Apple Spice Cookies
Photography by Harmony Lynn Goodson

At my house, the holidays mean baking. My mom writes a long list of all the cookies we want to make, and everyone in the family works together to whip up trays of festive treats (or at least to lick the beater)! The house fills with good cheer and the lovely aromas of cocoa and cinnamon.

Inspired by my mother’s Christmas cookies, these three holiday cookie recipes are sure to delight. Gather your family and friends, put on your ugliest sweater and some Michael Bublé and make memories while making cookies.

Apple Spice Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Warm your home and your heart with these spiced cookies, perfect to snack on while decorating the tree. They’re vegan-friendly and delicious for non-vegans too!

  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • ¼ tsp clove
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°. Stir flour with baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cardamom and clove. In an electric mixer, beat shortening and sugars until creamy. Add vanilla and applesauce and mix on low speed. Gradually blend flour mixture into applesauce mixture. Drop by scant tablespoon onto cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely. Once cool, lightly dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Mint Chocolate Reindeer

Makes about 16 large cookies or 32 smaller cookies.

Turn these soft sugar cookies into sweet reindeer with candy eyes, chocolate antlers and shining red candy noses. If peppermint isn’t your thing, omit the mint extract in the frosting.


  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt (omit if using margarine)
  • 1 cup margarine or unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla


  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp peppermint extract
  • 4 tbsp water

Reindeer faces:

  • Red and brown M&Ms
  • Chocolate bar, broken into strips and then sliced halfway down the middle of each slit
Mint Chocolate Reindeer

Preheat oven to 375°. Mix flour, baking soda and salt, if using. With an electric mixer, beat butter, shortening, and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, oil and vanilla and beat until smooth. Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture until smooth. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a ball. Roll each ball into ~1/4-inch-thick circle. Slice each circle into triangles, like slicing a pizza.

Place cookies on lined cookie tray about 1 inch apart. Bake 6 to 8 minutes, just until the edges are lightly brown. Let cool on wire racks before frosting. Combine powdered sugar, cocoa powder, peppermint extract and water. Stir well until smooth. If the frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Spread the frosting over each cookie. Add reindeer faces: chocolate bar antlers, brown M&M eyes, and red M&M Rudolph noses.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Photography by Harmony Lynn Goodson

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Inspired by Mexican Hot Chocolate, the chili powder in these fudgy chocolate cookies adds not heat but gentle warmth, so those of us with zero spice tolerance can still enjoy them.

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a mixer bowl, beat together both sugars and olive oil. Add cocoa and blend until completely combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Blend in flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, chili powder and espresso powder. Fold in chocolate chips by hand. Cover the mixer bowl with a flat dish towel and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Heat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment. Scoop roughly tablespoon-sized balls of dough with a spoon and scrape them off the spoon onto the baking sheet with another spoon. Place each ball about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies 12-14 minutes. To check if they are done, lightly tap the tray on a hard surface. If the cookies flatten out, they are done.