If you’re looking for a light, crisp buttery cookie, you’ve come to the right place. In this post I’m going to teach you how to make traditional, old-fashioned butter cookies, just like Grandma used to make!
Is a Butter Cookie a Sugar Cookie?
This is the question everyone asks: “What’s the difference between a traditional sugar cookie and a butter cookie?”
There are actually three major differences, so I’ll break it down:
1). A sugar cookie has more sugar in it. For instance, my Cut-Out Sugar Cookies recipes has more than double the amount of sugar as these butter cookies. Mine are more like shortbread cookies, actually.
2). Leavening. Most sugar cookies will have baking soda in them. This butter cookies does not have any traditional leavening.
3). Whole eggs. Sugar cookies are made with whole eggs. This butter cookie recipe is made from egg yolks only. The yolks have a lot of fat. So does the butter. So, what you end up with is a rich buttery cookie, one that has crisp edges and a luscious buttery center.
Of course, there’s one more major difference.
Butter cookies are piped using a star tip or Wilton 1M tip. This leaves them with a very distinct, beautiful look.
In comparison, most traditional sugar cookies are made in one of the following three methods:
1). Slice-and-bake: Anyone who’s purchased a tube of store-bought cookies knows what a slice and bake cookie is. The name is self-explanatory! Many homemade sugar cookies are rolled into a tube and sliced, just like the ones in the store.
2). Cut-Out Sugar Cookies: Many of my painted sugar cookies are the cut-out variety. This is a thicker dough that you roll out and cut with cookie cutters.
3). Dough balls rolled in sugar: This is the most traditional sugar cookie of all. You can roll them in regular sugar, sanding sugar, or even colored sugars.
Butter Cookies are in a Category of their Own
And that’s why I decided I should make a batch of them and share the recipe with you guys. I’ve done so many sugar cookies over the years but butter cookies just shout “Christmas!” They’re perfect for the holidays and ideal for a cookie exchange or sweets tray.
Butter cookies are as pretty as you want to make them. You can dip them in chocolate, place jam in the middle, or even press a pecan half into the center before baking.
In short, they’re pretty. And depending on which piping tip you use, they can be versatile, as well.
Now that I’ve completely enticed you with all-things-butter-cookie, it’s time to look at the ingredients. That’s the best part of this rich cookie: the list of ingredients is short!
Butter Cookie Ingredients
You will find a full printable recipe card at the bottom of this post. For now, here’s a quick peek at what you’ll need. These are simple ingredients you probably have in your pantry and refrigerator right now.
- vanilla extract
- all purpose flour
- egg yolks
- chocolate chips
- pinch of salt (if you use unsalted butter)
- vegetable oil (or coconut oil)
Tools You will Need:
- piping bag
- piping tip (open star or Wilton 1M)
How to Make these Easy Butter Cookies
These butter cookies came together so easily! As long as you have a good piping bag and tip you’ll want to make these again and again.
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prep two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Make the Cookies
Place room temperature butter in a large bowl. You could use the bowl of a stand mixer or you could (as I did) mix these cookies with a hand mixer.
Cream butter on low speed until light and fluffy. (You can use salted or unsalted butter, your choice.)
Add sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Whip until smooth and creamy.
Add flour to wet ingredients a little at a time until fully incorporated. You’ll want to thin down with a tiny bit of whole milk. A couple tablespoons should do.
Transfer the batter to a piping bag with star tip.
Pipe rosettes onto the parchment paper. If you like you can chill dough by placing the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for ten minutes.
Place baking sheet in preheated oven and bake for 11 – 12 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
If you like, repeat the process with a different tip.
Make Your Chocolate Dip
You’ll need 10 – 12 ounces of chocolate chips and a tablespoon of oil (vegetable or coconut will do). Place in microwave and heat in in 30-second increments until soft and semi-melted. Mine took a total of 1 1/2 minutes. Stir well.
Dip the edge of the cookies into the chocolate mixture and immediately add sprinkles or other decor.
Place back on parchment paper for chocolate to firm up.
Store cookies in an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap. They should stay fresh up to a week. You can refrigerate if you like but it’s not necessary. Cookies can be frozen for later use (up to two months).
What to Expect from These Old-Fashioned Butter Cookies
These soft butter cookies really hit the spot!
They’re light, they’re crisp, they’re buttery! These cookies are absolutely delightful. And that little splash of chocolate and sprinkles? They add a depth of flavor you’re going to love.
More than anything, I love the “look” of these little cookies. Mine weren’t perfect. (I think I added too much milk. My first batch fell a little too flat for my liking.) But with the addition of the chocolate and sprinkles I was still pretty impressed.
I definitely plan to add these cookies to my annual Christmas Cookie Tray. I can’t wait, in fact!
Variations on this Recipe
I’m so excited about these luscious butter cookies and am already thinking of ways to make the recipe different next time. Here are a few things I might consider:
Chocolate: It would be easy to add a quarter cup of cocoa powder to the recipe to turn these into chocolate butter cookies.
Cinnamon: I have some wonderful Vietnamese cinnamon and I think it would be a lovely addition to this recipe.
Pecans: Next time I Play to add a pecan half to the center of each cookie. (I’m nuts about nuts, as you’ve probably already noticed. I add them to all sorts of things!)
Preserves: I would love to add a dollop of strawberry preserves to the center of these cookies. While they would be a little different from my Thumbprint cookies, they would still be tasty (and easy)!
Brown sugar: You can substitute brown sugar for white for a richer, crunchier cookie.
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies: Easy breeze! Coat in white chocolate and add chopped macadamia nut pieces instead of sprinkles.
You can always make the dough ahead of time and freeze it. Bring to room temperature before placing it in piping bag.
Other Christmas Cookies from Out of the Box Baking
If you love great cookies at Christmastime you’re going to enjoy these offerings from Out of the Box Baking:
Easy Pecan Pie Cookies: In this post I’m going to show you how to make a simple pecan pie cookie, perfect for a quick treat! This recipe will be particularly exciting during the holiday season.
Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies: I hardly know where to begin with these amazing chunky oatmeal Craisin cookies, y’all. They’re a cross between a traditional old-fashioned oatmeal cookie and a chunky, heavier bite of muffin. I load them with walnuts or pecans, along with a more-than-adequate amount of Craisins (dehydrated cranberries).
Double Mint Chocolate Cookies: These yummy bites of deliciousness are “doubly” good because of the addition of cocoa powder. It’s chocolate on chocolate on mint. And, oh my! The result is powerful!
Snowball Cookies: These cookies go by different names. Some call them Mexican Wedding Cookies, some call them Snowballs. Some call them Pecan Sandies, others call them Pecan Balls. Some folks call these soft bites of wonderment Italian Wedding Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cakes, or Russian Tea Cookies, others call them southern pecan butterballs. No matter what you call them, they’re delicious and super easy to make.
Check out this recipe for Chocolate Cherry Almond Cookies from Julia’s Simply Southern. They look amazing!
Product Recommendation: Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Half Sheet
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite cookie sheets from Nordic Ware. These Aluminum half sheets are perfect in size and weight. I have tossed most of my older baking sheets and only use these. In fact, I love them so much that I asked for more for Christmas. (I think I’m up to six now!)
These Nordic Ware pans bake evenly and give me crisp, perfect cookies every time. They’re super easy to clean and are perfect for cookies like my Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies, Classic Peanut Butter Blossoms, or my Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Brown Butter. I even used these pans for my Texas Sheet Cake and my Yule log Cake.
Best of all, you can purchase Katbite 12×16-inch parchment paper sheets with gridlines that fit these perfectly!
Questions People are Asking about Butter Cookies
What is the difference between butter cookies and shortbread?
A shortbread cookie is a dense cookie, night light and definitely not pipe-able! Shortbread uses a higher ratio of butter to flour.
Do all butter cookies taste the same?
Nope! Some are flavored with almond, others with coconut. Still others with vanilla. You can make butter cookies in a wide variety of ways.
That’s it for this recipe, y’all! I hope you enjoy this crispy butter cookie! Talk about the perfect holiday gift!
See this recipe at
About the Author
Janice Thompson is an author, baker, and all-around mischief maker! She has overcome a host of baking catastrophes, including a toppled wedding cake, to learn more about the baking process. Janice has published over 150 books for the Christian market but particularly enjoys writing recipes and baking devotions. To learn more about Janice or to drop her a note, visit her About the Author page.
- Butter Cookie Ingredients
- 1 cup butter
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 egg yolks
- pinch of salt (if you use unsalted butter)
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or coconut oil)
- Tools You will Need:
- piping bag
- piping tip (open star or Wilton 1M)
- Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prep two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Place room temperature butter in a mixing bowl. You could use the bowl of a stand mixer or you could (as I did) mix these cookies with a hand mixer.
- Cream butter until light and fluffy.
- Add sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Whip until smooth and creamy.
Add flour a little at a time until fully incorporated. You'll want to thin down with a tiny bit of whole milk. A couple tablespoons should do.
- Transfer the batter to a piping bag with star tip.
- Pipe rosettes onto the parchment paper.
- Place in preheated oven and bake for 11 - 12 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden.
- Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
- Make Your Chocolate Dip: You'll need 10 - 12 ounces of chocolate chips and a tablespoon of oil (vegetable or coconut will do). Place in microwave and heat in in 30-second increments until soft and semi-melted. Mine took a total of 1 1/2 minutes. Stir well.
- Dip the edge of the cookies into the chocolate mixture and immediately add sprinkles or other decor.
- Place back on parchment paper for chocolate to firm up.
- Store cookies in an airtight container. They should stay fresh up to a week. You can refrigerate if you like but it's not necessary. Cookies can be frozen for later use (up to two months).