17 Christmas Cookies From Around the World

Jazz up your holiday sweets this year by trying something new

Christmas Stained Glass Cookies recipe

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Cookies play such an integral part in the Christmas and New Year holidays. From traditional cookies that are left out for Santa to more inventive ones baked for cookie swap parties, it's always useful to have a new cookie recipe to try. Looking abroad at other traditions is a great way to explore new recipes. To list all of the Christmas cookies made across all continents could fill a book, so here is a selection that highlights some Christmas traditions from other countries.

  • 01 of 17

    Traditional Shortbread From Scotland

    All-Butter Scottish Shortbread Recipe

    The Spruce

    In Britain, there are many biscuits (a.k.a. cookies) baked every year and choosing a favorite isn't easy. Scotland has its delightful shortbread, nicknamed "shortie," which is eaten year-round throughout the British Isles. The buttery biscuit is at its best around the holidays, and Hogmanay (the Scottish New Year's Eve) is not complete without it. 

  • 02 of 17

    British Stained Glass Cookies

    Christmas Stained Glass Cookies recipe

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    There is a centuries-old tradition of hanging cookies on the Christmas tree, and the especially beautiful stained glass cookies are perfect for this. They represent the colorful windows of churches and abbeys throughout the British Isles. If you think that sounds complicated, don't worry, you'll be surprised just how easy they are to make.

  • 03 of 17

    Czech Pernik na Figurky Cookies

    Czech Pernik na Figurky Cookies

    W. Zwaal / Moment / Getty Images

    The perfect cookie for vánoční cukroví (vah-NAWTCH-nee koo-KRAW-vee), or Christmas sweets, are these traditional Czech Christmas treats called pernik na figurky (meaning "gingerbread on figures"). Lovely to give as a gift or to just eat along with a cup of tea, these ginger-spiced cookies are an easy recipe that children love to make. 

  • 04 of 17

    Polish Kołaczki

    Polish Kołaczki on a plate

    The Spruce 

    A classic Eastern European cookie is the Polish kołaczki. The recipe uses a cream cheese dough, making the cookie flaky and sweet when baked. The kołaczki can be different shapes including round, square, or diamond, which further adds to the appeal of these delicious morsels. They vary in flavor depending on what filling was used, whether it be fruit, nuts, or sweet cheese.

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  • 05 of 17

    Fritule From Croatia

    Homemade fritters with sugar
    fotoedu / Getty Images

    These delightful fried treats may look familiar, as they are similar to New Orleans' beignets. These miniature doughnuts are studded with citrus zest and raisins and sometimes flavored with brandy or rum. The fritule was made famous by the Croatian Jurisich family more than 100 years ago and has become a Christmas tradition ever since.

  • 06 of 17

    Traditional French Madeleines

    Madeleines served on plate, small white jug in background

    Howard Shooter / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images 

    The French have many cookies that they love to bake for Christmas, as they are renowned for their patisseries. Most famous of these baked treats is the madeleine, which is a lovely, petite cake, rather than a cookie. The sponge cake is scented with vanilla and a bit of orange zest. Serve them after Christmas dinner alongside a cup of tea, coffee, or even a glass of sweet wine.

  • 07 of 17

    Danish Butter Cookies

    Danish Butter Cookies

     Kristina Vanni

    These delicate ring-shaped butter cookies are a popular Danish holiday treat. Vanilla sugar, a common Dutch ingredient, contributes a subtle vanilla flavor, while the addition of almond flour provides a tender texture. The dough is piped into a wreath shape and baked until lightly golden.

  • 08 of 17

    France's Sablé Cookie

    Sable biscuits on a cooling rack

    Dorling Kindersley / Charlotte Tolhurst

    Sablé means "sand" in French. The sablé cookie is well named because of its crumbly texture and buttery flavor. This recipe creates a basic biscuit, but the beauty of the sablé is you can add many different fillings. For a Christmas theme, jazz up the dough with warming seasonal spices such as cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg.

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  • 09 of 17

    French Almond Macarons

    Almond macarons on a plate

    Philippe Desnerck / Photolibrary / Getty Images

    Their names may be similar, but almond macarons should not be confused with a macaron—the two cookies are very different. The almond macarons are more dense and cake-like, with a crisp outside and chewy center. They are a sweet treat for the holidays and make great gifts.

  • 10 of 17

    French Cinnamon Palmiers

    Palmiers recipe

    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe

    Cinnamon palmiers, also charmingly referred to as elephant ears, are such a festive treat with their heart shape and light, flaky pastry. What makes them even more delightful is they are so quick and easy to make. Simply roll out premade puff pastry dough, spread with a homemade cinnamon sugar paste, roll both sides toward the middle, and slice and bake. If you're in a rush, this is the perfect cookie for you.

  • 11 of 17

    Italian Pizzelle


    The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni

    They look like little lace doilies, so Italian pizzelle cookies are sure to amaze everyone during the holidays. They're made with a special waffle iron, and the batter for this recipe is flavored with anise. You can flavor them with vanilla, almond, citrus zest, or chocolate if you prefer. They're also fun little serving bowls or cannoli to hold custard, fruit, and other yummy fillings when shaped while still warm.

  • 12 of 17

    Italian Biscotti

    Biscotti with a cup of espresso

    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm

    The Italians have many cookies on their Christmas menus, but the most famous are crisp, crunchy biscotti, which can be made in a variety of flavors. Add in dark chocolate or nuts, or make with fruit or not. No matter what, these finger-length dessert treats are heavenly. They are even better when dipped into a glass of sweet vino santo (holy wine).

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  • 13 of 17

    Italy's Amaretti

    Amaretti biscuits with coffee

    The Picture Pantry / Lisovskaya Natalia

    Amaretti are slightly chewy, almond-flavored cookies known throughout the world. They're so good served alongside an espresso or a hot chocolate, making them a great after-dinner treat. Because they don't contain flour, these cookies are also gluten free.

  • 14 of 17

    Italian Struffoli

    Struffoli Honey Balls
    Tania Mattiello / Getty Images

    No self-respecting list of Italian cookies for Christmas could ever be complete without the lovely fried honey balls known as struffoli. It's believed that the recipe for these tasty morsels may have originated in ancient Greece but was adopted as a favorite dessert of Southern Italy. The balls can be shaped into a wreath, piled into a ball, or covered in sprinkles and eaten as is.

  • 15 of 17

    Norway's Krumkake Cookies

    Krumkake Cookies in a glass jar
    Sindre Ellingsen / Getty Images

    The Scandinavians sure know how to celebrate Christmas. Their bountiful celebrations contain fabulous foods, meats, fruits, and lovely Christmas cookies like krumkake and Scandinavian rosettes.

    Norwegian krumkake cookies could be considered among the prettiest of all cookies. They are cooked on a circular cookie iron, then rolled into a cigar or cone shape. Krumkake cookies have a texture more like a cracker or waffle than a cookie and are delicate, lacy, and sweet.

  • 16 of 17

    South American Alfajores

    alfajores cookies on a plate

    ElOjoTorpe / Getty Images

    In South America, traditional alfajores are a must during the holidays. Each region of South America has its own version of these caramel sandwich cookies, but the basic idea is that a layer of dulce de leche is spread between two of the butter-sugar cookies to create an irresistible sandwich cookie. The alfajores are flavored with a typical South American brandy called pisco, but you can use any brandy.

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  • 17 of 17

    Puerto Rican Besitos de Coco (Coconut Kisses)

    Puerto Rican cookies

    Patricia Hamilton / Moment / Getty Images

    The traditional and most popular Puerto Rican cookie is the delightful, coconut besitos de coco or coconut kisses. They are easy to make and can be dressed up with crushed nuts and chocolate drizzle. Although similar to a macaroon, besitos de coco include flour in the batter, giving the cookies a more cake-like consistency.