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10 Shortcut Holiday Cookie & Bar Recipes

Delicious, homemade love from the oven (or microwave), even if you’re not a baker
Holidays rolls Family December 2023

No holiday dessert tray or gift tin is complete without cookies, but during the most wonderful yet busiest time of year, baking from scratch can be a tall order. The elves in our test kitchen came up with a solution: 10 foolproof recipes featuring smart hacks to get you across the finish line sooner. These cookies deliver all the taste and festivity of homemade with a fraction of the effort, so you can enjoy the gift of less prep work, cleanup, and time spent in the kitchen.  

Mexican Hot Chocolate Bomb Cookies 

These fudgy treats with a surprise filling take their cues from cinnamon-spiced Mexican hot chocolate. A gooey marshmallow middle hides inside each cookie made easy with boxed chocolate cake mix. 
Pistachio Wreaths 

A touch of Christmas color and crunch goes a long way in these centerpiece-worthy cookies. A sprinkle of crushed green pistachios and red cinnamon candies turns store-bought dough into adorable wreaths. 

Three-ingredient Peppermint Fudge   


This easy but irresistible fudge is a must-have recipe for anyone nervous about making their own holiday desserts. Three ingredients and the microwave are all you need for mint-chocolate squares that come together in 10 minutes so you can make multiple batches for everyone on your “nice” list.  
Cinnamon-Raisin Rughelach 

This simplified version of Hanukkah rugelach starts with refrigerated pie crust dough. Spiraled layers filled with raisins, pecans, and crystalized ginger make an impressive dessert or holiday-worthy breakfast pastry. 
One-bowl 7 Layer Bars  


One taste and you’ll be in seventh heaven with these salty-sweet, buttery bars. Our culinary producer says, “My family has been making these bars for as long as I can remember. My mom would send them to me in care packages at college and it made it feel like the holidays any time of year!” Flaky Club® crackers make the crust for slice-and-serve squares layered with chocolate, butterscotch, walnuts, and coconut.  

Cake Mix Gingerbread Men 

No magic required for this version of Christmas’s most iconic cookie. Jaunty gingerbread men are ready to take their place under the tree with just 10 minutes of prep, thanks to spice cake mix upgraded with molasses, ginger, and cinnamon.  
Sugar Cookie Bars 

A few decorative touches transform store-bought sugar cookie dough into an eye-catching treat that Santa himself couldn’t resist. For an extra dose of festive flavor, stir candied fruit mix (it’s not just for fruitcake!) into the dough before baking in a pan and slicing into bars topped with colored frosting and sprinkles. 

Easy Chocolate Palmiers 

Serve a cookie that looks and tastes like it came from a fancy French bakery… but actually starts in the freezer. Sheets of puff pastry make up the flaky layers of these heart-shaped palmiers swirled with cocoa powder and chocolate-hazelnut spread.   

No-bake Peanut Butter and Chocolate Haystacks  


Kids can help make and decorate these crunchy haystacks that come together using the microwave. Of course, grownups love them too. Our staff content manager, Megan, looks forward to them all year. “My in-laws have their entire dining room table covered in different cookie tins during the holidays,” she says. “Whenever I am there, I scope out these haystacks since they’re my favorite.” Creamy peanut butter, butterscotch, and semisweet chocolate make the tasty “glue” that binds clusters of crunchy chow mein noodles finished with peanuts and holiday sprinkles.  

Bird’s Nests 

These jammy thumbprints are easy to make and customize with any of your favorite fruit preserves. Don’t be surprised if they disappear quickly. For Savory editor-in-chief, Victoria, they remain a standout from childhood. “These nests were my favorite cookies to help make when I was a little girl,” she explains, “and my favorite to munch on when they were finally on the cooling racks.” Refrigerated sugar cookie dough makes this version of thumbprint cookies easy enough to make anytime. 

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