Smart Cookies: Favorite Holiday Cookies From Around the World

Sugar Cookies

Cut into Christmas trees, wreaths, snowflakes, snowmen, candy canes, and every other holiday design imaginable, these are classic holiday treats in the U.S. The cookies themselves are pure buttery comfort, but when decorated with royal icing, sprinkles, dragees, and sanding sugar, they’re elevated to cultural icons, beloved by children and grown-ups alike. Plus, they’re almost as much fun to make as they are to eat.

Chocolate-Almond Spice Cookies
Basler Brunsli (Chocolate-Almond Spice Cookies)

Almonds, sugar, and chocolate are ground fine and bound together with egg whites to create a satisfyingly chewy texture, while cinnamon and cloves impart an unmistakable flavor of old-fashioned Christmas cheer. See the recipe for (Chocolate-Almond Spice Cookies) »

caramel crumb bars
Caramel Crumb Bars

These shortbread bars, with their extravagant double-layered topping—rich caramel and a crumbly butter streusel—are the perfect dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Norwegian Wafer Cookies
Krumkakes (Norwegian Wafer Cookies)

These Norwegian wafer cookies, eaten across Scandinavia during the Christmas season, are light and crisp and perfumed with cardamom. They’re made like waffles on a special griddle that imprints an intricate design, and then they’re rolled and filled with whipped cream. See the recipe for Krumkakes (Norwegian Wafer Cookies) »

Variations on this elegant cookie can be found throughout Latin America, but alfajores are associated above all with the cafe culture of Buenos Aires. They're served year-round with coffee, but during the holidays home cooks all over Argentina break out their trusted family recipes--each one unique but always with a decadent filling of dulce de leche sandwiched between two rounds of crisp butter cookie.
See the Alfajores (Dulce de Leche Cookie Sandwiches) Recipe
Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents)

Akin to Mexican wedding cookies and Greek kourabiedes, these Austrian vanilla crescents made with ground walnuts and showered in confectioners’ sugar are served throughout central Europe during the weeks leading up to Christmas. See the recipe for Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents) »

Galletas con Chochitos

Tiny, ring-shaped butter cookies like these are a popular holiday treat in Mexico. They're typically decorated with chocolate sprinkles, but green, red, and white ones transform them into festive Christmas wreaths.
See the Galletas con Chochitos (Mexican Butter Cookies with Sprinkles) Recipe
Tozzetti (Anise, Almond, and Hazelnut Biscotti)
Tozzetti (Anise, Almond, and Hazelnut Biscotti)

These Roman-style biscotti are a favorite of Nick Malgieri’s for their distinctive anise flavor and atypical baking method: the loose batter is poured onto a baking sheet and baked like a cake. The result is light biscotti with large chunks of almonds and hazelnuts.

Molded Ginger Cookies (Speculaas)
Molded Ginger Cookies (Speculaas)

A specialty of the Netherlands and Belgium, these are cousins of gingerbread, only lighter and more delicately spiced. They’re also showstoppers, thanks to the intricately carved wooden molds used to make them, which form the cookies into bas-relief images of characters and symbols from stories about Saint Nicholas, or Sinter-klaas, whose name day, December 6, kicks off the Christmas season in that part of the world.

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