It’s December! Time for shopping, being with family and baking Christmas cookies!

Mmmm.. there is literally nothing better than the smell (and taste!) of fresh cookies hot out of the oven.

Here in America, the main cookie of the season is sugar with decorative icing depicting the likes of Santa Claus, candy canes, angels and even presents. Those little snowmen cookies? Adorable!

But did you know that most countries that celebrate Christmas have their own special Christmas cookies?  Let’s explore a few Christmas cookies from around the world that are as beautiful as they are delicious! (recipes for each are in the links on each post in case you’re interested in changing up your cookie game this year!)

1. Russian Tea Cookies

These delicious balls of goodness are a cultural mystery.  The same cookie can be found in Mexico (Mexican Wedding cookies or Polvorones) and both traced back centuries for each country.  They are basically balls of delicious, buttery and crumbly pecan goodness dusted with a generous amount of powdered sugar.  Sweet but not too sweet and a nutty warm flavor that is always a hit.

They’re also really simple cookies to make! Recipe here.  (Or a more traditional Mexican take here.)

 

 

2. Argentinian Alfajores 

Argentina is known for a few things: high-quality steak, strong coffee, and alfajores.  Simple buttery shortbread cookie sandwiches with decadent dulce de leche in the middle.  Sometimes rolled in shredded coconut or chocolate, these addictive cookies are the perfect pairing for the strong Argentinian coffee the country so enjoys. (or you know, to just cram in your face because it’s Christmas and cookies are life!)

Wanna try your hand at them? Check out a recipe here.

 

 

3. German Pfeffernusse Cookies

Love gingerbread? You have the Germans to thank for that.  Pfeffernusse is similar to gingerbread in that it’s also a spiced cookie. However, instead of ginger and cinnamon, the spicy sweet aromas of cardamom and cloves with a hint of molasses are the star of this cookie.  They are either glazed with a powdered sugar icing or dusted with powdered sugar.

Pfeffernusse: the cookie that’s hard to pronounce, but easy to eat! Check out a recipe here.

 

 

4. Greek Koulourakia 

Koulourakia (Sesame Twist Cookies) are Greek treats that are normally baked for Easter but have been gaining popularity for other major holidays. Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t mind more excuses for delicious treats?

This sweet (not overly sweet!) butter cookie is crunchy and has a slight orange flavor.  Form them in braids or swirls or whatever shape takes your fancy.  These taste plenty fancy on their own!

Here’s a recipe that’s perfect for beginners.  If you want to be a bit more fancy and interesting, try this version.

 

 

5. Israeli Tahini Shortbread Cookies

I know you’re thinking, “Wait… tahini? In cookies?”  Surprisingly, it adds a nice nutty flavor and the sugar balances out the flavor nicely. These cookies are comforting and go excellent with coffee! (the nutty tahini in the cookie brings out the roasted flavors of coffee!)

Try these cookies with the recipe here.

 

 

 

6. Malawi (East African) Mbatata Heart Cookies

If you love sweet potato (or pumpkin) pie, these cookies are for you.  These African sweet potato cookies are more cake-like in texture, only slightly sweet, and can double for Christmas brunch or dessert bins. (So that means to make two batches, right?!)

The heart shape comes from Malawi often being called “the warm heart of Africa” and the friendliness of the Malawian people.  These cookies are sure to warm your heart and belly!

Recipe here.

 

 

 

7. Iranian Rice Cookies (Gluten Free!!)

For anyone stressing over what to serve that’s a bit different, but also perfect for those that have a gluten allergy, this cookie is your ticket!

These cookies are made with rice flour and are spiced with cardamom.  Perfect to satisfy any sweet tooth and loved by those with allergies or not! Deliciously simple recipe here or if you want to kick it up a notch try this recipe which adds the unique flavor of rosewater.  Both pair perfectly with black tea.

 

 

8. Japanese Matcha Butter Cookies

What does the Japanese NOT use matcha in?  The distinct bitter tea creates a beautiful green hue and that normally harsh flavor is balanced out by the buttery, vanilla base of this cookie.

Alter the matcha to your taste. The more you add, the stronger the flavor.  (Personally, I would start at 2 teaspoons matcha and add to taste so you don’t overdo it!)

Try forming it into cute shapes like Christmas trees or flowers! (then make it a thumbprint cookie and add raspberry jam to the middle of the flower for a fun twist!)  Recipe here.

 

 

9. Sicilian Buccellati (Christmas Fig Cookie)

These delightful cookies are Sicily’s best-known Christmas cookie.  A decadent filling of dried figs and nuts are wrapped in a buttery thin pastry dough and iced with royal icing or powdered sugar. These cookies vary wildly from household to household.  You can make them in one giant ring, individual cookies, half-moon ravioli looking cookies or even in mini logs. Really it’s whatever works for you!

The filling can vary as well! Substitute the nuts for any other nuts that suit your fancy or change up the orange for another citrus.  Add candied fruits, chocolate chips, Italian liquor or spices to further make this recipe your own.

 

 

10. Australian Anzac Biscuit

Don’t be confused.  Biscuit means cookie in Australia. 🙂 But, YUM, are these FREAKING DELICIOUS.

These scrumptious Christmas cookies are ridiculously easy to make, can be crispy or chewy (although chewy is where the flavors really shine, in my humble opinion) and will be a hit with everyone!

They are oatmeal and coconut cookies that get their honey flavor from Golden Syrup, a honey flavored syrup found in Australia (or Amazon! yay!) If you don’t have any on hand or don’t want to order some, a mix of honey and white corn syrup should substitute just fine (or one or the other. The Corn syrup alone will not have the honey flavor that these cookies usually have, FYI.)

The recipe below is from my friend and marketing partner, Deanna Jones.  Her husband’s family got the recipe from Australian missionaries they met while attending an event in Canada for a brief time.  They said that the cookie started in WWI.  It was an easy cookie they would send to the Australian troops (called Anzacs) on the front line to lift their spirits and help nourish them.  *Btw.  ANZAC stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps. Yay learning new things!*

What are some of your favorite Christmas cookie recipes? Which of these are you wanting to try? Comment how they turn out below if you do!

Anzac Biscuit Recipe

Prep time: 12 min     Total Cooking Time: 20       Yields about 20 Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats or instant oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp) butter
  • 1/4 cup Golden Syrup
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tbsp boiling water (microwave 1/8 cup water to boiling and remove 1 tbsp from it)

PREHEAT OVEN to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a square baking pan with baking paper.  Sift flour and sugar into large bowl.  Add oats and coconut and mix well.  Make a well in the center.

Melt butter in the microwave or in a small pan over low heat.  Mix in golden syrup and stir until smooth.   Dissolve baking soda in the water and add immediately to butter mixture. IT WILL FOAM UP. Add butter mixture to dry ingredients in the well. Stir until well combined.

Drop dough in 1 tbsp increments onto prepared tray and flatten gently. They will spread so make sure there is enough space.  Bake *12-15 minutes or until browned. For chewy cookies cook until edges are slightly golden and the middle is still slightly soft.  For crisp/chewy, cook until cookie is golden all around but without burning the edges.  *Cook times vary based on elevation, individual ovens, and atmosphere. Note that times could be longer or shorter and that the given times are merely an estimate.