Holiday Cookies from Coast to Coast: The Best Recipes for Dessert Tables and DIY Gifts

By Salma Abdelnour | December 16, 2014
snow cap cookies
Photo by Jennifer Olson, San Luis Obispo

No matter where you live or how you celebrate the holidays, chances are there’s one thing you look forward to when December rolls around: cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. Crunchy, soft, big, small, classic or new, cookies are undeniably some of the most exciting perks of the holiday season. There’s no better time to explore all the regional varieties of cookies out there. Whether you’re planning to bake up a batch for your family or make dozens to give out as gifts, check out these mouthwatering cookie recipes from regional Edibles all over the U.S. and Canada.


Edible Sarasota Pomegranate Pinwheels
Sarasota, Charlotte & Bradenton Area, FL

These picture-perfect pinwheels make beautiful holiday cookies: Check out the festive star shape and the bright-red pomegranate seeds. Plus, they work equally well as hors d’oeuvres. Shape the puff pastry into pinwheel shapes and top it with a savory-sweet mixture of cream cheese, sugar and pomegranate molasses, and serve the treats at a Florida-inspired December cocktail party--out on the patio if it’s not too cold!

Edible Nashville Molasses Cookies
Nashville, TN

These sweet-as-molasses cookies get their "dried mud" appearance by dipping the balls of dough into cold water then sugar, which creates clumps while they bake. You'll be sold on the molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger combo, too.

Edible Orlando — The Sugar Sweet Citrus Snap Cookies
Orlando, FL

Nibbling on a cookie made with fresh lemons and oranges is a fitting way to enjoy a sweet holiday treat from The Sunshine State. 

Edible Dallas & Fort Worth Mexican Wedding Cookies
Dallas and Fort Worth, TX

Despite their name, these cookies are more often served around Christmas than at weddings in the Lone Star State. Whether you make the traditional Mexican version (flavoring the cookies with anise) or the Tex-Mex way (rolling them in powdered sugar), these soft and crunchy cinnamon-and-nut-spiked confections will win everyone over.

Edible Upcountry Bear Bread
Upstate South Carolina

A reader in Clemson, South Carolina, submitted the recipe for these irresistible bear-shaped bread loaves. Sure, they’re not technically cookies, but they’ll be just as big a hit, especially with kids. As a fun activity during the holiday break, the little ones can help shape the half-white, half-wheat dough into cute bear shapes.

Edible Charlotte Carrot Cake Cookies
Charlotte, NC

Carrot-cake lovers will go crazy for this cookie recipe from Edible Charlotte. Loaded with carrots, coconut, raisins and dried cherries and flavored with ginger and nutmeg, these treats are delicious with a mug of hot mulled wine, especially after a busy day of holiday gift-shopping.


Edible Phoenix  Mesquite Almond Cookies
Phoenix, Arizona

Get a taste of Arizona with these deceptively simple almond cookies, which get their subtle, unusual flavor from Southwestern mesquite meal. They’re as easy to make as they are delicious, and they make perfect edible holiday gifts, especially for homesick Phoenix expats.

Edible Aspen  Applesauce Chocolate Chip Cookies
Aspen, Colorado

Applesauce and chocolate: Two great tastes that go great together. This unique cookie recipe from Edible Aspen is the perfect excuse to combine the two irresistible ingredients. The cookies are also tinged with fragrant baking spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Serve them with piping-hot apple cider for a post-prandial holiday treat.

Edible Santa Fe Pistachio Orange Biscotti
Santa Fe, New Mexico

These crunchy, nutty, twice-baked biscotti come out extra-crispy, and get a rich coating of melted chocolate  chips (any kind you like: dark, milk or white). Edible Santa Fe contributor Amy White uses New Mexico pistachios and homemade candied orange peel to make these Christmastime staples, but you can use any pistachios you can find--and store-bought candied peel works perfectly well too.

California & Hawaii

Edible San Luis Obispo  Snow Caps
San Luis Obispo County, California

Even if the holidays where you live don’t usually involve snow, you can get as close as possible with these minty, melt-in-your mouth meringues, which dissolve like frost when you bite into them. Plus, they look like little snow caps-- if snow caps were packed with miniature chocolate chips, that is.

Edible San Diego  PB&J Cookie Cups
San Diego, California

Super-indulgent and gluten-free to boot, these cookie cups will make you a star at any holiday party or potluck. Shape the simple batter, made with all-natural peanut butter, into small spheres and drop them into a lined mini-muffin pan, then bake and top with your favorite jam (or choose other gluten-free toppings like Nutella or marshmallow fluff).

Edible Hawaiian Islands Crispy Cheese Cookies
Hawaiian Islands

It’s easy to overindulge in sweet desserts during the holiday season, so why not switch it up a bit with these savory cheese cookies? Packed with tangy sharp cheddar and spicy jalapeno jack cheese, the cookies get their extra crunch from almonds and Rice Krispies, and added savory flavor from fresh rosemary and Hawaiian red salt--but feel free to use any sea salt you can find.

Northwest & Canada

Edible Seattle  Holiest Holiday Shortbread
Seattle, Washington

These sweet, buttery shortbread cookies get their nuanced flavor from emmer flour, a Seattle farmer’s market mainstay--but the recipe works just as well with graham flour or buckwheat flour. Dust the cookies with powdered sugar to get a snow-like effect.

Edible Portland  Chewy Mocha Walnut Cookies
Portland, Oregon

From Portland-based cookbook author and writer Ellen Jackson comes this recipe for a surefire holiday hit. These chocolate-and-espresso-spiked cookies are a fitting tribute to Portland, a city known for its fantastic coffee. If you’re giving out batches of cookies as gifts, you can make the dough ahead and freeze it; then when you’re ready, pop it out of the freezer and bake the cookies until they reach the perfect crispy-chewy texture.

Edible Idaho Chocolate and Butterscotch Cookies

These scrumptious cookies are favorites of Idaho South eighth-grader Peter, a student at the local Community School. As part of Edible Idaho South’s project to source recipes from food-loving schoolchildren, this recipe also features Peter’s comments on why he loves these cookies so much. Note: The ingredient list is broken up into a few parts, so read through the whole thing first, then gather all the ingredients, bake a batch of these cookies, and give them to all your favorite people (and teachers!) for the holidays.

Edible Vancouver Caramel Apple Macarons
Vancouver, BC, Canada

Are you a confident baker, or at least willing to spend an afternoon making these somewhat challenging (but infinitely rewarding) macarons? Trust us, they’re well worth the effort. Submitted by the Pastry Training Centre of Vancouver, the recipe has you pipe a rich caramel-apple buttercream into light-as-air almond macarons. You can use red food coloring to give these treats a special holiday flair.


Edible Indy Butter Cookies
Central Indiana

These aptly named cookies are made with a pound of butter--plus sugar, egg yolks, flour, vanilla extract and salt. The ingredient list is super-basic, but the lusciously rich cookies are some of the most memorable holiday treats you’ll make. Shape them into snowflakes, angels or Christmas trees, or use any holiday-themed cookie cutters you have on hand, then decorate the cookies with icing and coarse sugar.

Edible Milwaukee Rosie's Biscotti
Milwaukee, WI

On a cold winter night in Milwaukee, what could be cozier than fresh home-baked biscotti dipped in a mug of hot chocolate? Whip up a batch of these easy Italian-style cookies, ice them with a powdered-sugar glaze, and box them up in festive jars or tins to give as holiday gifts all season long.

Edible Ohio Valley Rolled Baklava
Ohio River Valley, OH

Submitted by Ohio-based reader Rita Heikenfeld, whose Lebanese mother always made baklava for Christmas, this recipe is a perfect excuse to gather the family around the kitchen. Heikenfeld involves her kids in cracking and grinding the walnuts and making the syrup, and everyone gets to enjoy the sweet, sticky results.

Edible Door Helen's Honorable Mention 4-H Fudge
Northeastern Wisconsin

Freelance writer Pamela Parks of Northeast Wisconsin’s Door County, who grew up eating fudge around the holidays, shares her 13-year-old daughter Helen’s fudge recipe, which won an honorable mention at a regional 4-H fair. The recipe couldn’t be easier to make, and it’s a fun way to involve kids in holiday baking.

Edible Chicago Mix and Match Cookies
Chicago, IL

When it comes to holiday gifts, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all--and neither does one kind of cookie. That’s why these customizable cookies from Edible Chicago make ideal gifts. Start with the basic batter recipe, and add dried fruits, nuts, oatmeal, chocolate chips, candy, or any cookie mix-in that you (and your gift recipients) love the most. Then wrap the cookies up in holiday-themed ribbons and prepare for big smiles.

New England

Edible Seacoast Pepparkakor
Seacoast Region, NH

Pepparkokar, literally translated to "spice cookie," is a quintessential Swedish holiday cookie with a distinct spicy flavor that's sure to be a crowd pleaser. 


Edible Rhody Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies
Rhode Island

From Rhode Island’s Van Allsburg family comes this cherished recipe for a classic sugar cookie, a surefire winner as an edible gift or holiday dessert. Top each cookie with a raisin or a blanched almond, or customize with a dried cranberry or another kind of nut if you prefer. Either way, you’ll want to come back to this recipe year after year.

Edible Cape Cod Cranberry Crunch Cookies
Charlotte, NC

These red-flecked, cranberry-spiked cookies make festive DIY gifts. Loaded with Cape Cod cranberries (or any kind of dried canberries you can find), they get their crunch from graham crackers and toasted almonds, and an extra hit of citrusy flavor from orange juice and fresh orange zest.

Edible Boston Walnut Acorn Cookies
Boston, MA

A reader in Framingham, Massachusetts--just outside Boston--submitted this favorite family recipe created by her talented grandmother, who owned a bakery in the 1950s. These walnut-packed treats don’t actually contain acorns, but the cookies end up looking like acorns once you dip the bottom half in melted chocolate. (Bonus: Scroll down for a few more cookie ideas from the Boston area.)

Northeast & Mid-Atlantic

Edible Brooklyn Spiced Ginger Oatmeal Drops
Brooklyn, NY

Gingerbread isn’t the only holiday treat that stars ginger: These elegant little cookies are made with candied ginger and ground ginger, plus rolled oats and cinnamon. Created by Brooklyn’s artisanal One Girl Cookies bakery, these treats deserve to be shared with everyone on your gift list this holiday season.

Edible Jersey Main Street Manor's Christmas Crescent Cookies
New Jersey

Main Street Manor, a bed-and-breakfast in Flemington, New Jersey, specializes in these addictive Christmas cookies, adapted from a classic December 1963 recipe from Woman’s Day. Shaped like crescents and dusted with confectioner’s sugar, these butter-loaded cookies will vanish in seconds from any holiday dessert spread.

Edible Allegheny Mini Pecan Pumpkin Pie Cups
Pittsburgh, PA

This quintessentially wintry dessert recipe comes from Pennsylvania’s Edible Allegheny, and it will win over anyone with a sweet tooth--especially pumpkin-lovers and gluten-free eaters.  Make the crusts with almond flour, dates and pecans, then fill with a cinnamony pumpkin puree mixture. The result? These picturesque little confections, perfect for the holiday table. Bonus: These are vegan too, unless you decide to top them off with dollops of whipped cream.