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Credit: Joe Lingeman

How to Ship Cookies Without Breaking a Single One

updated Dec 8, 2020
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I’ve been shipping homemade, edible gifts for nearly two decades, and I’ve learned a lot. I know that none of us wants to bake, decorate, and ship cookies just to have a box of stale crumbs arrive on the other end. So that’s where this guide to shipping cookies comes in.

To help you get it right this year (and for years to come), I’ve compiled all I’ve learned about shipping cookies. I even mailed 12 dozen cookies across the country to put my own advice to the test. If you choose the right recipes and package the treats well, I can all but guarantee that your sweets will arrive looking and tasting great. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Meghan Splawn
Quick Overview

4 Rules for Mailing Holiday Cookies

  1. Choose cookies that ship well: generally either hard and crunchy or dense and chewy.
  2. Pack them in food-safe materials that will keep them safe, protected, and pretty.
  3. Add lots of padding.
  4. Time your shipping carefully. For 2023, mail by the second week of December if you’re using ground shipping.

Choose Cookies That Ship Well

You can’t just carefully box up any cookie and hope for the best (see: the Pizzelle Incident of 2013, when I lovingly shipped dozens of paper-thin pizzelle cookies in padded envelopes only to have them turn into pizzelle crumbles in transit). For shipping, focus on sturdy cookies, which generally fall into two camps: hard and crunchy or dense and chewy.

Treats like shortbread and biscotti are hard and crunchy; brownies and molasses cookies count as dense and chewy. Sandwich cookies, like classic linzers or dulce de leche-filled alfajores, are also good candidates, as long as the cookies are thick and the filling is generous. You can find a long list of our favorite mail-friendly cookie recipes below.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

How to Pack Cookies for Shipping

Once you’ve baked your cookies, it’s time to get them ready to go. Your packaging needs to do a few things:

  • Protect the cookies.
  • Keep them fresh.
  • Contain crumbs.
  • Look pretty enough to feel like a gift.

Before you start sorting and sealing, keep these rules in mind. 

A note about sending sugar cookies: ‘Tis the season for baking and decorating sugar cookies, but you’re better off saving those delicate cut-outs for Santa than sticking them in the mail. If sugar cookies are your signature sweet to send, choose smaller, less intricate shapes and leave them plain or decorate them with melted chocolate and sprinkles instead of royal icing. Royal icing, the classic sugar cookie frosting, has a lot of moisture that makes the cookies more tender, even when the frosting is completely dry.

Cool your baked goods completely.

If you stick steamy cookies in bags or boxes you’ll end up with soggy cookies, so be sure that your treats are totally cool before packing. You can even go a step further and freeze dense baked goods, like chewy cookies and loaves of pound cake. Freezing can give you extra insurance because the desserts will be nice and firm when you pack them. It’s also a great way to preserve your treats if you’re not mailing them right away.

Make sure the packaging is food-safe.

I love to upcycle boxes and vessels (like last year’s gift boxes or even plastic yogurt containers) for packaging, but remember that anything edible needs to be wrapped in food-safe bags or paper. You don’t want to wrap brownies with tissue paper that has dye that could get into the food, for example.

Parchment paper and cellophane candy bags are always safe choices. You can put the food-safe packages inside festive bags, boxes, or tins or add flair (stickers, ribbons, tiny pine cones) to the outside of the packages to dress them up. 

If your cookies can’t move, they’re less likely to break. To keep them snug and secure while they wing their way across the country, try to match the cookie shape with the packaging.

Choose a square or rectangular tin for a batch of blondies. Stack round cookies in round boxes or bag the cookies, then slip the bags into cylinder-shaped tins. Use balled-up parchment paper to pad the treats. When you’re all packed, gently tilt the container back and forth. If anything moves, add more parchment paper.

Our Favorite Bags, Boxes, and Tins for Cookies 

Divide the treats among multiple bags.

It’s counterintuitive, I know, but you’ll have less breakage if you pack cookies and bars in smaller quantities. For example, when I ship chewy chocolate chip cookies I pack six cookies per bag. The same is true for bar cookies in boxes; nine brownies that fit squarely inside a tin in a single layer will ship better than a full 8×8 pan floating around a shirt box.

Label everything.

Obvious as this may seem, it’s a good idea to label all of your treats. This way it’s clear what’s what and is also helpful for anyone with food allergies. I suggest plain address labels for sticking the names and ingredient lists on boxes and bags. They hold on better than those cute gift tags during shipping. 

Wrap bags and boxes again.

There’s no way around it: You need a lot of packaging to make sure your cookies arrive in great shape. To make sure they stay fresh, wrap boxes or tins with plastic wrap before you put them in in the shipping box. This is especially important for non-airtight containers, like those decorative takeout-style boxes.

Pick a small shipping box — then add padding.

Again, movement is the enemy of cookies during shipping. When you’re ready to pack things up, lay out all of your cookie packages and find the smallest box that will contain everything. You can fill any gaps with bubble wrap, packing peanuts, newspaper, or plain air-popped popcorn.

Or keep going with the edible theme and use small bags of flavored popcorn or individually wrapped Rice Krispie treats for padding. Rice Krispies treats are especially helpful because you can cut them into just the right size (plus they’re a crowd-pleaser!). Give the box a gentle test shake before sealing, and pad any areas that wiggle.

Mark your package.

After you address the box, take a thick marker and write PERISHABLE several places on the box to give your recipients a head’s up to open up the package asap.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

How Much Will Shipping Cost? 

After all your hard work, you want your treats to arrive fresh and intact, which means that you should pick the fastest shipping option that fits your budget. USPS, UPS, and FedEx offer medium flat-rate boxes that will get your cookies there in one to three days and will cost between $15 and $30, depending on the destination (you can get three- to four-dozen cookies in each box).

When Do I Need to Mail My Cookies?

Holiday shipping is always a busy time, so send your cookies off as soon as possible to make sure they arrive on time. For 2023, it’s recommended that you ship your cookies by the second week of December if you want them to arrive by Christmas (if you’re using ground shipping).

UPS recommends using express shipping for ultimate freshness (well, of course they do …). Since that’s not an option for all of us, here’s a good timing hack: Make sure your cookies don’t hang out in a shipping center over a weekend. Send them during the week — say, on a Monday for Friday delivery.

Alternatively, you could start a new tradition and mail them right after Christmas for a special New Year’s treat.

Baking, packing, and sending cookies is a lot of work, but it’s a wonderful way to connect with friends and family — especially during a year that could really use some extra sweetness. Know that every penny you spend to send that kind of care to your friends and family is worth it.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Best Cookies for Shipping

Here’s a list of our favorites (just a few, haha!). For even more ideas, check out our roundup of homemade food gifts that ship well.

Hard and Crunchy Cookies

Dense and Chewy Cookies


Other Treats That Also Ship Well