30+ Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Christmas Cookies
30 Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Christmas Cookies
Decorated Whole-Wheat Sugar Cookies
You’ll often see rolled cookie recipes that call for chilling the dough for an hour or two and then rolling it out. But it’s far easier to roll the dough out when it’s soft, just after mixing it together. Then you can pop it in the freezer, where—because it’s rolled thinly—it firms up quickly. Meringue powder, found in craft stores or the crafting section of big-box stores, helps the icing set firmly so your cookies don’t smudge.
Using tahini in the filling instead of heavy cream helps keep sat fat in check. And tahini’s subtle flavor won’t overwhelm the chocolate in the way many nut butters might—though cashew butter would be a good, mild substitute if you have it on hand.
Molasses Crinkle Cookies
These soft, chewy, beautifully spiced gingerbread cookies look like they just took a romp in fresh snow—a holiday look that saves you the trouble of having to ice each one. A dual coat of granulated and powdered sugar will help the slightly sticky dough balls hold their shape and get that crinkled texture.
Raspberry-Rosemary Jam Bars
Using fresh raspberries and making your own jam is actually pretty easy, and gives you a lot more control over the sugar content, which makes these desserts healthier, but also keeps them from being cloying or overly sweet. The real genius is in the rosemary, which adds a surprising adult twist on the taste—and will have guests asking you for the recipe.
This nuanced, modern take on a holiday favorite calls on you to think outside the box when it comes to style and decoration – but tastes even more amazing than you would remember.
Iced Whole-Wheat Sugar Cookies
Whole-wheat flour adds a layer of complexity to these cookies that all-purpose flour can't achieve; the wheat in the whole grain actually enhances the flavors of butter and vanilla. Unlike classic royal icing, which starts with a pound of powdered sugar, we use just 1/2 cup and thicken it with Greek yogurt. Looking for festive colors without the chemicals? Try naturally colored sparkling sugars (such as those from India Tree), which use colorants derived from plants.
Pine Nut–Meyer Lemon Snowballs
If you can’t find Meyer lemons, use 1 teaspoon regular lemon zest. Take care not to underbake these cookies; they need to crisp up a bit in the oven.
Salted Chocolate-Topped Shortbread
These whole-wheat cookies have the expected “short” texture of classic shortbread, plus an irresistible buttery flavor. Cultured butter is worth seeking out here; the richer flavor really comes through in a cookie like this where the butter is front and center. You can also use regular unsalted butter for a still delicious but slightly less complex flavor.
Stained Glass Window Cookies
We found that Jolly Rancher candies produced the brightest, most vibrant "stained glass." Be sure to use the original sweet candies, not the sour flavors. To crush, place each color in its own heavy-duty zip-top bag; crush with a rolling pin or meat mallet. You'll find sparkling sugar in craft or specialty stores, but you can also use turbinado sugar as a substitute.
Three kinds of ginger define this zippy cookie, which cookbook author and culinary instructor Andrea Nguyen has been baking and tweaking since the mid-1990s from Barbara Tropp’s China Moon Cookbook. For good results, have the butter at moderate room temperature (64°F to 68°F), not melting in the wrapper. If you don’t have crystallized ginger, they’ll still be tasty.
Oatmeal, Chocolate, and Walnut Cookies
Chewy oatmeal and crunchy walnuts can completely transform the typical lunch box chocolate chip cookie, adding new flavors and texture while subtly increasing the cookie's nutritional value.
These mouthwatering ginger and spice cookies are as irresistible as the ones we loved as kids. For an easy, make-ahead cookie, shape the dough into 1 1/2-inch-diameter logs, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze. When ready to bake, defrost the dough for 20 minutes, cut it into 1/2-inch-thick slices, and bake as directed.
Chocolate Crème-Filled Sandwich Cookies
Try this recipe and you may never buy the store-bought version again. This unconventional mixing method makes for an exceptional shortbread-like cookie. If the dough is too soft to shape into a log, chill it for 1 hour.
Add cocoa powder or mini chocolate chips to the filling for an intensely all-chocolate cookie. Substitute caramel sauce or peanut butter for the filling.
Chocolate-Dipped Whole-Wheat Matcha Shortbread
Yes, whole-wheat shortbread, every bit as buttery and flaky-short as traditional versions, but with way less saturated fat and all healthy whole-grain flour—plus a wonderfully earthy hit of matcha goodness. We do use some butter, but also replace half of it with low-sat-fat canola oil. If you’d like to get the look we created in this photo, gather up all the cookie crumbs after cutting the cookies, and sprinkle those crumbs onto still-wet chocolate.
The secret to these rich chocolate cookies is not to overbake them. For a gooey, creamy cookie center, pull them out of the oven when they are still a bit glossy.
Chewy Molasses Cookies
Perfectly spiced and wonderfully tender, these molasses cookies were a staff fave at tasting.
HOW TO DOUBLE UP: Double the dough and bake these cookies without a hitch. To mail, wrap small stacks together using plastic wrap. Nestle the stacks in a box with plenty of padding, or stack in a wide-mouth canning jar with crumpled parchment or wax paper in the headspace under the lid. Place the jar in a box with padding for mailing overnight.
Look for five-spice powder on the spice aisle or with the Asian foods in your grocery store. We love the sparkle of sanding sugar used to coat the outside of the cookies; you’ll find it in craft stores. Supermarket turbinado works well, too.
This recipe, reminiscent of the classic black and white cookie, is a quick and easy gluten-free option that everyone will love. In addition to adding whole grains, sorghum flour lends a nutty flavor that pairs well with bittersweet chocolate.
These traditional German Christmas cookies are made with chopped nuts, citrus, and a variety of warm spices, including the pepper that gives the cookies their name. Greenspan provides ingredient weights in grams, an approach we love because it's more precise than using ounces; a scale is key here.
Fudgy Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies
When a soft, fudgy cookie meets crunchy candy cane shards, it's a match made in heaven. These rich cookies pack all the signature flavors of the holidays into one glorious, minty cookie. Clocking in at a shy 101 calories, this is a dessert that your holiday guests will love, and it's one that you can feel good about serving them.
Almond-Currant Linzer Cookies
For these easy linzer cookies, we like the more updated look of off-center cutouts—but you can go more traditional by keeping the cutouts centered.
At last, the beloved cookie is now gluten-free. You'll need a pizzelle iron to make these delicate Italian waffle cookies. Prepare the recipe using the Cannoli Shell Variation to make delicious cannoli.
Caramel Popcorn Cookies
Experimenting with unusual ingredients can produce an irresistible batch of cookies. In this recipe, caramel and popcorn pieces create the ultimate combination of salty-and-sweet—in cookie form!
Drizzled chocolate adds a sweet layer to these rich confections. To ensure that egg white peaks form, use a clean, dry bowl and beaters.
Lightly coat your hands with flour to make rolling the dough into balls easier. The dough freezes well. Freeze the dough after step 1, thaw in the refrigerator, then proceed with step 2. The powdered sugar coating gives these cookies an appealing cracked finish. For a Christmas Eve treat, serve with coffee to echo the espresso.
Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
You probably have everything on hand to make these chewy, chocolaty peanut butter cookies. To fit the cookies on a single sheet pan, divide cookies into 5 rows of 4. Pressing the cookies flat helps them bake quickly and get lovely crisp edges; otherwise they'll be too round and undercooked.
Crunchy-Chewy Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies
This has been Pittman's go-to "house" cookie for years—when she tells the kids she's making cookies, it's these guys, made with no-frills, good ol' whole-wheat flour. The good news is that they work with other flours, too (like brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, white whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour). They're wonderfully crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle; that soft center comes from using all brown sugar (no granulated) and a drizzle of honey.
Roll-Out Holiday Cookies
This gluten-free recipe makes classic sugar cookies that are perfect for decorating to your liking with frosting and sprinkles. Shape them into pretty hearts for Valentine's Day, egg-shaped ovals for Easter, four-leaf clovers for St. Patrick's Day, and trees or stars for Christmas.
Chocolate and Peppermint Cookies
Enjoy the classic combination of chocolate and peppermint all year long in this simple, yet oh-so-good cookie recipe. For just 103 calories, you can taste all the deliciousness of a rich, minty flavor, without all the extra calories and fat. Bake until slightly underdone and allow to cool on the baking sheet for irresistibly soft, gooey cookies.
Rocky Road Cookies
Satisfy a sweet tooth in seconds. These decadent cookies are oozing with rich dark chocolate and creamy marshmallow.
White Chocolate-Tahini Cookies
This isn't your average chocolate chip cookie, and you'll be glad of it. Tahini adds a delectable warmth to this cookie dough, which blunts the sweetness of the white chocolate. If you don't like white chocolate, bittersweet or dark chocolate would make a delicious substitute.
Lemon Sugar Cookies
The stark contrast between the sweet sugars and the tart lemon juice gives these cookies personality and bite. They're a great afternoon treat with coffee or tea.
Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies
Triple the peanut butter, triple the fun! With creamy peanut butter, crispy peanut butter-flavored cereal, and roasted peanuts, we pack plenty of decadence into these ooey-gooey treats. We like the lightly-sweet crunch of Barbara's Peanut Butter Puffins, which is also lower in added sugars.
Coconut Macaroons With Bittersweet Chocolate and Pistachios
Sweet and chewy coconut macaroons have always been an easy favorite for anyone following a gluten-free diet. We jazzed up these naturally gluten-free beauties by dipping them in bittersweet chocolate and studding them with salty pistachios.
Iced Gingerbread Biscotti
Be sure to let the cookie logs cool after the first bake so they slice cleanly and don't crumble.
Matcha-Chocolate Crackle Cookies
These crinkly dark chocolate cookies are a great alternative to iced sugar cookies: not cloyingly sweet, easy to make, and with no artificial colors or flavors. Matcha gives the cookies a light green color and an earthy, faintly grassy flavor.