Holiday Cookies, Ranked: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Have you ever attended or participated in a holiday cookie swap? I have. And in my sweet, idealist mind, I imagined such swaps to contain ample bounties of freshly baked goods by the colorful plateful. Some would be chewy and soft with subtle flavor, while others would be sugary and crisp with just the right touch of crunch (but not too many crumbs). All would be baked with love and care, and would taste warmly like the holidays.

But in reality, everyone has a different understanding of what defines a "holiday cookie." So when friends and family are grouped together for seasonal treat-swapping, the results are a mish-mash of items that kind of remind us of Halloween — and we definitely don't want everything that lands in our bucket. Plus, sometimes you end up going home with a tupperware filled with Aunt June's dry sugar cookie stars, while the rest of the fam munches on your fluffy double-chocolate chippers. (Note to self: make a double batch this year and stash some in a safe place for later.)

But just because it's happened to me, doesn't mean it has to happen to you. We've made the ultimate count-down ranking of holiday cookies to serve not only as a warning, but also as a guide that you can print and distribute among your squad.

So scroll ahead and get familiar with the good, the bad, and the ugly of holiday cookies. We know this is a controversial topic (just ask Aunt June), so feel free to share your personal faves and opinions in the comments.

Photo: Getty Images.
19. Meringue Cookies
Who invented meringue? And who decided that it should be classified as a cookie?! My disappointment knows no bounds.
Photo: Lew Robertson/ Getty Images.
18. Gingerbread
Sure, they're cute and fun to decorate. But when it comes to eating, gingerbread cookies are often the staler and blander version of their year-round counterpart, the gingersnap.
Photo: Getty Images.
17. Sugar Cookies
Someone, somewhere, crowned dry sugar cookies with plasticky sprinkles the unofficial treat of the holiday season. And I would like to find that person and have words with them.
Photo: Getty Images.
16. Iced Sugar Cookies
The more tolerable sibling of the sprinkled sugar cookie that still somehow ends up crumbing to tasteless pieces of colored cardboard.
Photo: Getty Images.
15. White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
Perhaps not a holiday cookie by nature, but still a cookie that somehow makes its way to gifting and swapping just the same — white chocolate macadamia nut, we honestly just want you to be chocolate chip.
Photo: Getty Images.
14. Holiday Biscotti
Dear holiday biscotti-makers and -gifters, please stop — my broken tooth and my dentist will thank you.
Photo: Getty Images.
13. Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies
This may be an unpopular opinion, but when it comes to peanut butter thumbprint cookies, I'd rather just have the Hershey kiss.
Photo: Getty Images.
12. Russian Tea Cookies (a.k.a. Snowdrop Cookies)
I was always skeptical of these "cookies." Because, 1. They are shaped like truffles; and 2. They are messy AF. But in the end I always sort of give in and eat them, because powdered sugar.
Photo: Getty Images.
11. Almond Crescent Cookies
There's a lot going on here — and honestly, the chocolate-dipped tips are the only thing saving these brittle nut-covered slivers.
Photo: Andrea Bricco/ Getty Images.
10. Gingersnaps
I don't dislike gingersnaps, but I don't love them, either — they're the Ron Weasley of holiday cookies.
Photo: Philippe Desnerck/ Getty Images.
9. Vanilla & Chocolate Ice Box Cookies
Lamer than an actual black and white cookie, but better than a gingersnap.
Photo: Getty Images.
8. Shortbread Cookies
Shortbread is what sugar cookies aspire to be — buttery and soft with just the right amount of crumbs.
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies — Photo: Getty Images.
7. Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
The consistency here is on point — crinkly outside, soft and chewy inside, with minimal crumbs and maximal chocolatey flavor. Be sure to wear a bib when you eat them, because powdered sugar strikes again.
Photo: Getty Images.
6. Linzer Cookies
Linzer cookies combine three beloved holiday staples: shortbread, raspberry jam, and powdered sugar. The bottom line being, why have a cookie when you can have a cookie sandwich?
Photo: Getty Images.
5. Italian Rainbow Cookies
I would never dare presume to be able to whip up a batch of these festive and sweet spongey layer cookies — but I'd like to award a medal to, and also commission, anyone who can.
Photo: Getty Images.
4. Lace Cookies
These are the product of caramel and chocolate having a cookie child so they're obviously a top pick.
Photo: Getty Images.
3. Chocolate Rugelach
When you meet the bringer of chocolate rugelach at your holiday cookie swap, befriend them, and learn their secrets and their trade.
Photo: Alexandra Rowley/ Getty Images.
2. Chocolate Chip Cookies
It's pretty damn tough to beat an OG fluffy chocolate chipper. It might not necessarily be a classic holiday cookie, per se, but good old chocolate chip is always a safe and beloved choice.
Photo: Getty Images.
1. Peppermint Meltaways
But for those who like to live life dangerously, bring peppermint meltaways. Surprisingly easy to make, not to mention ferociously festive, these truly melt-in-your-mouth holiday treats are a shoo-in for cookie-swap winner.
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