Photos show what Christmas cookies look like around the world

cookies alfajores argentina

  • The Christmas season is heaven for anyone with a sweet tooth — from candy canes to gingerbread houses, it's sweet treats galore throughout the month of December.
  • Festive cookies are a big part of any Christmas dessert spread.
  • While traditional Christmas cookies in the US include sugar cookies, gingerbread people, and even the classic chocolate-chip variety, Christmas cookies in many other countries are quite different.
  • Insider rounded up a list of Christmas cookies from around the world, including tips and tricks for how to make them authentically.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

In Russia, many people celebrate Christmas by baking pryaniki — a type of glazed gingerbread cookie.

Darra Goldstein, the Willcox and Harriet Adsit Professor of Russian at Williams College, wrote that "pryaniki are the oldest Russian sweet."

According to Goldstein, earlier iterations of the treat were "coarse and heavily spiced," but over time, "their texture and flavor have been refined."

The cookies have a brown-and-white exterior and, once you break them in half, reveal jam at the center. Goldstein's recipe, and another version from Martha Stewart, both call for plum jam.

Goldstein adds a mix of cardamom, ginger, mace, and cinnamon to her cookies and tops the batch with a sugar and lemon glaze.

Get a full recipe for pryaniki here »

Colorful kolaczki (or cream cheese cookies) are a Christmas staple in Poland.

Nicole Kisiel of Early Bird Bakery and Cafe in Lancaster, New York, told Insider that these cookies are an "authentic" Polish treat and "definitely something people would carry around the holiday."

One recipe for kolaczki, which was adapted from a recipe by premium vanilla and flavor products company Nielsen-Massey, contains cream cheese, vanilla extract, and jam. It takes about 20 minutes to bake and calls for a dusting of confectioner's sugar before you serve it. 

While kolaczki is a delicious treat, Kisiel told Insider that when it comes to holiday desserts, she's a bigger fan of the Polish-style cheesecake that is "a little thinner than New York style with a sour cream topping." She said it's something her grandmother made for every gathering. Her bakery has the Polish cheesecake on its menu for $12.

Get a full recipe for kolaczki here »

Vanillekipferl often makes an appearance on German holiday dessert trays.

Vanillekipferl is a type of shortbread cookie that calls for almonds, shortcrust dough, and plenty of icing sugar. This simple holiday treat should take only about 30 minutes to make, but the recipe recommends storing the baked cookies in a tin for a few days to achieve the desired crumbly texture that they're known for.

They are also found in other parts of Europe like Austria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

Get a full recipe for vanillekipferl here »

In some Latin American countries, alfajores (which feature dulce de leche) are a part of Christmas celebrations.

According to the New York Times, there are many different ways to make alfajores cookies, but the most popular recipe contains "crumbly butter cookies … sandwiched with a thick layer of dulce de leche before being rolled in coconut."

The recipe notes that they have a shelf life of several days but it's best if they're eaten within 24 hours. 

Get a full recipe for alfajores here »

Linzer cookies are a popular Christmas treat in Austria.

Delish food Lena Abraham editor calls linzer cookies "one of the most classic Christmas cookies ever."

Abraham's recipe for linzer cookies includes cinnamon, almond flour, raspberry jam, and cloves. They're light brown, usually circular in shape, have a red jam heart at the center, and are dusted with powdered sugar before serving. 

Get a full recipe for linzer cookies here »

Polvorones, a type of shortbread cookie also known as "Mexican wedding cookies," are popular in southern Spain, Mexico, and other Spanish-speaking countries around Christmastime.

Polvorones are thought to have originated in Spain but are also quite popular in Mexico, where common variations are made with almond and/or orange flavorings.

Dena Kleiman of New York Times Cooking writes that the "recipe was brought to The Times in a 1990 article about traditional Christmas cookies."

The Times' basic recipe calls for pecans, confectioner's sugar, salt, butter, vanilla extract, and flour. They bake for just 15 minutes in the oven and take two minutes to cool — and it's highly recommended you roll them in sugar before serving them. 

Get a full recipe for polvorones here »

Lemon ricotta cookies often make an appearance on Italian families' Christmas dinner tables.

Ricotta cookies, cake-like in texture and typically featuring lemon and/or vanilla flavoring, are popular in many parts of Italy and Sicily, and in other countries where families of Italian or Sicilian descent have kept up the Christmas tradition.

It's an easy cookie to make, and for that reason, many families have their own special modifications and additions (like orange-flavored cookies instead of lemon). But one basic recipe from Italian Sons & Daughters of America calls for sugar, butter, ricotta cheese, vanilla extract, eggs, and all-purpose flour.

Get a full recipe for ricotta cookies here »

In Southeastern Bulgaria, baklava, another kind of dessert made with filo dough, dipped in syrup, and topped with nuts, is more popular than cookies at Christmastime.

Jak, the owner of Jak's Bakery, told Insider that sweet desserts known as "melcheta" are eaten to celebrate Christmas. 

"These are made with sweet yeast dough, with cinnamon and walnuts rolled into them, and then covered with simple syrup to make them sweet and sticky," he said.

Jak is from southeastern Bulgaria, where he says baklava is traditionally eaten during the holidays. 

Get a full recipe for baklava here »

Although not a cookie, in Cuban and Spanish culture, many people celebrate Christmas by eating turrónes, a type of chewy nougat.

Ricardo Barreras, the owner of Pilar Cuban Bakery in Brooklyn, New York, told Insider that turrónes are common in Cuban and Spanish households. He added that he always buys them around the holidays for his staff.

"There's a few types, almond nougat, almond butter, and one made with egg yolks," Barreras said. 

Get a full recipe for turrónes here »

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