Candy Cane Cookies are made from a simple buttery twisted sugar cookie dough, flavored with peppermint extract, and topped with crushed candy canes.
They’re always a favorite mint recipe at holiday and Christmas parties and cookie exchanges, or make them whenever you want!
I remember making these with my mom as a kid. Maybe because they’re a great cookie to get the kids involved. The dough is fun to work with, like playdough, and easy for little hands to roll into ropes and twist into candy cane shapes.
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How do you make candy canes cookies?
These cookies are actually easier to make than they look, maybe just a little time consuming.
All you have to do is make one sugar cookie dough, split it in two, and add red food coloring to one portion. Roll the two colors of dough into ropes, twist the ropes together, and shape into candy canes.
Be sure to scroll down to the printable recipe card for full ingredient amounts and instructions. But here are the details with pro tips for great cookies! Want more Tips on getting great baked goods? Be sure to check out my Baking Tips Guide that’s chock full of useful information!
In a large bowl, cream the shortening, butter, and confectioners’ sugar using a hand mixer or a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
This recipe calls for shortening and butter. Vegetable shortening contains 100% fat which means it creates baked goods that are more tender than those made with just butter.
The shortening also makes it so these cookies don’t spread as much as an all butter cookie, meaning the candy canes keep their shape better.
Continue making dough
Beat in egg and extracts.
Not a fan of peppermint extract? Try substituting an additional teaspoon of vanilla or 1 & ½ teaspoons almond extract.
In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt; gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture.
Divide dough in half; mix the red food coloring into 1 portion.
Cover and refrigerate both doughs for 2 hours or until easy to handle.
This recipe calls for ½ teaspoon liquid red food coloring, and you’ll get a great red color. You can also use red gel food color if you prefer. Just add small amounts of the gel paste to the dough until you get the color you like.
How to twist candy cane cookies
Shape 1 teaspoon plain dough into a 4-inch rope.
Shape 1 teaspoon red dough into a 4-inch rope.
To make cookies about the same size, just measure one cookie rope with a ruler, then use that dough to measure all the rest.
Place the ropes side by side; press together lightly and twist. I like to roll the two doughs together so they have a smooth appearance.
Place the twist on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and curve the top of cookie down to form the handle of the candy cane.
Repeat with remaining plain and red doughs, placing cookies about 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
If your dough is too dry and crumbles when you try to roll it out, let it come to temperature before working with it, or sprinkle some cool water over work it into the dough until it comes together.
The white dough will be more likely to crumble a little because it doesn’t have the addition of the red food coloring.
Also, measuring of powdered sugar will vary from person to person based on the way it’s packed into the measuring cup, and this will account for some doughs being dryer than others.
Refrigerate any unused dough as you shape the cookies to keep the dough from warming up too much.
Crushed peppermint candies
Combine the crushed peppermint candy and sugar in a bowl.
Use peppermint starlights or candy canes for the topping.
Place the peppermints in a zip top bag, and crush them with a rolling pin or a sturdy metal measuring cup, the bottom part of the handle of a metal ice cream scoop, or a flat meat pounder.
You can also place the candies in a food processor to break them.
They also sell bags of crushed peppermints sometimes in the baking aisle of well-stocked grocery stores.
Bake the cookies
Bake at 375° for 8-9 minutes or until set.
If your cookies spread too much in the oven, chill the shaped, unbaked cookies in the fridge or the freezer for a few minutes before putting them in the oven.
And be sure to use cool fresh cookie sheets for each batch. Hot cookie sheets can cause the butter in the dough to melt and leak out, resulting in misshapen cookies.
Sprinkle with peppermint sugar
Sprinkle the warm cookies immediately with the candy mixture. Don’t worry if it all doesn’t stick. It won’t. But it really does make a beautiful and even more delicious candy cane cookie when it has the peppermint sugar on top.
These cookies will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container at room temperature.
Yes, these cookies freeze quite well, either unbaked or baked. So, they’re a great cookie to make ahead.
How to freeze these cookies
Unbaked cookie dough
Shape the cookie dough, and arrange the candy canes close together on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until the cookies are solid, then transfer to a freezer-safe zip top bag.
When you’re ready to bake them, just bake from frozen adding an extra minute or two to the baking time.
Allow to cool completely, then place in a freezer-safe zip top bag or other airtight container. Store in the freezer for about 2 months.
Fancy them up
Want these cuties to be even fancier?
Use red colored sugar for a fun Christmas look.
Drizzle them with melted dark chocolate. You can even sprinkle sugar and crushed peppermint candies onto the melted chocolate before it hardens.
Dip the bottom of the candy cane in melted chocolate then in crushed peppermint candy.
Looking for More Cookies for Your Cookie Tray?
I love cookies that are a little bit out of the ordinary, and yet over the top delicious!
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Candy Cane Cookies
- In a large bowl, cream the shortening, butter, and confectioners’ sugar using a hand mixer or a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Beat in egg and extracts.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt; gradually add to the creamed butter mixture.
- Divide dough in half; mix the red food coloring into 1 portion. Cover and refrigerate both doughs for 2 hours or until easy to handle.
- Shape 1 teaspoon plain dough into a 4-inch rope. Shape 1 teaspoon red dough into a 4-inch rope. Place ropes side by side; press together lightly and twist. Roll together lightly for a smooth candy cane.
- Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; curve top of cookie down to form handle of the candy cane. Repeat with remaining plain and red dough, placing cookies 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
- Combine the crushed candy and sugar in a small bowl.
- Bake the cookies at 375° F for 8-9 minutes or until set. Sprinkle the warm cookies with candy mixture. Remove to wire racks to cool.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations, and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary based on brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes, and more.