These tender cookies are Melissa Clark’s version of the classic treats also known as Mexican wedding cookies, polvorones or Russian tea cakes. Melissa calls for toasting the almond flour before stirring it into the batter, which bolsters the nutty flavor. Feel free to substitute pistachios, walnuts and pecans for the almonds.
These fudgy, slightly spicy cookies from Susan Spungen are a big reader favorite, and for good reason: They can be ready in about a half-hour.
Recipe: Gingery Brownie Crinkle Cookies
These sophisticated cookies from Melissa Clark have a soft cream-cheese crust that is wrapped around a filling of cherry preserves and walnuts. They’re finished with a dusting of cardamom-flecked sugar.
Julia Moskin called these genius salty-sweet bars from Genevieve Ko the best Rice Krispies treats on NYT Cooking. She’s not wrong. Use butter-flavored pretzels or “butter snaps” if you can find them; they have a delicate crunch and a creamy note that work well in this recipe.
The name of this chewy, crackly cookie from Susan Spungen is a nod to a coffee drink in which a shot of espresso tops off a cup of masala chai, the Indian spiced tea. A little black pepper adds heat, and browned butter adds toasty warm notes.
Recipe: Dirty Chai Earthquake Cookies
They may not win any beauty contests, but these twice-baked Italian cookies from Molly O’Neill are as classic as they get. Jazz them up by adding mini chocolate chips, dried cranberries or a teaspoon of citrus zest. 2020 edition: Dunk half in melted chocolate and let harden on wax paper before wrapping them in a cellophane bag tied off with a big bow.
Everyone loves a rum ball, but Melissa Clark’s spin, which calls for chocolate cookies instead of vanilla wafers and bourbon in place of the rum, is really something special. Before serving or gifting, let them sit for a few days so the flavors can mingle and meld.
Bright, tangy and tender, Samantha Seneviratne’s lemon cookies practically, well, melt in your mouth. The dough also freezes well, so you can make a half-batch and freeze the rest for later, or prepare several batches to bake off the morning of the cookie swap.
Recipe: Lemon Meltaways
Erin Jeanne McDowell created Christmas in brownie form. It starts with a deeply fudgy bottom layer, which is then topped with a creamy peppermint filling, dark chocolate glaze and a sprinkle of crushed peppermints.
Recipe: Peppermint Brownies
These clever little treats from Melissa Clark start with a combination of honey-roasted and salted peanuts. This recipe calls for store-bought Concord grape jam, but any fruit will do. Just don’t use jelly: It’ll slide right off the cookies as they bake.
Recipe: Honey-Roasted Peanut Thumbprints
Melissa Clark developed this sticky, spicy, tangy gingerbread to be made ahead, so it tastes just as good two days after baking as it does on the same day. (And it keeps for four to five days!)
Recipe: Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread
When Krysten Chambrot added a little white miso to a peanut butter cookie recipe, a practically perfect treat was born (and Instagram went wild). It’s complex, salty and sweet with a crisp exterior and a chewy center.
Recipe: Peanut Butter-Miso Cookies
Depending on which spiral-bound community cookbook your mom would bake from, you might know these heavenly treats as magic cookie bars, Hello Dolly! bars or coconut dream bars. It doesn’t matter. Just make these from Samantha Seneviratne.
Readers adore these easy truffles from Hannah Kaminsky that call for a handful of simple ingredients like pecans, graham crackers, brown sugar, chocolate and bourbon. (Substitute orange juice if you’re a teetotaler.)
Recipe: Pecan Pie Truffles
Alison Roman said that these crackly little cookies are “like the edge of a chewy brownie but in cookie form.” Sold.
Recipe: Tiny, Salty Chocolaty Cookies
Tiny pies are just more fun to eat — and the crust-to-filling ratio is ideal. Samantha Seneviratne’s miniature pecan pies have a tender cream cheese crust that’s filled with a not-too-sweet maple-pecan filling.
Recipe: Pecan Tassies
These bright and beautiful cookies from Susan Spungen look harder to make than they are. A basic shortbread dough is flavored with lemon and orange zests, then pressed with cookie stamps and glazed with a simple citrus glaze. No stamps? Roll and cut the dough with cutters, or roll the dough into a log for slice-and-bake cookies.
Recipe: Stamped Citrus Shortbread
When we asked readers to send in their favorite Christmas cookies in 2012, Jessica Hulett submitted her grandmother Dorie’s recipe. Melissa Clark said that they “taste like the white part of the best black-and-white cookie you’ve ever had.”
Recipe: Italian Ricotta Cookies
Our most popular Christmas cookie year after year, these peanut butter-chocolate cookies never disappoint. Some readers like to use a dark chocolate Hershey’s Kiss, a small Reese’s peanut butter cup or a spoonful of dulce de leche in place of the milk chocolate kiss.
Ellsworth Kelly’s brushstroke paintings inspired these stunning cookies from Susan Spungen. They start with a classic sugar cookie that’s been frosted with royal icing, then painted with peppermint extract mixed with luster dust or colored powders.
Recipe: Peppermint Stripe Cookies
Also known as cow patties or preacher cookies, these chocolate and peanut butter cookies come together in 15 minutes. For the most delightfully chewy cookie, use rolled oats, not instant.
Recipe: No-Bake Cookies
“Absurdly easy” is what Julia Moskin called Michael Chu’s fudge recipe when she wrote about it in The Times in 2010. Butter, chocolate and condensed milk are all you need. (Salt and nuts are optional.)
Recipe: Easy Chocolate Fudge
Peanut butter and chocolate. What more is there to say? Use good peanut butter and don’t be stingy with the salt. For texture, use crunchy peanut butter or add a ½ cup of Rice Krispies to the peanut butter mixture.
Recipe: Peanut Butter Balls
When Claire Will submitted these cookies in response to a call for holiday cookie recipes, Melissa Clark thought they were kind of boring. Then she tested them. Of the five kinds of cookies Melissa served at a party, these were the first to disappear. One friend texted on his way home, “send recipe for spice cookies a.s.a.p.”