Sugar Cut-Out Cookies

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This healthy sugar cut-out cookie recipe uses white whole-wheat flour, honey and lemon zest to make a delicious cookie perfect for decorating. Pull out all your cookie cutters and decorate these adorable cookies with natural decorating sugar and icing.

Sugar Cut-Out Cookies
photographer: Helen Norman
Nutritionist Tested & Approved

Time: 165 minutes (135 minutes prep)

  • 1/2 cup clear crystal sugar , white sparkling sugar or sanding sugar (see Tips), divided

  • “Holiday” red natural liquid dye (see Tips)

  • Green natural liquid dye (see Tips)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour , plus more if needed

  • 2/3 cup white whole-wheat flour (see Tips)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/3 cup canola oil or corn oil

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter , slightly softened

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1 large egg

  • Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract or lemon extract

  1. To prepare decorating sugars: Divide decorating sugar between two small bowls. Add a few drops of red dye to one and green dye to the other and stir until evenly blended. Adjust color with more dye as desired.

  2. Spread each colored sugar in a thin layer on a separate small parchment-lined baking sheet. Turn on the oven to 350°F for 2 minutes, then immediately turn it off. (The warm oven dries the sugar, but too much heat will burn it.) Let the sugars stand in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. (The sugars may be stored airtight at room temperature for up to 1 year.)

  3. To prepare cookie dough: Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Beat oil, butter, granulated sugar, egg and lemon zest in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until well blended. Beat in honey, vanilla and almond (or lemon) extract until evenly incorporated.

  4. With the mixer on low speed, then medium speed, beat about half the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until incorporated. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just incorporated.

  5. Divide the dough into thirds. Place one third on a 12-inch-long sheet of parchment paper and shape into a disk. Top with a second sheet of parchment. Roll the dough out between the parchment into an 8-inch circle about 1/4 inch thick. Place the dough in the paper on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Freeze on the baking sheet until cold and firm, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day. Place another baking sheet in the freezer to chill too (it will be used under the dough as the cookies are cut out).

  6. To shape cookies: Position a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.

  7. Working with one portion of dough at a time, remove from the freezer and place on the chilled baking sheet. Remove the top sheet of parchment and cut out cookies with 2 1/2- to 3-inch cookie cutters. Transfer to a prepared baking sheet with a wide, thin spatula, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. Repeat with the remaining dough. (If the dough gets too soft, freeze until firm again. As you cut out cookies, set aside the scraps. Shape all the scraps back into a disk and reroll between parchment. Freeze for at least 30 minutes before cutting out.)

  8. To decorate and bake cookies: Sprinkle cookies with red and green sugars and gently pat to help them adhere. Bake the cookies on the center rack, one pan at a time, until browned on the bottom, 6 to 12 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.


Find clear (or white) sanding sugar (aka sparkling or coarse sugar) in well-stocked baking stores, gourmet food shops or online at

Find red, green and other natural liquid dyes plus a rainbow of already-dyed decorating sugars at

White whole-wheat flour, made from a special variety of white wheat, is light in color and flavor but has the same nutritional properties as regular whole-wheat flour. It is available at large supermarkets and natural-foods stores and online at or Store it in the freezer.

Nutritional Facts

Serving Size
2 1/2- to 3-inch cookie
15 g
4 g
Saturated Fat
1 g
1 g
9 mg
Dietary Fiber
0 g
16 mg
39 mg
3 dozen 2 1/2- to 3-inch cookies

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