A secret ingredient in this sugar cookies recipe makes these cookies the SOFTEST and most flavorful cookies of your life! And they even hold their shape after baking, so you get exactly what you want instead of sad blob cookies. (Frost them with The BEST Buttercream Frosting for Sugar Cookies or Royal Icing!) Originally posted March 15, 2017.

soft sugar cookie in shape of Christmas tree with dolluped green buttercream frosting

The Best Soft Sugar Cookie Recipe

I’m doing dishes in the kitchen when all the sudden I hear the saddest, most piercing cry come out of 4 month old Valentine. Slightly panicked, I ask Eric what happened, and he said, “I kissed her.” Oh the drawbacks of having a beard. This actually happens all the time. Poor baby faced Valentine!

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soft frosted sugar cookies with portrait close up of bite taken out of cookies and pink buttercream frosting

I went running last week for the first time in a very long time (like, pre-pregnancy…) I ran for 20 solid minutes and probably only went a mile and a half. (Picture a slug glorping along on the sidewalk and you pretty much have an idea of me running.)

Anyway, when I got home both of my big toes were killing me, and since then they have developed dark bruises underneath my nails. You know what this means, right. Get new shoes? Learn how to run the right way? No. Listen people, it’s a sign. The sign says DON’T EVER GO RUNNING AGAIN KAREN.

soft frosted sugar cookies stacked, frosted with green and white buttercream frosting and sprinkles

Instead, eat alllll the sugar cookies.

I’m super excited to share this recipe with you guys today! I’ve been working on this post for a while now. The recipe is adapted from my sister-in-law Sandi. I wrote it down in pencil in a notebook years ago and have been tweaking it ever since. They are good sugar cookies, for sure, but I was on the hunt for a secret ingredient that would make them next-level.

close up of best sugar cookies with dollops of pink buttercream frosting

Here’s the thing. Sugar cookies for me MUST be super soft. No crunchy edges please. I want a THICK cookie with a THICK layer of frosting. And please, none of this royal icing business. Give me the goods. Go buttercream or go home. (Update 2024: I stand by this sentiment in general, but have recently expanded my thinking 😂 Royal Icing can be easy, tasty, and such a fun project to do. Here is my Royal Icing recipe!)

Best Soft Sugar Cookie - St. Patrick's Day green frosting with sprinkles on top; close up

So, here it is. A sugar cookie that is moist and soft and does not dry out or crunch! It’s magical! How is it done? Cream cheese. I know, what?? Didn’t our grandmas only use butter for sugar cookies? Why yes, yes they did, and guess what, their cookies were hard and crunchy ;)

We are still using butter, oh yes. But we are replacing half of the normal amount of butter used in sugar cookies with dreamy creamy cream cheese. The resultant cookies are tender and soft and have a delicious flavor, with a tiny bit of a tang from the cream cheese. I tested this recipe several times and didn’t make frosting every time. I enjoyed the cookies all by themselves. They are sweet but not overwhelming. (The buttercream frosting for cookies takes care of that.) They have tons of flavor from the butter, as well as the almond and vanilla extracts. Let’s dig into the details!

Best Soft Sugar Cookie Recipe showing unfrosted shamrock-shaped cookie with green sprinkles

Soft Sugar Cookie Ingredients

Make sure you have the following on hand. (Quantities given in the recipe below.)

  • Cream cheese
  • Salted butter. Unsalted butter will work just fine, but remember to add a ¼ teaspoon of salt for every stick (½ cup) of unsalted butter.
  • All purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Egg
  • Vanilla
  • Almond extract. You can sub the almond for vanilla if you want. But I’m telling you, the combo of almond and vanilla is what makes this cookie.
  • Salt
How to make sugar cookies showing a stack of unfrosted shamrock-shaped cookies

How to make Soft Sugar Cookies

I’m going to start with the basic overview below and then drill into the finer details with pictures further down. (Don’t worry; all the instructions are given in the recipe as well!)

  1. Beat the butter on medium speed 1-2 minutes. Add the softened cream cheese and continue to beat for 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat 1-2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add salt and flour and beat until just barely combined. Do not stir too much or you will make your dough tough.
  3. The dough will be sticky!
  4. Scrape the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours (or overnight) or in the freezer for 1-2 hours. (If I am in a hurry I will split the dough in half and wrap separately so that it will chill faster.)
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Line 2-3 baking sheets with silpat baking mats or parchment paper.
  7. Use floured hands to flatten out half the dough on a floured surface, then use a rolling pin to roll it and smooth it out to be THICK, about 3/8 inch.
  8. Press floured cookie cutters into dough, then place the shaped dough on the prepared baking sheet.
  9. If you’ve taken long enough that your shaped cookies are no longer chilled, place the baking sheet in the fridge or freezer for a couple minutes.
  10. Re-roll dough to cut more cookies, working it as little as possible and chilling it if it gets soft.
  11. Dough should go into oven cold!!
  12. Bake the shaped cookies at 350 for about 9 minutes for smaller cookies, and about 10-11 minutes for larger cookies. Cookies should be barely browned on the bottom. See photos.
  13. Leave the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes, then immediately transfer to a large, sealed tupperware until they are completely cooled.
  14. Frost cookies with The BEST buttercream frosting for Sugar Cookies! Or, go to town with fun decorations using my Royal Icing recipe!
Sugar Cookies Recipe showing sticky dough, unrolled

Sticky dough.

Sugar Cookies Recipe showing the underside of a freshly-baked cookie with slightly undercooked center for extra softness
Here’s the bottom of a baked cookie. It’s not browned at all and okay, okay, you may want to let it go a minute or two longer than this, especially if you plan to gift them to someone (as opposed to eating them over the kitchen sink, which was my plan for this cookie). Baking them longer makes them a bit more sturdy but also a bit more dried out (read: crunch). Do you see that dark spot in the center of the cookie? Perfectly under baked. THAT’S the sugar cookie I want to eat. Yum.

What thickness is best for cut out cookies?

I researched sugar cookies for quite a while before landing on today’s recipe and method. One of the things I learned is that it doesn’t matter how great your sugar cookie recipe is, the rolling technique is where most people go wrong.

Sugar Cookie dough that's 3/4 inch thick next to a ruler measuring 3/4 inch

This is 3/8 inch. Thiiiiick.

To get a THICK, soft sugar cookie, the dough needs to be rolled out, you guess it, MEGA THICK. We are talking about ⅜ of an inch, and yes I’ve provided an actual measuring tape for all you people like me who have a hard time with the maths. You can see in the picture on the left about how thick this is compared to my fingers.

a plastic shamrock-shaped cookie cut out next to Soft Sugar Cookie dough in the shape of a Christmas tree
When you are cutting the cookies, don’t forget to put some flour on your cookie cutter, especially if it’s a very intricate design. On the right: I use my finger to get the excess flour/dough off the outside of the cookie cutter. I used a knife to get it out of the corners of the shamrock. If you don’t do this, you won’t have sharp edges on your baked cookie.
best soft sugar cookie dough in shape of Christmas tree on pan next to a plastic cut out trimming shamrock-shaped dough
I like to use a pastry brush to get the flour off the tops of the shaped cookies. The one on the right is already baked. It still looks like a shamrock!
white-frosted snowflake cookies next to a metal cookie cut out
Here’s another example. Snowflakes, not snow blobs.
Sugar cookie dough rolled out with 5 cookie cut outs on top in various holiday shapes next to a pan of freshly-baked Valentine and Christmas cookies
On the left: this is half the dough rolled out. On the right: all the cookies from an entire batch. How many you get depends on what shape cookie cutters you use.
how to make sugar cookies ahead showing unfrosted, pumpkin-shaped cookies stacked inside a storage container, ready to freeze

How do you keep a Sugar Cookie soft?

One of my biggest tips is to make sure you care for your final baked cookies! If you put the sugar cookies into a tupperware right after they have cooled a few minutes on the pan, they will stay softer longer. Letting sugar cookies sit out is what makes them get dry and crunchy. Don’t do it! Put your treasure into a tupperware or ziplock asap!

FAQ About This Soft Sugar Cookies Recipe

What happens if you use unsalted butter instead of salted?

Absolutely nothing! If you use unsalted butter, your cookies will be exactly the same as if you had used salted butter, but they will have less salt, which will make them a little more bland. No thanks. Just add in an extra 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt and you are good to go!

How do you keep sugar cookies from spreading when baking?

Want to keep your dough from spreading? Try humming Ice, Ice Baby the entire time you’re cooking. Or go ahead and rap it. You might have skills I lack.

COLD dough, people. COLD. Cold dough holds its shape in the oven, preserving the adorable shapes you so painstakingly cut them into. If you bake your cookies when the dough is not chilled, they will not hold their shape as well, and the texture of the final cookies will be wrong.

You will also notice that there is no leavening agent in this recipe. No baking soda, no baking powder. Just flour and eggs to help these cookies rise a minimal amount. This is on purpose! We do not want our sugar cookies rising, we want them to keep their shape. Chocolate Chip Cookies
go into the oven in a ball, and the baking soda helps them rise and spread out. Exactly the OPPOSITE of what we want for cut out sugar cookies.

Do you cut cookies before or after baking?

Cut the dough before baking. There’s pretty much no way to get a consistently clean edge if you bake first and then try to cut.

How can I tell when the cookies are done?

You know how most cookie recipes say to cook until the edges are golden? Just say no! No, I tell you! They’ll be hard and crunchy instead of soft, tender, and chewy. You do not want the edges or tops to brown at all.

The cookies should be barely browned on the bottom. When the cookies are baking, they will have a shiny surface on top. When they are fully baked, they will appear completely matte across the top, but not at all brown. Watch carefully! Over baking is a death sentence for soft cookies.

What makes this sugar cookie recipe so soft?

I will only accept soft cookies. Soft!!! In case you’re skimming this post and haven’t been bossed around enough on SOFT COOKIE RULES, here’s the short version:

  • Use cream cheese in the dough to replace some of the butter
  • CHILL the dough!
  • Roll out the dough mega thick, like ⅜ inch.
  • Do not over bake the cookies! They should be just barely matte on top, but not golden on the edges.
  • Transfer to a sealed container within minutes after cooling.
  • Frost with Buttercream Frosting. Royal icing just is not going to cut it my friends. The buttercream locks in moisture and makes your cookies ultra soft!
Sugar Cookies Recipe showing an egg-shaped soft sugar cookie with dollops of pink and yellow butter cream frosting

Can you freeze soft sugar cookies after frosting?

Bless us all, yes! So much yes. You can bake all throughout November to get Christmas cookies ready, or bake weeks before that wedding you’re providing treats for. Trust me, I always do this!

  • Remove your cookies from the oven and let them set up on the pan for 5 minutes.
  • Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
  • Transfer cookies to a cold pan.
  • Put the whole pan in the freezer for 1-2 hours
  • Transfer the frozen cookies into a large food storage container.
  • Store for up to 2 months if they are unfrosted. I would only do about 4 weeks if they are already frosted. More on that below.
Orange-frosted Halloween soft sugar cookie with green sprinkles

How I mass produce this soft Sugar Cookies recipe

Everybody’s got their way of doing things, right? When I need a ton of sugar cookies, here’s how it goes down:

  • Day 1: Make the dough and chill at least 2-3 hours, if not overnight. (You can freeze the dough in a ziplock for up to 3 months at this point! Let thaw in the fridge)
  • Day 2: Roll out the dough and bake ALL the cookies. Immediately remove cookies from the pan to a cooling rack and cool completely.
  • If you are freezing before frosting: Immediately after cooling (don’t let them dry out! Time is of the essence!) transfer all the cookies to a large food storage container, the kind that are flat and rectangle and hold about a gallon. You can leave these in the freezer for about 4 weeks.
  • If you are frosting and then freezing: Once the cookies are cooled, frost as desired and place back onto a baking sheet. Cram on as many as you can without messing them up. Flash freeze the cookies for about an hour until the frosting has hardened. Then transfer the frosted cookies to a large food storage container. I like to line them up on their sides so that the frosting has less of a chance to get messed up. Pack em in like sardines.
  • At this point, you can leave the cookies in the freezer for up to 4 weeks.
  • On the day you want to serve them, take them out of the freezer at least two hours beforehand. Make sure you move them to a flat surface before the frosting gets to room temperature, otherwise all the cookies will start sticking to each other.
  • CHRISTMAS: When I am putting together cookie plates at Christmas, I add frosted sugar cookies to the plates completely frozen, along with any other cookies, fudge, or candy that is going on the plate. By the time I’m done assembling all the plates, wrapping them up in cellophane and tying with ribbon and adding name tags and taking them out for delivery, the cookies will have thawed, but all the jostling and wrapping happened when they were still quite chilled and stiff.

Buttercream Frosting versus Royal Icing

I’ve figured out my absolute favorite buttercream frosting to top these cookies with! This simple recipe has a few secret ingredients that give it the best, most nuanced flavor. I love it and it will always be my favorite!

BUT. This is a January 2024 update. I recently decided to try out Royal Icing, just to see if it was as scary and hard as I always thought. Guess what, it’s not! It’s definitely a project, but can be a really fun one, especially for a group. And I added a few special ingredients to my icing to make it a bit more like my favorite buttercream (and to pair perfectly with these cookies!) It’s really good!

overhead shot of red and pink heart sugar cookies on parchment paper, frosted with royal icing.

So the choice is yours:

  • Make Buttercream if you are looking for a rich, decadent cookie that you have to treat a little bit more like a cupcake (because the frosting is sticky), or
  • Make Royal Icing if you want a delicious frosting that is super fun to make intricate designs with, and hardens into a candy-like shell, meaning you can stack or ship your cookies easily.

Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe for every holiday

I’ve had this sugar cookie recipe on the blog for years now, and I’ve been surprised at the level of traffic on this recipe for EVERY holiday. People just want sugar cookies for every occasion! They are a classic!

Red, white, and blue-frosted Fourth of July soft sugar cookie

I’ve picked out a few of the holidays and linked to cookie cutters that would work for each one, just in case you’re looking for some cute ones. Sugar cookies are so fun to make all year long!

To be honest though, I often don’t even make shapes with my sugar cookies, especially if I’m making a massive amount for my kid’s class parties or Christmas gifting. I just use a circle biscuit cutter and have fun with colored frosting and sprinkles.

And that’s it folks! The best, softest sugar cookies of your life, with no sinister crunching going on. Make it! Love it! Repeat for every holiday!

More frosted cookies you will love!

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Soft Sugar Cookies

4.78 from 306 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 24 cookies
A secret ingredient in this sugar cookies recipe makes these the SOFTEST cookies of your life! And they even hold their shape after baking.


  • 3/4 cup salted butter, softened (1 and 1/2 sticks)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 & 3/4 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups flour, spooned and leveled


  • In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it is soft and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the softened cream cheese and continue to beat for 1 minute, until well incorporated.
  • Add the sugar and beat well, 1-2 minutes, until fluffy.
  • Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Beat well. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. This is my spatula  that I love and use for every baking project.
  • Add salt and flour and beat until just barely combined, scraping the sides and bottom again. Do not stir too much or you will make your dough tough. The dough is pretty sticky!
  • Scrape the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap (or into a ziplock or tupperware). Cover or wrap tightly and put it in the fridge for 2 hours (or overnight) or in the freezer for 1-2 hours. (If I am in a hurry I will split the dough in half and wrap separately so that it will chill faster.)
  • When the dough is completely chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line 2-3 baking sheets with silpat baking mats  or parchment paper.
  • Prepare a work surface with a light dusting of flour.*
  • If you have not already split the dough in half, do so now. Put any dough that you are not working with in the fridge.
  • Use floured hands to flatten out the dough a bit, then use a rolling pin to roll it and smooth it out a little bit. Don’t go too crazy here, remember we want the cookies to be THICK, about 3/8 inch. I actually busted out the measuring tape for this step. No crisp cookies, please.
  • Lightly dust your chosen cookie cutters with flour. Press firmly into the dough, utilizing your space wisely. Use your finger or a knife (depending on the shape) to wipe away the excess flour/dough on the outer edge of the cookie cutter before pushing them out onto the pan. This helps you get clean lines.
  • Place the shaped dough on the prepared baking sheet. If you are using multiple cookie cutter shapes, bake all of the same shape on the same pan. Otherwise your smaller cookies will get over baked. Leave at least 1 inch in between each cookie.
  • If you’ve taken long enough that your shaped cookies are no longer chilled, place the baking sheet in the fridge or freezer for a couple minutes.
  • Scrape together the excess dough and knead it together once or twice (as little as possible), then roll it out again to 3/8. Don’t overwork the dough! (It will get tough.) Continue until the dough is gone. Refrigerate the dough as necessary. They should go into the oven cool.
  • Bake the shaped cookies at 350 for about 9 minutes for smaller cookies, and about 10-11 minutes for larger cookies. Do NOT over bake. You do not want the edges or tops to brown at all. The cookies should be barely browned on the bottom. See photos.
  • Leave the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes, then immediately transfer to a large tupperware and cover until they are completely cooled and you are ready to frost.



*Several tips I read said to roll out your cookies in between sheets of parchment paper, that way your cookies don’t get dried out from too much flour. I didn’t think the flour was a problem, but try it out if you want!


Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 176kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 166mg | Potassium: 28mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 251IU | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Calories: 176
Keyword: Cookies, cut out, softest, sugar cookies, thick
Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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  1. 5 stars
    These are my absolute favorite sugar cookie!! I love them!! I make them for everything. If I want it a little more crunchy, I just roll it out slightly thinner and make sure It is nice and golden on the bottom. Delicious!! I prefer the soft version, but I have a few people who like them crisper.

  2. 5 stars
    I just baked these tonight. I’m making flower cookies for Mothers Day. I followed the recipe exactly. I baked for 12 minutes because my cutter is large. I got 21 cookies out of one batch. I also made the buttercream recipe linked at the bottom of the recipe. Plan to decorate with my granddaughters tomorrow!

  3. I love these cookies but is it possible to decrease the sugar — more of a butter cookie? Would it still hold its shape?

    1. Hi Jessica! I haven’t experimented with that! Let me know if you try it and how it goes!

  4. I’m wondering if you could use the cookie cutter to cut out the shapes you want from the raw dough and then just freeze them, and pop into the oven to bake as needed? Would there be any defrosting? What temp/time? If you have buttercream already made, it makes for a quick afternoon project for a dessert.

    1. Hi there! So there are a couple different ways you could do this. First, you can roll out your sugar cookie dough on a silicone baking mat or on parchment paper, cut out your cookies, leaving them on the pan and removing the excess. Place the baking mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet and pop this in the freezer. You now have a sheet of cookies ready to go right in the oven (no defrosting needed) anytime you want them. You can also freeze cookie dough, rolled out at about double to triple thickness and tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, then popped into a ziplock. Let this defrost in the fridge overnight and then roll out cookies to cut and bake anytime. The first option definitely makes for a faster afternoon project, but takes up a little more freezer space.

  5. We just took them out of the oven and they feel like they’re not cooked. I went an extra minute to be safe then noticed the browning you warned us about. Should they feel soft to the touch when pulling out of oven? I just thought they weren’t cooked fully…

    1. Hi Hannah! Yes, the cookies should feel soft to the touch when they come out of the oven. In fact, they’re so soft that if you poke them, they’ll keep the poke mark. The cookies will continue baking on the pans after you pull them out of the oven, and as they cool, they’ll firm up. Next time, just pull them out before they brown and trust the process :-) I hope your next batch turns out perfectly!

  6. Great recipe! These cookies are delicious but a little bit heavier than I was hoping for. Definitely suggest doubling up if you’re baking a decent sized cookie

  7. I’m not sure where I went wrong, but my cookies lost their shape during baking and became more spread out. Any ideas on where I went wrong?

    1. Hi Evangeline! Sugar cookies can spread for a few reasons. One of the biggest problems is when the dough isn’t thoroughly chilled. Chill for at least 2-3 hours, if not overnight! You’ll also want to make sure that the flour has been measured properly. Use the fluff and scoop method: fluff the flour up, use a spoon to scoop it into your measuring cup, and gently level off the top. Another possibility is that your oven is running hot. Try lowering the temperature by 25 degrees next time and see if that helps.

  8. 5 stars
    LOVED this recipe! I tried 2 others and hated them.. the other recipes did not use salted butter or as much butter.. or cream cheese.. Definitely the 2 secrets to this recipe!!! It’s getting written down in my recipe book that’s forsure

    1. So glad to hear you loved these Cortney! Thanks so much for your kind words and taking the time to leave a review – it really means a lot!

  9. 5 stars
    Such a delicious sugar cookie recipe. I’ve used it for 2 years now for our Christmas cookies and they are delicious with the buttercream frosting. No alterations needed to the recipe, but definitely double the recipe- you won’t get many cookies out of a single batch if your cookie cutters are “normal” Christmas cookie size (about hand sized).

  10. 5 stars
    These cookies are so soft and delicious and the icing is the best! Definitely my favorite sugar cookies ever.

  11. 4 stars
    A friend gave me a couple of embossed rolling pins as a birthday gift. I would like to know if anyone has tried it with an embossed rolling pin, if the cookies will keep their shapes? If you have used an embossed rolling pin, would you please point me to a recipe that really works with them.

    This recipe sounds delicious, that I am going to make regular cutout cookies with this recipe. Thank you for sharing.

  12. 5 stars
    I followed directions exactly and these cookies came out SO good, my family was eating them before I could even put the icing on :)

    My recommendation is to watch the baking time, put your oven light on and pull them out right at the 8-9 minute mark (with respect to all ovens being different).

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