Fill your cookie boxes, trays and platters with the 10 best Christmas cookies to give your friends and family. Learn all about how to choose the right cookies and how to share ’em here.
The Best Cookies to Give
Sharing cookies is the best part of the holiday season. And beyond, of course, because baking cookies is necessary year-round.
We love to share cookie boxes with friends, teachers and neighbors throughout the year, and especially at Christmastime. It’s such a thoughtful way to say, “I love you” or “I appreciate you.” Cookies are, after all, baked with love, right?
When choosing which cookies to give away, it’s important to select the perfect cast of characters. You’re looking for a balance of textures, flavors, color and types of cookies. It’s a good idea to include a few classics mixed with more unique treats.
Below I’ve pulled together the top cookies to help you decide what to bake. These are amazing cookies that travel well and last a little longer in packaging like a cellophane bag or a cookie tin.
Why I love giving cookies:
I love to give cookies at the holidays and throughout the year! They make such a great gift because…
- Homemade gifts are usually less expensive than buying them at the store.
- It’s thoughtful — people know you spent time baking with them in mind.
- They’re fantastic to bring along to cookie swaps and cookie exchanges.
- There’s no guesswork — everyone loves cookies!
- They’re delicious and it’s fun to try new-to-you creations and old standbys alike, both as a baker and an eater. You can even include “normal” cookies like Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies.
More Christmas cookies gift recipes to try: Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookies with Maple Cream Cheese Glaze | Chocolate Sugar Cookies | Chocolate Covered Ritz Cracker Cookies
What you need to make cookies:
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Much like the ingredients, the tools will be dependent on what cookie recipe you’re baking.
Some essential baking tools you might need include…
- Stand mixer or hand mixer — or another electric mixer to bring your cookie dough together. This makes it easier on your arms, as well as requires less time as the electric mixer will work faster.
- Parchment paper or silicone baking mats — to prevent the cookies from sticking to your baking pan
- Food processor — sometimes, this will help you blend up your ingredients or smooth out your frosting recipe. You can also use this to break down oats, nuts and more…
- Wire rack for cooling — because your cookies will continue to cook on the sheet pan, so shifting them to a cooling rack is smart to do.
- Mixing bowl(s) — for actually mixing the cookie batter in
- Kitchen scale — for accuracy. I started using a kitchen scale in 2020 after getting into sourdough, and it has been a game changer for accuracy in my baking and getting the recipes to turn out the same every. single. time.
- Measuring cups and spoons — because you don’t want to eyeball ingredients!
- Liquid measuring cup — for those liquid ingredients that you’ll need to measure.
I talk about these more in depth, as well as recommend my favorite brands of these tools in 10 Best Baking Tools for Cookies.
Let’s talk ingredients!
In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.
This will be dependent on what you’re baking, but I always recommend high-quality ingredients. I put together a whole guide to baking cookies that goes into this a little more in-depth.
Here are some popular ones that you’ll find in various recipes:
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Unsalted butter — this a must-have for most cookie recipes. Purchase the unsalted variety so you can control the amount of salt that goes into the cookies. You can sometimes swap this with vegetable shortening or vegan butter if you don’t eat dairy products, though it depends on the recipe and the swap might cause the cookie to have a different texture and flavor. Purchase the highest quality butter you can afford. Oftentimes, you need it to be at room temperature.
- All-purpose flour — most cookies call for flour, and traditional AP flour is what you need for the vast majority of ’em! You may use bleached or unbleached–they’ll work the same! Most of my recipes are not gluten free, and I have not tested them with gluten free flour blends, even though I have heard of some having success with these!
- Granulated sugar — also known as white sugar, this is one of the most popular sweeteners to have on hand.
- Brown sugar — brown sugar is made sweeter with molasses. There are two varieties — dark or light brown sugar. While you can use them interchangeably, dark brown sugar has a higher molasses content and can change the texture of a cookie if there’s enough of it.
- Eggs — these serve as a binder, as well as provide a little leavening to cookie dough. I like to use large eggs in my baking recipes. Some recipes only require an egg yolk while others involve the whole egg or just egg whites.
- Baking powder or baking soda — these are both leaveners, and their purpose is to cause a chemical reaction inside the cookies which makes them puff up in the oven. You’ll see one or the other in almost every cookie recipe. Make sure yours are fresh. (If they’re not, your cookies won’t rise.)
- Oats — I keep old-fashioned rolled oats in my pantry. Quick cooking oats tend to lose their texture in a cookie dough, though there is a place for them in some cookie recipes.
- Mix-ins — depending on the type of cookie you’re making, you’ll need some of these. Chocolate chips, chocolate chunks and chopped chocolate are popular mix-ins, but there is a world of possibilities out there. Think festive sprinkles, chips, other unique flavored baking chips and more.
How to package cookies for gifting
If you want to give cookies, you’ve got to learn how to wrap cookies as a gift the right way! Here’s what you’ll need:
Something to package cookies in: Don’t expect to get the packaging back! It’s best to pick up some supplies that you don’t mind never seeing again.
- A bakery box is a great inexpensive option that looks professional. They are usually recyclable or compostable.
- An airtight container. I love plastic ones for sharing with my people, but there are lovely reusable glass ones, too.
- Reusable cookie tins or plastic containers with lids work well. But like I said, don’t expect to get them back!
- A festive cookie plate and some plastic wrap or foil to cover them is totally fine. Don’t overthink this.
- Cellophane bags work well if you are just giving away a small stack of cookies or some treats like fudge or muddy buddies.
Arranging the cookies in the box:
- Colorful cupcake liners are great for separating cookies so they don’t touch. You don’t want to get chocolate frosting on that snickerdoodle!
- Parchment paper or wax paper to serve as a base in your box. This protects the base from getting grease stains from all that butter! It’s also great for separating layers of cookies if you have a deep box or tin.
- Ribbon and gift tags: You might want to write who they are for and from on the box, in case you have to do a porch drop-off or are leaving them for the host at a holiday party.
- Bubble wrap: If you are mailing your cookies, add a protective layer of bubble wrap around your cookie box of choice. There’s nothing worse than broken cookies.
- Cookies: Oh, and you’re absolutely going to need some cookies to put in the boxes! Let’s get into that a little more.
Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips
- Make your cookies in advance. Many cookie recipes freeze well. (Learn how to freeze cookie dough here. All you need are your favorite drop cookie dough, a pan and a freezer bag. Freeze a whole batch in advance and then bake before sharing your cookies.)
- Purchase your favorite cookies from a local bakery or grocery store. Nobody said you needed to bake your own, so if you’d rather gift cookies from your favorite spot, DO THAT.
- Remember the “equation.” All you need are one larger/spotlight cookie recipe, 2-4 easier cookie recipes (or homemade treat recipes), then a handful of individually-wrapped candies to fill in the holes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies cut into shapes are both very popular types of holiday cookies. You can almost surely expect to see one or both of them on cookie platters at holiday parties and in cookie gift boxes.
Christmas cookies make great gifts. Plate a batch of cookies on a platter or in a cookie tin and tie them up with ribbon and a gift tag. Everyone loves receiving a box of cookies!
Quick tips and tricks to making the best cookie boxes
- Go with cookies that are easy to transport and bag up. That usually means sugar cookies and other cut-out cookies that aren’t too fragile.
- Line your cookie boxes with parchment or wax paper, and use that to separate layers of cookies, too.
- Separate different types of cookies with cupcake wrappers so they don’t touch and transfer flavors, frosting or fragrances.
Choosing cookies for cookie boxes
Depending on the size of the box, I like to offer three to five different types of cookies — a showcase cookie (so maybe a sugar cookie or a larger cookie) that’s the centerpiece, followed by two to four easier recipes, such as Christmas Rice Krispie Treats or a simple drop cookie, like Lemon Drop Cookies.
I always like to have some “extras” to fill in space for my cookie boxes, too.
Some of my favorite items to use are:
- Homemade candy, like Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge, Saltine Cracker Toffee, Oreo Peppermint Christmas Bark or even Chocolate Dipped Pretzels
- Dark chocolate-covered almonds or Jordan almonds
- Sweet-salty treats, like Reindeer Chow (White Chocolate Christmas Puppy Chow)
- Individually wrapped candies, like Hershey Kisses, Andes mints or sea salt caramels
Consider including a variety of types of cookies too.
- Textures: Some cookies are chewy, others are crunchy. Aim for a couple of each.
- Flavors: Include a few types of flavors. A chocolate, a non-chocolate, a seasonal flavor like maple, peppermint or cinnamon, and/or some fruity cookies.
- Shapes: Many cookies are circles, so consider adding cutouts, cookie bars, squares or ball-shaped cookies.
- Colors: Most cookies are some shade of brown, so include a variety. Also think about adding a colorful option like iced sugar cookies or funfetti cookies.
The worst cookies for cookie boxes
Yes, all cookies are delicious. But not all of them work well in a cookie box, sadly.
Here are the top five worst cookies for gifting:
- Fragrant cookies: Be mindful of putting two aromatic cookies next to each other. For example, a lemon cookie next to a peppermint one. When sealed in a box, the strong flavors can seep into other cookies and ruin the flavor.
- Fragile cookies: Delicate and thin cookies won’t travel very well. As much as I love these beautiful Linzer cookies, I wouldn’t put them in a cookie box. They can break or become crumbly.
- Cakey cookies: Soft drop cookies like these Pumpkin Drop Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting don’t do well because they fall apart or stick together.
- Messy cookies: Cookies with gooey or melty ingredients on top as well as those covered in powdered sugar or sprinkles aren’t always a good fit for every cookie box. Be mindful of how you package them, lest your gingerbread cookies get covered in powdered sugar, sprinkles spill out of the box or lemon icing smears onto red velvet cookies.
- Refrigerated cookies: Cookie boxes are often left out at room temp in someone’s home, so you wouldn’t want to include any cookies that need to stay chilled like Speculoos, Scotcheroos and certain other no-bake cookies. They are really tacky and can fall apart when warm.
- Allergy-unfriendly cookies. Another thing to keep in mind is any food allergies your recipients may have. If they’re gluten-free, you might consider including at least one gluten-free cookie or treat. If they’re allergic to nuts, skip the peanut butter and pecan cookies. If their allergy is very serious, it might be better to get them something else altogether. (Here are some of my top gift ideas.)
Bonus Cookie Ideas
While I love the classics, I also like to mix things up a little bit. Here are some of my favorite cookies to share during the holidays. This selection offers some more unique flavors to the folks who are looking for more interesting ones.
See even more of my favorite holiday cookies.
Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her…