For someone with a sweet tooth who demands instant gratification and gets bored with extended baking projects, there is no better spending-a-day-inside-at-home activity than baking cookies. Most cookies require less than an hour of measuring, mixing, and scooping. The process is simple enough that kids can join in, and you can feel proud of yourself for finding a way to entertain them for 20 minutes or so. Then, after a brief interlude in the oven, which will make your house smell amazing, you get fresh, warm comfort. And, as a bonus, you’ll have extras to nibble on all week long or to share with friends and neighbors. Who can look at a cookie and feel unhappy?
Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite cookie recipes from The Takeout archive, including selections from all the greatest cookie groups: shortbread, gingersnap, coffee-dunking biscuit, holiday cookies, and, of course, chocolate chip.
Dorie Greenspan’s Raisin Bars (Sort Of)
This cookie bar was developed in the spirit of adaptation: taking a beloved tried-and-true recipe from a preeminent baker and incorporating some flair to make it your very own. Dorie Greenspan’s Raisin Bar recipe turns out to be the perfect canvas for any number of add-ons—in fact, you can use whatever you have around the house for filling. Dry mix-ins like candy pieces (chopped up Rolos and Reese’s are great!), nuts, seeds, and dried fruit work well, or you can use a wet filling like a fruit spread or nut butter. Find the recipe here, as well as some thoughts from Greenspan herself on why this recipe works.
Chocolate Thai Peanut Butter Cookies
This recipe for Chocolate Thai Peanut Butter Cookies was the winner of The Takeout’s first annual holiday cookie contest, and it deserves all the accolades. It’s a classic peanut butter cookie at heart, complete with fork imprints, but kicked up a notch with red curry paste and a spicy dark chocolate coating. Want a chocolate-free version? No problem: you can simply ditch the coating and add some extra chili to the dough itself. Here’s the recipe.
This standby of old-school Italian bakeries is pretty much made entirely of almonds and sugar and studded with pine nuts that get deliciously toasty in the oven. And homemade ones are a whole other experience, because while they’re still good days after baking, a warm pignoli cookie eaten directly off the baking sheet is heavenly. Most recipes call for store-bought almond paste, but since that ingredient can be hard to find, our recipe includes a bonus lesson on how to make your own. Wouldn’t you like to learn a new skill this baking season? Here’s the recipe.
Anise Drops are delightful little cookies. They’re about the size of a quarter, chewy and tender with a crisp exterior and a mild anise flavor. They’re often described as being “self-frosting,” which is really just another way of saying that, like French macarons, they develop feet: little ruffles with a vertical rise at the bottom of the cookie, filled with delicate air bubbles. They’re not the easiest cookie to make—the oven temperature and bake time must be precise—but when done right, the results are spectacular. Here’s the recipe.
Salty Oatmeal Scotchies
There’s just something about the combination of the nutty, crunchy chew of oatmeal paired with the creamy, caramel hum of butterscotch that makes Salty Oatmeal Scotchies an irresistible addition to the holiday cookie lineup. Both in color and in flavor, butterscotch is a lighter alternative to chocolate chips, and is bound to please haters of the more traditional oatmeal raisin cookie. Sweet but not too sweet, crunchy but gooey, with just a little bit of salt on top to bring out the richness—need we go on? Here’s the recipe.
Poppy Seed Cookies
This poppy seed cookie is the definition of understated elegance: the flavor is mild, lightly sweet, with a backnote of citrus and the musky magic of poppy seeds. It is crisp without being crunchy. It is a snack on its own, but pairs well with coffee or tea, or sherry or whisky. Pro tip: make them extra-small, the size of quarters, to put in a bowl for easy snacking. Get the recipe here.
Chinese-American food holds a special place in our hearts, and this crumbly, fragrant dim sum dessert is surprisingly easy to achieve at home. The recipe is a centerpiece of The Nom Wah Cookbook by Wilson Tang with Joshua David Stein, a collection of recipes from the century-old Nom Wah Tea Parlor—the oldest restaurant in New York City’s Chinatown. Get the recipe here.
Gram Swaney’s Potato Chip Cookies
Potato chip cookies only get better the second day, after the salty, crispy crumbles have permeated the surrounding dough to become an even more delicious blend of savory and sweet. Best of all, this recipe doesn’t require special ingredients that even a small grocery store wouldn’t have; in fact, the ingredients are such common baking staples that you might already have everything required to bake a big batch of them right now. Get the recipe here.
Matcha Chocolate Chunk Cookies
If you’ve mastered the art of the chocolate chip cookie, try throwing yourself a curveball with Matcha Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Desserts made with matcha tea powder have become more readily available in recent years, but they’re often imbalanced. Matcha is a delicate flavor, charming and delicious when properly prepared; too much sweetness in the dessert can overpower its subtle sweet, savory, and umami notes. That’s why this simple, straightforward recipe lets matcha truly shine, allowing its bitterness to work with the sweetness of the chocolate. Get the recipe here.
Beer & Pretzel Caramel Cookie Bars
Cookie bars are still cookies, right? You won’t want to quibble over technicalities when you taste these Beer & Pretzel Caramel Cookie Bars—they’re basically like a giant 9x13" Twix bar. Layers of shortbread and caramel are topped with a generous amount of chocolate ganache, plus flaky sea salt and even more crumbled pretzels, because too much of a good thing is exactly what you need. And did we mention they taste even better frozen? Just make these already. Here’s the recipe.
Brown Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pastry chef Dana Cree (who was previously at the Chicago restaurant The Publican but has since left to open her own shop, Pretty Cool Ice Cream) was kind enough to share her recipe for Brown Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies, which, just from the name alone, sounds like a combination of everything that is good in this world. Bake some today, won’t you? Get the recipe here.
Bacon gets all the glory when we talk about processed pig meat, but does anyone ever give a thought to ham? Traditionally, ham comes with a sweet glaze. Why not try putting that glaze on a cookie? Don’t worry, there’s still some bacon in these Pig Cookies. And with the right cookie cutter, they can make adorable gifts, too. Get the recipe here.
To dunk or not to dunk a cookie remains a subject of great controversy around here. But it remains a truth universally acknowledged that there are some cookies, like biscotti, that only become edible once you dip them in coffee. Mandelbrot, an Eastern European cousin to biscotti, is similarly bar-shaped and crunchy, but it has a higher oil content, which makes it a little softer and sweeter. Adding chocolate is optional, but highly recommended for an especially delicious afternoon coffee break. Find the recipe here.
Russian Tea Cakes
There is nothing more annoying than a recipe for which you have all the ingredients except for one little thing that is also absolutely crucial, especially at a time when you can’t just go running out to the store on a moment’s notice. This recipe for Russian Tea Cakes is highly adaptable. As written, it calls for pecans or hazelnuts, but you can substitute whatever you happen to have on hand. You can dip the cookies in chocolate when you’re done, but you don’t have to if you don’t feel like it. Be free! Do what you can! Here’s the recipe!
Betty Ford’s Double Chocolate Cookies
One of the weirdest parts of modern presidential campaigns is the custom in which the candidates’ spouses face off with cookie recipes. None of the recipes have been too impressive, honestly, and Bill Clinton totally cheated in 2016 by recycling Hillary’s recipe from when he ran. The very best White House cookie recipe comes from a First Lady whose husband ended up in office by default: Betty Ford. The name Double Chocolate Cookies is a misnomer: these are actually triple chocolate cookies since they contain melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips. Betty Ford traditionally served them at Thanksgiving, but why be fussy? Make a batch anytime—here’s the recipe.
There are some people who prefer fruit to chocolate. We should be kind to them, because everyone has their preferences. For these people, we have jam-filled thumbprint cookies. This cookie is also ideal for entertaining small children: for once, they’re encouraged to stick their fingers in food! As The Takeout’s Gwen Ihnat wrote of her own children’s thumbprint cookies, “It was like a mini, temporary version of the handprints I got from their preschool, except delicious.” Here’s the recipe.
Gingersnaps are some of the world’s most perfect cookies. But what would happen if you made them with jaggery, a form of unrefined sugar used across Southeast Asia, and then threw in some tart and acidic tamarind? You’d get a very unusual and delicious gingersnap, one that tastes as bright and sour as chutney, more like springtime than the depths of winter. Find the recipe here.
Toasted Brown Butter Nut Shortbread
Sometimes, a cookie needs time to grow into its best self. It needs to sit in the refrigerator overnight to think about life and allow the dough to hydrate and absorb all the sugars. You could rush these Toasted Brown Butter Nut Shortbread cookies and make them all in one day, but you’d only be getting a pale imitation of what they could be if you’d only allowed them to reach their full potential. Read all about it here.