Candy Cane Cookies

DessertHolidayChristmas Cookie

Candy Cane Cookies! Twists of red-and-white cookie dough flavored with peppermint extract. Such a fun way to celebrate the holidays!

Photography Credit: Irvin Lin

Practically everyone has lived through one of those crazy roommate situations — the kind that provides fodder for endless cocktail stories. These stories that are amusing in retrospect, but never fun when they are actually happening. (One of mine actually involved a missing python snake in our apartment.)

But every now and then, something decent comes from all the insanity. One of my favorite memories from an otherwise mismatched roommate situation is learning how to make candy cane cookies.

Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cane CookiesThough I have always loved to bake, my family wasn’t really into it — and the holidays were no exception. Holiday cookies were pretty much nonexistent in my home, and it wasn’t until I moved out that I discovered that holiday cookies were a thing.
So these cookies weren’t even on my radar until that fateful roommate pairing. We were still in our “honeymoon” period when he suggested we make candy cane cookies.

I had no idea what he meant and thought they must be cookies made with crushed candy canes. But my roommate showed me the magic of rolling red and white cookie dough into ropes, twisting them together, and then shaping them into canes.

Candy Cane CookiesI was enchanted and have never looked back.

Eventually our roommate situation grew toxic, and I moved out. I have no regrets about living with him, though. The rent was cheap, the apartment was spacious, and I have the forever gift of these candy cane cookies.

Candy Cane Cookies Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 8 minutes
  • Chilling time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 36 cookies

These cookies are easier to make than they look. Make one simple dough, split it in two and add red food coloring to one half. Roll two different ropes of dough, twist them together, and shape into "candy canes."

A lot of recipes tell you to sprinkle crushed candy canes (real ones!) over the cookies right out of the oven. You can certainly do that, but I prefer to brush the cookies with an egg white wash and sprinkle them with sparkling sugar instead. The sugar sticks to the cookie because of the wash and makes the finished product more enticing than the average candy cane cookie.


  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 3/4 cup (385 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon liquid red food coloring

To finish:


1 Make the dough: Place the butter, sugar, peppermint, vanilla, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of stand mixer. Beat until a paste forms and clings to the side of the bowl.

Scrape down the side of the bowl and beat in the egg until it is absorbed. Add the flour and beat until just combined and no more dry streaks of flour remain.

Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cane Cookies

2 Color half the dough: Divide and remove half the dough from the bowl. Carefully add the red food coloring to the remaining dough. Mix on low until the color is evenly distributed.

Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cane Cookies

3 Chill the dough: Pat each piece of dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Candy Cane Cookies

4 When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat.

5 Shape the cookies: The chilled dough should be firm, but still easy to shape straight from the fridge. If not, let it warm for just a few minutes until malleable. Don't let it warm too much or it will be too soft to work with again.

Pinch off a 1-inch round piece of the white dough and roll it out to a 5-inch rope. Do the same with a piece of the red dough (make sure the ropes are the same length).

Place the ropes next to each other and twist together. Transfer to the baking sheet and curve the top of the dough into a candy cane shape.

Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.

Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cane Cookies

6 Top the cookies with sparkling sugar: Make the egg white wash by beating the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water until foamy. Brush the top of each cookie with the egg white wash and then sprinkle with the sugar.

Candy Cane Cookies

7 Bake the cookies: Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are just barely brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before moving to a wire cooling rack.

These cookies will keep for a week or two in a sealed container at room temperature.

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Irvin Lin

Irvin Lin is an IACP award-winning photographer, food writer and recipe developer, blue-ribbon baker, public speaker and occasional social media consultant. His blog is Eat the Loveand his first cookbook is Marbled, Swirled and Layered.

More from Irvin

6 Comments / Reviews

  1. Mariella

    They are delicious. Mine did not look as perfect. At first I kind of just wound the two colors around each other, but after the first batch, I put the two ropes together, smooshed them into each other a little and then twirled them. That worked better. Also, mine spread more, so they were a much thicker candy cane; however, they did keep the right shape, so that wasn’t an issue, really. All-in-all, a good and fun recipe. I would make them again.

  2. Debbie

    Has anyone used a food-based red food Coloring instead of the conventional liquid one? I am trying to stay away from artificial food dye for my children.

    • Irvin

      Hi Debbie! I totally understand trying to avoid artificial food dye but I have yet to find a red food dye that stay red after baking. Most natural red food dyes turn brown when they are baked.

      That said, if you wanted to make green and white striped candy canes, you can try using matcha green tea powder to turn the dough green. That will stay bright green when you bake it.

  3. Janell

    My young children were helping, so the dough got quite warm while we were working with it. I stuck the cookies in the fridge for ten minutes before baking, yet they still became very flat and crumbled when we tried to remove them from the cooled sheets. Will a longer, second chill time be sufficient, or is there something else I ought to try on my next attempt of the recipe?

    • Irvin

      I would definitely see if you can chill it a little bit longer before baking. You can also try to increase the flour to 3 cups and mix the dough a little longer to activate the gluten. The cookies might turn out a little bit more tough, but it will be easier to work with for small hands that like to play with the dough!

  4. Michelle

    My mother has made these for as long as I can remember, and they were always the favorite of every child in our circle – my brother and I, our many cousins, and our lucky classmates. It is not Christmas in our house without these cookies!

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