Let’s kick off cookies’ biggest time of year with the best of all Christmas cookie recipes: Cream Cheese Cookies. Soft, tender, and surprisingly easy to make, these are THE ideal cutout cookie, for the holidays…or anytime you need a soft, chewy, and utterly perfect cut out cookie.
This melt in your mouth cream cheese cookie recipe has been my go-to roll out cookie dough since well before I was tall enough to preheat the oven.
I first shared the recipe a few years ago, and they’ve become many of your favorite Christmas cookie recipes too.
- These chewy cream cheese sugar cookies are sturdy enough to pick up with your fingers or mail in a care package, but they remain magically soft up to a week after baking.
- They freeze frosted or unfrosted for months (not that we ever have enough leftover…).
- Unlike many other roll out cookie dough recipes I’ve tried, this cream cheese cookie dough is easy and forgiving, so much so that little ones can easily help to make and decorate them.
My four-year-old niece and I baked a batch of these holiday cookies together last year, and I can’t wait to make them with her again.
Even if you usually bypass the sugar cookies in favor of other Christmas cookie options (I have 25 more holiday cookie recipes for you below!), I am begging you to give this cream cheese cookie recipe a try.
These cookies are exceptional!
5 Star Review
Made these over the weekend with my kids—they are PERFECT! This will be my go-to cut out cookie recipe now. The dough was really easy to work with too. My only regret is not doubling the recipe. We devoured the whole batch in 2 days!
— Joan —
How to Make Perfect Christmas Cookies
This classic cut out cookie tastes like the most pleasing, buttery, bewitching, and un-boring sugar cookie you’ve ever had.
Continue reading below for everything you need to know to bake the BEST Christmas cookies. Santa will agree!
- Cream Cheese. While they don’t taste like cream cheese, cream cheese is the secret ingredient that makes this sugar cookie dough so easy to handle.
- Flour. All-purpose flour works best for these Christmas cookies. Be sure to measure properly. If you add too much flour, or it will make the cookies tough.
How to Properly Measure Flour
- Option 1 – Spoon and Level (The Classic). Lightly spoon flour into your measuring cup. Level it off with the back of a knife.
- Option 2 – Fluff and Level (Cheat Method that Works). Use your measuring cup to fluff up the flour several times in the container so that it is airy. Scoop and level.
- Option 3 – Use a Kitchen Scale (Most Accurate). A scale like this one is inexpensive and the best way to know if you are measuring ingredients properly. Plus, if you use a scale you’ll dirty fewer dishes.
- Butter. For melt in your mouth cream cheese sugar cookies!
- Sugar. You simply can’t have a good-quality cut-out cookie without it. These will be the best sugar cookie of your life and well worth it.
- Egg. Binds all the ingredients together for perfect texture.
- Vanilla + Almond Extract. Adds delicious, complex flavor to the cookies. Don’t skimp and ensure you use pure (not imitation) extracts.
- Lemon Zest. My secret ingredient. You’ll love the addition!
- Decorations! Sprinkles, candy, food coloring, or whatever your heart desires.
The Best Ever Sugar Cookie Frosting
I consider it a crime against cut-out-cookie kind to take a perfectly soft sugar cookie and deck it with a frosting that hardens into a brittle sheet, which is why I love this particular frosting recipe so much.
In all flavor and texture categories, this frosting recipe is perfect but—let’s address the reindeer in the room now—it contains some corn syrup.
I realize that corn syrup is a divisive ingredient, but I haven’t found an adequate substitute for it in this recipe yet.
- Maple syrup is too runny.
- Honey creates a nice shine, but the frosting doesn’t set well and the honey throws off the flavor.
Can we each agree to eat a frosted cream cheese sugar cookie, ignore the you-know-what, and say we do this once a year?
- With an electric mixer (or stand mixer), cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Finish adding the wet ingredients.
- Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl (be careful to measure properly and not add too much flour). Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. It will be soft and taste delicious.
- Divide the dough into quarters and roll between two sheets of parchment paper. Chill. (Directions to make dough ahead are below.)
- Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Cut the cookies as desired. Bake the Christmas cookies for 9-11 minutes at 350 degrees F, until pale golden at the edges. Let cool on a wire rack.
- To make the frosting: Stir together the ingredients. For colored frosting, add a few drops of food coloring. Frost and decorate the cookies. ENJOY!
Tips for The Best Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
- Chill Out. Keeping roll-out cookie dough cold is critical for easy handling.
- If there is any portion of the dough you aren’t working with immediately, keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to roll and cut.
- If at any point the dough becomes too sticky to handle, simply pop it back into the refrigerator, and in a few minutes, it will be good to go again.
- Lay Flat. Why is it that we shape cut-out cookie dough into a big ball prior to chilling it, then go to all the trouble to roll it flat again afterwards when it’s cold and inflexible?
- If you will be using the cookie dough within a few hours, instead of patting it into a ball to chill it, roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper and place it in the refrigerator in its rolled-out state.
- Once the dough has chilled, there’s no need to re-roll. Simply place it on your counter in its nicely flattened shape, remove the top sheet of parchment, and cut away.
- Chocolate Cream Cheese Cookies. Replace 2 tablespoons of the flour in this recipe with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, then prepare and bake as directed. YUM!
- Cream Cheese Cookies with Jam. For a recipe reminiscent of Hungarian cream cheese cookies. Prepare your dough as directed. Once your cookie dough is cut and the cookies are placed on the baking sheet, use a spoon to make 1/8-inch-deep indentations in the center of each cookie, and add the jam of your choice (raspberry jam is my favorite; strawberry, blackberry, or apricot would be delicious too). Bake as directed. You can add frosting over the jam or just leave them as is.
- Vegan Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies. You could try making cream cheese sugar cookies with no egg, shortening instead of butter, and non-dairy cream cheese substitute, but I have not tried this adaptation and can’t recommend it. If you need vegan dessert options, check out my list of vegan recipes and go from there.
- Gluten Free Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies. Use a 1:1 gluten free flour in place of the all purpose flour.
- Cinnamon-Sugar Cream Cheese Cookies. Mix 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon into the frosting, to taste.
Storage and Freezing Tips
- To Store. Storing your cookies in an airtight container at room temperature is best. Separate layers of frosted cookies with waxed paper or parchment paper.
- To Freeze Unbaked. Unbaked, unshaped cookie dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then roll, shape, and bake as directed.
- To Freeze Baked. Baked cookies can be frozen for up to 1 month, frosted or unfrosted.
Let the cookies cool to room temperature, arrange them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then place the baking sheet in the freezer until the cookies harden. Transfer the cookies to a ziptop bag and place the bag in your freezer. When ready to eat, remove as many or as few cookies from the bag as you like. Place in an airtight container and let thaw overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
BONUS! 25 Days of Cookies
Once you’ve made these classic Christmas cookies, fill your cookie platter with some of these unique Christmas cookie recipes.
- Andes Mint Cookies. These are pillowy soft.
- Chocolate Ginger Cookies. My favorite gingerbread cookies with molasses. If you love soft gingerbread men, try these!
- Dark Chocolate Cookies. Melt-in-your mouth rich in the best way.
- Brownie Cookies. For those chocolate lovers who want it all.
- Chocolate Meringue Cookies. Crisp outside and cloud-like inside.
- Peanut Butter Blossoms. Best EVER version of the classic peanut butter blossom cookie. Brown butter and brown sugar make them extra special.
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies. A better version of chocolate crinkles that’s moist, NOT dry.
- Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies. An easy cookie recipe with few ingredients. To take them over the top, turn them into sandwich cookies by layering with ice cream.
- Candy Cane Snowball Cookies. A peppermint version of Mexican wedding cookies (or Russian tea cakes, or whatever your family calls them), topped with crushed candy canes.
- Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies. With white chocolate chips, these look festive.
- Cranberry Orange Cookies. My grandmother’s recipe.
- Lemon Coconut Thumbprint Cookies. Their buttery shortbread cookie base is versatile! Use any of your favorite fruit fillings.
- Rum Snickerdoodles. A fun twist on the classic.
- Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. A reader favorite year after year.
- Sweet Potato Cookies. Watch out pumpkin!
- Fruit Pizza Cookies. Turns the childhood favorite into fruit pizza cookie bites.
- Almond Flour Cookies. Gluten-free and absolutely outstanding.
- Coconut Flour Cookies. A more keto-friendly, low carb cookie option.
- Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. Extra ooey-gooey.
- Monster Cookies. Try these with red and green M&M pieces.
- Trail Mix Cookies. To clean out your pantry.
- Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies. Even non-vegans enjoy these.
- Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies. These sneak in applesauce (don’t tell the kids).
- Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies. You’ll be nuts about these! They remind me of Double Tree cookies and are equally great with pecans.
- Cookie Mix in a Jar. For thoughtful holiday gifting.
Recommended Tools for Making Sugar Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting
Frequently Asked Questions
No, you do not have to refrigerate cream cheese cookies. In fact, I recommend storing them out of the refrigerator.
Once the cookies are baked, they will stay delightfully soft for up to 5 days and still taste great even after a week.
Bake and cool the cookies (or consider freezing them to help them stay extra fresh). Wrap each cookie in plastic.
Place cushioning material (like crumpled parchment or bubble wrap) in the bottom of a strong, rigid box or cookie tin. Place the cookies in the box, separating layers with parchment. Fill any extra space with crumpled parchment or similar to keep the cookies from sliding around. Add some padding on top for good measure (you want the box to be full).
Express ship the cookies, being mindful of possible shipping delays.
For the Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies:
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese at room temperature (do not use fat free)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Frosting:
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
- Food coloring
- Colored sugar
- Other decorations as desired
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, then add the egg and beat until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the cream cheese and beat for 1 minute, scrape down the bowl once more, then beat in the vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon zest until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing just until fully incorporated and a soft dough is formed.
Divide the dough into quarters. If using the dough within 24 hours, roll each quarter to a 1/4-inch thickness in between two sheets of parchment paper (alternatively, you can store the dough in a ball or disk and roll out when ready to cut and bake). Be careful not to roll the dough any thinner or the cookies will not be as soft. Keeping the dough flat, transfer it to the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. Repeat with the remaining dough (it is fine to stack the dough “flats” on top of each other to save space). If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, divide the dough in half, pat each into a disk, then wrap each disk tightly in plastic and freeze in a ziptop bag for up to 1 month. Let thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then proceed with the recipe as directed.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Remove one of dough flats from the refrigerator. (If you stored the dough in a ball or disk, roll it to a 1/4-inch thickness now, between two layers of parchment paper.) Remove the top layer of parchment paper, then with cookie cutters, slice the cookies into desired shapes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes, until barely lightly golden brown and the edges are dry. The cookies will look slightly underbaked. Let cool completely.
To make the frosting: In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons milk as best as you can (the frosting will be very solid at this point). Beat in the corn syrup and almond extract until the frosting is smooth and glossy. If the frosting seems too thick, add more milk, one teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. If making colored frosting, add a few drops of food coloring until you reach your desired color intensity. Frost and decorate the cookies as desired. Let the frosting set for a few minutes, then enjoy!
- Store leftover baked cream cheese sugar cookies in an airtight container at room temperature, separating the cookie layers with wax or parchment paper, for up to 4 days or freeze frosted or unfrosted for up to 2 months.
- Dough can be prepared through Step 3 and stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 3 months. Let stand at room temperature until soft enough to scoop, then bake as directed (if frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator first).
- Shaped, unbaked cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze: place the unbaked cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, freeze until hardened, then transfer to a ziptop bag. Bake directly from frozen, adding a minute or two to the baking time.
- If you want to make a monster batch of cookies, this recipe can be doubled.
Serving: 1cookie (out of 3 dozen)Calories: 146kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 1gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 30mgSugar: 15g
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