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Make perfect rainbow cookies from swirls of soft and buttery sugar cookie dough rolled up into brightly colored pinwheels. This rainbow cookie recipe is fun and easy, with just 30 minutes of chill time. Guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s face!
These bright and colorful rainbow cookies turn my best cut-out sugar cookie dough into a fun treat that you can bake for parties, bake sales, or any other occasion. I am so excited about these, they came out even better than I expected! Soft and buttery like a classic sugar cookie and swirled with the colors of the rainbow, this recipe uses a similar technique to my pinwheel cookies to achieve that perfect roll.
- Thick and soft. These rainbow sugar cookies are sliced quite thick, so they’re soft and tender and melt away in your mouth.
- Just sweet enough. My original sugar cookies are usually topped with icing, so there’s not a ton of sugar in this dough. In my opinion, it’s just the perfect amount of sweetness.
- Customize the flavor. There’s a light vanilla flavor from the extract as well but if you want an even stronger flavor, add an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract or add some almond extract too.
You need just a few pantry staples plus gel colors to make these bright and colorful rainbow cookies. I’ve included some quick notes here. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for the full ingredient list and recipe details.
- Butter – I recommend unsalted butter, brought to room temperature.
- Baking Soda and Milk – Dissolving baking soda in milk before mixing it with the other ingredients kickstarts the leavening process.
- Flavoring Extract – You can use vanilla extract or almond extract. Feel free to use more or less flavoring to taste.
- Food Coloring – I recommend gel food dyes as they offer the brightest colors, see below.
What’s the Best Food Coloring to Use?
The best food coloring for cookies is gel colors, like the kind from AmeriColor or Wilton. Gel food coloring only requires a couple of drops and yields bright, vibrant colored dough as you see in the photos. I used 7 colors, but you could easily make this recipe with 6 colors if needed.
This rainbow cookies recipe requires a bit more hands-on time than regular sugar cookies, as you’ll need to roll out each color. But these slice-and-bake cookies are still super easy to make! You’ll start by preparing the sugar cookie dough:
- Combine the wet ingredients. Beat the butter and sugar until the sugar is creamy, then add the eggs and vanilla (or almond) extract. Next, dissolve the baking soda in milk before stirring this into the batter.
- Add the dry ingredients. Add the salt and flour one cup at a time, mixing to form a stiff dough. You may need to kick the mixer up a notch to get the dough to fully combine.
- Portion it out. Divide the dough into equal-sized balls. If you have a food scale, weighing the dough into equal sizes is best. My dough weighed 1250g, so about 178g per color (7 colors), bigger than a baseball but smaller than a softball. It’s a little more than a 1/2 cup of dough.
Color and Shape the Cookie Dough
Next, you’ll need to dye the prepared cookie dough with all the colors of the rainbow before rolling out and rolling up the dough for slicing:
- Dye the dough. Dye each dough ball an individual color. You can do this by hand or with a mixer. I’ve included more tips below, but this is how I did it by hand. Flatten each ball, add the color, smear it around, and then use your hands to combine. You may need to add additional gel colors to get the vibrancy you want. Doing this by hand is a bit labor-intensive, but 100% worth it!
- Roll out each color. Roll out each color into a rectangle approximately 12 inches long. You want it to be as thin as possible without ripping the dough.
- Stack the dough. Place the first on a piece of parchment paper and stack the rest on top of each other. Once they are all stacked on top of one another, it’s very thick.
- Flatten the dough. Cover with a second piece of parchment and roll it out again until the entire dough is 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Rotate the dough as you work so you can evenly roll it out.
- Roll the dough up into logs. Using a pizza cutter, trim any excess dough off the sides of your flattened dough stack. Then, cut the dough into two halves. Roll each one into a log as tightly as possible.
- Chill. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and place the logs seam side down in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
Slice and Bake the Cookies
Finally, all that’s left to do is slice and bake your rainbow cookies!
- Slice. Use a sharp knife to cut the chilled dough log into 1/2″ thick slices. Use your hands to shape the slices into a circle if needed. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. These won’t spread very much, so you don’t need to worry about placing them too far apart.
- Bake. Bake at 350° for 9 to 11 minutes. The bottoms should be just slightly brown. Cool for 5 minutes on the sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
If this is your first time working with dyed cookie dough, here are a few helpful tips.
- Use a stand mixer (if possible). Even though I showed this mixing by hand, I recommend using the stand mixer to dye the dough. If using the mixer, start with yellow and gradually work to the darker colors, cleaning the mixer as needed.
- Always wear gloves. If mixing by hand, be sure to wear gloves. Flatten the dough, add a couple of drops of color, smear with your hands and work the dough between your hands, add additional color as needed. This takes some work to do, and a lot of handling.
- Don’t worry about streaks. If you have some streaky dough, that’s fine you won’t even notice when it rolled out.
- Weigh the dough. If you have a food scale, weighing the dough into equal sizes is best. My dough weighed 1250g, so about 178g per color (7 colors), bigger than a baseball but smaller than a softball.
- Use parchment paper to roll out the dough. This helps to keep the dough from sticking. If you do find the dough is sticking, dust a little powdered sugar over the dough or on the rolling pin.
- Chill the dough. It’s important to chill the dough once it’s rolled so that you can easily slice them without damaging the shape. Don’t skip this step!
Variations and Decorating Ideas
You can enjoy these rainbow swirl cookies exactly as they are, especially if they’re warm from the oven! They’re the perfect accompaniment to a big, cold glass of milk.
- Add frosting. Since these cookies aren’t overly sweet, frost them with buttercream frosting. This strawberry frosting or marshmallow frosting would also be delicious.
- Add sprinkles. You can never go wrong with a finish of rainbow sprinkles, especially on rainbow cookies!
- Decorate with icing. Use my easy sugar cookie icing and get creative with designs.
- Holidays. Adapt your cookies for different holidays! I have a holiday variation of this recipe in the form of Christmas pinwheels. Also, see my festive tips on how to decorate sugar cookies and find loads of inspiration in my Valentine’s Day sugar cookies tutorial for more ways to decorate these rainbow cookies.
Can I Make The Dough in Advance?
Yes. Like most sugar cookie dough, you can prepare the dough for these rainbow swirl cookies up to 2 days in advance. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
You can also freeze the rainbow cookie dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and then in foil to prevent freezer burn. Thaw overnight in the fridge. I recommend leaving the chilled dough on the counter for 10 minutes so it’s a bit easier to work with.
- To Store. These rainbow cookies will last for several days when stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Freeze. You can also freeze these cookies for a month in an airtight container. Thaw them on the counter before serving.
Easy rainbow cookies made from swirls of buttery sugar cookie dough rolled up into brightly colored pinwheels. These are so fun to make with just 30 minutes of chill time!
- 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (190g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 tablespoons (60m) milk
- 1–2 teaspoon (5-10ml) almond or vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 cups (600 g) all-purpose flour
- Gel colors for dying (see notes)
- Beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until the sugar is dissolved and creamy.
- 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.
- Finally, add the salt and the flour 1 cup at a time and mix until a stiff dough forms.
- Divide the dough into 6 or 7 equal sized balls. Dye each one the individual color using either your mixer or your hands (see notes for additional tips).
- Starting with the red, roll each individual color into a rectangular shape, about 12 inches long. Roll between two pieces of parchment paper and lightly dust with powdered sugar if needed to prevent sticking. Dough will be relatively thin when rolled, place the first one on piece of parchment paper and stack each color on top of the other.
- Once all the color are stacked, cover with a second piece of parchment paper and proceed with roll out the cookie dough again until it’s about ¼ – ½ inch thick, it should expand quite a bit.
- Trim off the excess sides and then cut the dough into two halves. Roll each one tightly into a log, about 9-10 inches long and about 2-inch in diameter at the thickest point. Wrap each log with plastic wrap and place seam side down and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.
- Remove the dough from the fridge. Using a sharp knife, cut them into ½ inch wide slices. If they are misshaped, gently roll between your hands to shape into a circle. Place about 1-inch apart on the baking sheet.
- Bake at 350° for 9-11 minutes just until the bottoms turn slightly brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- See blog post for complete step-by-step photos.
- If you have a food scale, weighing the dough into equal sizes is best. My dough weighed 1250g, so about 178g per color (7 colors), bigger than a baseball but smaller than a softball. It’s a little bit more than 1/2 cup of dough.
- I used 7 colors, but you could easily do it with 6 colors. Use color from Americolor or Wilton for best results.
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: rainbow cookies, rainbow cookie recipe, rainbow cookies recipe, rainbow sugar cookies