2021

    2 stars
    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 🙁

  11. Karen
    12.03.2021

    I think that this recipe is so incredibly delicious! Thank you for using at home ingredients, to help make this recipe easier.

  12. Carla Eastman
    12.21.2020

    Can you make the cookies without cream of tartar?

  13. kristin
    12.08.2020

    5 stars
    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).

  14. Anoymous
    12.05.2020

    The vegan sugar cookie has egg, I thought vegans don’t eat eggs

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.06.2020

      This recipe isn’t labeled as vegan.

      • Audrey
        02.11.2021

        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.

        • jamie
          12.22.2021

          you can try and do a flax egg
          1 Tbsp flaxseed meal (ground raw flaxseed)
          2 1/2 Tbsp water
          Instructions
          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.

  15. John Mark Patiño
    09.30.2020

    5 stars
    this is satisfying

  16. Stacy
    06.23.2020

    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!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.12.2020

      Hi Stacy, I haven’t tried freezing the dough, so I’m not sure.

  17. Tatiana Loza
    12.19.2019

    5 stars
    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!

  18. Tatiana
    12.17.2019

    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

  19. ML
    12.13.2019

    What can be used to replace the merengue powder?

  20. jaynorman
    12.10.2019

    Now I need to look for our cookie stencils. This is a cool recipe.

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Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.