Candy Cane Cookies are buttery, crisp, and oh so festive! Little ones will love their fun shape and friends of all ages won’t be able to get enough of their sugary shortbread flavor. Homemade shortbread cookie dough is dyed and twisted to make the cutest and most nostalgic cookies at the exchange!

Candy Candy Cookies on a white plate with evergreen branches around the edges.

Candy Cane Cookies

My love for Candy Cane Cookies goes all the way back to my childhood. It’s a nostalgic recipe to say the least! I’ve been making these kid-friendly cookies with my own kids now for years, and every Christmas season they love helping me make these cookies. Well, they mainly just love shaping the dough into candy canes, but I’ll take any help I can get! Especially when it’s a tradition like this.

I’ll give you a fair warning… These cookies get a little messy when there are little hands helping you bake them. With that being said, it’s SO much fun to let your kids help you with this easy Christmas cookie recipe! My mom made these cookies when I was little, and I still have very fond memories of helping her twist that beautiful shortbread cookie dough.

Speaking of shortbread cookies, that’s exactly what these little candy canes are! When you make shortbread cookies from scratch (the only way they should be made), they always turn out so perfectly buttery and sweet. They’ve got all of the classic shortbread flavor and consistency you know and love, but in a pretty white and red twisted shape. Leave these out for Santa Claus, I’m sure he’ll appreciate it!

Candy Cane Cookies arranged on a marble table with green and white striped straws next to a glass of milk

How to Make Candy Cane Cookies

Most of the ingredients for these Candy Cane Cookies are already in your kitchen, so they’re a real breeze to whip up!

Whisk the dry ingredients. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

Beat the wet ingredients. With an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, almond extract, vanilla, and salt.

Combine. Slowly combine the wet and dry ingredients together.

Dye the dough. Remove half of the dough from the bowl and stir it with red food dye until you reach your desired vibrancy.

Form the candy canes. Grab a teaspoon of each color of dough. Roll the dough into 4 inch ropes. Twirl them together to form some picturesque candy canes!

Bake. Sprinkle the candy canes with a little sugar, then bake them in an oven set at 375°F for 8 minutes.

Enjoy! Let the cookies cool completely, then enjoy.

Tips and Variations to Try

  • Make them gluten-free. You can make these cookies gluten-free by simply substituting the all-purpose flour with your favorite gluten free flour. 
  • Use salted butter. We like to use salted butter in this recipe. If you use unsalted butter, be sure to add a pinch of salt to your dough so the flavor isn’t flat. Also, room temperature butter works best.
  • Make then peppermint-y. We love the almond flavor in these cookies, but you can substitute it with peppermint extract to make your cookies taste more like a real candy cane if you’d prefer.
Candy Cane Cookie on top of a glass of milk

How to Make Candy Cane Cookies in Advance

You can make the dough in advance if you’re planning a cookie baking party! Simply follow the instructions up to and including the coloring of the dough. Store the dough in separate containers to prevent bleeding. Store the dough in the refrigerator in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it.

When you’re ready to shape your candy cane shortbread cookies, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling it out.

To freeze your dough, simply wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and transfer it to a freezer safe container or zip top bag. Freeze the dough for up to 3 months. Thaw completely at room temperature before rolling out the dough.

Candy Cane Cookie hanging on the side of a glass of milk.

How to Store Candy Cane Cookies

You can store your Candy Cane Cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days. We’ve enjoyed them long after that, too, but 10 days is for maximum cookie freshness!

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Candy Cane Cookie hanging on the side of a glass of milk.

Get the Recipe: Candy Cane Cookie Recipe

A Christmas tradition, these Candy Cane Shortbread Cookies are a must from my childhood.
4.25 from 4 votes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon Christmas red food color, I use Wilton Paste.
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Equipment

  • 1 baking sheet
  • 1 mixer

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the baking powder, salt and flour. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, almond extract, vanilla, and salt. Slowly add the flour into mixture in small amounts, beating until just combined.
  • Remove half the dough from the bowl and blend red food coloring into the half remaining in the bowl until the coloring is even and bright red.
  • Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel to keep it from drying out as you work.
  • Using a floured teaspoon to measure 1 teaspoon each of white and red dough for each cookie and roll into 4-inch ropes on a lightly floured surface. Place a red and white rope side-by-side, press together lightly and twist to form a spiral.
  • Place on ungreased cookie sheet and curve the top down to form the handle of the candy cane. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
  • Bake until set, about 8 minutes.
  • Transfer the cookies, carefully, to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Notes

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Serving: 1g, Calories: 119kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 20mg, Sodium: 89mg, Potassium: 20mg, Fiber: 0g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 185IU, Calcium: 7mg, Iron: 0.5mg