Soft, chewy, and slightly sweet cut-out sugar cookies. They’re the quintessential holiday cookie in my opinion. In fact, I’ll make a bold claim right now. It never really feels like the holidays until these festive cut-out sugar cookies make their appearance.
Do you have a favorite cookie like that?
Let me tell you about my family’s favorite: Vegan Cut Out Sugar Cookies.
I have fond childhood memories of me and my brother baking cut-out cookies with my mom. Me carefully cutting out cookies with my favorite duck cookie-cutter and placing them gently on a baking sheet. My mom slightly burning them in the oven, my brother topping them with an array of bright, artificially colored red and green sprinkles.
I think about it every time I make these cookies.
I treasure these memories even more now that my mom has passed away.
My mom baked the cookies of my childhood with various animal products like butter, eggs, beeswax, and artificial food coloring. None of which is very vegan-friendly at all.
These days I make my cut-out sugar cookies vegan, and I make them dye-free. But that doesn’t mean that I bake them with less flavor or make them less pretty.
I’ve tested lots of recipes for vegan sugar cut-out cookies and royal icing, each not quite capturing that flavor and nostalgia of the cookies from my childhood. Sometimes it’s because the cookie isn’t right; other times, the icing is wrong.
So I set out to make my own.
The Cookie Dream
I wanted a sugar cookie with a soft, lush texture while still being sturdy enough to hold a cut-out shape and decorations well. To balance the sweetness of the decorations, I wanted a less sweet cookie.
It was something that my maternal grandma said to me that made this recipe click: “Everything is better with cream cheese.” She was talking about dairy cream cheese, no doubt, but she’s right.
Everything is better with cream cheese.
Adding vegan cream cheese is the secret to creating a soft, luxurious cookie worthy of the phrase, “This is the best damn vegan sugar cut-out cookie I’ve ever had.”
Or, “mmmm.” You know, whichever.
Let’s talk cookie dough for a minute.
If you’ve ever made rolled cookies before, you know how important it is to have nice dough. If it’s too wet, the dough will be too sticky. But if it’s too dry, it’ll crack and fall apart. The perfect cookie dough should be soft, pliable, and easy to roll.
That’s what this dough is. Even after it’s rolled and cut and rolled again, it’s a dream. It’s the perfect cookie dough to use with your favorite cookie cutters.
I like to make my cookie dough a day before I want to use it. This dough works best if you let the dough warm for a few minutes before using it. Then later, I can pull the dough out, let it warm for about 15 minutes, and I’m ready to roll.
A Note About Decorating with Color
Food colors and brightly colored sprinkles are ubiquitous in baking sections of grocery stores across the U.S. Made from chemicals and sugar; these products don’t overtly appear non-vegan, so it’s easy for people to overlook them.
But we shouldn’t.
The food dyes found in most grocery stores — produced through the wonder of chemistry and the industry of oil drilling — are something we all should avoid. Not only are they harmful to human health, but artificial food coloring is also or was also subject to animal testing.
And those cute sprinkles? They’re made with refined cane sugar, beeswax, and artificial food coloring. AKA: bone char, an animal product, and animal testing.
Instead, look for colored sprinkles made with things like raw sugar, natural colors, and carnauba wax, made from the leaves of the palm plant.
As an alternative to artificial colors, you can learn to make a rainbow of colors from plant-based ingredients you probably already have in your fridge or spice rack in this tutorial, Homemade Food Coloring (All Natural + Vegan).
Purchasing Pre-Made Colors
Would you prefer to buy vegan food dye? No problem.
Here are a few that are colored with vegetable juice or spices and contain no synthetic dyes.
Disclosure: These two options contain affiliate links I earn from qualifying purchases. See Your Daily Vegan’s Affiliate Policy for more details.
Color Kitchen Food Colors from Nature
I picked up a few packets to test out on my favorite sugar cookies.
I’m a fan.
First, the colors come packaged in individual packets, which means I don’t over-buy. Second, the colors mix easily and create beautiful colors. I don’t even mind that they’re more pastel than bright. Lastly, they’re budget-friendly.
Here’s a 10-pack, Color Kitchen Food Colors from Nature, that makes a good starter pack.
McCormick Nature’s Inspiration Food Colors
By far, these colors are the cheapest and the most widely available. The powdered colors come in a pack of three colors which you can mix for a variety of colors.
I bought this McCormick Nature’s Inspiration Food Colors pack when I made these unicorn sugar cookies. Just look how vivid the colors turned out!
The cookies featured in the photos were topped with royal icing and then decorated with the blue natural color sugar from the India Tree Nature’s Color line, Let’s Do Organic Multi-Color Sprinkelz, organic snowflake sprinkles made with carnauba wax, organic sanding sugar I found in the bulk section of my local health food store, and an organic peppermint candy cane that I broke into pieces.
They were scrumptious.
- 3 + 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup softened, room temperature vegan butter
- 1/4 cup softened, room temperature vegan cream cheese
- 1 cup organic granulated sugar
- 2 egg replacer "eggs"
- 1 + 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Place the vegan butter and vegan cream cheese on the counter to soften.
- In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to cream the softened vegan butter and the granulated sugar together until fluffy.
- In the same bowl, use a rubber spatula to gently add the egg replacer "eggs," softened vegan cream cheese, and vanilla. Mix until just combined.
- In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir together.
- Use a rubber spatula to gently stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones until a soft dough is formed.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set it on a plate in a refrigerator to chill for several hours or overnight.
- Before using the dough, take it out of the fridge and allow it to warm for fifteen minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set up several cooling racks.
- Prepare your work surface by sprinkling it with a little bit of flour. Place some of the dough in the middle. Dust the top with a little bit of flour and roll to 1/8 inches thick. Use your favorite cookie cutters to create cut-out shapes. NOTE: The thicker the cookie, the longer the bake time, and conversely, the thinner the cookie, the shorter the bake time.
- Continue rolling and cutting out cookies until all the dough is used.
- Place the cookies on the parchment-lined baking sheet. These cookies don't spread much, but you'll want to leave a little space between them.
- Bake for 10 - 12 minutes. The bottoms will be barely brown when done; start checking them at the ten-minute mark. Don't let the bottoms get dark or the cookies will be dry.
- When fully baked, remove the cookies from the oven and place them on the cooling racks to cool.
- Cooled cookies can be stored in an air-tight container for up to two weeks and frozen for much longer.
These cookies are perfect for topping with sprinkles, frosting, or royal icing. Make sure the cookies are fully cooled before decorating.
How to Make Vegan Royal Icing
Now, about that royal icing.
Many royal icings use egg whites, which are obviously not very friendly for us vegans or chickens.Instead, you’ll want a batch of vegan royal icing for your cut-out sugar cookies. That’s where I come in with this vegan royal icing recipe to save the day.
Fair warning, friends: This stuff is the real royal icing deal.
It sets quickly, so if you want to add sprinkles to your vegan sugar cut-out cookies — and you know you do — do it immediately after icing the cookie. You can dip your cookies into the icing, or if you want to get your inner Martha Stewart on, use a food-safe paintbrush and brush it on. I’ve done both.
This icing is a perfect base for other flavors of icings. Try lemon, orange, or cinnamon flavors. It’s an off-white icing, but you can add color to it if you like.
Experiment, have fun!
- 1 cup organic powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk of your choice
- 2 teaspoons of light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a large bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and non-dairy milk together until smooth.
- Add the almond and vanilla extract to the bowl along with the corn syrup. Whisk until smooth. The mixture should be shiny and just a bit runny. Watch the consistency carefully. If it's too runny the icing won't stick to the cookies. If it's too runny, add small amounts of powdered sugar as a thickener.
This icing will be hard with a shiny finish once dry. You can either dip cookies into icing, paint it on with a food-safe paintbrush, or inside a pastry bag.
Are you ready to get baking? I hope I’ve convinced you to make a batch of these vegan sugar cut-out cookies. If you do, leave a comment to let me know how it goes or tag me on Instagram at #yourdailyvegan!