Favorite Christmas Cookies for Cookie Exchanges and Parties

With December in full swing, I thought I’d share some of my favorite and most reliable cookie recipes. Some are old and a few are new additions to the list, but what they all have in common are the good reviews they’ve received from friends and are good for cookie exchanges.

So here we go!

First up are Italian Wedding Cookies aka Tri-Color Cookies aka Rainbow Bars. I used to be able to find these at little Italian bakeries in New York, but since my neighborhood here in Austin doesn’t have any little Italian bakeries, I had to learn how to make them myself. I tried quite a few different recipes and finally settled on a recipe.

rainbow bar

Another pretty type of bar cookie for the holidays are these Peppermint Brownies. You’re guaranteed to make a good impression with these, no matter what.


Melted Marshmallow Brownies are a new addition to the list. They’re not Christmas-y, but if you’re in the kitchen baking, why not give them a try?  The chewiness will be a conversations starter at parties and people might ask you for the recipe.  Besides, you can always jazz them up a bit with by putting them on a cute plate or garnishing with colored candies.

cookies for cookie exchanges

And of course I had to add Brownie Bark! This is a new creation and I haven’t yet served it at a holiday party, but I’ve served it at non-holiday parties and it’s always a hit. I like to drizzle the cookie bark with melted white and dark chocolate before breaking it up.

Brownie Bark

The Monster Bar is also really good and would be fun to make with Christmas colored M&Ms.

Monster Bark

And then there are these Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels! These are kind of relaxing and fun to make, but they do require some time due to having to wait for the chocolate to set. They freeze well and look very festive wrapped in cellophane.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

I also recommend the Crispy Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies for those of you who like cookies that are not only miniature, but crisp through and through. For the holidays, you could add a few colored candies and put them in cellophane bags with a silver twist-tie.

miniature chocolate chip cookies

A relatively new discovery, these are the best M&Ms Bars I’ve tried. I don’t have to say this again but I will anyway: Christmas colored M&Ms.

M&M Bars

Speaking of which, this is the only M&Ms Cookie I use. A mixture of shortening and butter is the key to the fabulous texture which is a little bit crispy and a little chewy in the center.

MM cookies 001

An oldie but a goodie, these Sparkle Cookies were all the rage years ago when I first started blogging. I always forget about this recipe, and that is too bad because it is a good one. The cookies are festive and dainty, yet very chocolaty.

sparkle cookies for blog.jpg

If you like a little cream cheese with your chocolate and want to impress all the kids in the room (or at least the ones who like cheesecake), make Ultimate Black Bottom Cupcake. Not a cookie, but more like a brownie in cupcake form therefore passable. You could make these in holiday cupcake papers and throw a few green & red sprinkles on top.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Grandma coming over? Fine Cooking’s Gingerbread Biscotti is a good bet. These are loaded with flavor and crunch and can be made way ahead of time.

gingerbread biscotti

Secret Ingredient Sugar Cookies are excellent! The dough isn’t great for using cookie cutters, but you can make plain round cookies and decorate with holiday sprinkles.

Sugar Cookies

Graham Cracker Candy — Easy and delicious. I also like the version that calls for Saltines.

graham cracker candy

Butterscotch Pecan Crinkle Cookies are perfect for butter pecan lovers.

Butter Pecan Crinkly Cookies

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Krispy Brownies start with a boxed mix which you top with a mixture of marshmallow, Rice Krispies, chocolate and peanut butter. If you make them a day ahead and chill them overnight, I don’t think they’d be too messy for a cookie party or event.

peanut butter marshmallow krispy brownies

If you’re overwhelmed with shopping but still need to make something fun (and good), another old favorite is Chinese New Year Candy.

chow mein noodle cookies

If you are a fan of Lemon Squares, here’s a good recipe.

Lemon Squares

Peanut Butter Blossoms! No holiday party is complete without them…unless it’s a peanut-free party.

peanut blossoms

Iced Anise Cookies are perfect for this time of year and so pretty.


50 Good Cookies live up to their name.


Another one for the mint lovers out there — Grasshopper Brownie Cookies. Sorry about the old photo, but the cookies are good.

Chocolate Mint Cookies

And finally, here’s one for the ginger lovers out there. This is my favorite gingersnap recipe and I hope it will be yours, too. These are super simple and don’t require an electric mixer.


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  1. says

    Thanks for this list Anna. Even though I eat mostly vegan I do enjoy a good cookie now and again and need to bake some for a party next week. There are a few here I am going to try. My all time favorite are the Italian rainbow cookies. I grew up with them! I made them into a cake last year!

  2. Carolyn says

    Fantastic list, Anna. I’ve been making the brownie bark with about 1/4 tsp peppermint extract and then sprinkling with mint chocoalte chips and crushed candy canes. Crazy addictive. (The pepermint flavour comes out more as the bark sits.) I’ll be forever appreciative of the brownie bark recipe.

  3. TxPepper says


    I made your Almond Toffee recipe the other day. I’m happy to report that I had picture perfect success!!! No pooling butter. Nice light, crispy texture. I went ahead and covered the bottom with chocolate and almonds also for a more ‘finished’ look.

    The only thing that had me scrambling like mad, was trying to stir the toffee that lodged behind the thermometer. I needed three hands: one to hold the pan, one the spoon and one extra to move the thermometer around and out of the way. Other than that juggling around, it was perfect.

    What is your estimation for how long this candy is good for? Room/Frig/Freezer?


  4. says

    Hi TxPepper,
    Glad you liked the candy. I use a deep fry thermometer — the $10 kind with a metal base. I hold it in the middle of the pot while I stir so the toffee doesn’t get lodged behind it. I also use it as kind of a stirrer since it’s so sturdy. What I never use is a bulb thermometer clipped to the side of the pan. For storage, I recommend the freezer. It will probably last for several weeks if you seal it up. At room temperature, it will taste great for at least 3 days. In the refrigerator it’s probably okay for a week or two.

  5. TxPepper says


    Thanks for such a quick reply. I was using the same style of thermometer that you use but I did clip it on the side of the pan.

    The leftover toffee is now in the freezer and my waistline and hips thank you very much. 🙂 As a suggestion, you might want to add this storage info to the original recipe.

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