Icebox Cookies

Southern Living Icebox Cookies baked and ready to serve
PHOTO: GREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING

Chill Time:

12 hrs

Active Time:

25 mins

Total Time:

13 hrs 25 mins

Yield:

2 dozen

Icebox cookies were always one of Grandma’s favorites. Why? Because they’re easy to make, wonderfully delicious, and they’re made to be stored in the fridge (thus the name) so you can slice and bake off fresh cookies the moment a grandkid walks through the door.

Icebox cookies really are super simple, but the final result is always delicious. The cookies turn out crisp on the edges with an oh-so-subtle chewy texture in the middle. Without any add-ins, you’ll get a buttery cookie with subtle hints of vanilla.

But adding in chocolate, nuts, sprinkles, and other things is part of the fun with an icebox cookie! You get to be creative, and since the cookie dough is so easy to make, roll, and store, you can whip up a few different kinds so you have your pick of any ready-to-bake cookie.

Why Are They Called Icebox Cookies?

Icebox cookies get their name from how they’re stored. Prior to the modern-day refrigerator, iceboxes (actual storage “boxes” that were kept cool with ice for food storage) would have chilled cookie doughs like this one before baking. And because the dough is kept in the fridge (er, icebox) for several hours or even days, the name stayed with them, despite the change in appliances.

Ingredients for Icebox Cookies

Perhaps the best thing about these cookies (except for how delicious they are, of course) is how easy they are to make. Odds are, you have every ingredient in your fridge or pantry right now. Here’s what you need:

  • Unsalted butter: Can’t get buttery flavor without butter. If you use salted butter, cut back on or eliminate the additional salt so the cookies aren’t overly salty.
  • Granulated sugar: This adds sweetness and moisture so the cookies get that just-right balance of crisp and chewy.
  • Egg: You’ll need just one. It helps bind the dough.
  • Vanilla extract: Elevates the flavor of the cookies and gives the dough a distinct warm vanilla note.
  • All-purpose flour: The best dough for these cookies, it’s caky but not tough.
  • Baking powder: Helps the cookies rise and spread just enough during baking.
  • Kosher salt: Balances the sweetness of the other ingredients.
  • Sprinkles or sparkling sugar: For decorating the edges.

How To Make Icebox Cookies

Cookies typically aren’t complicated things to make. Even ones like Lace Cookies that look kind of fussy, or Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies that call on you to brown butter before you make the recipe, aren’t exceptionally difficult. But icebox cookies are another level of easy.

The full recipe is further below, but here’s a brief overview:

  • Step 1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  • Step 2. Add egg and vanilla, and mix until well combined.
  • Step 3. Combine dry ingredients—flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Step 4. Add the flour mixture a bit at a time until combined.
  • Step 5. Divide dough into two portions, and roll the dough into logs.
  • Step 6. Pour sparkling sugar or sprinkles in a plate or baking dish. Roll the dough logs in the sprinkles or sugar if using.
  • Step 7. Wrap logs in plastic wrap, and store in the fridge at least 4 hours or up to 5 days.
  • Step 8. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the cookie logs from the fridge, and slice.
  • Step 9. Place the sliced cookies on the prepared baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart.
  • Step 10. Bake cookies until the edges are set. Then cool on a wire rack.

Variations and Optional Add-Ins

We love the edge of sprinkles on these icebox cookies because they’re simple and festive, but you can actually use a little more creativity for your own recipes. You can mix in chocolate chips, citrus zest, nuts… whatever you want! 

A quarter cup of nearly any stir-in is a good amount to start. You can add more if you want, but you don’t want the dough to become too loose or crumbly.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Dried fruit, such as cranberries or cherries
  • Chopped chocolate, including dark chocolate or milk
  • Nuts, such as pistachios, walnuts, or pecans
  • Sliced almonds on edges
  • Chopped peanuts on edges
  • A drizzle of chocolate or nut butter over baked cookies
  • Orange or lemon zest
  • Grated crystallized sugar

For an extra special dessert, make a sandwich cookie with caramel, jam, or Nutella between two cookies.

Tips for the Best Icebox Cookies

Our Test Kitchen pros shared some of their tricks for making these easy cookies even better:

  • Focus on flour. Spoon into cups or weigh the flour for these cookies. If you scoop the flour right out of the bag, you could get too much. And these cookies won’t work if you have too much or too little flour.
  • Find a soft side. If you need to leave a dough log sitting for a minute, try to place it on a towel. A hard surface, like a cutting board or counter, could flatten the cookie edge.
  • Chill out. If you think the cookie dough is a little soft, or if the sliced cookies have been sitting at room temperature for a while, chill them before you bake. Warm dough will spread too quickly in the hot oven and you’ll lose the beautiful edge.
  • Mind the mixer. Once you begin adding the flour, don’t overmix the cookie dough. Dough that has been worked too much could be dense and tough.

How To Store and Freeze Icebox Cookies

Icebox cookie dough can be stored in the fridge up to 5 days. Then, when you’re ready to enjoy a cookie, just slice and bake them.

If you want to freeze the dough to get ahead for a party or event, you can. Wrap the dough logs in extra plastic wrap, then move to a ziplock bag. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before slicing and baking.

You can also freeze sliced icebox cookies. Place the cookies on a baking sheet, and freeze at least 2 hours or until hard. Move to a ziplock bag, and store in the fridge up to 2 months. Bake from frozen. The baking time may need an extra 2 or 3 minutes. 

More Classic Cookie Recipes

Icebox cookies are just the start of great baking. Try one of these classic cookie recipes next:

  • Easy Sugar Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
  • Strawberry Cookies
  • Gingersnap Cookies
  • Chewy Molasses Cookies
Southern Living Icebox Cookies baked and ready to serve
GREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups (about 10 5/8 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Candy sprinkles or sparkling sugar (optional)

Directions

  1. Cream butter and sugar:Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy and combined, about 2 minutes.Southern Living Icebox Cookies beating the butter and sugar togetherGREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING
  2. Add egg and vanilla:Add egg and vanilla; beat on medium-high speed until combined.Southern Living Icebox Cookies adding the egg and vanilla GREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING
  3. Combine dry ingredients:Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.Southern Living Icebox Cookies whisking together the dry ingredientsGREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING
  4. Finish cookie dough:Add flour mixture to butter mixture, and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds, being careful not to overmix.Southern Living Icebox Cookies adding the flour mixture to the doughGREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING
  5. Roll dough into logs:Divide dough into 2 portions; shape each portion into a log about 6 inches long x 2 1/2 inches wide.Southern Living Icebox Cookies formed into logsGREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING
  6. Roll logs in sprinkles or sugar:If desired, place sprinkles or sparkling sugar on a plate, and roll logs into sprinkles until outside is completely covered.Southern Living Icebox Cookies rolling the dough in sprinkles GREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING
  7. Wrap logs to chill:Wrap logs in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 12 hours or up to 5 days.Southern Living Icebox Cookies wrapped in plastic wrapGREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING
  8. Slice cookies:Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove logs from refrigerator, and slice into 1/2-inch-thick slices (12 slices each).Southern Living Icebox Cookies slicing before bakingGREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING
  9. Arrange cookies:Place slices on prepared baking sheets at least 1 1/2 inches apart.Southern Living Icebox Cookies on the baking sheet before bakingGREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING
  10. Bake cookies:Bake cookies in preheated oven, in 2 batches, until edges are set, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on baking sheets, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool until room temperature, about 30 minutes.Southern Living Icebox Cookies on baking sheet after bakingGREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING