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Citrus Holiday Cookies

Citrus Holiday Cookies

Citrus holiday cookies are a yearly tradition around here and something everyone looks forward to at the holidays. The citrus cookie dough is very forgiving and can be made into more than cutout cookies. With this one dough you will be on your way to holiday cut out shapes and beautiful snowball style cookies as well!

I don’t know about you but I do not usually get excited when it comes to sugar cookie recipes. I feel like they lack something and their only real use is to make cookie shapes for the holidays. 

So years ago I began researching cookie recipes that I could make and that I liked when I made holiday cookies with the family.  This is that recipe that I searched so long for and I have been using this recipe for so many years now that it has become a tradition in our home. It is so good! 

These are crisp, lightly citrus flavored and not too sweet.

The original recipe comes from Epicurious and of course I made a few changes in the recipe to make it easier and more manageable to work with because that is who I am.

The Dough:

This dough can be a tricky dough to work with because it is a little drier than most cookie dough recipes that you roll out but let me tell you it is worth it for the flavor! 

Here are some of my tips:

  • If the dough feels a little dry before rolling, do not add extra flour. You can grab a big chunk of the dough and squeeze it in your hands to warm it up a bit. This will help make the dough more pliable. Just keep doing this until the dough ready to roll.
  • Like any cutout cookies recipe, you will be left with scraps after your first cuts with the cookie cutter. Go ahead and re-roll your dough and cut out some more shapes but only do this once. After you cut out your second round of shapes, grab your dough and pull it all together and either chill it for 30 minutes to roll out again or you can immediately begin making these citrus snowball cookies with it if you don’t want to wait.

Because this is a cutout cookie recipe, you may want to add a decorative icing layer on top. In our house, we do not fuss with formal royal icing. We use two different types of icing or toppings:

  1. A quick sugar cookie frosting
  2. Brown butter frosting

Both of these are amazing and full of flavor. The brown butter frosting we use if we want to drizzle a frosting over top like in a zig zag shape. This will not dry hard like an icing but it will set up and pretty fast, say in about 15 minutes or so.

The quick frosting for sugar cookies we use is when we want to dip the cookies into the frosting so that the entire top of the cookies is colored. This frosting will dry hard but it will take about 1 hour or so depending on the thickness.

That is why we sometimes use the brown butter frosting so we can eat them sooner!

Give this recipe a try and you will no longer find sugar cookies to be boring, promise!

Holiday Citrus Cookies

A delicious lightly citrus flavored sugar cookie
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
chilling30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 dozen


cookie dough

  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • the zest of one lemon with a microplane or zester
  • the zest of 1 orange with a microplane or zester
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg

Quick Icing

  • 1 cup of powdered sugar for icing
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • food coloring use one drop at a time to achieve the desired color


  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl.
  • Using electric mixer, beat butter, lemon peel and tangerine peel in large bowl until light.
  • Add 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup powdered sugar and beat until fluffy.
  • Beat in egg.
  • Add dry ingredients.
  • Using spoon, stir until mixture forms dough (dough will be soft).
  • Divide dough into thirds.
  • Gather each third into ball; flatten into disks.
  • Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Let soften slightly, if necessary, before rolling out.)
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Generously flour work surface and rolling pin.
  • Place 1 dough disk on work surface (keep remaining 2 dough disks refrigerated).
  • Press rolling pin into dough several times to flatten slightly for easier rolling.
  • Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness, frequently lifting and turning dough to prevent sticking. Using cookie cutters cut out cookies.
  • Transfer cookies to ungreased nonstick baking sheets, spacing 1/2 inch apart.
  • Bake until cookies turn brown on edges, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Let cookies stand on sheets 1 minute. Using metal spatula, transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. Once cooled you can proceed to the decorating part!

make the quick icing

  • gather all the ingredients you will need
  • Mix 1 cup of powdered sugar, food coloring(if using) and 2 tbsp of milk in a large shallow bowl.
  • Make sure all of the sugar lumps are gone and the consistency is nice and smooth but not watery.
  • If it is watery just add 1 tbsp of powdered sugar at a time until it thickens. If it is too thick add 1 tbsp of milk at a time until it thins.
  • If you are adding coloring, add your food coloring and mix well

Adding the icing (quick and easy way)

  • Take your cooled cookies and place them face down into the bowl of icing and carefully pull it out and place it right side up on a cooling rack to dry.
  • The cookies after being iced will need at least 2 hours (or more depending on humidity) to dry fully.


recipe adapted from epicurious

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