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.

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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. Denise Phillips says:

    Used this recipe to make the cutest cap, gown and diploma set, they were a big hit. I have a few events coming up and would like to get out in front of them by starting to make the cookies. I see you show they can be frozen and I’m thinking to freeze then frost/decorate later. My question is: will the cookies still be soft when they’re thawed?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Denise, the graduation cookies you made sound adorable! Yes, these cookies are still soft once thawed. Line between parchment paper in a freezer-friendly container.

  2. Hey Sally! Thank you for the recipe! My cookie dough is now chilling in the fridge overnight and I can’t wait to decorate them tomorrow. 🙂 One observation and a question I guess! I measured all the ingredients listed in a recipe to a T and from looking at your video it looks you were able to roll 1/4 inch thick dough to that size by splitting it in two, whereas I got a similar size are a coverage (not sure how to put it in words) with the whole dough. I mean if I were to split it in half, it would be tiny. I could stretch it, but it would become to thin. Curious why that might have happened? Or did you use x2 recipe in your video? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ina, The video is one recipe – not doubled. The dough is easier to work with in two smaller portions but you can certainly roll it all out in one large piece if you wish. Enjoy the cookies!

  3. Sally – your recipes are my first “go to” when I’m looking for something new. Your attention to detail with the ingredients to make richer, more flavorful, and superior final products is something I really appreciate! I wanted to tell you that I added 2 TBS lemon juice, 2 TBS lemon zest and 1 TBS fresh chopped rosemary to your sugar cookie recipe and they turned out a-ma-zing!

  4. Christopher Pires says:

    Posted this comment to your royal icing blog posting in error – so clearly I’m a fan of yours. This is a beautiful recipe and thank you very much for it. I didn’t get 24 x 4″ cookies though. Did I miss something? Can I double the recipe?
    Cheers and thanks

    1. Hi Christopher! Thank you so much. Do you think you are rolling the dough thicker than intended? If so, then you won’t get quite as many cookies. Make sure you are re-rolling every last scrap of dough too. I usually get around 20-26 4 inch cookies from this dough. And yes, you can definitely double it by doubling each ingredient– I do all the time!

  5. Fran williamd says:

    Hi Sally is this a good dough that I can use with my 4 Yr old Grandaughter who loves to bake with me

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes! I make it with my little ones all the time – they love to help mix the dough, use cookie cutters, and especially decorate 🙂

  6. I would love to make these today!! But I only have salted butter! Do I have to make a run to the store or can I adjust the recipe? Thanks in advance!!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alexys, Absolutely. Reduce the added salt in the cookie dough from 1/4 teaspoon to 1/8 teaspoon.

  7. Hi Sally!
    I just got done making these cookies for National Sugar Cookie Day but they seem to be a bit on the dry side. I added 1 tbsp more flour b/c my dough was sticking to my rolling pin on the ends and that was the only difference. I chilled them for 2 hours and once I took them out, they were cracking and not very easy to peel off my silicon mat. Would you be able to help me? Thank you!

    I will try this again though, hopefully with a much better chance!

    1. Hi Marge! It sounds like the cookies could have been over-baked. The time really does depend on the exact size of the cookies, but once you see the edges very lightly browning, the cookies are done. They’ll continue to set as they cool, but the centers will be nice and soft.

  8. What can I add to this recipe to make chocolate sugar cookies ?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Susan, Here is the recipe for Chocolate Sugar Cookies!

      1. Thank you so much for your speedy response!
        Can these cookies be dipped in royal sugar to be covered on both sides?

  9. Wonderful recipe! I intend to bake the cookies for my wedding and add the names of my guests as a placeholder cookie. I am wondering how many days in advance I should start baking and how long the cookies can last for?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sharon, I’m thrilled you enjoy these cookies! What a creative and delicious placeholder for your wedding 🙂 See recipe note #1 for make ahead instructions. Plain or decorated sugar cookies freeze well up to 3 months so you could get started several days/weeks in advance. Let us know how they turn out!

  10. Beatrice Tan Lim says:

    Hello!! HELLOOO! I can’t contain my excitement!! Your recipe tastes great!!! I live in a relatively hot and humid country and it’s summer right now in the Philippines so I was expecting to fail this recipe. Guess what, THEY TURNED OUT REALLY GREAT!!

    The dough was easy to roll (i just used an empty water bottle). And they held their shapes really well. I made small stars (those 5-point ones, the really pointy kind) and I was expecting them to ‘spread out’ in my oven but they retained their shape really well. It’s crunchy outside and chewy inside!

    You mentioned placing the cookies in the baking sheet 3 inches apart. I think we don’t have to do that. I made my cookies about 1/4 inches thick and I just placed them very close to each other in the cookie sheet, barely a gap between them, because my oven is small (I’m using 18L convection oven). The cookies didn’t stick to each other. I just made sure to work in smaller batches so the dough won’t melt and left the rest of the batch in the fridge. I placed them in the fridge for 5 minutes before baking them. I dunno if that matters but I just wanna be sure because the weather is hot here.

    I was really scared to make sugar cookies because I might fail but it worked really well. I felt like leaving a comment here because PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW THAT YOUR RECIPE IS PERFECT.


  11. Hi Sally,
    Thank you for the great recipe.
    Is it possible to make same quality cookies by taking the half of the ingredients from the recipe ?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sameetha, Yes you can cut this recipe in half. Enjoy!

  12. Sara Wagner says:

    I love these cookies!! They are always a hit when I make them. I’d like to branch out with new flavors. If you were to make these lemon flavor, would you omit the vanilla extract? Or just add lemon extract? Also, how much lemon extract would you recommend?
    Thank you!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sara, You can! See recipe note about lemon flavor.

  13. Could I sprinkle these with colored sugar before baking? Friend wants cut out sugar cookies with sugar only, no frosting for her daughter’s graduation party. Thank you, we love this recipe!

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kelly! Absolutely- what a delicious treat for a graduation party!

  14. These are great sugar cookies!!! Really hit the spot, thanks for sharing!

  15. Hi Sally! This is seriously so soft and delicious! How long do sugar cookies last with fondant on them?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melissa, Plain or decorated cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. Fondant doesn’t usually do well in the refrigerator depending on how it’s used, but you can refrigerate these cookies up to 10 days for longer storage.

  16. Angelique Nelson says:

    Am I missing the oven temp somewhere? I don’t see it.

    1. Preheat to 350 once chilled

  17. Can I substitute margarine for butter? would like to make these dairy free.

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pessi, I don’t recommend margarine in this sugar cookie recipe.

  18. I make these cookies all the time! They are a huge hit! One thing I do is roll them out thicker than 1/4 inch. It doesn’t yield as many cookies but it does help them retain their moisture and helps hold the amount of frosting I typically use to decorate them. I can attest to freezing them and how amazing they taste even when they are saved in the freezer for a few months. My favorite part is that they retain their shape perfectly. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  19. Hi, I am going to be making these for a 6yr olds birthday and was hoping I could make them gluten free as the family is currently trying that. Would the recipe work just as well with a gluten free all purpose flour?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Leah, We haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour but let us know if you try!

  20. Delicious with or without icing! YUM!!

  21. The cookies took forever to bake and the dough was way to crumbly. When the cookies finally were done, they were bland.

  22. Angelica Navarro says:

    Hello! I wanted to know what happens if I add cornstarch and how much should I add if i use this recipe?

  23. Absolutely perfect! Thank you for the recipe!! I followed your recipe to the dot and they turned out spot on. I had some ready made fondant which i rolled out, coloured and marbled, being able to use the same cookie cutter as the cookies didn’t spread at all My only question is has anyone tried with gluten free flour? My nieces are coeliac and I’d love for them to have these, as they are delicious!!!!

  24. These are definitely my go to cookies!!

  25. Absolutely delicious! They were really cute, though some were a little crunchy because I rolled the dough to thin. (These ones were still great!) since I did not have merengue powder, I use a different icing. This is definitely my go to sugar cookie recipe!

  26. Loved how they were soft But still crumbled in your mouth! My son and I made a batch in just a few minutes and were not disappointed!

  27. Hi Sally! Ive been using this recipe for several months now for my business
    It tastes really good and really fool proof. However, last night some of my cookies shrunk while baking. Im trying to figure out what I did wrong for this particular batch . Has this happened to you ever? Thank you!

    1. Hi Maria! I’m so glad to hear how much you love this sugar cookie recipe. I’ve never had them shrink before– are you using a different brand of butter perhaps? Any other changes? Perhaps an overly humid day?

  28. These cookies were dry and brittle and the dough never came together and I followed the recipe exactly. The dough couldn’t be rolled out without breaking into prices after being refrigerated for 2 days. The cookies taste dry and bland definitely not worth the time

    1. Same here.

  29. Is it possible for this recipe to be made using a sugar substitute like Splenda? If so, how much will I need?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We haven’t tested this recipe with a sugar substitute but let us know if you try!

  30. This is an exceptional recipe! Came out perfectly! I did use your royal icing recipe, but I added some vanilla to it. Superb!

    1. Hi Sally,

      I have a huge lot of cookies to do and would love to use your recipe! A lot of cookie makers I’ve asked have said sugar cookies can last up to 4 weeks sealed. How long in advance can your receipe be made and what’s the difference 🙂

    2. Hi Sally, my daughter is doing no dairy, so I need to substitute the butter with margarine. Will it work in this recipe, and at the same measurement? My margarine is 60% vegetable oil.

      1. Some readers have had luck making that swap, but I haven’t. Instead, you may want to try a vegan substitute such as Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks.

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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