12 colorful holiday cookie recipes to illuminate the season

(Photos by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
(Photos by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

The scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy steps out of her black-and-white house into the Technicolor world of the yellow brick road is one of the most breathtaking movie moments I’ve ever seen. The air catches in my throat, and I’m awestruck no matter how many times I have watched it.

That’s exactly how I feel about this year’s holiday cookie section. Seeing them all together for the first time at our photo shoot, as you do here, I got more than a little choked up. The colors, the joy, the love that our team and contributors put into it all — it was like stepping out of the shadows and into a rainbow.

As in 2020, our cookie issue, now in its 17th year, was something to help buoy our spirits even as the world around us continued to be shaken by the ongoing pandemic, natural disasters and social unrest. Again, we retreated to our kitchens as a balm. We tested, we tasted. We delivered cookies and developed a relay system all over the Washington area, sharing both the workload and fruits of our labor.

We deliberately cast a wider net — stretching far beyond our little corner of the globe — when recruiting recipe developers. We reached out to chefs, bloggers and authors from all over the country and in a few international locales as well. The only true objective: Notching another dozen outstanding recipes for our ever-expanding archive of holiday treats.

In this collection, you’ll find an eclectic, engaging array of cookies and confections. Seeking a traditional rolled and cut cookie to decorate? We have those. How about easy drop cookies that are both nostalgic and novel? They’re here, too. Gluten-free and vegan options? Check and check. You’ll find ingredients to appeal to many tastes, with recipes featuring chocolate, nuts, spices, dried fruit and more. There are treats that shimmer and sparkle, others draped in icing. They’re accessible and approachable, and even when a recipe asks you to go a step above, trust us that the effort is well worth it (and the offered alternatives are just as delicious).

Try one or try them all. Either way, be sure to share with your friends and family. Now let’s introduce you to this year’s recipes:

About this story

Photos by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post. Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post. Photo editing by Jennifer Beeson Gregory. Design and development by Christine Ashack. Additional development by Leo Dominguez. Design editing by Rachel Orr. Editing and recipe editing by Matt Brooks, Ann Maloney and Olga Massov. Copy editing by Jim Webster. Portraits by (from top): Hector Velez, Jordan Hunter, Jessica Hylton Leckie, Melissa Hom, Stephanie Noritz, Mitchell Maher, Thalia Ho, Courtesy of Vallery Lomas, Regina Onal, Neil Burger, Dana Richards/ettakit and Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post.

Becky Krystal is a food reporter and staff writer for Voraciously. After several years as a general assignment reporter in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, she came to The Washington Post in 2007 to work for TV Week and Sunday Source. Her time at The Post also includes a five-year stint in the Travel section.