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44 easy Christmas cookies that'll easily win your cookie swap

Deck the halls with trays of cookies. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
/ Source: TODAY

Now that we’ve turned the calendar to December, who's ready to dive headfirst into baking easy Christmas cookies?

There’s nothing better than when the weather chills outside, the days grow darker earlier, and you’re snuggled inside a warmly lit home filled with the smell of holiday cookies and Christmas desserts baking in the oven. Depending on the batch, there may be sweet wafts of cinnamon, cocoa or nutmeg filling the air as chocolate kisses soften between a doughy combination of peanut butter, flour and sugar.

Cookies are wonderful to have in a festive jar on the counter or to give as a gift for a cookie swap. For these occasions, it's great to make a variety of recipes, from beloved sugar cookies to unexpected varieties like chocolate-hazelnut cookies with black pepper, plus vegan and gluten-free treats that allow everyone to have a taste of the holiday merriment, regardless of their dietary needs or preferences. Busy parents need fun, easy cookie recipes to whip up on a school night before a holiday bake sale — and kids can help decorate.

So take out the cookie cutters from the top shelf, grab the rolling pin and watch flour sprinkle through the air like snow on a chilly December morning as you bake batch after batch of these simple recipes.

Turn the flavors of hot cocoa into a cookie. Sweet, toasted marshmallows meet slightly bitter cocoa powder for a perfect mouthful. You can add crushed peppermint candy to these to make them even more wintry.

Maple-Raisin Holiday Cookies

"These cookies are a tribute to my favorite raisin biscuits from the 1970s," says Zoë François. "Growing up on a commune in Vermont, raisins were candy and maple syrup (or honey) were the only sweeteners I knew. The natural sugars in the raisins and maple, along with the rich flavor of the whole wheat cookie dough makes such a delicious and nourishing holiday treat."

Oatmeal raisin cookies are always a classic, but they don’t always get as much love as intricately decorated sugar cookies or gingerbread people during the holiday season. That’s about to change with Craig’s family recipe that’s bound to become a repeat dessert on your holiday table.

Easy Sweet Potato Cookies

You’ll usually find sweet potatoes served in some form or another as a savory side dish. But given that sweet is in their name, it’s only fitting that they make an appearance during the dessert course, too.

Martina McBride's No-Bake Chocolate Cookies

During the holiday season, time is most definitely not on our side, which is why we love these no-bake cookies that come together in just five minutes. The peanut butter-based dough has heft and flavor, while rolled oats and chocolate chips are the perfect textural complement.

These Christmas cookies come together in a flash, thanks to the fact that the dough is simple to prepare and doesn’t require any chilling time. But what makes them so great for holiday baking is the combination of green pistachios and dark red cherries for Christmas.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Sprinkle powdered sugar or cocoa powder through a doily or piece of lace for a magical and pretty lace-like design on cookies for a special occasion. It's an easy technique with impressive results.

Holiday Spice Cookies

These holiday spice cookies (spekulatius) get a wonderful flavor from brown butter and a variety of fragrant spices. They're perfect for festive and playful shapes like woodland creatures and wintry flora.

White Chocolate and Peppermint Cookies

These cookies are filled with white chocolate chips and cool peppermint bits. They are just as simple to make as your typical chocolate chip cookies but these have a festive and flavorful spin for the Christmas season.

Chocolate Toffee Hobnobs

This recipe from Christina Tosi is based on England's famous Hobnob cookies, which use oats to create a buttery, almost granola bar appeal. Cover them in chocolate and coat them with bits of toffee to plus up their otherwise wholesome existence.

Candy Bar Pie Snaps

"Thirteen-plus years ago when I opened the very first Milk Bar, my diet was two cornflake chocolate chip cookies hot out of the oven at approximately 6:12 a.m., several cups of coffee and two slices of candy bar pie for dinner, says Tosi. "I was literally fueled by sugar. And peanut butter. And chocolate. And caramel. So, we made a pie out of those things, our homage to the Take 5 bar. That pie has long been semi-retired, but here we can resurrect one of the simplest, most salty-sweet, brilliant flavor combos in snap form."

For anyone who wept when the Girl Scouts stopped selling Ginger Snaps, this cookie will be a saving grace. These glorious and simple cookies are chewy on the inside, crunchy on the outside and covered in a splendid lemon-scented sugar. And all you need is your hands, a bowl or two, and a few minutes to make them.

Any holiday dessert platter without a Linzer cookie is a travesty. It's like Easter without a bunny, Halloween without a jack-o'-lantern, or Valentine's Day without chocolate. In short, Linzer cookies are necessary come December. Not only are they quite beautiful (the jam windowpane feature is pure elegance), but they always taste delicious.

"This is a traditional cookie recipe that I have been using to decorate my Christmas tree for decades," says Lidia Bastianich. "Decorating a juniper bush for Christmas is an activity that I adored as a child, and I loved passing on this tradition to my children and grandchildren as they were growing up."

These timeless sugar cookies by Tosi are adopted from her grandmother, Nonna Trudy. The best part about these cookies? You only need four ingredients!

Aside from simply serving up a giant slab of Hershey's, this is the best a chef can do in terms of a full chocolate profile. The name is even reminiscent of "Kris Kringle." This cookie is slightly firm on the outside, but melts in your mouth on the inside.

German Chocolate Cookies

These chewy treats are topped with a decadent coconut and pecan-studded frosting. They're a delightful change of pace from a crunchy cookie.

When all else fails, you can't go wrong with classic chocolate chip. After years of trial and error, Dylan finally figured out the perfect combination of ingredients for a chewy and fluffy cookie with just the right flavor that her family loves.

1 Cookie Dough, 5 Ways

Get The Recipe

1 Cookie Dough, 5 Ways

Kristen Tomlan, founder of DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections

Get all your holiday cookie baking done with one easy recipe. Yes, that's right — one cookie dough, endless ways to create beautiful, delicious, holiday cookies that will wow your guests this season. Plus, it's fun for the whole family: Get a cookie decorating party going and your kids will be entertained for hours.

These cookies are a holiday twist on traditional Taiwanese pineapple cakes (one of Taiwan's most famous and beloved pastries). They've got a crumbly shortbread-like crust on the outside and pineapple filling on the inside and cut into pine tree shapes for the holiday season.

Almost too pretty to eat, these festive wreath-shaped shortbread cookies are infused with Meyer lemon and adorned with sugared rosemary and thyme.

Is there anything better than a rich chocolate brownie? How about a rich chocolate brownie with flecks of cool peppermint that's been transformed into a crisp, chewy Christmas cookie with a minty, chocolate drizzle? Thought so.

These cookies are a project, but they are so worth it. There’s something really special when you combine the delicate almond sponge cake with raspberry jam, apricot jam and chocolate glaze. Plus, they look so gorgeous and festive, you'll have guests impressed for long after the party ends.

Angel Wong created these cookies to honor precious memories from her childhood spent with her late grandfather who used to brew afternoon tea. The two would sip tea with cookies while talking about the events of the day.

Martha Stewart's Chai Snowballs

While these powdery treats may resemble Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cakes, they have a decidedly different flavor, thanks to the chai-inspired combination of Darjeeling tea and warming spices in the batter.

Jelly Doughnut Cookie Sammies

You'll be seriously amazed at how much these cookies really taste like a jelly doughnut!

In the early 18th century, a marriage took place in Turin, Italy, and the world has never been quite the same. That sacred union was, of course, between chocolate and hazelnuts, ground together into what is called "gianduja." Nik Sharma's cookie recipe pairs chocolate and hazelnut with black pepper and ginger for a sweet, fragrant and slightly spicy flavor profile that's truly unforgettable.

Anyone who loves biscotti will obsess over this recipe for crunchy Italian biscuits. Laced with fragrant saffron and rich with bittersweet chocolate, the flavor profile of this sweet treat is truly elegant. Samantha Seneviratne loves enjoying her biscotti dipped in a cup of coffee.

Coconut fans, this cookie is for you. Sharma loves these tasty treats with a cup of hot, sweetened, milky black tea. Goan bolinhas are crunchy and crisp, sweet and full of that coconut aroma so many people love.

Nut lovers, prepare to push peanut butter cookies aside. Made with Biscoff cookie butter spread, crunchy walnuts and chocolate, these Linzer cookies are a wonderful treat for the holiday season … but you may start making them year round.

Martha Stewart's Potato Chip Cookies

Crunchy, chewy, buttery, salty and sweet, these addictive treats satisfy every last corner of your palate.

Tosi's family is awfully fond of celebrating the holidays with annoying decorative knick-knacks, making it look like a holiday just threw up in our kitchen. They like their cookies to celebrate the holidays, too — that's how they came up with their winter "holiday" cookie, a cornflake-marshmallow cookie with crushed candy canes in it.

Siri's Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

These perfectly buttery cookies have a crisp cookie shell and a soft and chewy finish. They're great for holiday cookie swaps and gifting, as well as lovely additions to any year-round celebration.

'Tis the season to trim the tree — the sugar-cookie tree, that is! Strands of melted white chocolate and a smattering of red candies mimic the appearance of Christmas lights, and a cookie star illuminates the top of each tree.

Sugar Cookies

Icing the cookies may be the most fun part of Christmas baking, but the cookie base is the unsung hero. Nacia Walsh is here to show us how to make the perfect one: crumbly, crispy and soft at the same time.

Siri's Fudge Candy Cane Cookies

The secret to Siri's easy and festive holiday cookies is using store-bought brownie mix to for a perfect fudge texture every time.

Graffiti Sprinkle Cookies

Sprinkles make everything better! The touch of sea salt brings out all the sweet flavors of the cookie and sprinkles.

Dylan's Aunt Tillie's Christmas Cookies

A soft, not-too-sweet anise cookie has been a staple at Dylan's family Christmas since she was a young child. Even then, she was allowed to dip the treat in a little coffee, a method she highly recommends.

Brown Sugar Butterscotch Cookies

These butterscotch cookies have an extra layer of flavor thanks to the addition of brown sugar.

Gluten-free and/or vegan holiday cookies

Pretzel Tahini Cookies

These vegan cookies fall closer to the cake side of the spectrum than the cookie side, which we adore — especially when contrasted by salty, crunchy pretzels. The sweetness from the coconut sugar and maple, earthiness from the tahini and salty pretzels create the most magical combination that will keep you coming back for more.

If you don't tell people these cookies are gluten-free and vegan, they'll never know. They're rich, cakey, gooey and oozing with chocolate. Topped with flecks of sea salt, you'll be drooling by the time they're out of the oven.

If you ask Justin Chapple, the best peanut butter cookies are a little chewy and almost raw in the middle. When he set out to create his own recipe, that's what he had in mind — and he succeeded. But after making these half a dozen times, he realized he wanted something more. So he poked around the pantry and found some dried cherries. Just like that, chocolate peanut butter cups met peanut butter and jelly.

These insanely delicious salty-sweet crunchy nuggets of chocolate chip heaven will satisfy any inner-cookie monster, vegan or not.

Sure, oatmeal raisin cookies are more well-known, but we'll take chocolate over dried fruit any day! This recipe can easily be made vegan and is a great way to use up any oats sitting in the pantry when you've already filled the grocery list with cookie season baking ingredients.