Popular Christmas Cookies, Ranked Worst To Best

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A ranking of Christmas cookies from worst to best makes it sound as though there are "bad" cookies out there, which really isn't the case — with the obvious exception of two anomalies, fruitcake cookies and coconut macaroons, both of which should be ashamed at their attempt to align with the likes of delicious chocolate crinkles and festive gingerbread men. 

But are there "less good" cookies? Absolutely. Less good cookies would be those with dessert-ruining ingredients, like raisins. Or cookies that really just make you wish you were drinking a cocktail instead, like rum balls. Even so, it's hard to turn any cookie down, especially during the holidays when the seasonal treats come out to play and you've very seriously committed to a month of gastronomical debauchery.

Of course, we all have own opinions when it comes to food, but if we were assembling our dream cookie platter, here's how it would go down.

25. Fruitcake cookies

If you've already made fruitcake cookies this holiday season, we have good news for you: In 2017, a 100-year-old fruitcake was found in Antarctica that was deemed "almost edible," and said to be in "excellent condition." How is that good news, you ask? Well, it means that each December, after nobody eats your fruitcake cookies, you can pack them up and put them away until the next year, again and again and again. Those cookies just might outlive you, so be sure to pass them down to the grandkids.

If you're still hellbent on making fruitcake cookies, and you actually want them to get eaten, go heavy-handed with the booze and skip the technicolor jellied fruit that's been sitting in the grocery store for five years. If they're soaked in enough rum — like, absolutely dripping with rum — and contain regular ol' dried fruit instead of that tub of bejeweled fruit-sugar, you might have a chance.

24. Chocolate dipped coconut macaroons

On an almost daily basis, the internet informs us of all the things we do incorrectly, particularly when it comes to eating and cooking. For instance, we're eating our burgers the wrong way, we're making all kinds of mistakes with nacho cheese, and we're using our ovens all wrong. Yes, just about everything we do is wrong, wrong, wrong. And if you're eating chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons, you're probably doing that wrong, too. 

Maybe you weren't aware that there is a correct way to eat chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons, but there is. It's a two-step process, and step two is of utmost importance:

  1. Lick chocolate off bottom of macaroon.
  2. Throw remaining cookie in trash can.

Easy, right? From now on, with each macaroon encounter you have, you'll rest easy knowing that you're eating it the right way. (And for the record, a coconut macaroon sans chocolate shares slot number 15 with fruitcake cookies.)

23. Oatmeal raisin cookies

Oatmeal cookies? Yes, please. Oatmeal raisin cookies? Hard pass. Sure, sure, raisins have some nutritional benefits, but do you know what they definitely do not benefit? Cookies.

Raisins in foods are fine, provided they are only one component of a snack in which they can easily be picked out. Like trail mix, for example. Raisins in trail mix are tolerable because you can eat all the M&M's, and almonds, and chocolate chips around them, successfully avoiding the shriveled grapes. But raisins in cookies are not so easily avoidable, and that is why they should never be included in otherwise delicious desserts. Try as you might, it's just not possible to nibble around every single raisin in a cookie, and inevitably your perfectly chewy bite of slightly savory and slightly salty oatmeal is interrupted by something overly sweet and sticky.

Just let us enjoy our oatmeal cookies unadulterated, please.

22. Thumbprint jam cookies

Some things are just meant to be eaten together: Bacon and eggs. Peanut butter and jelly. Ranch dressing and... everything. Sure, you can have one without the other, but these flavor combinations reign supreme for a reason — it's almost sacrilegious to chow down on a burger without a pile of salty fries on the side.

Which brings us to thumbprint cookies. These classic holiday cookies are, in theory, not so bad (unless you're Ina Garten and roll them in coconut, which is inexcusable). Buttery shortbread bites topped with sweet, fruity jam? That's a tasty combination, to be sure. The problem with these cookies, though, is that there is no peanut butter, and where there is jam there should always be peanut butter.

Unfortunately, until peanut butter and jelly thumbprints start showing up more frequently at cookie exchanges, this Christmas treat will remain firmly near the bottom of the list.

21. Rum balls

Rum balls are the amateur baker's dream. In fact, there's no baking required at all, which earns these cookies some serious points. And there's no doubt that rum balls are tasty little morsels, unless they're rolled in coconut. Better options than coconut? Chopped nuts. Cocoa powder. Literally anything else — a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning mix would be preferable.

But here's the thing... Tasty as they may be, it's the holidays, and everyone is ready for a little Christmas cheer (or a lot of Christmas cheer, depending what their family gatherings are like). Rum balls seem like a great way to take in some booze in cookie form. The fatal flaw in this plan, however, is that you'd have to eat approximately 36 of those babies to consume the equivalent of a 2-ounce shot. Now, if you really love rum balls, maybe that sounds doable. Most of us, though, would probably be headed for the bathroom long before we felt any effects from the alcohol.  

20. Eggnog cookies

The first, second, and third thoughts that come to mind when eating an eggnog cookie are along the lines of, "Why am I not just drinking eggnog right now?" Like rum balls and mojito cheesecake, eggnog cookies seem to exist purely to remind you of what you don't have rather than what you do have. Are you craving a creamy drink that tastes like velvet and Christmas? Too bad. You get a buttery cookie that tastes okay in its own right but does nothing to satisfy your hankering for the festive holiday beverage.

In these cookies' defense, they are a perfectly serviceable addition to a holiday dessert spread, but don't expect them to be the centerpiece. They are neither delicious enough nor visually interesting enough to steal the show, but they will provide partygoers with a buttery, crumbly treat on their second pass of the dessert table. If you're tempted to make eggnog cookies for the next holiday gathering and have already procured the ingredients, allow us to make a suggestion. Put the carton of eggnog back in the fridge, unopened, and mix the remaining ingredients. Roll the dough into balls and put them in the oven. While you wait for them to bake, remove the eggnog from the fridge, pour yourself a glass, and drink up. If you're feeling extra festive, add a dash of bourbon. By the time the cookies come out of the oven, you won't care what they taste like.

19. Italian Pizzelle

Waffle cookies may not sound very festive, but in Italy, the crisp, intricately patterned cookies called pizzelle are beloved around the holidays. They also have the distinction of being one of the world's oldest cookies, emerging in the Abruzzo region of Italy and resembling an 8th century Roman flatbread called crustulum. But tradition isn't always indicative of merit, as fruitcake proves year after year, and pizzelle are not going to knock anyone's socks off. They fall squarely within the "pleasant" range of the cookie spectrum, which just doesn't cut it during a season when there are so many delicious alternatives.

Made with a simple batter of flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and baking powder, pizzelle have a light, neutral flavor and satisfying crunch, but nothing to make you swoon about. Many recipes include vanilla or anise seeds, but even with these additions, the cookies remain the kind of thing you'd serve with tea and coffee rather than tie with a ribbon and hand out as Christmas gifts.

If you're planning to make pizzelle, you'll be pleased to know that they are so easy you don't even have to turn the oven on. But there is a catch: you need a pizzelle iron to get those lacy shapes. If you have one, you and your family will no doubt enjoy the cookies, especially if they appeal to nostalgia. But if you don't, skip the purchase and make some sugar cookies instead. At least you can decorate them with icing and sprinkles.

18. Cranberry walnut cookies

While oatmeal raisin cookies will forever be on our naughty list, cranberry walnut cookies have a secure place on our nice list. Sure, there's a whiff of the health food store about them, but unlike raisins, cranberries are sweet and sour like the best types of candy, and walnuts offer a perfect combination of butteriness and crunch. If you're concerned about serving a treat that seems even the slightest bit healthy, you can always toss in a few handfuls of white chocolate chips to even things out. We aren't going to go as far as to say that these cookies will be the highest point of your holiday baking this year, but when offered on a platter next to an array of gingersnaps, chocolate chip cookies, and gingerbread men, they provide the perfect amount of variety—neither too similar to the classics nor too renegade.

One of the issues with these cookies is that their appearance is positively drab next to the colorful sprinkles and cookie-cutter shapes of gingerbread men and roll-out sugar cookies. They will never be the most popular option on the dessert table nor make the top row of treats you put in the festive cookie tin. However, they excel in flavor and provide a much-needed deviation from the usual hit of sugar and butter that defines most holiday cookie recipes.

17. Sugar cookies

Sugar cookies — the quintessential Christmas treat. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a standard sugar cookie. In fact, they're practically required on a holiday cookie platter. Plus, they contain no weird ingredients (ahem, raisins), and — this is a big one — you can buy the dough already made, slice it into cookies, and pass them off as homemade. If you really want to go crazy, bust out the cookie cutters and roll out the store-bought dough to make snowflakes and Santas.

But be warned: The minute you try to fancy up those oh-so-easy-to-make sugar cookies with royal icing, all hell will break loose. Suddenly your perfect treats have turned into a Pinterest fail and your kitchen is splattered with seven different colors of food dye. Remember: Plain sugar cookies deserve love, too. The chances of your decorated masterpieces turning out like the photo above are slim to none, and besides, royal icing doesn't even taste good anyway.

16. Persimmon cookies

Ah, persimmon season. If you have a tree that bears the orange-fleshed fruit, it's always exciting to see the first crop come in. You're exhilarated by the thought of all the seasonal treats you can whip up: Persimmon bread, persimmon jam, persimmons in salads, and of course, persimmon cookies. "I'll put persimmons in everything," you happily declare. 

But at some point, the inevitable happens, and the persimmons begin to overwhelm you. After you fill up yet another huge boxful you begin to resent them, and at this point you're rage-baking. Those cookies that you once deemed irresistible, with their warm baking spices and impossibly tender centers, are just a reminder of all the persimmons still to come. At last, you share everyone else's feelings about those so-so holiday cookies. You eventually snap, and find yourself having a "Mommie Dearest" moment, screaming to nobody in particular, "No persimmon cookies! What's persimmon cookies doing in this kitchen when I told you 'no persimmon cookies, ever!?'" 

15. Peppermint meringues

If you're asked to make cookies for a party and show up with meringues, you're likely to spend the evening fielding dirty looks from your fellow partygoers. Meringues have their place, but they can hardly be considered a worthy replacement for chocolate chip cookies or peanut butter blossoms. They are simply too light, too airy, too butterless to leave anyone feeling satiated. They're more like a chaser for cookies than a substitute.

However, if you are going to make meringues for a holiday party, make them peppermint flavored. Not only does this justify their lack of butter (candy canes and butter do not make a great combination), but it allows you to seize upon their decorative potential and maybe—just maybe—justify their existence on the cookie platter. You can make regular meringues and sprinkle them with crushed candy canes, but we suggest a more striking option. Add a dash of peppermint extract to the fluffy white mixture and paint the inside of your pastry bag with lines of red food dye. When you fill the bag with soft meringue, the cookies will come out with eye-catching candy cane stripes

14. Snickerdoodles

Like sugar cookies only better because they're coated with cinnamon and sugar. On second thought, that makes them substantially more delicious than sugar cookies. And let's not forget, snickerdoodles are also softer and chewier than their crispy cousins, thanks to a secret ingredient: cream of tartar. 

Though the two cookie recipes are very similar, it's cream of tartar that's responsible for turning a regular ol' sugar cookie into a pillowy soft snickerdoodle with a slight tang and that texture we all know and love. Snickerdoodles without cream of tartar? That's just a sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon and sugar. 

Other than their perfect texture and superior flavor, this holiday staple has one more very important thing going for it: Unlike with sugar cookies, there is absolutely no decorating skill required when making snickerdoodles, which eliminates the inevitable disappointment you'll feel when your snowman comes out looking like Homer Simpson.

13. Peppermint bark cookies

If you're a fan of peppermint, you'd better hit the ground running the moment Christmas festivities kick off because its season is limited. Finding candy canes on the Thanksgiving dessert table would be incongruous enough, let alone seeing them handed out as Halloween candy or—perish the thought—stuffed into Easter eggs. These stripy, minty sweets are the exclusive purview of Christmas, and we're all for adding them to every dessert recipe you've got during the festive season.

Take cookies, for example. When choosing your Christmas baking priorities, you may as well hit two birds with one stone by combining peppermint with your favorite cookie recipe. This peppermint bark variation combines chocolate sugar cookies with white chocolate icing and candy canes to make a dessert that tastes like Christmas, through and through. There are even multiple ways to make them. You can go the classic route, dipping chocolate sugar cookies in melted white chocolate and sprinkling them with crushed peppermint, or you can opt for something a little more lowkey by adding crushed peppermint to the dough and skipping the icing. Whichever version you choose, we recommend adding a dash of peppermint extract to capitalize on the candy cane theme and make sure the stripy candy is prominently displayed in your design, whether it's sprinkled on top or peeking through the chocolatey surface.

12. Peanut butter cookies

There's just something about peanut butter cookies — they're fairly basic, yes, but in such a good way. Maybe they're rolled in sugar, maybe not. Doesn't matter — they're great either way. Maybe they're made with creamy peanut butter, or maybe it's crunchy. This doesn't matter either — both taste good. The standard pattern on top that's made with the tines of a fork is nothing fancy, but it's all this cookie needs. In other words, there isn't anything bad to say about this classic.

So why are they ranked in the middle if they're so good? In a cookie ranking from January to November, peanut butter cookies would firmly hold down spot number two. But during the holidays, they lose a little ground to make room for all sweet treats we only get our hands on once a year. One thing's for sure though: They will disappear at rapid speed from your cookie platter.

11. Danish butter cookies

You know it's Christmastime when the tins of food start showing up in stores. Trio of flavored popcorn? It's December, alright. The iconic blue tin of Royal Dansk Danish butter cookies? The holiday season is definitely upon us. For some reason, the food in those tins just tastes better. And yes, every cookie in that tin does taste generally the same, but we all still have our favorite. There's the one that has a hint of vanilla, and one that has a smidge of coconut, but it's the pretzel-shaped cookie that's coated in crystallized sugar that always goes first. 

Here's a helpful hint for the baking challenged: Do everyone a favor and buy these buttery treats for your cookie exchange. You'll avoid that awkward situation where you find your homemade creations in the office trash can later, and, as an added bonus, you can take the tin home and use it to store buttons, just like Grandma. 

10. Buckeyes

There are many ways to combine chocolate and peanut butter, but we're willing to bet that buckeyes are the easiest to make. With no baking, they are impossible to undercook, dry out, or burn, which is a major selling point for those of us who are so plagued with baking fatigue by the time mid-December rolls around that it's a miracle anything edible comes out of the oven.

Buckeyes are Ohio's official state candy (who knew there was such a glorious thing?) and Ohio Artisan Collective reports that no fewer than six million pounds of them are consumed in the state each year. As this number suggests, they are an almost faultless formula—creamy peanut butter encased in a crunchy layer of chocolate. We're pretty sure that even if you don't live in Ohio, these morsels will go down well at a party. They may not be cookies, per se, but they do make the perfect kid-friendly pairing for rum balls and will even give plain old peanut butter cookies a run for their money. Best of all, you can make them months in advance and store them in the freezer to stave off holiday baking fatigue.

9. Pinwheels

Do you want to impress people with your baking prowess even if you only have minimal baking experience or don't want to spend hours in the kitchen? Look no further than pinwheels, a type of cookie that looks fiendishly challenging when you see the finished product but which is easier to make than most holiday favorites. With a texture like shortbread, they are also a standout option when you're looking for something buttery that doesn't look like the salvaged scraps of a baking accident.

Chocolate and vanilla always make a crowd-pleasing pair, and you don't have to worry about messy decorations. Simply make the dough, divide it in half, add cocoa powder to one half, and roll them out separately. When stacked, rolled into a log, and sliced, they make a beautiful swirl. If you've ever started to tear your hair out over the cracks in a yule log, you might be hesitant to take another stab at a recipe that involves rolling a flat rectangle into a cylinder, but have no fear; dough is much less likely to crack than cake, and this is leaps and bounds easier to execute than yule logs or even cut-out cookies. You can keep that part to yourself, though.

8. Chocolate crinkles

Before you grab even one crinkle off the cookie platter, you're going to want to get yourself a tall glass of milk. Why? Because these cookies pack a seriously fudgy punch, and you'll need something to wash it down with. (Boozy eggnog happens to work just fine here, too.) 

Chocolate crinkles are like the brownie of the cookie world — with a soft interior that has just the right amount of chewiness, and a crackly exterior that easily gives way as you bite into it. Just look at that gorgeous powdered sugar coating that can barely contain all that chocolatey goodness. It's a sight to behold.

It's hard not to give crinkles a higher spot here, given they're the only all-chocolate cookie on this list, but top five isn't so shabby among these worthy competitors. It does beg the question though: Why aren't there more chocolate Christmas cookies in the world?

7. Gingersnaps

Okay, we get it. Gingersnaps will never unseat gingerbread men as the reigning ginger-based treat of Christmas, but consider them in comparison to other cookies. With their crinkly, sugary surfaces and spicy ginger flavor, they are leaps and bounds more delicious than your run-of-the-mill sugar cookies. Some might even argue that their buttery, chewy texture is more enticing than the chewy-leaning-toward-tough texture that gingerbread men can often have. Are these the kind of cookies that you can decorate with the kids and dole out to eager friends and relatives to spread the holiday cheer in style? Maybe not. But ask anyone what their favorite cookie to eat is and they are more likely to identify these bad boys than gingerbread men.

There are multiple ways to ensure that gingersnaps stick the landing. For one thing, dark molasses is a necessity. Its deep, slightly bitter flavor and dark hue lend the cookies the color and intensity they need to compete with the other holiday offerings, making sure that they don't just taste like gingery sugar cookies. Rolling them in sugar is also a non-negotiable step, providing that crispy, crinkly coating over the chewiness. The addition of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg creates layers of warmth underneath the spiciness of the ginger, while adding candied or fresh ginger will make them even more fiery. For added flair, dip these cookies in white chocolate and they'll rival the cute shapes and fancy piping of gingerbread men any day.

6. Pecan snowballs

Disclaimer: Pecan snowballs have to be made just right to hold down their number four spot on this list. You know the ones we're talking about... The delicate, buttery shortbread cookies that practically dissolve the moment you put them in your mouth. You barely even have to chew because they're so impossibly light, and you wonder if they're actually made of air (if air was made of confectioner's sugar and pecans, which sounds delicious). Those are the snowballs you could eat by the dozen without even realizing what you'd done.

But when there's a pecan snowball baking fail — and light and airy turns into hard as a rock — that's another matter altogether. Those failed snowballs definitely don't belong on this list, or a cookie platter for that matter, and actually make the decades-old fruitcake cookies sound pretty darn good. 

5. Linzer cookies

Making decorative Christmas cookies usually comes down to sprinkles, frosting, and a kitchen that looks like a tornado barrelled through it, but if you just can't be bothered to pull out all the bottles of colorful sugar this year or spend hours scraping rock-hard icing off the floor, Linzer cookies will save the day. They look delicate and sophisticated compared to the icing and frosting explosion that usually defines decorative Christmas cookies, but they're not much harder to make.

Named after the famed Linzer torte, which has a jam filling peeking through a lattice topping, Linzer cookies are made by sandwiching jam between two sugar cookies, with a small cutout in the top one to show the filling. Whether you choose a playful heart or a classic circle or scalloped square as the cutout, the results will be striking: A stained glass effect where the glossy jam mimics the glass and the powdered sugar sprinkled across the dough mimics festive snowflakes.

If you're worried that these delicate beauties are all style and no substance, fear not. The dough is made with cinnamon and almonds for a creamy, gently spicy flavor, rather than the buttery sugar cookies you often find at Christmas, and you can even make your own jam if you're feeling fancy. From nearly every standpoint, these cookies outshine the standard cut-out sugar cookies, especially when it comes to kitchen cleanup.

4. Spritz cookies

Spritz cookies are the ultimate baking compromise, but that is anything but an insult. They are buttery and delicious, intricately designed, quick to make, and require about as much cleanup as a standard batch of sugar cookies. They will satisfy both a decorations-obsessed toddler and a mess-weary parent, and those who are lucky enough to eat them will be delighted by their colorful appearance and melt-in-your-mouth texture. Made by pushing soft dough through a cookie press to form festive shapes, these Christmassy confections can be dyed with food coloring, dusted with sprinkles, or left their natural color. If you don't have a cookie press, you can use a pastry bag to create the designs yourself.

For anyone planning to bake Christmas cookies with kids, spritz cookies are an ideal option. The little ones will enjoy the bright colors and novelty of using the cookie press, while the adults will revel in the minimal cleanup. You can even choose which cookie recipe to use as long as the dough is soft enough to push through the cookie press. They might not have the flavor of chocolate chip cookies or gingerbread men, but they are perfect for when you need to strike a balance between competing interests, which, let's face it, is the only certainty of the holiday season.

3. Peanut butter blossoms

Peanut butter and jelly is a very popular combination, yes, but some might argue that peanut butter and chocolate form an even more dynamic duo than the classic sandwich ingredients do. And yet, for some sad reason, peanut butter blossoms don't seem to pop up much from January to November. It's a real tragedy, because this sweet, salty, chocolaty treat has a lot to offer.

First, you've got the perfectly soft, perfectly chewy peanut butter cookie, which we've already established as being one of the best year-round cookies out there. But then, to take things to the next level, you've got the milk chocolate kiss pressed into the middle of that soft and chewy cookie, and since it's fresh from the oven when you do that, the kiss melts ever-so-slightly into the warm baked dough. 

In other words, peanut butter blossoms are utter perfection, and there is absolutely no need for jelly here.

2. Gingerbread cookies

A soft, chewy gingerbread cookie full of rich molasses and spice just screams holiday season. The flavors are synonymous with Christmas, and when those cookies are in man form, it's hard to come up with a more festive treat.

The only problem with gingerbread men is that things can go south in a hurry when you start the decorating process (much like the sugar cookies). Gingerbread cookies need no royal icing, no brightly colored frosting, and they certainly do not need to be adorned with shiny baubles that threaten to crack a tooth. No, gingerbread cookies should be enjoyed in their purest form, without any embellishments. 

If you've really got the cookie decorating itch, just buy a gingerbread house that you were never going to eat anyway, and go to town. But definitely make a batch of cookies, too. 

1. Chocolate chip cookies

Some might argue that your standard chocolate chip cookie isn't technically a Christmas cookie. But why would you exclude the best cookie of all from your holiday baking? Christmas or not, an expertly made chocolate chip cookie is king, and surely Santa Claus himself would agree. In fact, a cookie plate without chocolate chip cookies would most definitely earn you a spot on the naughty list.

Slightly crisp around the edges, a little chewy in the middle — it's truly perfection in cookie form. There's only one way a chocolate chip cookie can be improved upon, and that's when they're eaten hot from the oven, in all their melty chocolate glory. Sure, you run the risk of incurring a serious tongue burn from the molten chocolate chips, but that's a small price to pay for such a heavenly experience — and nothing a cold glass of milk can't fix.