Candy Cane 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.

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


  • 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 Cookie Dough Ingredients in a Mixing Bowl Cookie Dough Mixed Together in Bowl Candy Cane Cookie Dough with added flour Dough Mixed Together Until It is Firm

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 Cookie Dough In Bowl With Red Food Coloring Candy Cane Cookie Dough With Red Food Coloring Mixed in

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.

Red and White Cookie Dough Separated in Plastic Wrap

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.

Red and White Cookie Dough Rolled into Balls Red and White Cookie Dough Rolled out like Equal Sign Red and White Cookie Dough Intertwined and Shaped Like Candy Cane

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.

Adding Sugar Topping to 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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  • Hayley

    Hi! I made a double batch of these yesterday but ran out of time and didn’t finish baking. How long does the dough stay fresh in the fridge? Do the baked cookies freeze well? Thank you!

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Hayley! The dough should be fine (covered) in the fridge for at least three days. And yes, these freeze well, but are definitely somewhat delicate, so just be sure to package them well and store them in a place where they won’t get squashed by other freezer items.

  • Valerie Maynor

    Can you freeze these?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Valerie! Yup, you can freeze either the shaped, un-baked cookies or the baked cookies. If you freeze unbaked, then just add a minute or two onto the baking time (no need to thaw). Enjoy!

  • 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.

  • 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 Lin

      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.

  • 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 Lin

      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!

  • 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!