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 even published them in my cookbook, too! I’ve made them at least 38577 times (that’s a lot of butter), so I figured it’s time to share new recipe tips, a video tutorial, and more helpful information.

Sugar cookie success is in your near future. I can smell them baking already!

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


cookie cutter sugar cookies

soft cut-out sugar cookies

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 10-12 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.

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

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. 🙂

decorated sugar 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 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.

Print
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

Description

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.


Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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 Tablespoon more 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. 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.
  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.

Notes

  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 and 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

My FAVORITE Cut-Out Sugar Cookies! Soft centers, slightly crisp edges, and room for lots of icing and sprinkles!
These are the SOFTEST cookie cutter cookies. My go-to recipe!
These are the BEST cookie cutter cookies. My go-to recipe!

716 Comments

  1. Hi, I was wondering if you could use brown butter in this recipe instead of regular butter. I know it would have to be cooled to room temp before creaming, but how much should I use? Should I add milk or just use more butter since there can be a loss of moisture? Or would your brown butter sugar cookie recipe work here with the chilling and rolling if I want to cut them into shapes and decorate with royal frosting?

    1. Hi Emma! You can try browning 2 sticks of butter (1 cup), then letting it cool completely before refrigerating it so it’s solid. Measure 3/4 cup from that solid brown butter to use in the recipe. Here is my brown butter tutorial if you need it.

  2. Truly this is the only sugar cookie recipe I will ever need! Came out absolutely perfectly and tasted AMAZING. Total winner. Thank you!

  3. Different than other sugar cookie recipes because of the refrigerating after roll up but before cutting. Worked perfectly. My dinosaur cut cookies were excellent. I used some cocoa for rolling and the cookies turned out sort of variegated and do tasty. They sort of tasted like shortbread cookies. Easy recipe. I will use this for Christmas cookies. So delicious.

  4. Angela Cerniglia says:

    Can you use salted butter if you don’t have unsalted? What would it do – would it make any difference? Should I adjust the recipe if I use salted?

    1. Hi Angela! If using salted butter, reduce the salt in this recipe to a very small pinch, less than 1/4 teaspoon.

  5. Hi Sally, your recipe looks great and I am following it exactly but want to make sure that I am using the right ingredients. When the recipe calls for sugar it is referring to granulated sugar, correct?

    I have made 1 batch as per instructions and left in the fridge for 1 day but when I went to use the cookie cutter the batter broke and softened really quickly then became really pliable. I live in Singapore so have a lot of heat and humidity to deal with when baking. I did add the additional tbsp of flour to firm up the dough before rolling and refridgerating. Should I be adding more flour? Thanks!

    1. Hi Rachelle! Yes, regular granulated white sugar. If your climate is very humid, extra flour for rolling out the dough will be very helpful. Don’t be afraid to use more and more to make the dough a roll-able consistency.

  6. Hi Sally! I was wondering how many cookies will this recipe make with the right measurments?

    1. Hi Aly! It totally depends on the size of your cookie cutter- using a 4 inch cookie cutter, you’ll get about 24 cookies.

      1. Thanks, Sally! This recipe made a delicious batch of cookies!

  7. Hi,
    I have plans to make this cookies in a function room. So doing royal icing is difficult, can i use melted chocolate and sprinkles some xmas sprinkles instead?

    1. Absolutely! Decorate however you’d like.

  8. Hi Sally, love your recipes they’re easy for me to follow as a newbie baker! I was wondering if I could use vegetable shortening instead of butter?

    1. Hi Diana! Shortening works, but you will lose a little flavor.

  9. This is my 6th year making these wonderful cookies. I bake up a big batch of holiday themed cookies in November using this recipe and pop them into the freezer. On a quite December evening, my family and I turn up the Christmas tunes and have a cookie decorating party. The kitchen is always covered in icing and it’s literally an explosion of cookie sprinkles! I wouldn’t have it any other way. We enjoy these cookies throughout the holiday season and gift them to family and friends. Thank you Sally for creating the most perfect sugar cookie recipe that has become part of our holiday tradition!

  10. Been wanting to try this recipe, but currently don’t have butter. Will coconut oil work?

    1. Hi Christine, you could try creaming solid coconut oil for this recipe. I’m unsure how well the dough will roll out. Let me know how it goes!

  11. Hi wondering if this recipe could be adapted to be gluten free? I have 2 nieces who are celiac.

    1. I believe there is a flour called cup for cup and that should do the trick.

  12. Hi Sally! I am hoping to make some sugar cookies as wedding favours, and have purchased a “cookie stamp” to imprint our names and wedding date on the cookies. Do you think the royal icing would work well with this? Maybe if I waited for it to partially harden and then stamp? Or do you have another icing recommendation for something like this? Thanks!

    1. Hi Melanie! For cookies made from cookie stamps, it’s best to use a thin glaze on top of the cookies so you can see the stamped design underneath. Royal icing is more of a sheet of icing, instead of a thin glaze. I don’t recommend stamping the cookies when the icing is on top.

  13. I made the sugar cookies with no frosting and they were amazing! I want to send some cookies to my sister and her kids, but I am worried that the icing would mess up in the mail, even if I wrap them like you said to in your post about mailing cookies. What do you think?

    1. Hi Meg, assuming you are using the royal icing— it sets after a few hours so you can stack and send the cookies. For extra insurance, you can even freeze the iced cookies so they are extra cold going into the packing materials.

  14. These are the best sugar cookies I’ve ever made. They hold their shape and are soft and yummy! Will try making them with extracts for flavoring next time. I’m sure they’ll be delicious.

  15. Angela in Austin, TX says:

    Hi Sally! I make a Christmas tree using a 6-piece nesting star cookie cutter set. The breakdown is 4 of the two largest and 2 of the remaining four. I stack 15 cookies horizontally from largest to smallest, one on top of the other. I place one of the smallest cookies vertically on top. I use Royal icing to adhere the cookie to a base I make and to adhere each cookie to the other. The top standing cookie is filled with Royal icing in an outline of the star. So, with that small novel (haha), is your sugar cookie recipe able to withstand the weight of the cookies and hold their shape? If not, do you recommend any adjustment to the recipe for my project? I’m going to add a reindeer to my baked goods this year using your chocolate recipe adding only a red nose. Very excited!! Thank you very much. Have a wonderful holiday season!! Ho Ho Ho

    1. Yes! These cookies are sturdy enough for the nesting cookie/tall Christmas tree you’re describing.

  16. Hi Sally
    Just a quick question about the royal icing. I plan on using this recipe but I’m not sure how long this icing will keep its fluid like consistency. Will it still be okay to decorate cookies a couple of days later or will it harden. It will be in small round containers like the ones you would get with a salad dressing on the side from a restaurant. They have a snap on type lid.
    Thank you
    Lynn

    1. Hi Lynn,
      As long as the containers are 100% air tight, you can store the icing in the refrigerator for a few days. The icing will separate after sitting for several hours, so you’ll need to give it a good stir before using it again. If you won’t be using it for a week, store it in the freezer.

  17. I absolutely loved this recipe … it was easy to follow and they come out so yummy , a sugary , buttery flavor , which is an amazing combo . However I thought that I had caught a glimpse of a chocolate version of the same cookie but I can not seem to locate it . Can you please advise ? Thank you , Kim Mitchell

  18. If using royal icing, which I understand hardens within 2 hours, at what point should the sugar sprinkles added? I want good adherence to the icing for my star shaped holiday gold sprinkles.

    1. Right after decorating when it’s still wet. 🙂

  19. I just made these to decorate for a Christmas party and I am so thrilled! They kept their shape *perfectly* and are super yummy (I definitely ate several already haha). Hands down this is the best cut-out sugar cookie recipe I’ve ever used, and I don’t think I’ll be searching for a new one ever again.

  20. We made these today and they are great! It will definitely be my go to sugar cookie and icing recipe from now on. We followed the recipe exactly and it really needs no modifications. Thanks for all your good tips, rolling the dough out before chilling is genius

    1. Can you use margarine in place of shorting.?

  21. Did you change anything in this recipe now that you have reposted it? I love the new tips but want to make sure it’s the exact same recipe I’ve been using the last couple years. Thank you!! 🙂

    1. Hi Marie! I didn’t change anything about the recipe. Still the same as it’s always been just new pictures and a video tutorial!

      1. You’re the best!! Thank you!

      2. Hi! Excited to try this recipe. Do you think Earth Balance vegan butter would work instead of regular unsalted butter? Thanks!

  22. I followed all the instructions that you mentioned and it came out really well. My son loved the cookies too. This is my go to recipe for sugar cookies. Thanks to a great recipe. God bless you.

  23. How important is the paddle attachment? I only have a hand mixer with standard mixing tools.

    Also, I have ghee that’s the consistency as melted butter. Would that work and would the measurement be the same?

    1. Hi Erika! You can use a handheld mixer for this recipe. I don’t recommend using ghee in place of butter.

  24. Reese Biermann says:

    Hi Sally,
    I’ve recently been put on some dietary restrictions for my health, but I still love baking at the holidays. How do you think these would be with almond flour and non-dairy butter? Would they still work? Have you ever tried them with a gluten-free flour or non-dairy butter?

    1. Hi Reese! A vegan butter substitute *should* work fine, but I do not recommend almond flour. Using GF flour would require additional testing, but you can certainly try a cup for cup GF flour blend.

  25. Can almond flour be used in place of all purpose flour while still maintaining the desired consistency? I heard almond flour is a nice substitute for people with celiac.

    1. Hi Heidi, unfortunately almond flour isn’t a suitable substitution for this recipe. If anything, you can try a cup for cup gluten free flour blend that works like all-purpose.

  26. I loved these cookies so much! The recipe is perfect and I appreciated the tips along the way for perfect dough.

    I have a question for you…. What if I wanted to just roll this into a log, refrigerate it, then cut and bake? Is this a good recipe for that in your opinion??

    1. Hi Callie! That should definitely work. You may want to chill the cookie dough for 30 minutes before attempting to roll into a log. It rolls out with a rolling pin just fine with some flour, but rolling into a tight log may require a bit of chilling before. After you roll it into a log, chill it for 2 hours before slicing and baking.

  27. I don’t understand how this recipe has such good reviews. We followed the directions exactly and ended with such crumbly dough that we couldn’t do much with it . We managed to roll out enough to get about 6 cookies. It was such a waste of time and ingredients. I make Christmas cut-out cookies every year – this is the first year I used your recipe and it was a disaster. So disappointed! My family and I love our Christmas cookie night:(

    1. Hi Tara, the flour may have been over-measured. This is a slightly crumbly dough, but comes together when you roll it out. Make sure you spoon and level it instead of scooping (or weigh it). You can re-roll the scraps to get close to 2 dozen cookies. I hope my video tutorial is helpful if you ever decide to try this recipe again. Thank you!

  28. Hi! I was wondering if it’s possible to rollout and cut the cookies then refrigerate them so that I can use all the dough instead of cutting them and redoing it all with the excess dough. I also am not great at rolling out dough so making it fit in my cookie sheet may be difficult. Thanks!

    1. Hi Dayna! It’s best to follow the directions in the recipe. Dividing the dough in half, it will be very easy to roll the sections of dough to fit a cookie sheet.

  29. I am gluten and dairy free & modified the ingredients accordingly, and these cookies turned out AMAZING! Given the reviews, I picked this recipe over others that were specifically crafted to be dairy and gluten free. So happy that I did. I used Bob’s 1-1 gluten-free flour in place of the all-purpose flour and Earth Balance vegan buttery stick in place of the butter. The dough was a bit crumbly when cutting after chilling for 24 hours but once cut out and baked, they held their shape perfectly and tasted fantastic. Great consistency and flavor! May try to reduce the time in the refrigerator before cutting the next time I make these, but that would be the only change. What a perfect recipe! Thank you!!

    1. I’m absolutely trilled that you were able to make these work for you, Amie!!

  30. Can I use this recipe for Christmas pinwheel cookies

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