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Secret Ingredient Sugar Cookies

by on February 27, 2010 · 46 comments

A friend sent me this recipe in the mail. She got it from a friend who mailed it to her along with this note.


What’s not to love about a review like that?  I had to bake them, so I picked up some instant vanilla pudding mix and made a  batch this morning.

Todd said “They’re very good.”

Joe, who was here repairing some carpet in the closet said “These are awesome”.

Fuzz took a bite and said “Thumbs up!”  (Coincidentally, the same review as the UPS man).

And I said “These are perfect! They have an ethereally light and crisp texture, pleasant buttery vanilla flavor and look quite pretty with the sprinkles. This maybe be the only sugar cookie recipe I use.”

Really, I meant that.  I am always disppointed with sugar cookies but these were the best.  Thanks to Shirley for sending me the recipe.

sugar cookies


5.0 from 1 reviews
Secret Ingredient Sugar Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Sugar cookies made with instant vanilla pudding mix
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 80
  • Secret Ingredient Sugar Cookies
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) salted butter, softened**
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix -- lemon works too
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (18 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Sprinkles (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter, oil and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and dry pudding mix. Combine the flour, cream of tartar and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
  2. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart (I rolled mine into 1 1/4 inch balls) onto ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with a glass dipped in sugar or skip the sugar and the glass and just press down and add sprinkles.
  3. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks.
** If using unsalted butter, add a ¾ teaspoon of salt to the creamed mixture For a half batch, use 1 stick butter, ½ cup each – oil, sugar, powdered sugar, 1 egg, ½ tsp. vanilla, 1/3 cup pudding mix (or weigh out 1.7 oz), 2 cups flour, ½ each cream of tartar and baking soda.

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Published on February 27, 2010

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Angelica Macklin February 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I can’t wait to try these. I have yet to find a sugar cookie recipe that I’m totally happy with. Thanks for posting!

Louise February 27, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I have my heart set on a chewy crispy sugar cookie like I have in my food memory. My dad and I used to get them at a bakery where we also got huge elephant ears. It’s an endless search. :-(

Kerstin February 27, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I love sugar cookies, but also haven’t found a version I’m happy with yet. I’ll definitely be trying these – thanks Anna!

Tracy February 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Would this dough stand up to cut-outs and decorating?

Anna February 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Tracy, I don’t think this dough would make good cut-outs.

Bev February 27, 2010 at 4:49 pm

I’ll have to give these a try. My favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie also takes a box of instant vanilla pudding.

Gloria February 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm

These look delicious! I’ve never heard of adding pudding mix, but it makes cakes and Amish friendship bread even better so why not cookies? I usually add a small amt of almond flavoring to my sugar cookies to give them a kick….I have an excellent recipe for chanukah sugar cookies if anyone is interested-they also take almond and cream of tartar…Clipped it out of the newspaper about 15 years ago. It just happened to be my old best friend’s mom’s recipe plus they had her picture and an article about her!

Amalia February 27, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Wow that’s a large amount of butter and oil! but is a large batch of cookies right?
I’ve been also searching for a perfect sugar cookie and I found the ULTIMATE chewy one, I dont think I need to try other ones, seriously, is THAT good. I just posted them on my blog I wrote about how I found them and the link to the original recipe. I think the story of the girl is quite cute and interesting (: It was a strike of luck to find these, but they are extremedly chewy, delicate and perfect!

Anna February 27, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Hi Amalia!

Like you said, It’s not really a large amount of butter and oil if you consider the proportions. There are 4 cups of flour and a pack of pudding mix to buffer the fat. So while I wouldn’t call these low fat cookies, they’re not much worse than most other crispy sugar cookies ounce for ounce. And ounce for ounce they are still lower in fat than shortbread because they have sugar and eggs to buffer the flour and (huge amount!) of butter that you usually find in shortbread.

Thanks for the link to those chewy cookies. I’ll try to make them this week. Love your blog!

C L February 27, 2010 at 7:27 pm

I must make these! The picture decided it for me! They look simple and yummy! :)

Sue February 27, 2010 at 8:16 pm

One of my good friends has a CCC recipe that she loves above all others and it calls for pudding mix. I don’t love them because I swear I can taste the pudding mix. Since you’re so smitten with these I’m probably going to HAVE to try them at some point. I love how you’re always inspiring me to try new things!

Sue February 27, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Thinking about sugar cookies and I remembered making sugar cookies from Mary Engelbreit’s Cookie Companion. They were a hit. Have you ever made them? The recipe is here:
The author of that blog used all butter and I think I did too because I never have margarine.

Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) February 27, 2010 at 9:22 pm

I, too, have not found a sugar cookie recipe that I like. I’m excited to give these a try. Thanks for sharing!

Ghislaine February 27, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Anna, this is fascinating! Could you reveal what brand of pudding you used? I find some have quite a bit of an aftertaste.

janet February 28, 2010 at 6:32 am

Well, you got my attention with this one! I have a cutout sugar cookie recipe I have used for a long time, however, I love to try new recipes. Thanks for this one! I look forward to making them.

Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) February 28, 2010 at 9:15 am

Hi Anna!!! Thanks for visiting my blog. The Merlot I’m drinking is Tin Roof and it costs about $10 at Costco and I love it. Thanks for the wine rec….it sounds heavenly! Oh how I love wine! :)

shelly (cookies and cups) February 28, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Love a secret ingredient! Pudding I bet makes it super yummy and chewy!

Clara Curtis February 28, 2010 at 3:48 pm

These look amazing, I’ve found a chocolate chip cookie recipe with pudding and its VERY good:

Oh, off topic a bit. For Spring Break (and my 18th birthday, where did my youth go?) my ad is taking me to NYC. I’m going to try to get to Milk Bar and Lavain Bakery, are there any particular cookies that you recommend? I just saw “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” on Food Network and Rocco DiSpirito said that Levain’s double chocolate chip cookies were to die for. I’m having cravings now…

Anna February 28, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Gloria, I’m interested in your cookies! Email me the recipe if you have the time. Would love to try it.

Sue, I have made a couple of different chocolate chip cookie recipes with pudding. Usually they are very moist — borderline cakey, but dense and good.

Ghislaine, I just used Jell-O brand instant. I might make these again with lemon or coconut flavor.

Janet, I think these would spread too much for cut-outs.

Melissa, thanks for the wine tip! If there’s anything I like as much as cookies, it’s red wine. Preferably inexpensive but good. I haven’t tried Tin Roof, but have seen it and will get some.

Shelly, believe it or not the cookies are light and crisp. I thought they might be chewy, but they weren’t chewy at all.

Clara, your cookie looks great! They almost appear to have oatmeal in them, but I see that the recipe doesn’t call for it. The one I use (pudding cookie) is the allrecipes cookie where in the intro, the person says her daughter “Tegan” won a prize. Every time I hear the name “Tegan” I think of pudding cookies.

I will have to email you about NYC recs. Milk Bar and Levain are a must, but try to hit City Bakery for a pretzel/croissant. There are a few others I’ve tried, but I’m sure new ones have popped up since then.

Amanda February 28, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Ooohhh I may have to try those! I have a big batch of homemade vanilla pudding mix, so this would be a good recipe to use some up on :)

Annette March 1, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Sounds good! I am going to try these sounds.

Martha March 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm

I noticed this recipe in the Taste of Home Cookies Cookbook (my newest cookie cookbook purchase) and wondered how they would be since I haven’t made many cookies calling for vegetable oil. Glad to hear they are that good and can’t wait to try them.

janet March 1, 2010 at 7:26 pm

I just made these and they are the best!!! So easy and they tasted delicious! i was surprised, honestly, vanilla pudding??? Thanks so much, Anna! I’ll be making this recipe instead of my regular roll out cookie recipe!

Lynette March 1, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I just baked a batch of these cookies, and I totally agree–they are perfect! I was afraid of the pudding because I’m not a fan of the chocolate chip cookies with it, but these are just the perfect consistency and taste. I baked them for 11 minutes, and they came out soft and heavenly. Thanks so much, Anna. I love your blog!

C L March 2, 2010 at 10:05 pm

These sugar cookies are fantastic! i just baked a batch and will make these again. The only changes I made were to chill the dough overnight (due to my schedule), and to make the dough balls 2 tablespoons of dough each because the “cookie hounds” at work like bakery size cookies. The taste is just right, and I know they will be very popular at work. :)

C L March 3, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Popular was an understatement! I took just over 4 dozen large cookies to work…the 2 left at the end of shift were spoken for…did I mention we had only 7 drivers today? LOL I will definitely make these again. I’d like to try them with semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips or chunks too. Thank you, Anna, for posting this recipe! :)

kitty62 March 5, 2010 at 4:53 am

omg! these are the best!!! only thing i changed in the recipe was the cream of tartar because i didnt have any. i substituted the cream of tartar and baking soda, with 2 teaspoons of baking powder and i thought they were wonderful. yum – o!!!!! im puting this recipe right next to the chocolate chip recipe that i got off of this site. mmmmm cookie heaven.

Anna March 5, 2010 at 7:42 am

Hooray! Glad I’m not the only one who likes these.

Kitty, thanks for mentioning the baking powder substitution. I’ll have to add a note. I wonder 1 teaspoon of baking powder would work.

Laura March 6, 2010 at 9:29 am

I hate the taste of vanilla pudding mix, so I was unsure if I would like these, but they were really good. I had already mixed up the batter when I realized that I had the cook-and-serve rather than instant pudding mix. They tasted great but didn’t look as puffy as yours look in the photo (mine were very flat). Do you think the type of pudding would cause that difference? Regardless, the cookies were popular with my friends.

Steph March 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I just finished making two batches of this recipe. After the kids started devouring the first batch, I knew I better make another.

I used the same techniques described in the Unix Chocolate Chip… really long creaming time for butter/oil — until really light and almost white. Then creamed in the sugar for a good 3 minutes and added the beaten eggs/vanilla over a four minute mixing time.

I ended up with the most delicious, bumpy, soft in the middle, crunchy on the edges cookie. Really great! I used lemon pudding, but they really don’t taste too lemony.

Lourdes April 4, 2010 at 6:43 am

These cookies were fantastic! I made the mistake of creaming the butter and sugar first, then adding the oil. I started to panic, as the batter looked like cake batter. Once all of the flour was added, it looked better, but I was a little worried. Luckily, they all turned out just perfect anyway. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

Melanie May 12, 2010 at 11:58 am

Considering the large yield, would it be possible to freeze a portion of the dough for later use?

Molly December 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm

This looks great. I can’t wait to try it out. I’ve put pudding mix in chocolate chip cookies and those were tasty!!

cait January 31, 2011 at 2:18 pm

i substituted applesauce for the oil and they were delish :D

M K December 14, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I just made these and they turned out delicious! Only made half a recipe and made a 1 1/2 dozen to start. The rest of the dough is covered in wax paper in a ziplock bag. Will this keep for a week? I just don’t want the delicate flavor to get messed up in the freezer. Please advise!

Anna December 14, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Hi MK,

Glad you liked the cookies! If it were me, I’d freeze the dough. The freezer won’t hurt the texture of the baked cookies and you won’t lose any flavor. Just make sure to wrap the dough tightly. I’ve found Glad Press & Seal plus a freezer bag works well.

M K December 21, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Thanks Anna! I ended up making the rest of the batch with my nephews the next day. They made great Spritz cookies last night! The rest of the dough is frozen and I will thaw and use the press with my nephews on Xmas eve (way easier and less messy than rolling and flattening with a glass). Seriously, these are the BEST cookies I’ve ever made! I’m thrilled and will make sure I always have a couple of boxes of instant vanilla pudding on hand! Love you blog!

M K December 21, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Oops I meant love your blog! I hate typos!

andi winslow January 4, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Hi Anna, I have made these wonderful cookies from your blog and they are posted today. Check them out. Excellent sugar cookies. Easy to work with. Thanks for a great recipe. It’s a keeper. andi

Lily November 18, 2012 at 5:49 am

Would these cookies hold up to a ganache filling that would turn them into sandwich cookies for the holidays ?
Thank you :)

Ann November 18, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Are these cookies cake like?

Anna November 19, 2012 at 7:48 am

Hi Ann,

No, they are on the crisp side.

Anna November 19, 2012 at 7:49 am

Lily, I think they’d be a little sweet, but I’m sure people will do it anyway.

Mia September 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm

These are amazing :) Thank you for these cookies.

With it being fall could I turn these cookies into a pumpkin cookie?
This what I was thinking of trying as a half batch first, do you think these would hold up with the below add-ins?

I was thinking of adding 1/2 cup or 1/4 cup pumpkin puree canned along with
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Thank you :)

Anna September 29, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Mia, your cookie sounds really good! My only concern is that when you add pumpkin to it, the moisture from the pumpkin will make the cookie soft. Unless you can find some kind of pumpkin extract or dehydrated pumpkin powder, the only thing I can think of that would work would be to add the spice blend you mentioned or some pumpkin pie spice. Another thing that just occurred to me is that if you can find the seasonal Jell-O brand pumpkin flavored pudding, you could add that. Let me know if you need a great pumpkin cookie recipe because I’ve got lots of them, but I do think adding pumpkin to this one might take away from it’s crispy texture.

Mia October 3, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Thank you so much for your response. I will try substituting the vanilla pudding for pumpkin spice pudding and see how that goes. I am looking for a sugar cookie but with pumpkin puree in it. I have had some really good pumpkin cookies but they are too cakey. If you know of any recipe that is sugar cookie and has pumpkin puree and pumpkin spices let me know. Thank you again :)

Have a beautiful day

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