How to Make the Best Sugar Cookie Recipe
Ingredients For the Perfect Sugar Cookie Recipe:
- All-purpose flour – Make sure to weigh your flour accurately. If you add too much flour, your cookies won’t spread at all and won’t be soft or chewy.
- Baking powder – This gives the sugar cookies lift, without adding too much spread or browning.
- Fine sea salt – So important to balance the sweetness!
- Unsalted butter – It’s important that your butter is at a cool room temperature, otherwise your cookies may spread.
- Granulated sugar – The star ingredient! Don’t reduce the sugar – find out why here.
- Eggs – One whole egg with an extra egg yolk lends richness and chewiness to the texture. Make sure they’re at room temperature.
- Vanilla extract – No sugar cookie recipe is complete without vanilla extract.
How to Make SOFT Sugar Cookies
- The extra egg yolk helps to add more moisture and richness, for a soft and chewy texture.
- The other trick is found in the size of the dough ball…. a whole 3 tablespoons in each! This creates larger cookies that spread out perfectly with ultra-soft centers.
- Whatever you do, don’t overbake this sugar cookie recipe. They should still look ever so slightly ‘wet’ in the center when you pull them from the oven.
Why Did my Sugar Cookies Spread?
To prevent flat sugar cookies that spread into little puddles, it’s important to make sure your butter is at a COOL room temperature.
Your sticks of butter should give slightly when pressed with your finger but still hold their shape. To be precise, your butter should be 67°F.
How to Get a Crinkly Top in Sugar Cookies
Baking powder is one ingredient that gives these cookies their characteristic cracks, so make sure your baking powder is fresh. Check out my Baking Soda vs Baking Powder article for more details and instructions on how to test for freshness.
You also want to make sure that your butter is at a cool room temperature (67°F) as that can affect the appearance of these sugar cookies as well.
PLUS, rolling the cookies in granulated sugar is important! The sugar helps to draw moisture out from the surface of the cookies while they bake, which dries out the tops before the interior sets, resulting in pretty cracks.
Roll Your Sugar Cookie Dough Balls in Sugar Before Baking!
Roll each ball of dough in a shallow dish filled with granulated sugar. This creates that slightly crispy exterior and beautiful sparkly appearance.
Can I Make This Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe With a Hand Mixer?
Yes! A hand mixer will work just as well as a stand mixer.
What Kind of Baking Sheet is Best for Cookies?
A light-colored aluminum half sheet pan is my favorite for baking cookies. Avoid dark nonstick pans altogether, they brown too much and may burn the bottoms of your cookies. The below photo features cookies from the same exact batch of dough, baked for the same amount of time at the same temperature. The only difference was the baking pan!
Check out my Baking Pans 101 post for all the surprising details. Or, just click here to score my favorite baking pans for cookies (and everything else!)
Should I Line my Baking Sheets with Parchment Paper or Silicone Baking Mats?
I prefer parchment paper for cookies over silicone mats, to line my cookie sheets. Parchment is easier and quicker to clean up. Silicone mats like Silpats can actually lead to more spreading and browning. Check out the details here.
Whatever you do, never spray your baking sheet, parchment paper or silicone mat with nonstick cooking spray when baking cookies. This will lead to too much browning and spread (hello, burnt cookie puddles).
Why Use a Cookie Scoop?
Do You Need to Chill Sugar Cookie Dough?
It’s not required for this sugar cookie recipe. Immediately baking after mixing will result in absolutely delicious cookies; however, if time permits, chilling the dough for 24-72 hours does result in cookies that are thicker, chewier, and more flavorful. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap before refrigerating. When ready to bake, let dough sit at room temperature just until it is soft enough to scoop. Learn more about chilling cookie dough here.
How Long to Bake Drop Style Sugar Cookies
Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until the sugar cookies are set and are just beginning to brown around the edges. The longer you bake, the crispier your cookies will be.
Can This Recipe be Used For Cut-out Cookies?
No, this sugar cookie recipe was designed for simple drop-style cookies. If you want cookie cutter sugar cookies instead, check out my Cut Out Sugar Cookie recipe here.
How to Decorate Sugar Cookies
This is totally optional, as these cookies are so pretty by themselves – but if you want to make them a more colorful treat, here are my top tips:
- Roll the balls of dough in colored sugar before baking. I like to have one bowl filled with green-colored sugar and a separate with red, for easy Christmas sugar cookies!
- You can also fold in 1/4-1/2 cup of multi-colored jimmies or holiday jimmies or sprinkles as a last step before rolling the dough balls in granulated sugar, to add even more festive colors to this sugar cookie recipe!
- Use my Best Buttercream Frosting recipe for decorating. You can get creative with the flavor suggestions in that recipe post or use gel food coloring to add colorful flair.
- Another favorite is my Best Cream Cheese Frosting recipe!
How to Store Sugar Cookies
Store sugar cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Store cookies with a tortilla, apple wedge, or piece of bread to keep them soft for longer.
Can You Freeze Sugar Cookies?
Yes! This sugar cookie recipe freezes beautifully. Freeze the uncoated, pre-portioned balls of cookie dough in a freezer-safe container, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, or in a Ziploc bag. Allow them to thaw overnight in the fridge or for 30-60 minutes at room temperature, then bake as directed below.
You can roll the cookie dough balls in the sugar before freezing – however, the dough will absorb some of the sugar, and it won’t have quite the same visual or texture impact compared to rolling in sugar right before baking.
Check out my How to Freeze Cookie Dough article for step-by-step instructions (and how to bake from frozen).