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Candy Cane Cookies

Candy cane cookies put a holiday twist on the best sugar cookie dough! These classic red-and-white Christmas cookies are cute, festive, and flavored like peppermint.

Check out my collection of more easy Christmas cookie recipes for more festive baking ideas!

Assorted candy cane cookies on a white countertop.

Easy Christmas Candy Cane Cookies

Candy canes are filling storefronts, which means Christmas isn’t far around the corner! These candy cane cookies are a wonderful way to kickstart your holiday baking. They’re surprisingly easy to make albeit a bit time-consuming.

This recipe uses the dough from my favorite cut-out sugar cookies, and dyes one-half jolly Santa red before twisting it up with uncolored cookie dough and baking. Every bite is tender, buttery, and definitely something to look forward to this holiday season!

These festive candy cane cookies are filled with nostalgic peppermint flavor and look perfect on a cookie platter next to homemade gingerbread men and thumbprint cookies.

Why You’ll Love This Candy Cane Cookie Recipe

  • Perfect sugar cookies. The cookie dough bakes up soft, not-too-sweet, and lightly flavored with peppermint. These candy cane cookies are seriously addictive!
  • No chilling the dough. Most recipes call for chilling the dough, but you can skip it with this recipe! These cookies are super simple to make.
  • Family-friendly. Most of the “work” comes from portioning the dough and assembling the cookies (which you can even do in advance!). Making candy cane cookies is one of my family’s favorite holiday activities.

Check out more holiday peppermint recipes like my frosted peppermint sugar cookie bars, soft and fudgy double chocolate peppermint cookies, and mini peppermint bark cheesecakes.

Candy cane cookies arranged in a glass, surrounded by more cookies on a white countertop.

Ingredient Notes

Along with your pantry staples like flour and leavening, there are a few important ingredients needed to make the perfect candy cane cookies. I’ve included some notes below. Don’t forget to scroll to the recipe card for the full ingredients list with the amounts and recipe details.

  • Butter – Unsalted butter, brought to room temperature.
  • Milk – You can use whole milk or 2% milk.
  • Peppermint Flavoring – Optional, but a dash of peppermint extract adds some authentic candy cane flavor. You can substitute vanilla extract for peppermint if you prefer.
  • Food Coloring – You’ll need red gel color for dyeing one-half of the cookie dough festive holiday red (see below).

What Kind of Food Coloring Is Best for Cookie Dough?

Gel colors work best for this cookie recipe as they yield the brightest, most vibrant colors. Traditional food coloring, like the kind you’ll find in grocery stores, is water-based and tends to water down the cookie dough. I recommend the gel dyes from AmeriColor (red linked above) or the Wilton Color Right System, which are super concentrated. If you’re worried about the gel color dyeing your hands red, wear gloves!

How to Make Candy Cane Cookies

This recipe has the same cookie dough base that I use for loads of sugar cookie recipes, including my family’s favorite pinwheel cookies. It’s a delicious sugar cookie dough that’s quick to make since there’s no chilling involved:

  • Combine the wet ingredients. Start by creaming together butter and sugar, then add eggs and flavoring extract. In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in a bit of milk before combining it with the sugar mixture.
  • Add the dry ingredients. Add the salt, then gradually mix in the flour one cup at a time and mix to form the dough. If the dough seem crumbly or isn’t coming together, first increase the mixing speed, and if needed as additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time until the dough forms.
  • Divide and color the dough. Portion the dough into two halves. Set one half aside while you color the other half red with a few drops of red gel dye. You can do this using your stand mixer, or you can use your hands to work the color into the dough.

Assemble and Bake the Cookies

With your dough ready, it’s time to shape, assemble, and bake these candy cane cookies:

  • Portion out the cookie dough. Starting with the uncolored cookie dough, use a small cookie scoop to portion the dough into even-sized balls. Continue with the red dough, until all the dough is scooped into balls.
  • Shape the dough. Next, roll each ball of dough into a rope about 6 inches long. 
  • Twist. Place one uncolored rope and a red rope side by side and twist the two ropes together (see photo). Roll the whole rope again to ensure that the dough sticks together. Gently give the dough one last twist before bending the top over into the shape of a candy cane.
  • Bake. Arrange your finished candy canes on a lined baking sheet, and bake at 350ºF for 9-11 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for a bit before moving them to a wire rack.
Overhead view of candy cane cookies on a silpat-lined baking sheet.

Tips for the Best Candy Cane Cookies

The following are some last-minute tips to ensure that your homemade candy cane cookies turn out perfect this festive season:

    • Measure the flour correctly. This is easiest to do using a food scale. If you don’t have one, spoon the flour into your measuring cup and then level off the top with a knife for a light, fluffy cup of flour. See my tutorial on how to measure flour for more details.

    • Use a cookie scoop. A small cookie scoop comes in handy when portioning out your sugar cookie dough. This ensures even dough balls that are approximately 1” in size.

    • Roll the ropes long enough. Anywhere between 5 ½” to 6 ½” inches is perfect. The shorter the rope, the thicker the cookie, and I find that these candy cane cookies lose a bit of shape when they’re too thick.

    • Shape one cookie at a time. Roll, twist, and shape one candy cane cookie before moving on to the next. This way the dough is easier to work with.

    • Avoid cracks in the dough. Make sure that the dough is completely smooth when it’s rolled out and twisted. As you can see in the photo below, any cracks in the dough will show in the final baked cookies.

    • Let the baked cookies rest on the baking sheet. After 10 minutes, they’ll have set up enough to be transferred to a wire rack without breaking.

Candy cane cookies lined up in two rows on a white surface.

Variations and Decorating Ideas

Customize your candy cane cookies and let your creativity shine through! Try these ideas:

  • Add icing. These candy cane cookies aren’t overly sweet, but the peppermint extract gives them flavor. If you prefer a sweeter cookie, add icing glaze, dip the cookies in white chocolate, or top them with sprinkles.
  • Add sprinkles. Add sprinkles or coarse sanding sugar for a bit of sparkle. I recommend adding sprinkles after the ropes are assembled, once they’re on the baking sheet. I tested this recipe by adding red sanding sugar to the red ropes before baking, however, the sprinkles spread to the white rope when assembled (see the image above).
  • Different flavoring. In place of peppermint, substitute another flavoring extract like vanilla or almond extract.
Candy cane cookies arranged in a white star-shaped dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does dissolving baking soda in milk do?

This extra step gets rid of any clumps and helps kickstart the baking soda’s chemical reaction before the cookie dough goes into the oven.

Should you chill cookie dough before baking?

Some cookie recipes call for chilling the dough in the fridge before baking, to prevent overspreading. However, this sugar cookie recipe has been adapted so that chilling is not necessary (unless you’re making the dough in advance, see below).

Making the Cookie Dough Ahead

To make the dough ahead for this cookie recipe, prepare the cookie dough, wrap each color tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate the dough for up to 2 days. I recommend taking the cookie dough out of the fridge about 15-20 minutes ahead of rolling and shaping your candy cane cookies. Alternatively, you could freeze the dough for up to one month.

How to Store Candy Cane Cookies

  • To Store. After baking, keep your cooled candy cane sugar cookies covered and airtight on the counter for up to 1 week. 
  • Freeze. Store the baked cookies in an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze them for up to 2 months. Defrost the cookies at room temperature before serving.

More Christmas Cookie Recipes

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Assorted candy cane cookies on a white countertop.

Candy Cane Cookies

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 11 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 11 minutes
  • Yield: 24-30 cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American


Easy Christmas candy cane cookies made from red and white cookie dough flavored like peppermint and twisted into cute, festive candy cane shapes.


  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (190g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons (60m) milk, divided
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract
  • ¼½ teaspoons peppermint extract (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups (600 g) all-purpose flour
  • Red gel colors for dying (see notes)


Prepare the Dough

  1. Beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until the sugar is dissolved and creamy.
  2. Add the eggs and flavored extract to the butter and beat until all ingredients are well incorporated. Then, in a small glass dish, dissolve the baking soda in the milk and add to the mixture, beating until combined.
  3. Finally, add the salt followed by the flour 1 cup at a time,  and mix until a stiff dough forms.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal-sized balls. Remove one-half of the dough and set aside. Dye the other half red using your mixer until it’s mostly combined, then use your hands if needed to fully combine the color.


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.
  2. Use a small cookie scoop to portion out the dough, starting with the uncolored dough first. Once all the dough is portioned out, proceed to shape.
  3. To shape, gently roll the ball of dough in between your hands to smooth out the surface, then roll each one into a 6-inch long rope. Place the two ropes next to each other and then gently twist them together. Roll the rope again until it’s about 7-7.5 inches long, give the rope a gentle twist again, then bend the top over to shape the candy cane. Place on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart from each other.
  4. Bake one tray at a time at 350° for 9-11 minutes just until the bottoms turn slightly brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


  • Be sure to use gel colors instead of traditional food coloring, which will water down the dough. Gel colors are more concentrated and produce brighter colors. I always recommend wearing gloves when working with gel colors.
  • If you don’t like peppermint, simply replace it with vanilla extract.
  • If you find the dough to be crumbly or are having issues with it coming together, it’s simply because there’s a lot of flour. First, increase the mixing speed for about 30 seconds to see if that helps. If not, add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time until the dough forms.

Prep ahead

 Prepare the cookie dough, then wrap each color tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate the dough for up to 2 days.  I recommend taking the cookie dough out of the fridge about 15-20 minutes ahead of rolling and shaping your candy cane cookies. Alternatively, you could freeze the dough for up to one month.


    • To Store. After baking, keep your cooled candy cane sugar cookies covered and airtight on the counter for up to 1 week. 

    • Freeze. Store the baked cookies in an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze them for up to 2 months. Defrost the cookies at room temperature before serving.


  • Serving Size: 1 Cookie
  • Calories: 174
  • Sugar: 7.4 g
  • Sodium: 93.9 mg
  • Fat: 7.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 24.4 g
  • Fiber: 0.6 g
  • Protein: 2.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 30.8 mg

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2 thoughts on “Candy Cane Cookies”

  1. Hi , Merry Christmas!
    This was my first time making candy cane cookies. They were fun to make , came out pretty and taste yummy. Hubble had two and wanted more. Can’t wait to give them out to the family.
    I’m thinking of shaping them into a heart for Valentine’s Day.