Thumbprint Cookies

published Dec 4, 2023
christmas
Thumbprint Cookies Recipe

An essential holiday cookie. Fill these buttery thumbprints with your favorite flavors of jam — and watch them disappear at any party.

Makes56 (2-inch) cookies

Prep45 minutes

Cook45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Overhead shot of thumbprint cookies on a white surface.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Nicole Rufus

Soft, buttery, and filled with a brightly colored jam (or sometimes salted caramel), thumbprint cookies are universally loved, as evidenced by the fact that the batch I brought to my daughter’s school disappeared in minutes. These cookies have the best name because you use your thumb to make the indentation where the jam goes. They’re also a great project for kids to make at home. Who doesn’t like poking cookie dough and filling them with jam?

During testing, I made batch after batch of these cookies to make sure that the dough was easy to work with, didn’t crack, and the cookies held their shape when baked. Adding cream cheese to the dough was key; it delivered a cookie with smooth edges that didn’t flatten out. On top of that, knowing when to fill the thumbprint with jam took some trial and error. But all my work paid off! These thumbprint cookies are perfect on a holiday cookie plate, but are also great at any other time of the year when you want a pretty little sweet treat.

Ingredients You Need for Thumbprint Cookies

  • Butter: You’ll need 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter.
  • Cream cheese: This makes the dough soft and keeps it from cracking when you make the indentations. Don’t skip it!
  • Pantry ingredients: Grab all-purpose flour, vanilla extract, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt.
  • Egg: Because there’s cream cheese in the dough too, you’ll only need one large egg.
  • Jam: The sky’s the limit here! Pick out your favorite jam, and you can use as many flavors as you want. I prefer seedless jam, but if you’d like to use one that’s chunky, chop up any big pieces first. Some fun flavors include apricot vanilla bean, fig, or strawberry thyme.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Nicole Rufus

How to Make Thumbprint Cookies

  1. Make the dough. Cream butter, cream cheese, and sugar together. Beat in the egg, vanilla, salt, and finally the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
  2. Chill the dough. The dough will be sticky, so refrigerate for 1 to 1 1/2 hours before forming dough balls. Don’t chill the dough too long though, or the dough balls will crack when you press a thumb into them.
  3. Form the cookies. Scoop out the dough in 2-teaspoon portions (this spring-loaded scoop works great), and roll into balls. Press a damp thumb, which keeps the dough from sticking, into the center of each one to make an indentation. If the dough cracks slightly, just push those parts back together. Fill up one baking sheet.
  4. Do the first bake. Bake for 10 minutes without the jam, because if you put the jam in before baking, the jam will dry up and not look very attractive or shiny. While these are baking, fill up the second baking sheet with more dough balls so they’re ready to bake after the first sheet is ready.
  5. Remake the indentation and fill with jam. Take the partially baked cookies out of the oven. The cookies will have puffed and lost some of the indentation, so remake it with the rounded part of a 1/2 teaspoon (dampen it first, so it doesn’t stick!). Fill the indentation with jam.
  6. Do the second bake. Bake again until the cookies are set and lightly browned around the edges, four to five minutes more.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Nicole Rufus

How to Freeze Thumbprint Cookies

There are two ways you can freeze the cookies. 

  • The first way is to bake, cool, and freeze them solid on the baking sheet. Transfer to a zip-top freezer bag and freeze, then just thaw at room temperature. 
  • You can also freeze the unbaked dough. Shape the dough balls, then press the indentation in with your thumb. Freeze until solid, then also store in a zip-top bag for up to two months. Bake straight from the freezer for the same amount of time.

Thumbprint Cookies Recipe

An essential holiday cookie. Fill these buttery thumbprints with your favorite flavors of jam — and watch them disappear at any party.

Prep time 45 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Makes 56 (2-inch) cookies

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 sticks

    (6 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 3 ounces

    cream cheese

  • 2 1/4 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 3/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1

    large egg

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 3/4 cup

    jam, preferably seedless and not too chunky

Instructions

  1. Place 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter and 3 ounces cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Let sit at room temperature until softened.

  2. Place 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Add 3/4 cup granulated sugar to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula.

  4. Add 1 large egg, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. With the mixer on the lowest speed, slowly add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, about 1 minute more.

  5. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 1 1/2 hours for the dough to firm up slightly. About 10 minutes before the dough is ready, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

  6. Scoop out 20 (2-teaspoon) portions of the dough, and roll each into a ball about 1-inch in diameter. Place on one of the baking sheets, spacing them evenly apart. Using a wet thumb, press an indentation into the middle of each dough ball, going about 2/3 of the way down. If the edges crack, just gently push the dough back together to seal the crack.

  7. Bake for 10 minutes (this is a good time to scoop out and shape the second baking sheet of cookies). Using the rounded part of a 1/2 teaspoon dipped in water, press into each cookie to remake the indentation. Fill each indentation with a generous 1/2 teaspoon jam.

  8. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake until the cookies are set and light golden-brown on the edges, 4 to 5 minutes more. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

  9. Repeat baking the remaining dough on a cooled baking sheet; you can reuse the parchment or silicone baking mats.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The cookie dough can be made ahead and frozen: Shape the dough into balls, mark with a thumbprint, and freeze on the baking sheets until solid. Transfer to a zip-top bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Bake the cookies directly from the freezer according to recipe directions for the same amount of time.

Storage: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.