IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

How to make perfect sugar cookies for the holidays

Get ready for cookie-swap season.
Snowflake Sugar Cookies
Cookies, rolled and cut into holiday shapes, and then festively decorated, are essential around the holidays.Shana Novak / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

We're approaching cookie swap season — but unlike gingerbread cookies, sugar cookies are perfect all year round, so bookmark this recipe for your next baby shower, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine's day, or — my favorite — July 9, which is National Sugar Cookie Day!

Cookies, rolled and cut into holiday shapes, and then festively decorated, are essential around the holidays. And these cookies in particular are fantastically delicious and easy to bake. Plus, decorating them is a snap and the whole family can involved.

Simply choose from three simple decorations to make them your own, brush with an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar before baking, glaze with white icing (use a squeeze bottle for easy handling) or glaze with a mix of white and colored icings.

How to make sugar cookies

Make-ahead tip: These cookies can be stored between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container for up to one week.


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (8 ounces)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Sanding sugar, sprinkles, nonpareils for decorating


  • Make the dough.

In a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Add the flour and beat on low speed until moistened. Divide the dough into 3 discs, wrap them each in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

  • Roll out and stamp the dough.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 3 baking sheets with parchment. Working with one disc of dough at a time, on a floured surface, roll the dough ¼-inch thick. Stamp out as many cookies as possible.

How to Make Sugar Cookies: Stamp out as many cookies as possible from the dough
Grace Parisi / TODAY
  • Time to bake!

Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet, and spread them out about 1-inch apart. Gather the scraps and re-roll to make more cookies. Bake the cookies in the center of the oven until lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Let them cool slightly, then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough, re-rolling the scraps.

How to Make Sugar Cookies: Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet 1-inch apart
Grace Parisi / TODAY
  • Make the glaze.

In a bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread the white glaze over the cookies, covering them completely and let them dry.

How to Decorate Sugar Cookies: Spread the white glaze to cover the cookies and let dry completely
Grace Parisi / TODAY
  • Let's decorate!

Transfer the remaining glaze to a piping bag or a squeeze bottle with a tiny tip and pipe designs all over the cookies. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, if desired. Let the cookies dry completely, then transfer them to platters to serve.

How to Decorate Sugar Cookies: Transfer the white glaze to glaze to a piping bag or squeeze bottle with a tiny tip and pipe designs all over the cookies
Grace Parisi / TODAY
  • How to make alternative decorations:

1. Lightly brush the unbaked cookies with a mixture of 2 egg yolks combined with 2 tablespoons of water. Let the egg wash dry slightly, then sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake the cookies as directed above.

2. Divide the glaze into bowls and add food coloring to each. Glaze the cookies with one solid color then pipe dots or lines onto the wet glaze. Let the cookies dry completely before serving.

How to Decorate Sugar Cookies for Christmas
Grace Parisi / TODAY

Still craving sugar cookies? Check out TODAY Food's favorite holiday sugar cookie recipes:

Duff Goldman's Perfect Sugar Cookies
Siri's Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies
Giant Funfetti Sugar Cookie Cake

Grace Parisi is a New York City-based food writer, cookbook author and food stylist. Her book, Get Saucy, was nominated for a James Beard award. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.