Whether you’re gearing up for a Christmas cookie exchange, a holiday party, or a family gathering, Christmas cookies will always be a hit! Here are 36 creative cookie exchange recipe ideas and cookie exchange party tips that are sure to wow the crowd this holiday season.
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What Is a Cookie Exchange?
A cookie exchange is when multiple moms, families, or relatives come together with a different type of cookie. Christmas cookie exchanges are super popular in December since they’re the best way to get a wide assortment of cookies to last the entire holiday season. You can enjoy them yourself, give them as an edible gift, bring them to another holiday party.
Each person should bake a certain amount – usually around 100 or 200, depending on how many people participate. Then everyone will lay out the cookies on a table and add ten or a dozen cookies to their empty container from each baker. By the time they get around the entire table of cookies, they have exactly how many cookies they had before, but this time a tasty assortment of many different flavors!
What Are Some Cookie Exchange Tips?
Cookie exchanges require a bit of planning. If hosting a cookie exchange, make sure you send invites out to your guest list through email or mail early to see who will be able to come. You will base the number of cookies each person will make on the number of attendees.
Ideally, you’ll want to make a spreadsheet or document showing who is making each cookie flavor to avoid duplicates. Each person usually makes between 100-200 cookies. So that means if 12 people are coming, everyone swaps a dozen cookies of each flavor variety.
Cookie Swap Rules
When attending a cookie exchange, you want to make sure you bring something homemade, not store-bought. The fun of a cookie exchange is taking time to bake the hundred or so cookies, often with your children, a friend, or a family member. Of course, if you’re running short on time, store-bought cookies are fine.
People often have stories to tell about their baking experience. Some might involve a family recipe or unique cultural background. Other stories are crazy, like the attendee who ended up burning a few or changing the recipe around. You’ll usually hear about a sneaky dog who ran away with some cookies! Not everyone will have a crazy story, but it’s always fun hearing from those who do. It’s also neat to hear how people made them and explore new flavors of cookies.
Another tip when attending a cookie exchange is to label your cookies and make sure if anyone in the party has an allergy or intolerance to nuts, milk, or another type of ingredient. You can also bring a hostess gift, like another snack food or a baking-themed gift, to thank them for opening their home and coordinating the event. Also, be sure to bring Tupperware or a large container to put each of the different cookies in!
Cookie Exchange Reminder
Remember that though it may seem like a competition, it’s just good fun and a good way to enjoy cookies and good company. Though this doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and have fun with flavors and decorations! Some people may have more time on their hands to make unique cookies, while others may make something simpler. Either way, a cookie is a cookie, and they are all delicious in our book! Read on for some delicious cookie recipes for your next cookie swap or holiday party.
Traditional Christmas Cookies
1. Gingerbread Christmas Cookies
We have got to start with a Christmas classic! Gingerbread cookies have been a tradition for many years, not to mention they are fairly easy to make and easy to be creative with. Using different shaped cookie cutters, the ideas are endless; you can make gingerbread men and women, snowflakes, trees, stars, ornaments, reindeer, or even non-holiday-related cookie shapes.
You can also have a ton of fun with icing gingerbread cookies. You can experiment with different colors, designs, and shapes. This is a ton of fun for kids. If you’re not feeling making your own icing, you can always order a few tubes on Amazon to quicken the process and fun!
2. Meringue Christmas Tree Cookies
These light, airy meringue Christmas tree cookies are adorable and easy to make! You will only need five ingredients: egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, green food coloring, and sprinkles. You’ll also want to make sure you have a piping bag or ziplock bag on hand to pipe out each tree. To make them really look like mini trees, find sprinkles with mini stars on top of the meringue trees and rounded sprinkles as little ornaments.
3. Sugar Cookies
Sugar cookies are a true Christmas-time classic. Whether you’re icing them with perfect glossy icing or sprinkling them with holiday-colored sprinkles, or making plain sugar cookies, most people love a good sugar cookie. Not to mention just like gingerbread cookies, you can cut out gingerbread into lots of unique shapes like Christmas trees, animals, holly, stars, and more. We can guarantee that sugar cookies will be included in the family favorites. Be sure to check out our tasty and easy icing recipe for sugar cookies.
4. Reindeer Chow
Reindeer chow is not only an easy recipe for cookie exchanges but also a magical cookie to make with your kids! Although Santa is important in delivering presents on Christmas day, so are his hooved reindeer companions. Most times, reindeer chow is made with a Chex mix, pretzels, peanut butter, and more. Check out the easy recipe here!
5. Melted Snowman Cookies
Eat them before they melt! Snowmen have long been a tradition during the winter holidays, and these melted snowman cookies are SO CUTE and capture the adorable joy of snowmen on individual cookies! Though they may take a little more time to make than other cookies, the whole crowd is sure to love them. Turn on your baking skills and check out the recipe below! The below snowman cookie photo is by @sweetspartytreats.
Melted Snowman Cookies
Sugar cookie ingredients
- 1 cup butter
- 2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cup flour
- 4 egg whites
- 8 cups confectioners sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
Cookie decorations ingredients
- 24 large marshmallows
- 1 tube orange decorating gel
- 1 tube black decorating gel
- 1 tube blue decorating gel (or you can choose any other color for the scarfs such as red or green.
- 12 oz mini m&ms for the snowman buttons (optional)- one standard bag
Sugar cookie instructions
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy, then add the eggs and mix.
- After these ingredients are well-blended mix in the vanilla extract and baking powder.
- Add flour 1/4 cup at a time, while mixing. If the batter is still too thin, add more flour 1 tsp at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.
- Drop the dough out by spoonfuls. Keep about 6-8 cookies on each pan as these cookies tend to spread out a lot.
- Bake 15-17 minutes until the edges are slightly golden. Ovens may vary in temperature and intensity so we suggest checking them around the 15 minute mark. Let the cookies cool completely before decorating.
Frosting and decorations instructions
- Beat egg whites in a large bowl using an electric mixer until frothy. Slowly beat enough confectioners sugar into the egg whites. And finally, add in the lemon juice until a thick liquidy frosting is formed.
- Place the sugar cookies on a pan with parchment paper about 1 inch apart from each other. Spread the frosting onto the cookies, letting it slightly drip over the edges to look like snow melting.
- Grease a microwave-safe plate. Place 1 marshmallow onto the plate. Microwave marshmallow until it starts to puff up, 20 to 30 seconds. Immediately place a marshmallow on the edge of 1 cookie while the icing is still wet to look like a melted snowman. Repeat with remaining marshmallows and iced cookies.
- Decorate the marshmallow by piping on the black gel frosting "twig-like" arms, then button eyes and a mouth. Then pipe on with your preferred gel frosting color a scarf. Then you can either add on the mini m&m's as buttons or dot them on with the gel frosting.
- Allow the cookies to fully dry for at least 1-2 hours before removing them from the wax paper. Enjoy and happy baking!
Cookies With Nuts
6. Sugar-Free Pecan Crescent Cookies
These crescent moon-shaped shortbread cookies are as adorable as they are delicious! This recipe is also sugar-free if you’re looking for a healthier cookie recipe to bring to a cookie swap or holiday party. Learn how to make them in this Sugar-free desserts recipe article.
7. White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
If you’re like us, you LOVE white chocolate macadamia nut cookies! Of course, before going to a cookie exchange or Christmas party, you want to make sure no one is allergic to nuts before you make them. But if not, these tasty cookies are a must for Christmas or any time of year. The nutty, salty flavor of the macadamia nuts mixed with the simple sweetness of white chocolate never fails to make our taste buds sing! Check out the delicious recipe here.
8. Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Originally from the Tuscan city of Prato, biscotti aren’t your typical cookie. They’re a hard, crunchy cookie typically twice baked and dipped in coffee or tea. Biscotti is baked in a loaf form and cut into long pieces. They’re often almond or chocolate flavors, but we love the cranberry pistachio flavor for the Christmas season. The red and green of the cranberries and pistachios add that extra holiday magic touch. The great thing about biscotti is that it will last a while because it’s made to be more of a stale hard cookie! Other holiday flavors to experiment with are matcha, peppermint, and cranberry orange.
9. Carrot Cake Cookies
Have you ever heard of a carrot cake cookie? We hadn’t until we started writing this, but we can say that we are here for them! They include pecans, carrots, cinnamon, raisins, brown sugar, and everything else that makes carrot cake delectable, just in cookie form! Add cream cheese frosting and decorative frosting carrot or a sprinkle of crushed pecans for an extra fancy touch.
10. Cookies and Cream Crumbl Cookies
Crumbl cookies have become all the rage for their unique flavors, large size, and sweet consistency. But no need to buy these cookies when you can make them! Of course, you don’t have to make them as large if you do end up bringing them to a cookie exchange, but we must say the flavors look extra delicious! Check out our homemade Cookies and Cream Crumbl cookies recipe here, along with other flavor ideas like sugar cookies, sweet almond cookies, and chocolate chip cookies.
11. Frosted Peppermint Brownie Cookies
Calling all chocolate and mint lovers! These cookies are for you! They are also perfect for the holidays as they have a festive sprinkle of peppermint on top while combining the fudge thickness of a brownie all within a cookie. To make these frosted peppermint cookies, you’ll need quite a few classic cookie ingredients, but be sure not to forget the baking chocolate, peppermint extract, and candy canes!
12. Fudgy Oatmeal Brownies
Though brownies arent a cookie, they are easy to make and a great dessert option to bring to a cookie swap. Chocolate lovers will certainly be eyeing these brownies, and they’ll certainly be hard to resist once they come out of the oven! Adding some oatmeal to brownies adds more fiber and makes them all the more chewy, fudgy, and mouthwatering! If you want to make the brownies a little more festive for Christmas, add a sprinkle of red and green M&M’s, or sprinkles to the top of the brownies. Check out the easy recipe here!
13. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate chip cookies are amazing, but if you are looking to pump up the cookie classic, adding pumpkin is the way to go! These cookies have pretty much all of the ingredients of a regular cookie, but you’ll add real pumpkin along with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves to give them that extra festive touch.
14. Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
If you have never had crinkle cookies, you have been missing out on some serious deliciousness! And now is your time to try them out! These cookies have a delicious chewy brownie texture inside with slightly crunchy outside. They are perfect for a Christmas cookie exchange because it is easy to make many of them, and they look like they have a dusting of sugary snow on top. Learn how to make these chocolate crinkle cookies here.
15. Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies
Red velvet crinkle cookies are just like chocolate crinkles cookies, but of course, they are red velvet flavor and a bright color red! If you want a crinkle cookie with a little more festive flair and color, red velvet crinkle cookies will be your go-to. Your next Christmas party or cookie exchange is the best season to break out the red and snowy-white beauties.
16. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate chip cookies are a classic, but have you tried them with oatmeal? Adding that extra cup or two of oats not only makes them just a tad bit more healthy but also adds a little bit more chewiness, texture, and fiber. Oatmeal cookies are sure to be a classic around the table at any cookie swap party. With just a few simple and easy-to-find ingredients, you also don’t have to be a super experienced baker to make these cookies. Check out the simple recipe here!
17. Easy Oven-baked Smores
Are you planning to bake a lot of cookies and desserts for your cookie exchange party with your kids? Do you want an easy yet creative recipe? We’ve got you! Try out these easy oven-baked S’mores! You’ll need your classic S’mores ingredients, including graham crackers, chocolate bars, jumbo marshmallows, as well as salt, butter, granulated sugar, and cooking spray. Read on how to make them here!
Cookies Around the World
18. Chocolate Kiss Snowball Cookies
Duck and cover! These chocolate kiss snowball cookies are sure to be knocked out of the park for scrumptiousness. These cookies are rounded to be shaped like snowballs and rolled in powdered sugar, and inside lies a chocolate kiss. This chocolate kiss adds an extra element of surprise to your typical popular Italian or Mexican wedding cookie recipe!
19. Vegan Thumbprint Cookies
If you’re a jam lover or love a tasty berry-themed cookie, you should make thumbprint cookies for this year’s cookie exchange! Thumbprint cookies are originally called Hallongrotta, which means “raspberry cave,” and originated in Sweden. They are similar to a shortbread cookie but have a filling or jam in the center. While making these cookies for the exchange, you don’t have to stick with one flavor of jam or jelly, you can mix it up with flavors like strawberry, lingonberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, and the list goes on! That way, people can grab a few different flavors and do a mini cookie tasting at home. Check out this recipe for vegan thumbprint cookies!
20. Fortune Cookies
Have you been to countless cookie exchanges or holiday parties and want to make something totally different and unique? Try out fortune cookies! These will definitely be more of a challenge but are enjoyable to make and even more exciting to open!
They’re a great idea for opening on the days of Advent, but if you’re bringing them as a cookie exchange, you could slip Christmas challenges, jokes, Christmas Bible verses, Christmas songs, or really whatever you’d like inside. If you want to make them more holiday festive, you can make two batches of batter and tie some red or green, or once they are baked, dip them or drizzle them with festive colored chocolate.
21. Vanilla Bean Macarons
Macarons are light, airy, and delicate French cookies that are ideal if you really want to get fancy! They consist of two delicate meringue-like cookies sandwiched between a creamy filling. If you are planning on making these for a cookie exchange, we recommend choosing an easier flavor to make and making a test batch before making a ton.
Since macarons are seen as a more advanced baker cookie, you’re going to want to make sure you understand how to make them well before you start making hundreds of them, especially since they are two cookies sandwiched together. But if you are up for the challenge, you and the whole group at the cookie swap are sure to be amazed. We love the vanilla bean flavor, but you can also experiment with flavors like mint, lemon, chocolate, strawberry, and more!
22. Coconut Macaroons
French macarons and Italian macaroons get mixed up quite often but couldn’t be any more different. Macaroons are made of coconut and are much easier to make. Typically you’ll only need six ingredients for this tasty dessert. These include sweetened coconut, condensed milk, salt, egg whites, salt, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips. In just a few easy steps, these dollops of coconut goodness will be ready to go!
23. Nutella Cookies
Nutella cookies are a hazelnut lover’s dream! According to Nutella’s website, cocoa was a rare commodity after World War 2, so the Italian Pietro Ferrero developed a solution to this problem. He combined hazelnuts, sugar, and a hint of cocoa to create a paste that later evolved into Nutella. While most people spread Nutella on fruit, toast, or crepes, we think adding it to cookies is genius! You can make your own Nutella cookies with 3/4 to one cup of flour, one cup Nutella, and one egg. Combine the ingredients, cook at 350 for 10-12 minutes, and you’ve got a decadent treat!
24. Double Chocolate Avocado Cookies
If you’re looking for a healthier version of a chocolate cookie, these double chocolate avocado cookies are it! They are dairy-free and can be made vegan, plus they only take around 8 – 10 minutes to bake. Check out the full recipe in our article on sugar-free desserts!
25. Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Almond Dream Cookies
We know not everyone in your family or friend group can have gluten or dairy, which is why we absolutely love these almond dream cookies! These delicately delicious almond cookies will melt in your mouth and are easy to make. What’s fun about these cookies is you can easily adjust the flavor by adding extras like chocolate chips or different colors for unique holidays. Check out the tasty recipe here!
26. Keto Coconut Blondies
If you’re looking for a dessert for a person or group with dietary restrictions, these Keto Coconut blondies are it! Though they aren’t cookies, they are cut into bars and can be easily be made any size. These bars are low-carb and nut-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free. Check out the simple recipe here!
27. Sugar-Free Peanut Butter Cookies
Do you want to add a sugar-free option to the cookie swap mix? We’ve got you! These Sugar-Free Peanut Butter Cookies are super tasty, use only three ingredients, and are very easy to make. All you’ll need is 2 cups of sugar-free peanut butter, 2 cups of Splenda, and two eggs. Check out how to make this delicious all-American recipe here.
No-Bake Cookies for a Cookie Exchange
28. Christmas White Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispie Treats
If you don’t want to or have time to bake cookies or if you want an easy no-bake recipe to try out, rice Krispy treats! Though they aren’t cookies, they are definitely still acceptable to bring to a cookie swap. They are sure to be a hit at holiday parties, especially by adding chocolate and festive toppings like red and green m&m’s or sprinkles. Check out the simple no-bake recipe here, along with other delicious recipes that are fun to bake with kids.
29. Chocolate Covered Pretzels
So we know these aren’t cookies, but they are definitely a good dessert to bring for a cookie swap, as they are very easy to make. We would suggest one tip: double or triple the amount of chocolate-covered pretzels you’ll make, based on the cookie number requirement if the pretzels are smaller.
A good way to keep the pretzels together in a festive way for each cookie exchange guest is to put them in ziplock or holiday-themed small plastic bags. Or you can make chocolate-dipped pretzel rods, which are a bit larger. You can have a lot of fun making chocolate-covered pretzels holiday-themed by dying white chocolate red or green or using Christmas-themed sprinkles. You can also drizzle or dip the pretzels in regular milk or dark chocolate. You’ll need pretzels, the chocolates of your choice, sprinkles, parchment paper, and if you want to make sure the chocolate stays soft, you can add a little coconut oil.
30. Christmas Wreath Cookies
These Christmas wreath cookies may not be your traditional cookie and are more like a rice crispy treat, but that doesn’t make them less tasty and adorable! Not to mention they only need six ingredients, including marshmallows, butter, corn flakes, green food coloring, vanilla extract, and red hot candies or sprinkles.
You’ll make them like a usual Rice Krispy treats but instead, drop balls of the cornflake and melted butter and marshmallow mixture on parchment paper. You’ll then, with lightly greased or buttered fingers, form them into a wreath shape with a hole in the center. Then you can add on red hot candies or sprinkles, so they look like a wreath. Let them cool and harden at room temp and you are done!
31. Gingersnap Cookies
Bring out the spices, molasses, and sugar! These gingersnap cookies are a Christmas classic and are fairly easy to make. Unlike gingerbread cookies, these are a little more light, fluffy and sweet. Gingersnap cookies don’t have a ton of fancy toppings, so if you’re looking to cut down on decorative add-ons, these cookies are perfect.
32. Snickerdoodle Cookies
Want a cinnamon sugar scrumptious classic cookie? Well, Snickerdoodles are it! These cookies are easy to make and super tasty with that crunchy crinkly cinnamon-sugar topping. One ingredient you don’t want to forget that isn’t usually included in many other cookie recipes is the cream of tartar. Mark that one on your grocery list ASAP. Other than that, you’ll need your usual cookie ingredients, including sugar, butter, salt, baking soda, flour, eggs, shortening, and don’t forget the cinnamon!
33. Toffee Cookies
If you’re looking for a light soft, and slightly crunchy cookie? Toffee Cookies are it! Toffee is a confection made by caramelizing sugar or molasses along with butter, but don’t worry, you don’t have to make your own; you can always find Heath bars or crushed-up toffee bits at your local grocery store. For these cookies, you’ll need flour, baking soda, butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, and last but not least, toffee bits. You can find the classic and simple recipe on Hersheyland’s website.
34. Maple Brown Sugar Cookies
No taste is quite as comforting as maple syrup. Picture it, a steaming stack of pancakes drizzled in golden caramel-colored maple syrup, fresh from Vermont, Maine, or Canada. Maple brown sugar cookies capture all those warm fuzzy feelings of comfort and a cozy break inside from the cold. They are chewy and soft, and you can also add your favorite nuts like almonds, pecans, or walnuts for some extra flavor and crunch. Check out the easy mouthwatering recipe here!
35. Lemon Butter Cookies
Squeeze the zest (best) out of life with these lemon butter cookies! 😉 So many Christmas cookies are made with chocolate, vanilla, or sugary frosting that it’s nice to mix it up every once in a while! These lemon cookies add a zing of fruity flavor to the batch and maybe even take you back to hot summer days sipping lemonade in the sun!
36. Christmas Pinwheel Cookies
We had to end on a Christmas cheer-filled note with these cute Christmas pinwheel cookies! These arent your regular sugar cookies; they are made even more festive with a red or green swirl in the center and sprinkles garnished on the sides. These are a little more challenging to make, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to make them, especially if you’re planning on making 100 or more for a cookie exchange! Be sure to use gel coloring, and make sure you break out the stand mixer for easy mixing. Finally, make sure you have Christmas-colored sprinkles on hand.
Final Things to Know if You Want to Host a Cookie Exchange
When hosting a cookie swap or cookie exchange, you’ll want to make sure a few things are in order around your home to prepare. Of course, a Christmas cookie swap wouldn’t be the same without lots of festive decorations. You’ll also want to make sure you have some extra cookie platters or cake stands in case someone forgot to bring an extra box or platter. Be sure to also have other snacks and drinks other than cookies after the swap is over.
Make sure you also have a large table with enough room to gather around and swap cookies on, along with cookie labels so people will not get confused. You may also want to have blank recipe cards in case someone would like to write down a recipe for a certain cookie.
Another idea to make things a little more exciting is having a few winners with prizes in categories like the best overall cookie, the most festive Christmas cookie, or the most traditional cookie. As a host of a cookie exchange, you’ll be the one setting the cookie exchange rules and boundaries but also hosting the fun!
Have a Festive Time at Your Next Holiday Party!
We hope you have learned a lot from this article and have plenty of cookie exchange ideas in your back pocket! You now know how to host a cookie exchange, some of the most important cookie exchange rules, as well as tons of cookie and dessert recipe ideas. Be sure to check out FamilyApp for more recipe ideas and family content, Happy holiday baking!