So much about the holiday season is centered on tradition, not to mention repetition. Every year, you may pull out the same decorations, the same cozy flannel pajamas, the same music playlist. You probably even gather with many of the same people, with whom you cook the same food. And yet you can still have a completely different experience every single time.
That’s like baking in a lot of ways. So many recipes feature the same major staples — butter, sugar, flour, spices, chocolate — and still, the variations are endless.
We’ve been publishing an annual holiday cookie collection for 18 years now, and I’m always amazed and elated by the ideas that come from the chefs, cooks and authors we work with to bring you this reader-favorite feature. If you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to cookies, these recipes just might change your mind.
Again, our mission was simple: no theme, just some really good cookies. You will notice a few commonalities in this year’s 13 entrants into the cookie canon, but the end results could not be more different. Like cardamom? You’ll find them in slice-and-bakes and thumbprints. Orange blossom water appears in a riff on snickerdoodles and Mexican conchas. Vegan and gluten-free bakers each get several recipes, and others that are easily adapted to fit those needs. We also have quite a few options for chocolate lovers and cooks who appreciate brightly colored cookies — you’ll find shades of red, purple, green and pink. As usual, we share expected and less expected takes on nostalgic classics, plus innovative contemporary creations.
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If you want a recipe guaranteed to stand out with your individuality, look no further than this year’s cookie project: Shortbread Cookie Animals from cookbook author and “Great British Baking Show” contestant Kim-Joy. She walks you through how you can take one basic shortbread dough and turn it into adorable pandas, cats and frogs, with plenty of other creatures just waiting for you to dream them up. There are no limits on how many ways you can decorate these cookies, either taking inspiration from Kim-Joy’s signature style or your own.
All these contributors — plus Voraciously’s ever-dedicated cadre of testers, tasters, editors, photographers, designers and stylists — have put their hearts and souls into this enticing collection. We hope you find something, or several things, worth putting on repeat year after year.
Let’s meet the lineup:
Cardamom and Rose Thumbprint Cookies
Louisa Shafia pays homage to her Jewish and Iranian Muslim heritage with this delicate, floral cookie that easily comes together in the food processor — and happens to be vegan and gluten-free.
Chocolate-Raspberry Truffle Sandwich Cookies
Chocolate lovers will rejoice at Taffy Elrod’s chocolate-shop-inspired, gluten-free creation, which features dense, fudgy cookies held together with a fruity, silken ganache.
Pastry chef Isabel Coss transforms conchas, a shell-shaped Mexican bread, into stunning, orange-scented sugar cookies that melt in your mouth.
Jamaican Gizzada Cookie Bars
Gizzada are small, spiced coconut tarts popular in Jamaica, but Mila Clarke made them easier and more shareable by turning them into a bar cookie with a shortbread base.
Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies
Let your affection and nostalgia for those tiny grocery store chocolate chip cookies wash over you when you bite into Sarah Carey’s soft and sweet bite-size treats.
Orange Blossom Snickerdoodles
Nasim Lahbichi adds a Moroccan twist to this classic spiced cookie with the floral notes of cardamom and orange blossom.
Rye Molasses Cookies
These massive whole-grain cookies from Tara Jensen use all rye flour for an extra-chewy interior that is a perfect foil for the crunchy turbinado sugar on the outside.
Salted ‘Kacang Puteh’ Crisped Rice Treats
In this unique sweet-and-salty vegan recipe, Gan Chin Lin combines her love of Singaporean roadside snacks with the cereal-and-marshmallow treat many of us grew up eating.
Shortbread Cookie Animals
In this recipe simply stirred together by hand, “Great British Baking Show” viewer favorite Kim-Joy teaches you how to make the most adorable panda, cat and frog cookies, no fancy decorating skills required.
Strawberry Pistachio Slice-and-Bake Cookies
Add colorful flair to your cookie platter with these two-toned beauties from Amisha Gurbani that honor a family-favorite “biscuit” that traveled from Africa to India.
Ube Lengua de Gato
Francis Ang took the concept of the supermarket Milano and ran with it, sandwiching two vibrant purple ube wafers around a caramelized white chocolate ganache spiked with yuzu marmalade.
Vegan Chocolate Peppermint S’mores Cookies
Embrace the flavors of the holiday season with these large, peppermint- and marshmallow-studded chocolate cookies from bakery owner Maya Madsen.
Zobo Chin Chin
In keeping with her Nigerian background, Lopè Ariyo merges zobo, a hibiscus-flavored drink, with chin chin, a fried snack reminiscent of a slightly crispy doughnut, for a ginger-heavy treat you’ll want to eat by the handful.
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 Natalie Vineberg. Additional development by Jake Crump. Design editing by Christine Ashack. Editing and recipe editing by Matt Brooks, Ann Maloney and Olga Massov. Copy editing by Jim Webster. Portraits by (from top): Danielle B. Atkins, Jeffrey Mertz, Isabel Coss, Mila Clarke,Joanna Garcia, Kelsey Cherry, Keresten Vasey, Gan Chin Lin, Ellis Parrinder, Roger Gurbani, Allison Webber, Kinda Arzon/Maya’s Cookies, Laura Edwards.