Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies


These festive treats are sure to be a hit at your holiday party.

Active Time:
40 mins
Chill Time:
8 hrs
Total Time:
9 hrs 10 mins
8 dozen cookies

The holiday season isn't complete until my Mom and I bake a batch of cookies. Yes, even now that I'm 35!

Since I was three years old, I was the one of her three daughters who was always at her hip come baking season; partially for the delicious samples along the way, but mostly for the creativity and quality time together.

Almond extract-scented sugar cookie cutouts were our signature, and are known to be made in batches so large that they take over every flat surface in our kitchen. Gingersnap Cookies, Peanut Butter Blossoms, and Thumbprint Cookies sometimes get alternated in as supporting cast members, but the cutout cookies are the real stars and ones that steal they show at every gathering.

While nothing will replace those MVPs, after discovering these delightfully soft, pleasantly nutty Christmas cream cheese cookies, I look forward to introducing her to a new option this year. Perhaps we can extend the baking adventures from one day to two and start a new tradition with these showy yet simple slice-and-bake cookies.

Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies
Emily Laurae

Ingredients for Christmas Cream Cheese Cookies

We will need to round up just a few ingredients to recreate these cream cheese cookies.

Butter: Allow the 1 cup (two sticks) to soften so it incorporates smoothly into the cookie dough. To soften butter, transfer it from the refrigerator to the counter about 1 hour before you plan to start your recipe. To speed up the process by about 30 minutes, slice each stick into smaller cubes or slices, and allow to soften on a plate. Or if you're really crunched for time, microwave it at 10 percent power for 1 minute.

Cream cheese: You'll need one 8-ounce package of regular cream cheese to lend loads of tenderness and just enough tang to balance out the sweetness of these Christmas cookies. Neufchatel or Greek cream cheese should both work as well, if you prefer one of those instead.

Sugar: There's no substitute for good old classic cane sugar!

ingredients for cream cheese christmsa cookies
Emily Laurae

Vanilla extract: We think it's worth it to invest in pure vanilla extract rather than imitation, but if your mom or grandma made it with the latter, feel free to use that for more nostalgic flair. Or if you're planning ahead, start a batch of homemade vanilla extract to use in this and other baking recipes.

All-purpose flour: Or gluten-free cup-for-cup blend if you need a variation that's celiac-friendly.

Pecans: Toast the nuts for richer nuttier flavor. Keep 1 cup as pecan halves for topping and chop ½ cup to blend into the cookie dough.

Salt: Just a pinch is enough to balance out the sugar and highlight the salty pecans.

Green and red sugar crystals: Also known as sanding sugar, these are for decor. See "FAQs" below for more Christmas cookie decorating ideas for this specific recipe.

How to Make Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies

Be sure to plan ahead when whipping up these cookies: They need to chill overnight before baking. The waiting is the hardest part!

Follow along below to learn how to make cream cheese Christmas cookies step-by-step.

Step 1: Blend butter and cream cheese

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer and a large bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the sugar and vanilla, then beat again until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Step 2: Add flour

In another large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, beating until the dough is well blended.

Step 3: Add pecans and chill

Using a spatula, stir in chopped pecans. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

blended cream cheese and butter in bowl
Emily Laurae

Step 4: Roll dough

On four sheets of parchment paper, shape the dough into four 6-inch rolls, 1 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap each roll tightly in foil, and refrigerate overnight.

rolling cream cheese cookies
Emily Laurae

Step 5: Roll in sugar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper. Remove the rolls of dough from the refrigerator one at a time (to keep the rest cool as you work with one). Pour the red sugar crystals into one rimmed baking sheet and the green sugar crystals into another. Unwrap the dough, and roll to coat it in either the red or green sugar crystals or a mixture of both.

Step 6: Slice

Use a knife to cut the cookie dough into ¼-inch slices. Place the sugar-coated cookies on the prepared cookie sheets, then top each cookie with a pecan half.

slicing cream cheese cookies
Emily Laurae

Step 7: Bake

Bake the Christmas cream cheese cookies for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the bottom of a cookie is lightly browned when lifted.

How to Serve Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies

By the platter-full, of course—these go fast! These cookies also make terrific bake sale additions or thoughtful food gifts. For a giftable format, transfer them to a large mason jar or a box. Add a bow and a copy of the recipe, if desired, to ensure they'll remember your thoughtfulness (and allow them to relive the magic!).

How to Store Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies

Let the cookies cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container at room temp for up to 5 days (no need to refrigerate). Separate each layer by a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper so they don't stick together.

To freeze unbaked cough dough, freeze the foil-wrapped logs of dough for up to 3 months. When you're ready to enjoy them, allow the dough to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then roll, slice, and bake as explained in this recipe.

To freeze baked cookies, allow the cookies to cool to room temperature on the cookie sheet. Transfer the sheet to the freezer to allow them to partially freeze separately, then transfer the cookies to a freezer-safe airtight container or zip-top bag. Freeze for up to 1 month.


More cookie questions before you begin mixing and blending? We can help.

What other ingredients could I add to make these Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies my own?

Instead of all vanilla, try ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract and ¼ teaspoon of another flavor of extract like peppermint, almond, maple, or lemon.

For a beautiful hue, add a few drops of food coloring to the dough. Or for chocolate Christmas cream cheese cookies, replace 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture with unsweetened cocoa powder.

If you're more on Team Frosting than Team Sprinkles, omit the sugar crystals and the pecan topping. Bake as explained, allow to cool, and coat these cream cheese cookies with a layer of your favorite store-bought or homemade frosting.

Why are my cream cheese cookies spreading so much while baking?

Chances are high that your dough is too warm before you put it into the oven. Make sure to keep each separate log in the refrigerator as you sugar-coat and slice one. If at any point in the process the dough becomes too sticky to handle easily, put it back into the refrigerator or freezer for 3 to 5 minutes, and you should be golden.

Editorial contributions by Karla Walsh.


  • 1 cup butter, softened

  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese

  • 1 cup white sugar

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

  • ½ cup chopped pecans

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ½ cup green sugar crystals

  • ½ cup red sugar crystals

  • 1 cup pecan halves


  1. Cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy.

  2. Combine the flour and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in chopped pecans. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

  3. On four sheets of parchment paper, shape dough into four 6-inch rolls, 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap each roll tightly in foil and refrigerate over night.

  4. Preheat oven to 325°F (165°C). Line cookie sheets with foil. Remove rolls of dough from refrigerator one at a time. Coat each roll with red or green sugar crystals; cut dough into 1/4-inch slices.

  5. Place on prepared cookie sheets; top each cookie with a pecan half. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until bottom of cookie is lightly browned when lifted.

    cream cheese christmas cookies
    Emily Laurae/Southern Living
Updated by Karla Walsh
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