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Skinny Christmas Sugar Cookies

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An easy & fail-proof recipe for buttery sugar cookies! Cut into festive shapes & decorated for the holidays. A new family tradition!


As much as I adore holiday baking now, my family only attempted special Christmas cut-out sugar cookies one year when I was in middle school. We may have baked a batch or two while my brother and I were still toddlers, but our only job was to press cookie cutters into the dough. We didn’t decorate any—we didn’t have the patience!  

So that one year, when my brother and I were grown up enough to understand that ovens burned your fingers and the icing knives belong on the cookies instead of in our mouths, we set aside an afternoon a few days before Christmas to bake holiday cookies with our aunt. We meticulously cut out countless shapes—reindeer and sleighs and candy canes and the Pillsbury dough boy (not quite sure how that last cookie cutter appeared in our stash!)—placed them on baking trays, and watched them turn a beautiful light golden in the oven.

After waiting for the cookies to cool, we mixed up pastel-colored icing with the traditional McCormick droppers: pink, yellow, blue, and green. We slathered on the icing in random Technicolor patters for most of the shapes. We’d much rather spend the time eating them than decorating!

A few hours later, we set the finished cookies on big dinner plates, then placed those on top of the refrigerator. At the time, our golden retriever would jump on counters and gobble up anything in sight (including entire birthday cakes), so we knew the cookies would be safe up there.

Early in the evening, I stood on my tiptoes to grab a plate and sneak a cookie. Mom wouldn’t have approved—we were supposed to eat dinner in less than an hour—so I quickly slid the plate back on top of the fridge and dashed off with my treat…

…but in my haste, I didn’t push the plate back far enough, so it was actually precariously balanced on the edge of the refrigerator door. When Mom opened up the fridge to pull out spinach for salads, the entire plate came crashing down.

It shattered into a hundred pieces on the floor and sent cookie crumbs flying into every corner of the kitchen. That was the last time we ever baked holiday cookies… But our golden retriever was quite happy and well fed that Christmas!

Although I’m still barely tall enough to reach on top of the fridge, I tempted fate this year and baked these Skinny Christmas Sugar Cookies. They’re easier than any recipe I’ve ever tried, including store-bought sugar cookie mixes, and they’re completely fail-proof. Even better, they taste just as buttery as your typical holiday cookies, but with barely half the calories, you can still fit into your cute holiday outfits!

These are the final treat for Cookie Week on Amy’s Healthy Baking. We’ve made rainbow chocolate chip, eggnog snickerdoodles, peppermint mocha, and soft-baked ginger cookies. I love them all and can’t decide—which have been your favorites?

In my mind, sugar cookies should always taste buttery—not bland or chalky or healthy. Even with a mere 2 tablespoons of butter, these skinny sugar cookies completely fit the bill! And it’s all thanks to my secret ingredient: butter extract.

Butter extract adds that same rich flavor for almost none of the fat and calories of regular butter. You can find it on the baking aisle right next to the vanilla. It’s shelf-stable and keeps for ages, and it’s worth every penny! You can even make this, this, and these with the rest.

What makes this recipe even easier than a mix is that you use melted butter. Put away your electric mixers—all you need is a fork! We don’t have to cream any butter and sugar today. Fewer dishes to wash always makes me happy, especially during the holiday baking season when my sink is constantly full of mixing bowls.

Before rolling out the cookie dough, generously coat your work surface with flour. Otherwise the dough sticks and your shapes will stretch into strange blobs when you try to peel them up. Fit as many cookie cutters on the dough as possible! The fewer times you re-roll the dough, the chewier and more tender the cookies will be.

Note: I prefer my sugar cookies on the soft side of hard: slightly chewy, yet still stiff enough to hold their shape, and not crumbly when you bite into them. If you prefer crunchy cookies, bake them a little longer.

Do whatever your heart desires for decorating! Mix up bowls of 10 different colors, or keep it simple with white and add sugar sprinkles on top. I went with the latter for this batch, but I’m baking a lot for friends in the next few weeks and plan on using more classic colored icing then!

So there you have it! Skinny Christmas Sugar Cookies that taste just as buttery as traditional ones and made in a fraction of the time. They’re a fun holiday dessert for the whole family to enjoy, and I bet Santa wouldn’t say no to a plate either!


Skinny Christmas Sugar Cookies
Serves: 24-28 cookies
These buttery cookies are really cute and so easy to make! They’re best if eaten the same day they’re iced, but iced cookies can be stored in an airtight container in between layers of wax paper for 2 days. Undecorated cookies may be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
  • [b]for the cookies [/b]
  • 1 ¼ cup (150g) all-purpose flour (measured [url href=”https://amyshealthybaking.com/blog/2013/09/17/baking-basics-101/” target=”_blank” title=”Baking Basics 101″]like this[/url]), plus more for rolling
  • ¾ tsp cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp [url href=”https://www.amazon.com/Watkins-Natural-Extract-Imitation-Packaging/dp/B00BNP9KR0/ref=as_li_ss_tl?s=grocery&rps=1&ie=UTF8&qid=1494729945&sr=1-2&keywords=butter+extract&refinements=p_85:2470955011&th=1&linkCode=ll1&tag=amysheabak-20&linkId=a181612d1863662855114eed464d9c54″ target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”]butter extract[/url]
  • ½ cup + 2 tbsp (120g) granulated sugar
  • [br]
  • [b]for the icing[/b]
  • ½ cup + 2 tbsp (75g) powdered (confectioners’) sugar, sifted
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp skim milk
  • food coloring (optional)
  1. To prepare the cookies, whisk together 1 ¼ cups of flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, egg, vanilla extract, and butter extract. Stir in the sugar. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Shape the dough into a 1”-thick rectangle. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line two baking sheets with [url href=”http://www.amazon.com/Silpat-AE420295-07-Premium-Non-Stick-Silicone/dp/B00008T960/ref=as_li_ss_tl?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1462586067&sr=1-11&keywords=silicone+baking+mat&linkCode=ll1&tag=amysheabak-20&linkId=e0fe843e5fc667ac9b4d6a378ae5df4d” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”]silicone baking mats[/url] or [url href=”http://www.amazon.com/Kirkland-Signature-Stick-Parchment-Paper/dp/B006JCWGIC/ref=as_li_ss_tl?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1462586076&sr=1-3&keywords=parchment+paper&linkCode=ll1&tag=amysheabak-20&linkId=11665b9b8ae9a8faac5267554aa7debe” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”]parchment paper[/url].
  3. On a well-floured surface, roll out the chilled dough until 1/8” thick. Lightly flour a standard-sized holiday cookie cutters, and press them into the dough, making sure each shape lays as close to its neighbors as possible to minimize unused dough. Peel the unused dough away from the shapes, and place them onto the prepared baking sheets. Reroll the unused dough, and repeat.
  4. Bake the cut out cookie dough at 350°F for 9-12 minutes. (The rerolled dough generally requires a little less time.) Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. To prepare the icing, stir together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk in a small bowl. Add any food coloring, if using. Spoon into a zip-topped bag, and snip off the corner. Pipe onto the cooled cookies.
[b]Notes:[/b] If you’d like to make these cookies gluten-free, then most store-bought gluten-free flour blends (also called “all-purpose” gluten-free flour blends!) should work, if measured [url href=”https://amyshealthybaking.com/blog/2013/09/17/baking-basics-101/” target=”_blank”]like this[/url].[br][br]I highly recommend using butter extract because it gives them the stereotypical buttery sugar cookie flavor without the excess fat and calories! [url href=”https://www.amazon.com/Watkins-Natural-Extract-Imitation-Packaging/dp/B00BNP9KR0/ref=as_li_ss_tl?s=grocery&rps=1&ie=UTF8&qid=1494729945&sr=1-2&keywords=butter+extract&refinements=p_85:2470955011&th=1&linkCode=ll1&tag=amysheabak-20&linkId=a181612d1863662855114eed464d9c54″ target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”]This[/url] is the kind I use. An additional 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract may be substituted in its place.[br][br]As written, the icing recipe only yields enough for a “minimalist” decorated appearance, like how the sugar cookies look in the photographs above. If you like more icing, feel free to make more![br][br]The first round of cookies may bake slower (closer to 9-12 minutes), whereas the rerolled cookie dough seems to bake faster (7-9 minutes). Keep a close eye on your cookies because ovens do vary![br][br]I used a set of Wilton’s comfort grip cookie cutters I bought last holiday season. They sell a similar set [url href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00QHEMZ4C/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00QHEMZ4C&linkCode=as2&tag=amysheabak-20&linkId=YL6AKCVHRB2NL2SX” target=”_blank”]here[/url]. When baking cookies, I prefer plastic cookie cutters over metal ones because the metal ones can bend or become deformed.[br][br][i]{low fat, low calorie}[/i]

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More Christmas cookie recipes from other bloggers…

Peppermint Candy Christmas Cookies by Glorious Treats

Christmas Spritz Cookies by Rasa Malaysia

Decorated Christmas Tree Cookies by Bakers Royale

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies by Sally’s Baking Addiction



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