Our Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipes for 2021

December 20, 2021

cardboard box with red and green ribbon and fresh greens
Cookie box for guests

At Greenlake Guest House, we started a tradition of baking special, daily Christmas cookies for our guests a few years ago. We call it “25 Days of Christmas Cookies.” We bake cookies that we don’t serve here during the rest of the year, drawing on a variety of sources including friends and family.

This year, we’ve curated our cookie choices a bit more because we’ve been busier with guests than the past couple of years. Our goal was to have enough variety and selection on hand to send a box of cookies home with every guest. Although we’ve made some beautifully frosted cutout cookies and family favorites this year, these are the cookies that we’ve chosen to bake in multiple batches. Our favorite holiday cookie recipes for 2021 are absolutely delicious, not too fussy to prepare, and they make an attractive part of a cookie box or platter. We think you will love them too!

Note: We baked all the cookies with regular, salted butter (Kirkland Signature) because that is what we typically have on hand. The recipes have been adjusted to decrease additional salt. We like to bake with insulated cookie sheets, on parchment paper. These recipes make approximately 4 dozen cookies, except for the Chocolate Chunk & Cranberry Shortbread Cookies, which make about 2 dozen.

4 cookies on a green plate
Rosemary-Pecan Cookies

Rosemary-Pecan Cookies

These cookies have become a new guest and family favorite. Made with our own rosemary from the garden, they are a little less sweet and a bit more sophisticated than some. The original recipe is made with walnuts, but we prefer the taste of the pecans. Decorate them with a couple of fresh rosemary petals before baking to make them extra pretty. (Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens)


2/3 cup butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 TBSP. finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp salt

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 c. flour

2/3 c. finely chopped toasted pecans


In a stand mixer, beat butter on medium until light & fluffy. Add the next five ingredients including salt. Beat until well combined. Beat in egg and vanilla, then flour. Chill dough if it’s too sticky to handle.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a 2-inch-diameter roll. Coat roll with pecans. Wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill 1-2 hours in refrigerator or at least 30 minutes in freezer.

Preheat oven to 375F. Use a sharp knife to cut rolls into ¼ inch slices and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet (we like to line the cookie sheet with parchment paper).

Press 2 fresh rosemary petals on top of each cookie. Bake 8-10 minutes until bottoms are light brown.

GLGH Do-Ahead Tip: We typically keep the dough in the freezer, and slice as many cookies as we need from the frozen dough log. Simply thaw the dough slices on the cookie sheet for a few minutes and then decorate and bake.

chocolate biscotti cookies on a serving tray
Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Chocolate-Almond Biscotti

These Chocolate Almond Biscotti have a fantastic flavor and we like the fact that they are crunchy but not hard. They are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or a glass of red wine. The biscotti will stay fresh for at least a couple weeks if well wrapped. We like to drizzle them with a little chocolate to make them look fancier. (Adapted from Food.com)


1 ½ c. sliced almonds, toasted and divided

1 c. butter, softened

2 c. sugar

2/3 c. cocoa

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

3 eggs

1 tsp. almond extract

3 ½ c. flour

½ cup chocolate chips (optional)


Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper and set aside.

Place ¾ cup of toasted almonds in a food processor and pulse until ground.

In a stand mixer, beat butter until fluffy, then add sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, then add eggs and almond extract and beat well. Beat in as much flour as you can with mixer, then stir in any remaining flour, ground almonds, and sliced almonds.

On parchment paper, shape dough into two 14-inch-long rolls. Place rolls at least 5 inches apart on cookie sheet and flatten slightly until about 4 inches wide.

Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool on cookie sheet for one hour.

Cut each roll into ½ thick slices (cut on a slight diagonal, if desired, to make them longer). Place slices, cut sides down, on ungreased cookie sheets or parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Bake about 12 minutes.

Turn slices carefully (they are hot and fragile), and bake another 12-15 minutes until the cookies are dry and begin to crisp (do not overbake). Cool completely.

If desired, make a glaze by carefully microwaving the chocolate chips until melted and smooth (stir every 30 seconds). Put chocolate into a plastic Ziploc bag and cut a small hole in the end. Drizzle tops of the biscotti with the melted chocolate. Let set until firm.

3 chocolate shortbread cookies on a plate
Salted Chocolate Chunk Shorbread with Dried Cranberries

Salted Chocolate & Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

Thank you to our friend Linda Dike of the Guest House for generously sharing this recipe with us. It has become a new favorite. We like the color and flavor combination of the cranberries and chocolate. The optional sea salt garnish really brings out the flavor of the cranberries and chocolate and adds some unexpected sophistication. Use a good quality sea salt for garnishing, if desired. (Adapted from SavingDessert.com)

GLGH Do-Ahead Tip: This cookie dough can be prepped and wrapped ahead of time in log form and stored for a few days in the refrigerator or for up to a month in the freezer before baking. If frozen, allow the dough to defrost for a few hours in the refrigerator before slicing.


10 Tbsp. butter, very soft

½ c. powdered sugar

2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed

1 tsp. vanilla

1 ¾ c. flour (do not add too much flour or dough will be too dry)

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1/3 c. dried cranberries, chopped

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp. water (for coating dough log)

¼ sanding sugar or other coarse sugar for rolling

Fine flake sea salt for garnish (optional)


In stand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Blend until well combined.

Slowly add flour and mix on low speed until incorporated. You may want to add up to 3 tsp. of cold water, a teaspoon at a time, if the dough seems too dry.

Stir the chopped chocolate and dried cranberries into the cookie dough.

Place dough on a large piece of parchment paper. Form the dough into a log 12-inches long and about 1 ½ inches thick. Wrap the dough tightly in the parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Remove the dough from the refrigerator while preparing the egg wash. Whisk together the egg and water. Lightly brush the entire log with the egg wash. Pour the coarse sugar down the middle of a piece of parchment paper. Roll the dough in the sugar to coat, pressing down firmly to adhere. Using a large, thin, sharp knife, slice the log into 24 half-inch rounds. Note: It helps to use a ruler to measure them-simply make a small mark in the dough at half-inch intervals.

Place the cookies about 1-inch apart. Sprinkle tops with sea salt. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, or until they are starting to brown on the bottom and the cookies are set. Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

small white cookies in glass dish
Mexican Wedding Cakes

Mexican Wedding Cakes

This classic Christmas cookie is Julie’s favorite. Another name for them is Russian Tea Cakes. They look like little festive snowballs and make a nice contrast to the other cookies on the tray. (Adapted from Betty Crocker)

GLGH Do-Ahead Tip: We freeze the dough after shaping them into balls, then bake one or two dozen at a time throughout the season.


½ c. powdered sugar

1 c. butter, softened

2 tsp. vanilla

2 c. flour

1 c. finely chopped pecans

¼ tsp. salt

¾ c. powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 325F. In stand mixer, beat ½ c. powdered sugar, the butter, and vanilla on medium until light and fluffy. On low speed, add flour, pecans, and salt until dough forms.

Shape into 1-inch balls. On parchment lined cookie sheet, place balls 1 inch apart. (Note: dough can be frozen at this point and baked later.)

Bake 13-17 minutes or until set but not brown. (Bake about 2 minutes longer if baking them from frozen.) Cool on wire rack about 5-10 minutes.

Place ¾ c. powdered sugar in small bowl. Roll cookies in powdered sugar. Cool completely, about 15 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar again. Place in airtight container.

tray of cookies with chocolate candies and sprinkles

Chocolate Kiss Cookies

These Chocolate Kiss Cookies are decadently rich and the texture is similar to a brownie. Use your prettiest holiday sprinkles for a very festive looking cookie. We usually order a pound or two of sprinkles at a time from Amazon. (Adapted from Sally’s Cookie Addiction.)

  1. flour

1 c. Dutch process or unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/3 c. sugar

2 egg yolks, at room temperature

¼ c. milk

2 tsp. vanilla

1 2/2 c. nonpareil sprinkles

50 Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped


Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa. Set aside.

In stand mixer, beat the butter on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat until creamed, abut 2 minutes. Add egg yolks, milk, and vanilla and beat until combined.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix on low speed until combined.

Pour the sprinkles into a small bowl. Roll the dough into balls with your hands, using about 1 Tbsp. of dough per cookie (about the size of a large walnut). Roll each ball into the sprinkles to coat. Place the dough balls on the prepared cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies for 9-12 minutes, until set.

Remove the cookies from the oven. Press one chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container for up to a week.

Cookies on tray in oven
Fresh Cookies Baking

This has been a fun season of baking at Greenlake Guest House. We didn’t take as many photos this year, but we certainly gave away a lot of cookies to our guests. We look forward to the rest of the season and doing it all over again in a fresh way in 2022!