13 holiday cookie recipes to bring color and joy to the season

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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.

[5 cookie baking tips for better batches every time]

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.

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:

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 Buckley, Sarah Carey, Kelsey Cherry, Keresten Vasey, Gan Chin Lin, Ellis Parrinder, Roger Gurbani, Allison Webber, Kinda Arzon/Maya’s Cookies, Laura Edwards.



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