If you love a chewy sugar cookie, these guys are for you.
Buttery and rich with vanilla, almond extract, and nutmeg, these cookies are a little crispy around the edges with soft, chewy centers. Perfect for eating as-is or for frosting and decorating for your favorite holiday, you’ll turn to this sugar cookie recipe all year long.
If you’re looking for a good cutout cookie, you may want to take a look at my decorated shortbread cookies.
For ease of browsing, you can find all my cookie and bar recipes in one place. Thanks for being here. Now let’s get straight to it.
Watch my chewy sugar cookies web story here.
Terri even sent a photo of her beautiful, frosted sugar cookies. See?
Photo used with permission.
Why You Need to Make These Cookies
Not all recipes on my site are necessarily for everyone, so here’s the rundown on these cookies so you can decide if you want to make some.
You’ll really enjoy these cookies if you:
- like a cookie with a nice depth of flavor
- appreciate a buttery cookie
- want to be able to frost them or not and know they’ll be delicious either way
- love the complexity that a little bit of nutmeg can bring to a recipe
- want a large, round cookie that spreads a bit and stays nice and soft.
If you’re sold, you can jump straight to the recipe.
Otherwise, read on for a bit more information and how-to’s.
When you do make this recipe, it will help me and other readers if you:
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What Sets This Recipe Apart?
These cookies are a bit of a hybrid of an Amish sugar cookie and a regular, soft sugar cookie.
Most Amish sugar cookie recipes call for oil, so I added some here to provide extra tenderness and a bit of chew in the centers.
Another hallmark of an Amish sugar cookie is using powdered sugar in the dough. I chose to stick with granulated sugar since I knew they’d already be tender enough from the butter and oil.
The combination of vanilla with just the merest hint of almond extract and the warmth of nutmeg give an otherwise plain cookie a very more-ish quality.
Sold? Head straight to the recipe. Keep reading for step-by-step instructions.
How to Make Soft Sugar Cookies
These are pretty straightforward cookies to make. The dough, while very soft, doesn’t need chilling unless you want to chill it.
Just make the dough, toss in salted sugar, roll them up, flatten with a glass to about 1/4-1/3″ and bake.
You don’t even need to use a mixer, although you could certainly use either a
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make these cookies. I’ll give you substitutions where it makes sense to do so.
- all-purpose flour: Sub in a bit of bread flour for up to half of the all-purpose flour for a sturdier, chewier cookie. I like the amount of chew vs. tenderness using all-purpose. I use King Arthur which has a bit higher protein content than other nationally available brands of all-purpose flour
- baking powder: Provides the leavening for the cookies
- unsalted butter: You want your butter very soft but not melted. I generally cut it in pieces, put it in the glass bowl I’m making the cookies in, and microwave it for about 15 seconds to soften it well so I can whip it smooth with a whisk. For a cookie that spreads a bit less and is softer, substitute butter-flavored Crisco for up to half the butter
- vegetable oil: Allows the cookies to spread a bit, shortens the gluten strands and also lends some chew to the centers. Use a fruity olive oil for a more complex flavor. I used plain vegetable oil. Other choices are avocado oil, grapeseed oil, safflower, Canola, etc.
- salt: You’ll note there’s a fair bit of salt in this recipe. I use it both in the dough and in the sugar for rolling. Seasoning is important!
- vanilla extract: Provides sweet, warm, floral, and woody notes. Vanilla and butter are the dominant flavors in these cookies
- almond extract: Just a little bit of almond extract, which can be overwhelming in large amounts, adds a subtle, sweet nuttiness that really elevates the vanilla flavor
- nutmeg: If there is a secret ingredient in these cookies, nutmeg is it. If you love commercially produced eggnog, you like nutmeg. It plays beautifully with butter and sugar, making it an excellent addition to lots of baked goods. Just a few gratings of nutmeg adds another dimension of nuttiness to these cookies. While technically optional, it adds a lot to these cookies. If you’re not a fan, consider adding just a tiny bit of cinnamon. Maybe 1/4 teaspoon or so in the whole batch
- sugar: I use all white sugar in these cookies. The sugar adds sweetness and tenderizes the gluten in the flour. For an even softer cookie, although one that will be a bit darker in color, substitute some brown sugar for up to half the granulated sugar
- eggs: Eggs add volume, structure, protein, liquid, fat, and emulsifiers. They assist in browning and help to create a fine texture when whisked into the dough really thoroughly
Like many American butter-based cookies, chewy sugar cookies are made using the creaming method.
- Whisk flour and leavening together. Set aside.
- Whip butter until smooth and light.
- Mix in flavorings and salt.
- Whisk in the sugar followed by the eggs.
- Stir in the flour mixture until no loose flour remains.
- Roll in salted sugar, press down with a glass, and bake.
Jenni Says: The dough is very soft, but it’s not sticky. To make it a bit easier to work with, refrigerate it for an hour or so before shaping. I didn’t bother, choosing to just plop portions of the dough directly into the salted sugar mixture, turning them to coat, and shaping them into rough balls before putting them on parchment-lined baking sheets.
For visual learners, here are a couple of collages so you can see the texture of the dough and the steps involved.
1) Microwave the butter for just a few seconds–no more than 15–to make sure it’s nice and soft and easy to whisk.
2) Whip the butter with the salt, vanilla, almond extract, and nutmeg until smooth and light.
3) Add the oil and whisk it in.
4 & 5) Dump in the sugar next and whisk it until light and creamy.
6) Whip in the eggs. (NOTE: Pictured is a half recipe. There are 2 eggs in the full recipe)
For the lightest (both in texture and in color) cookies, make sure to whisk well before each addition, especially the eggs. Whisk for a good minute or so before adding the flour.
1) Add the flour and baking powder mixture and stir together with a spatula.
2) The finished dough is very soft but not sticky. You can choose to refrigerate it to make it a bit easier to work with, but it’s not strictly necessary.
3) Weigh out 1 oz portions of dough and drop them into a bowl of salted sugar.
Adding a heavy pinch of fine salt to sugar for rolling cookies helps to moderate the sweetness while providing the occasional sparkle of salt on the outsides of the cookies. I do this with all my cookies that need to be rolled in sugar.
4) Roll the dough completely in the sugar and shape into rough balls–again, the dough is soft, so do the best you can.
5) Press each dough ball with the flat bottom of a glass to about 1/4″-1/3″ thick.
Jenni Says: If you don’t want/need flat cookies, you can skip the flattening part. The cookies will bake into more of a dome shape and they won’t be quite as large. Underbake a little bit for nice, chewy centers.
6) If you don’t mind slightly irregular cookies, bake as-is. If you prefer a nice, round cookie, you can round them before baking by using the glass or a large round cookie cutter to nudge any little bits that might be sticking out back into shape.
Sugar cookies are pretty much their own “thing,” so the easiest way to vary them is with how you decorate them.
Here are a few ideas:
- Ice with a bit of American buttercream and use seasonal sprinkles to achieve different looks.
- Color the icing to make pastel pink, blue, or purple and decorate with coordinating or contrasting sprinkles
- For a more subtle decoration, rather than icing the cookies, roll them in colored salted sugar rather than plain sugar.
Jenni Says: Here’s my easy decorator’s buttercream. It’s best made with a
How to Frost Sugar Cookies without Piping
If making cookies to frost, do NOT roll them in salted sugar when shaping, or they’ll be too sweet. Chill the dough, roll into balls, flatten, and bake. Once completely cool, ice as desired.
Here’s how to get a relatively flat icing surface with a bevel all around the cookie:
- Hold a cookie with your non-dominant hand and spread on a good 2 Tablespoons of frosting with an icing spatula. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
- Scrape any excess frosting off the bottom of your icing spatula, and then pull it across the surface of the frosting to get a relatively flat surface.
- Scrape off any excess frosting from the spatula, and then hold it at an angle, scraping off excess frosting on the cookie and forming a bevel all the way around.
If adding sprinkles or other decorations, add them immediately after frosting and gently press them into the frosting before it sets up too much.
Equipment You May Need
For grating nutmeg, I generally use a Microplane, but they also make a cool manual spice grinder that is simple to use and works really well. It might be worth picking one up if you use a lot of nutmeg.
Works especially well for nutmeg and other large, hard spices. With no electric cords or motors, this guy will last a very long time. It also takes up minimal space--about the same space as a regular spice jar.
You should definitely make some of these cookies to leave out for Santa!
And since they’re soft, they’d make great sandwich cookies.
Sugar Cookie Q & A
I’m not a gluten-free baker, but my friend Sandi has a great gluten-free cream cheese sugar cookie recipe on her site.
Store your sugar cookies at room temperature in airtight containers for up to 5 days. Freeze for longer storage. You can also shape the dough, freeze on pans, and then keep the frozen dough in zip-top freezer containers to bake as needed. When baking from frozen, unless you prefer a puffier cookie, press the cookies flat halfway through baking.
Honestly, I haven’t tried to roll this dough out. If you want to give it a go, chill the dough completely, and flour your surface and the dough really well. Roll to no thinner than about 1/4″, and work quickly. Note that this dough spreads a bit. If you want your cutouts to have nice crisp shapes, this recipe will work better for you.
Other Old-Fashioned Cookie Recipes
If you like a simple, old-fashioned cookie that’s a bit elevated from the norm, you may enjoy my peanut butter cookies. I make them with brown butter and a Very Lot of peanut butter. they are really excellent.
My snickerdoodles have cinnamon in both the dough and the salted sugar coating. If you prefer more contrast in a snickerdoodle, leave the cinnamon out of the dough.
And, these are not pictured, but if chewy ginger cookies are your thing, I think you’ll really enjoy my recipe!
If you have any questions about this post or recipe, I am happy to help.
Simply leave a comment here and I will get back to you soon. I also invite you to ask question in my Facebook group, Fearless Kitchen Fun.
If your question is more pressing, please feel free to email me. I should be back in touch ASAP, as long as I’m not asleep.
A Note About Measurements
Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.
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Soft, Chewy Sugar Cookies
- 340 grams all-purpose flour 12 oz or about 2 2/3 cups
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 170 grams unsalted butter 6 oz or 1 1/2 sticks, very soft
- 64 grams vegetable oil 2.5 oz or 1/3 cup
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt I use Morton’s. If you use Diamond, use 1 1/2 teaspoons. If using table salt or fine salt, use 1/2 teaspoon
- 1 Tablespoons vanilla extract 14 grams or 3 teaspoons
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- several gratings of whole nutmeg about 1/4 teaspoon
- 198 grams granulated sugar 7 oz or 1 cup
- 2 large eggs
For Salted Sugar for Rolling
- 100 grams granulated sugar 3,5 grams or about 1/2 cup
- heavy pinch of fine salt
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
- Cut the butter into pieces. If it's already very soft, you're good to go. If not, microwave for a few seconds–no more than 15–to get it nice and soft but not melted, especially if you are making the cookies by hand.
- To the softened butter, add the salt, vanilla, almond extract, and nutmeg and whisk together until light, smooth, and creamy.
- Pour in the oil and whisk until smooth. The mixture will be very thin at this point.
- Add in the sugar and whisk well.
- Add the eggs and whisk them in very well, taking the time to whisk vigorously for about a minute. This will give you the lightest texture as well as lighten the color of the finished cookies.
- Switch to a spatula, and stir in the flour mixture completely until no loose flour remains and the mixture is uniform. The dough will be very soft but not sticky. If you prefer to work with a firmer dough, cover and refrigerate for an hour or two before continuing.
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350F.
- Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment. You will have to reuse 1 pan. If you have 3 pans, line all 3.
- Whisk the sugar and salt together in a small bowl. (NOTE: If frosting the cookies, skip this step. Chill the dough, portion as noted below, shape, flatten, and bake.)
- Portion the dough into 1-oz pieces. Working with one piece at a time, drop the dough into the salted sugar. Roll it around to coat with the sugar mixture and then shape into rough balls. Place 11 on your sheet pan, 2 rows of 4 along each long side and 1 row of 3 in the center.
- Bake one pan at a time for about 11 minutes. I set my timer for 5 minutes, rotate the cookies, and bake for 6 more minutes. Cookies will barely be golden brown at the very edges and will only be a pale golden-brown on the bottoms.
- Allow the cookies to cool on a rack for about 5 minutes and then use a turner/spatula to move them to cooling racks to cool completely.
- Store in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Did You Make Any Changes?
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 oz unsalted butter, very soft
- 1/2 teaspoon Morton's kosher salt, about 3/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal, or 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1.25 oz vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- a few gratings of fresh nutmeg
- 3.5 oz granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- For even chewier cookies, substitute up to half the all-purpose flour with bread flour.
- For even more depth of flavor, substitute brown sugar for up to half of the granulated sugar. This will result in cookies that are a bit darker in color and are a bit softer
- Nutmeg is technically optional, although I love the flavor it adds. If you don't like nutmeg, substitute with just a bit of cinnamon or even consider some cardamom
To Make Crispier/Crunchier CookiesIf you prefer a crisper cookie, bake for about 14 minutes, or until the cookies are decidedly golden brown around the edges and a medium golden brown on the bottoms. Cookies will crisp up as they cool.
TipsIf frosting the cookies, do not roll them in the salted sugar before baking. You will definitely need to chill the dough before shaping.
Hi, y’all! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and hopefully also learned a thing or two.
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Thanks so much for spending some time with me today.
Whether you frost them or not, I hope you enjoy the soft and chewy sugar cookies.
Take care, and have a lovely day.