The Ultimate Cookie Guide, With 22 Recipes

A stack of chocolate chip cookies for ice cream sandwiches | ZoëBakes

As I write this guide, it is early December, also known as “official cookie season.” There is no wrong way to make holiday cookies, and every style of cookie should be on the table (literally and figuratively). However, the joy of baking the best cookies isn’t reserved for the holidays. Every gathering is made a little better by a giant platter of cookies, and nothing satisfies a crowd like the classic dessert. Plus, making cookies from scratch is fun. So whether you’re baking non-stop for the holiday season, or preparing for a summer barbecue, this guide on how to make cookies will help you come up with ideas and tricks to perfect your cookies. Plus I include some of my favorite recipes.

Want to know to really take your cookies up a notch? Make your own homemade vanilla.

How To Make the Best Cookies: The Basics

Cookie Dough

A good cookie, of course, starts with the dough. A basic dough often includes flour, sugar, egg and butter. The amounts can vary based on type of cookie, and some cookies require different combinations, but it’s a pretty good standard to keep in mind when making your dough. And given its key role, the type of butter you choose can make a huge difference. A high quality butter, like one of my favorites, Kerrygold, will go a long way in improving the quality of your dough and texture of your cookies. But, you may need to make other alterations because of the higher fat content of European butter. A good flour is also important — I recommend King Arthur.

Chilling Cookie Dough

To chill or not to chill? Many of my cookie recipes call for chilling your dough for at least 30 minutes, and often much longer (multiple days). For many cookies, chilling will help improve the texture, shape and moisture of the final product. Chilled dough can also help you control how much your cookies spread.

There are exceptions to chilling, so make sure to follow the instructions of your recipe, but for many classic cookie recipes you’ll be better off with a chilled dough.

Freezing Cookie Dough

Many cookie doughs can last several months in your freezer. This allows you to make a lot of dough at once, or bake smaller batches of cookies at a time. Frozen dough produces great cookies, but you want to make sure to thaw it in the fridge until the dough is soft enough to handle, which can take at least 24 hours, and often longer.

Cookie Texture

Chewy, soft or crispy? Everyone has a texture they love. Finding yours can take a little experimentation, but I offer some tips in my chocolate chip cookie guide. Here are a couple of basic tips:

  • For softer cookies, use more egg, brown sugar or flour. Each of these will help soften your cookies, as I explain in more detail in the chocolate chip cookie guide.
  • For crisper cookies, use less egg or flour, or sub some white sugar for brown sugar. Again, each of these options work for different reasons, as described in my chocolate chip cookie guide.

The ratios may require some tweaking for the perfect texture, but that’s part of the fun of baking cookies. Also, be aware of your oven temperature, as that will change how the cookies bake.

Types Of Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

What cookie guide is complete without a chocolate chip cookie recipe? I put together a separate guide to chocolate chip cookies, because they’re that important. If you can master your own chocolate chip cookies, you’ll be well on your way to perfecting your other favorites.

These chocolate chip cookies are the result of what I learned making countless batches for decades. I also explain what the ingredients do to a cookie and how baking can change them. You can tweak your cookies to be just how you like them using my cookie guide towards the bottom of the post.
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These Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies from Stephanie Meyer’s The 30-Minute Paleo Cookbook are the ultimate snack to satisfy. They are super decadent and rich with flavor because they are made with almond butter. The cookies, like everything Stephanie creates, is gluten-free, in fact, these have NO flour at all and can also be made vegan.
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Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter should stand beside chocolate chip in terms of classic cookies. They are easy to make, and when perfected have great texture and peanut butter flavor. These are some of my favorites:

What's a more classic treat than peanut butter cookies? This easy recipe is full of tasty peanut butter and has the look, taste and feel we have all come to love from a peanut butter cookie.
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The flavor of these cookies is more intense and the texture is smoother and more tender than my old recipe. The trick to their success is slightly under baking them so the center is a bit soft and the outside is crisp. I also used a chunky peanut butter for even more peanut taste and texture.
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These delightful peanut butter sandwich cookies are a perfect lunch box snack! Two peanut butter cookies with chocolate and peanut butter mousse sandwiched between them.
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Oatmeal Cookies

Are oatmeal cookies healthy? Well, they can be a healthier option than other kinds. Oats certainly have many health benefits. My oatmeal cookie recipe calls for Cup4Cup gluten free flour and it includes maple syrup and sugar. And, yes, these are oatmeal raisin cookies, but I still consider them a sweet and tasty treat. Healthier, yes, but still delicious cookies.

Unless you made them yourself, you'd never know these are gluten-free oatmeal cookies. They are perfect! Soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The flavor is all about the maple and oats.
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These coconut oatmeal rum raisin cookies are a family favorite. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
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My Favorite Christmas Cookies

Sugar Cookies

As I mentioned at the top, I am writing this in December, which means sugar cookies are a must. Kids love to decorate these and cut them into fun shapes, and the recipe is easy and tasty. You can get as fanciful as your imagination will go or keep it simple.

This delicious sugar cookie recipe is a classic from Dorie Greenspan. The buttery, delicious cookies are perfect for decorating and are a tasty treat for parties or gifting.
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Russian Tea Cakes

Russian Tea Cakes (also known as Mexican wedding cakes) make another great holiday cookie. They are dusted in confectioners’ sugar, and thus have a beautiful white snowball like appearance. I love putting these in a gift box or including them on a holiday cookie platter.

These Russian Tea Cakes look like little snowballs, making them perfect holiday cookies. The toasted pecans, brown butter and sugar make for a delicious cookie that is beautiful, simple and elegant.
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Butter Cookies

A simple butter cookie, or shortbread cookie, is such a wonderful treat. A rich buttery flavor is, of course, the hallmark of these cookies, but you can include all kinds of flavors in your recipe, and these are another option for a great cookie tray.

Shortbread only has three wonderful ingredients: butter, sugar and flour. The classic cookies are easy to make, but are sophisticated and delicious in a timeless way.
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Gluten-Free Cookie Recipes

Baking has come a long way for the Celiac community and those who are gluten intolerant. In fact, I like some of these gluten free cookies more than ones with gluten. Most styles can be made gluten free without sacrificing flavor, but sometimes getting the texture right can be a little tricky. Much like cookies with standard flour, there may be some trial and error to get your texture just right with these, but it’s worth it.

There are also some cookies, like meringues, that are naturally gluten free. Here on my site you’ll find several kinds of cookies that are naturally, or made, gluten free. Some of these recipes are for vegan cookies, too, including a vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe, because I know sometimes people who eat gluten free have other dietary restrictions as well. And if you are looking for more general tips on gluten free baking, check out my guide to gluten free desserts.

These are my favorite gluten free cookies:


Looking for an elegant and beautiful dessert that is much easier to make than you think? French macarons are the way to go. You can easily choose different flavor profiles and colors for a bright and beautiful tray of cookies that taste great. They are also gluten free.

Delicate and brittle on the outside with rich buttercream or ganache in the middle, macarons are not as difficult as you think. You can color them for any occasion and they're just beautiful, delicious and fun. Note: This recipe does require a scale, otherwise there is too much variability in the measurements to come out well.
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These chocolate macarons are both light, as a macaron should be and fudge-y, like a brownie. The chocolate macaron shells are made with cocoa powder and then they’re filled with a chocolate ganache, so they’re super deep chocolate fantastic flavor.
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I took a classic French dessert and added a bit of mint to the ganache—voila, you have minty macarons for St. Patrick’s Day. The vibrant green color is gorgeous and the mint flavor is a nice twist.
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I sandwiched the filling from "buckeyes" in between two chocolate-almond macarons from La Maison Du Chocolat. It's quintessential American candy blended with the dainty French confection. The light, crisp chocolate cookie is the perfect balance for the rich filling.
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Some people get macarons and macaroons mixed up, but they are quite different. Like macarons, macaroons are naturally gluten free, but macarons are made mainly of almond flour and macaroons are made mostly of shredded coconut. The coconut flavor is amazing, and you don’t need any flour. Some folks call these haystack cookies, but whatever name you know them by, you’ll love the flavor and texture.

Recipe shared with permission from Rick Nelson from The Great Minnesota Cookie Book by Lee Svitak Dean and Rick Nelson, from University of Minnesota Press.
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Recipe shared with permission from Rick Nelson from The Great Minnesota Cookie Book by Lee Svitak Dean and Rick Nelson, from University of Minnesota Press.
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These are the absolute best Coconut "Haystack" Macaroons. The naturally gluten-free cookies are tasty bites full of coconut flavor that are and easy to make. I make mine with dried fruit to add texture and flavor.
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Meringues are another naturally gluten free cookie. They look beautiful and have a wonderful texture and can be made with all kinds of flavors. Another deceptively easy recipe!

This is one easy recipe, served three different ways. It can be made by children of all ages, maybe with a little help from dad. By adding flavors to the meringue, you can personalize the dessert.
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More Favorite Cookie Recipes For the Holidays and Beyond


Hamantaschen can be found in any city, at most Jewish delis and bakeries, especially during the holiday of Purim. Making these triangular cookies is easy and in my humble opinion, better than most that I’ve sampled. The soft, tender dough is easy to make and the multiple filling options and cream cheese make these a delight worth trying for any occasion.

Hamantaschen can be found in any city, at most Jewish delis and bakeries, especially during the holiday of Purim. Making these triangular cookies is easy and in my humble opinion, better than most that I’ve sampled. The soft, tender dough is easy to make and the multiple filling options make these a delight worth trying for any occasion. Dough inspired by Joan Nathan's rugelach dough in Jewish Cooking in America.
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Another treat with a tender dough and sweet fruit fillings, these rugelach are beautiful little pastries. They are rolled up to look like little crescent rolls, and you can fill them with your favorite flavors. This recipe was inspired by a conversation with my grandmother and a recipe from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America.

Rugelach are little filled pastries from Jewish baking. I made mine with raspberry, nuts and chocolate wrapped in cream cheese dough— perfect bites that balance sweetness with a little zest.
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Linzer Torte

Want to add the look of a lattice pie to your cookie tray without making an entire pie? Try these beautiful linzer tortes. They feature raspberry jam spread between a rich, buttery, hazelnut cookie dough and are based on a classic English biscuit.

Linzer Tortes are little jam biscuits fit for a royal wedding. The rich, buttery hazelnut cookie dough is a tasty exterior to the sweet raspberry jam inside. These are a mini version that come in perfect bite sizes.
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Kitchen Tools for Making the Best Cookies

Great kitchen tools help every baker make the beautiful cookies above and craft the perfect dough. I have all of my favorite cookie-making tools in my Amazon shop, and I’ve highlighted a few below that I just can’t make cookies without.

Cookie sheets

Good cookie sheets will help your cookies bake more evenly. My favorites are from Nordic Ware, and come in a set of three different sizes. They are made from aluminum, which conducts heat more evenly and heats up (and cools down) quickly.

Cooling rack

A cooling rack is important so your cookies don’t continue baking after you pull them from the oven. Some recipes will call for cookies to stay on the pan for a period before moving them to the rack, so be sure to pay close attention to the instructions. Cooling racks come in different shapes and sizes, so look for one that works for your space and that is non-stick.


A good mixer is very helpful when making stiff cookie dough. Whether you use a hand mixer or a stand mixer, it will be much easier than using a whisk or wooden spoon!


A good silpat helps save time and cut down on waste. The silicone baking mats can be used in place of parchment paper and don’t need to be greased to avoid sticking.

Cookie Scoop

Using a cookie scoop will ensure all of your cookies end up the same size, which is important so they all bake for the same amount of time. If you have some cookies that are bigger than others, you may have some that are under baked or over baked.

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12 thoughts to “The Ultimate Cookie Guide, With 22 Recipes”

  1. Hello! What is the recipe for the chocolate cookie shown at the heading of this article? I just bought cookie stamps and would like to try that cookie dough with them. Your ideas and creativity are so inspiring. Thank you for your time.

  2. Wonderful tips, thank you! One question: I make a lot of pizza dough and cookies. My 3rd KitchenAid mixer burned out last week. I’m considering either an Ankarsrum or the Wolf mixers?

    Any recommendations?

  3. I remember as a young child my stepmother use to made a cookie from a metal flower that was cooked in oil. I believe they are called Rosettes? I haven’t been able to find this Cookie utensil or a recipe. can you help me?

  4. I love, love, love your shows on Magnolia Network. I hope you plan to be back with more episodes. I’ve learned so much but you are also delightful to watch.

    1. Thank you for your kind words about the show, Mary Jeanne! Zoe Bakes Season 3 will air on Magnolia Network later this summer, but if you have discovery+ or Max (formerly HBO Max) you can watch all three seasons now.

  5. I came looking for the nabisco chocolate wafer dupe recipe! Went to make our yearly icebox cake this Christmas and was surprised to find them discontinued. Found an article mentioning Zoe wrote a recipe to replicate them! Thanks for the help

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