These old-fashioned thumbprint cookies are a classic holiday cookie that even a beginner baker can master. They’re easily made vegan with a couple of substitutions and are delicious with or without icing.
Thumbprint cookies are one of my favorite cookies of all time. They’re usually made during the holidays, but they’re delicious any time of year. I’ve played around with a handful of different recipes and decided that this one is the one.
The thumbprint cookie recipe that I will use for the rest of my life. No joke!
This recipe is sinfully delicious and perfectly simple. I’m personally not one for super sweet treats. I much prefer these shortbread cookies to other, super chocolate-y ones.
These are super buttery, like my flaky buttermilk biscuit recipe, but they’re even easier to make from scratch.
They taste like butter and heaven. And jam, of course.
What really makes thumbprint cookies my go-to for the holidays is the fact that they’re easy and don’t leave behind a huge mess. I’m able to make them with my kids without instantly regretting it 3 minutes in. And look, I know. We push through our anxiety to make holiday cookies together with kids. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was a bit of a tall order some years.
This recipe seriously won’t leave your kitchen trashed, I promise. What’s better, your kids will love rolling out the balls and stamping their thumbprint in the middle. It doesn’t take long for them to catch on to the technique. You might have a few misshapen cookies, but those will likely end up being your favorite.
Tips for Perfect Thumbprint Cookies
- Allow the butter and eggs to get to room temperature for a couple of hours beforehand.
- As with any other baking venture, I highly recommend using a food scale. It’s just so much more accurate than measuring spoons. The amount of flour you’re using when you use measuring cups can vary more than you realize. With a food scale, you’ll never wonder if you’re using too much or too little of any ingredient ever again. It’s precise!
- If you’re using measuring cups, make sure to use level scoops.
- This dough is firm. You should be able to roll them out immediately after mixing the dough, no chilling required. However, some still prefer to chill their dough for about 30 minutes.
- You can use a tsp measurer to create perfect little divets in the cookie dough. If you use your thumb, you can still finesse the shape to be a little more uniform if you have the time.
- Trust the process! It’s okay that the dough is crumbly at first. Continue mixing. It will come together.
- For the jam filling: I prefer to add it after it’s been in the oven for a few minutes. Some people add it beforehand! It’s really up to you.
- If the jam is too hard to work with, put some in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it up for a few seconds. You don’t need it to be hot, just easier to work with as you fill the thumbprint cookies.
- To avoid cracking, roll the cookies into balls, not discs.
- Do not overtake these cookies. They’re perfect after about 14 minutes in the oven.
Thumbprint Cookie Variations and Ideas:
- Chocolate thumbprint cookies (add chocolate to the center, or make chocolate shortbread for the cookie dough)
- Thumbprint cookies with icing (make a simple icing and drizzle it on top once cooled)
- Vegan thumbprint cookies (substitute vegan butter, and use 2 tbsp of almond milk instead of egg yolk)
- Thumbprint cookies with Hershey Kiss (add a kiss to the top after baking while still warm, instead of jam)
- Thumbprint cookies with cream cheese (add cream cheese to the center)
- Thumbprint cookies with peanut butter (add peanut butter to the center, or in the cookie dough)
- Almond flour thumbprint cookies have a different texture but are still quite delicious! It’s an easy swap to make.
Does it matter when I add the jam filling?
Some recipes add them before baking, others call for adding it halfway through. I suppose it’s really up to you, but I prefer to add mine at the end, baking for an additional 4 minutes with the jam filling. It’s the perfect amount of time for the jam to set and melt without getting too bubbly.
Can I refrigerate the dough ahead of time?
You can absolutely refrigerate the dough ahead of time! I usually don’t even chill this recipe though, as I find it to be an unnecessary step for the end product. If you want to prep the dough the day before, it will hold up just fine. Bring it out and allow it to come to room temperature before rolling out into balls.
Can I freeze the dough?
Yes, you can freeze thumbprint cookie dough for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, and add the jam filling or any other extras right before baking.
Can I freeze baked thumbprint cookies?
Yes! These hold well in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow the cookies to thaw to room temperature before serving.
What jam or jelly flavor should I use for these thumbprint cookies?
Some favorites include apricot jelly and raspberry jam, but the options are limitless.
- Apple butter
- Apricot jelly
- Raspberry jam
- Blackberry jam
- Orange marmalade
- Cherry preserves
- Peach Jam
- Crystallized ginger
- Strawberry jam
- Cranberry preserves
- Pear butter
- How do I keep my thumbprint cookies from spreading?
If you’re wondering why your thumbprint cookies are flat, there are a couple of things that could be going on.
You need the correct ratio of ingredients, so using a food scale will help immensely. You should also be sure not to place your dough on a hot cookie sheet when making multiple batches.
How long can you keep thumbprint cookies?
Thumbprint cookies can last up to 5 days in an airtight container on the counter, or in the fridge. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months.
How to prevent cracks in the dough:
If you’re rolling the cookie dough in sugar, do it after creating the thumbprint. You can fix most cracks with your fingers, and prevent them from cracking in the first place by using a gentle touch.
If the problem persists, try chilling the dough for 30 minutes.
Butter: room temperature unsalted butter is a must! Pull the butter out an hour or 2 before starting. Butter is the signature flavor in these classic thumbprint cookies.
Sugar: You can use brown sugar or granulated sugar. You can also roll your dough balls in sugar right before baking, if you wish!
Egg yolks: Use 2 egg yolks for this recipe, brought to room temperature. Let the eggs sit out with the butter on the counter. They make for soft and delicious cookies.
Vanilla Extract & Salt: Vanilla is a key flavor in these cookies, so I don’t recommend skipping it. Some add almond extract to their recipe as well, and they come out delicious! I prefer the classic vanilla-only flavor. Salt is always a must in any dessert. If you must use salted butter, use less salt.
All Purpose Flour: Add the flour at the end of mixing. The dough will be quite crumbly, but I promise it will come together without adding water or anything. Just keep mixing.
Jam: pick any jam (or other thumbprint cookie filling). See a list of yummy jam recommendations above.
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