The Best Sugar Cookies

With crisp edges, thick centers, and room for lots of decorating icing, I know you’ll love these soft cut out sugar cookies. Use your favorite cookie cutters and try my classic royal icing.

decorated sugar cookies

These are my favorite sugar cookies with icing. I shared the recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction several years ago and published them in my cookbook as well. I’ve made them at least 38577 times (imagine all the butter), so I figured it’s time to share new recipe tips, a video tutorial, and more helpful information.

Why You’ll Love These Sugar Cookies

  • Soft, thick centers with slightly crisp edges
  • Irresistible buttery vanilla flavor
  • Leave plain or flavor with extras like maple, cinnamon, and more
  • Hold their shape
  • Flat surface for decorating
  • Stay soft for days
  • Freeze beautifully

Sugar Cookies Video Tutorial

stack of cookie cutter sugar cookies

soft cut-out sugar cookies on a pink plate

Overview: How to Make Sugar Cookies with Icing

  1. Make cookie dough. You only need 7-8 ingredients. With so little ingredients, it’s important that you follow the recipe closely. Creamed butter and sugar provide the base of the cookie dough. Egg is the cookie’s structure and vanilla extract adds flavor. I almost always add a touch of almond extract for additional flavor and highly recommend that you try it too! Flour is an obvious addition, baking powder adds lift, and salt balances the sweet. So many *little ingredients* doing *big jobs* to create a perfect cookie. By the way, I also make chocolate sugar cookies too!
  2. Divide in two pieces. Smaller sections of dough are easier to roll out.
  3. Roll out cookie dough. Roll it out to 1/4 inch thick or just under 1/4 inch thick. If you have difficulty evenly rolling out dough, try this adjustable rolling pin. Speaking from experience– it’s incredibly handy!
  4. Chill rolled out cookie dough. Without chilling, these cookie cutter sugar cookies won’t hold their shape. Chill the rolled out cookie dough for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days.
  5. Cut into shapes. If you need suggestions for cookie cutters, I love Ann Clark brand. (Not sponsored, just a genuine fan!) Some of my favorites include this heart set, dog bone, snowflake, snowman, leaf, and a pumpkin.
  6. Bake & cool. Depending on size, the cookies take about 12 minutes.
  7. Decorate. See my suggested icings below.

Have a little flour nearby when you’re rolling out the cookie dough. Keep your work surface, hands, and rolling pin lightly floured. This is a relatively soft dough.

collage of sugar cookie dough process photos

The Trick is the Order of Steps

Notice how I roll out the dough BEFORE chilling it in the refrigerator? That’s my trick and you can see me doing it in the video tutorial above.

Let me explain why I do this. To prevent the cookies from over-spreading, the cookie dough must chill in the refrigerator. Roll out the dough right after you prepare it, then chill the rolled-out dough. (At this point the dough is too soft to cut into shapes.) Don’t chill the cookie dough and then try to roll it out because it will be too cold and difficult to work with. I divide the dough in half before rolling it out and highly recommend you do the same. Smaller sections of dough are simply more manageable.

Another trick! Roll out the cookie dough directly on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper so you can easily transfer it to the refrigerator. Pick it up, put it on a baking sheet, and place it in the refrigerator. If you don’t have enough room for two baking sheets in your refrigerator, stack the pieces of rolled out dough on top of each other.

How Thick Do I Roll Sugar Cookies?

These sugar cookies remain soft because they’re rolled out pretty thick. Roll out the cookie dough to about 1/4 inch thick or just under 1/4 inch thick. Yes, this is on the thicker side and yes, this produces extra thick and soft cookies. If rolling out cookie dough doesn’t sound appealing, try my drop sugar cookies instead.

plain sugar cookies

royal icing in mixing bowl

Sugar Cookie Icing

I have TWO sugar cookie icing recipes and you can choose whichever works best for you.

  1. Favorite Royal Icing: This royal icing is my preferred sugar cookie icing because it’s easy to use, dries within 1-2 hours, and doesn’t taste like hardened cement. (It’s on the softer side!) I make it with meringue powder. Meringue powder takes the place of raw egg whites, which is found in traditional royal icing recipes. It eliminates the need for fresh eggs, but still provides the same consistency. You can find meringue powder in some baking aisles, most craft stores with a baking section, and online. The 8 ounce tub always lasts me awhile. The trickiest part is landing on the perfect royal icing consistency, but I provide a video in the royal icing recipe to help you.
  2. Easy Glaze Icing: You can find my easy glaze icing recipe paired with my Christmas sugar cookies. This icing is easier to make than royal icing because you don’t need an electric mixer and the consistency won’t really make or break the outcome. However, it’s thinner than royal icing and doesn’t provide the same sharp detail that royal icing decorations do. It also takes a good 24 hours to dry.

The pictured hearts are decorated with my royal icing using Wilton piping tip #4. If you’re not into piping tips, you can simply dunk the tops of the cookies into the icing like I do with my animal cracker cookies. 🙂

Sugar Cookie Tips & Tools

Before I leave you with the recipe, let me suggest some useful sugar cookie tools:

  • Cookie Sheets
  • Rolling Pin
  • Food Coloring: Liquid food coloring can alter the consistency of the icing, so I recommend gel food coloring. For the pictured cookies, I used a few drops of dusty rose and 1 drop of sky blue.
  • Piping Tips/Squeeze Bottle: If you’re using royal icing, I recommend Wilton piping tip #4 for outlining and flooding. This is a wonderful basic piping tip to have in your collection. If you’re using my easy glaze icing, I recommend using a squeeze bottle.
  • Piping Bag: If you’re using royal icing and a piping tip, you need a piping bag.

decorated sugar cookies on a baking sheet

stack of decorated heart sugar cookies

Here’s What You Can Do with This Dough

And if you’re craving sugar cookies with a little extra tang, try my soft cream cheese cookies.

clock clock icon cutlery cutlery icon flag flag icon folder folder icon instagram instagram icon pinterest pinterest icon facebook facebook icon print print icon squares squares icon heart heart icon heart solid heart solid icon
sugar cookies with icing

Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 24 4-inch cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


With crisp edges, thick centers, and room for lots of decorating icing, I know you’ll love these soft sugar cookies as much as I do. The number of cookies this recipe yields depends on the size of the cookie cutter you use. If you’d like to make dozens of cookies for a large crowd, double the recipe.


  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but makes the flavor outstanding)*
  • Royal Icing or Easy Glaze Icing


  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract (if using) and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Dough will be relatively soft. If the dough seems too soft and sticky for rolling, add 1 more Tablespoon of flour.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Place each portion onto a piece of lightly floured parchment paper or a lightly floured silicone baking mat. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Use more flour if the dough seems too sticky. The rolled-out dough can be any shape, as long as it is evenly 1/4-inch thick.
  5. Lightly dust one of the rolled-out doughs with flour. Place a piece of parchment on top. (This prevents sticking.) Place the 2nd rolled-out dough on top. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days.
  6. Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Carefully remove the top dough piece from the refrigerator. If it’s sticking to the bottom, run your hand under it to help remove it– see me do this in the video above. Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with 2nd piece of dough. (Note: It doesn’t seem like a lot of dough, but you get a lot of cookies from the dough scraps you re-roll.)
  7. Arrange cookies on baking sheets 3 inches apart. Bake for 11-12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. If your oven has hot spots, rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
  8. Decorate the cooled cookies with royal icing or my easy glaze icing. Feel free to tint either icing with gel food coloring. See post above for recommended decorating tools. No need to cover the decorated cookies as you wait for the icing to set. If it’s helpful, decorate the cookies directly on a baking sheet so you can stick the entire baking sheet in the refrigerator to help speed up the icing setting.
  9. Enjoy cookies right away or wait until the icing sets to serve them. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending. Plain or decorated cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.


  1. Freezing Instructions: Plain or decorated sugar cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Wait for the icing to set completely before layering between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-friendly container. To thaw, thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. You can also freeze the cookie dough for up to 3 months before rolling it out. Prepare the dough through step 3, divide in half, flatten both halves into a disk as we do with pie crust, wrap each in plastic wrap, then freeze. To thaw, thaw the disks in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Roll out the dough as directed in step 4, then chill rolled out dough in the refrigerator for 45 minutes – 1 hour before cutting into shapes and baking.
  2. Room Temperature: Room temperature butter is essential. If the dough is too sticky, your butter may have been too soft. Room temperature butter is actually cool to the touch. You can read more about it in this post. Room temperature egg is preferred so it’s quickly and evenly mixed into the cookie dough.
  3. Flavors: I love flavoring this cookie dough with 1/2 teaspoon almond extract as listed in the ingredients above. For lighter flavor, use 1/4 teaspoon. Instead of the almond extract, try using 1 teaspoon of maple extract, coconut extract, lemon extract, or peppermint extract. Or add 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon. Along with lemon extract, you can also add 1 Tablespoon lemon zest.
  4. Icing: Use royal icing or my easy glaze icing. See post above to read about the differences.
  5. Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.

Keywords: sugar cookies, royal icing, Christmas cookies

heart sugar cookies with royal icing and pink sprinkles


  1. Happy birthday Sally!!! I made these cookies but combined them with a gorgeous recipe from Mom on Timeout and skipped the frosting. They were so yummy!

  2. Made these last night and they turned out amazing! My husband loves them. Thank you so much for posting this recipe.

  3. I love this recipe! I was looking for a good sugar cookie recipe so I could make cookies for my daughter’s class tomorrow for her birthday. I found this one and we make it tonight. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

  4. Sally, your technique and recipe was by far the best and easiest way to achieve a crispy soft sugar cookie I have ever tried! Your directions and descriptions were spot on. Thank you! I truly enjoyed making them and now look forward to making a huge batch of “T-shirts” for my daughters field hockey team.

  5. This is, hands down, the greatest cut-out sugar recipe EVER. Seriously … ever.
    I’ve tried a ton over the past week (I bake for a local orchard) and so many of the recipes that I’ve tried have been SO temperamental. But alas, I’ve found the PERFECT recipe. I didn’t have to make any adjustments, I made them just as the recipe calls for. Which, by the way, the almond extract is a fabulous touch. They turned out great and kept their shape amazingly. I ended up getting just short of two dozen cookies (22 to be exact). Oh, and I didn’t roll them out and chill because I didn’t have the room in my fridge. I had to chill the dough as a ball, but they turned out just fine.
    Eek, I’m so excited. Thanks for sharing!!!

  6. Great recipe….nice, soft and yummy….I added 1/4 cup sugar because when I taste the dough it was a little plan in taste. I’m going to decorate it with royal icing so, maybe I shouldn’t have added the extra sugar lol….but either way this is a great recipe.


  7. I tried these last week for a fun activity to do with me daughter and her dad.
    We all LOVED the experience and the cookies are perfect in taste and how they hold their shape. We made another batch today with friends as a play date. I made and used the frosting this time (I didn’t the 1st time), and found the
    Taste was ever better with the frosting. I also think the thicker cookies look and
    taste better than the thin ones. Thank you for sharing this’s recipe. I’m already planning to makes these for the holidays and my daughter’s upcoming birthday!

  8. These turned out great!

    I can’t wait to make them again for my family Christmas!

    Thank you!

  9. Every year for christmas I look for a different cut out cookie recipe. I started early this year and I stumbled upon this recipe. I have to say…. These were the best cookies I have ever made!!! They were soft not only the day I baked them but also the day after and the day after that…. I think my search for the perfect cut out cookie recipe is finally over!! These are definitely my favorite!! They taste great, the recipe was easy to follow and they didn’t come out too hard or too soft. Just perfect!!!

  10. This is the best recipe ever didnt have almond escence so I did 2 1/4 cherry essence, it came out great

  11. These were amazing made them for our holiday party at work and I had to pass out links to your site It was so loved! I agree the almond extract just makes them.this is my new go to sugar cookie recipe! Ty so much for posting it!

  12. Sally-I was just wondering about the butter measurement.
    In reading your post you say 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks).
    I may be wrong, but isn’t 1 1/2 sticks-1 1/2 cups?
    Please confirm the amount of butter for me. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Sally, never mind you are correct. Lack of sleep on my part, as I am making a double batch since all the comments were so inspiring. Can’t wait to taste them. 🙂

  13. These are hands down the most amazing cookiesi have ever made.everyone loved them. Next to my grandmother you have the best recipes ive ever tasted. Thank you,so easy to follow cause i need a baking 4 dummies book. I can cook but baking is another story. ..thank u again…gonna be a great holuday 4 anyone that makes these awsome cookies…

  14. Best sugar cookies I’ve ever had/made! Def using this a lot . Thanks Sally!

  15. Sally, we are your fan here in India!! We have tried your choco chip cookie recipe and it was amazingly delicious! 3 cheers to you!
    Just wanted to know if we can replace the egg with something else, what should it be (since my cousin is allergic to the same).

  16. Sally, I made your soft cut out sugar cookies today and they are THE BEST sugar cookies I have ever eaten. Super easy recipe to pull together. Very impressed. Thank you!

  17. What a great recipe! These are the best cookies I’ve ever made! Your instructions and tips were wonderful. I will definitely be using this recipe for years to come!

  18. Hi I just wanted to know if the icing could be made over night then chilled for use next morning?

    1. absolutely

  19. I can’t wait to make these cookies. Thank you so much for the recipe.

  20. Can you use salted butter??

    1. Yep. I do not notice a taste difference.

  21. Love, love, love these cookies! I had never made sugar cookies before. These were amazing, loved the subtle almond flavor. I am going to make them again next week for my 2nd graders at school to decorate. Thanks for sharing:)

  22. Yep, those are sprinkles– from the recipe Before baking, you can apply sprinkles like I did on the rainbow sprinkle lined cookies shown in this post. If you’re planning to only ice them instead, or you just want to keep them plain – skip the sprinkles.

  23. Just stumbled across your site 🙂

    Sally’s baking addiction is fast becoming Teanba’s baking addiction!
    It seems all my recipe needs are right here, yay!!

  24. Has anyone made a filled or thumbprint cookie with this dough? I like a multi-purpose dough!

  25. Thank you for this recipe! I will be making it tonight. Your photos and description are very fun and inspiring. I’ll report back! I hope that this will finally be the soft sugar cookie that I’ve been longing to bake for years….there are so many sugar cookie recipes out there.
    Love and gratitude!

  26. I made these cookies for my professor (college kid on a budget) and they absolutely loved them. We have a small well known bakery here where I live and these cookies, along with the frosting, almost taste identical! This is hands down my new favorite sugar cookie recipe.

  27. I made these they other day and they were absolutely phenomenal!! I baked mine for 9 minutes, and when I took them out of the oven they didn’t look “done” really, and had no color on the edges. However, this allowed the cookies to slowly cool down to a PERFECT texture – soft and luxurious. This is my go-to sugar cookie recipe now. The recipe is perfect! Thank you!

  28. I am one of the worst cooks/bakers ever!!! My mom and I thought it would be fun to decorate christmas cookies with my son and nephew. To save time we bought the store bought cookie dough. DISASTER! I couldn’t give up and I found this recipe. Well…. success! Like I said I’m horrible and anything involving the kitchen and tonight I made the best Christmas cookies we have ever had! I absolutely love this recipe. It’s easy and they taste so good. Thank you!

  29. Great recipe. Held their shape well. Stayed soft for days. Almond extract adds soo much flavor. I also use butter vanilla emulsion in my cookies. It’s an oil based flavoring so it doesn’t evaporate.

  30. This is an amazing recipe. I usually don’t bake often, but I had to this year. I states away from my mother the baker, and didn’t want my kids not having baked treats for the holidays. I tried a package of sugar cookies from the store, it turned into a pan wide cookie pancake. So, I found this, and I must say these are better than any that my mother ever turned out. My kids love them. Do you happen to have a ginger bread cookie recipe? I don’t like the one I used very much.

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally