How to freeze all your favorite holiday cookies, from simple shortbread to royal iced and sprinkled cookies! Plus, which cookies you should never freeze!
right about now, I think most of us are super excited about holiday baking
We’re imagining pulling tray after tray of perfect cookies out of the oven, the wonderful aromas filling the house, and what fun it will be to frost, glaze, and sprinkle all those festive treats. But every year reality sets in pretty quick ~ carving out the time to shop for the ingredients, make the batter, bake, and clean up the huge mess is a challenge. That’s why freezing cookies and cookie dough is such a smart idea. It’s especially genius during the holidays, when a leisurely Sunday afternoon of prep can set you up for the busy season ahead.
the good news: most cookies and cookie doughs freeze well because there is little to no water content in them.
Water expands when it freezes and then contracts again when it is thawed. That expanding and contracting can ruin the texture of frozen food, but most cookie doughs will not have this problem. Follow the tips below for your specific type of cookie and feel confident that your frozen cookies will come out perfectly. Note: the window for freezing cookies is a little shorter than for most foods ~ it’s about 3 months.
freezing slice and bake (refrigerator) cookies
Slice and bake cookies are a great choice for freezing, most of my shortbread cookies fall into this category. You have a couple of options with this kind of cookie…
- You can freeze the whole log of cookie dough ~ just wrap it in plastic, then put it in a heavy duty freezer bag and put in the freezer until needed.
- To thaw a log of dough, put it in the refrigerator overnight.
- You can freeze individual slices of dough, set them on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until solid, then remove to a heavy duty freezer bag or freezer safe container.
- Bake from frozen, adding 2-3 minutes to the cooking time.
PRO TIP: ~ when storing frozen cookies in zip lock freezer bags, push as much air out as possible before completely zipping up the bag. Air is the enemy of your frozen goodies! Removing excess air helps keep the cookies fresher longer and helps prevent freezer burn.
freezing drop cookies
Most drop cookies like snickerdoodles, peanut butter cookies, oatmeal, and chocolate chip cookies freeze beautifully. Once frozen you can pull them out singly or by the dozen. Freezing can actually enhance the chewy texture of this kind of cookie so it’s a win win.
- Scoop your cookie dough onto a parchment lined baking tray (to keep them from sticking) and freeze until solid. Then remove the balls to a freezer bag or storage container.
- Bake these cookies straight from the freezer, adding a couple of minutes to the baking time.
PRO TIP: You don’t have to thaw your frozen cookies before baking. They’re small enough that they thaw quickly in the oven and bake normally. They generally need an extra minute or two of baking time.
freezing coated cookies
You can freeze classic Christmas cookies that get coated in powdered sugar (like Russian Tea Cakes) but it is best to freeze them before baking and coating.
- Form the cookies and then place on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer to freezer baggies.
- When ready to bake, thaw the unbaked cookies on the counter. While most frozen cookies will bake right from the frozen state, we need to thaw these so that the powdered sugar will adhere to them.
- When the dough is mostly thawed, coat them in the appropriate coating and then bake as per the recipe.
PRO TIP: the bakers at Pillsbury suggest using separate containers for each type of cookie to avoid mingling flavors. One rogue peppermint cookie can do a lot of damage to an assortment!
freezing rolled and cut cookies
For cookies that you roll out and then cut out with a cookie cutter, you have a few options…
- You can make your dough, form it into a disk, and freeze the whole batch of dough in one piece. Be sure to wrap it well.
- Thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator. Roll, cut, and bake when you’re ready.
- You can also pre-cut your dough and freeze the unbaked cookies on a baking sheet. Lay them out on a parchment lined pan to prevent sticking and put in the freezer until they are solid. Then transfer to a freezer safe container. Note: cut out cookies are more delicate than most, make sure to stash them in a safe spot in the freezer where they won’t get jostled.
- When ready to bake, bake these cookies straight from the freezer.
PRO TIP: Freeze baked sugar or gingerbread cookies ahead of time for a cookie decorating party. Thaw them on the counter for an hour or so and they’re ready to decorate!
freezing glazed cookies
Glazed cookies like my Maple Glazed Oatmeal Cookies freeze beautifully.
- Be sure to let the glaze set completely. It should not be tacky to the touch.
- Put the cookies on a baking sheet and freeze for an hour.
- Place the cookies carefully in zip lock freezer bags, or stack in a freezer safe container.
PRO TIP: place waxed paper between layers of glazed or decorated cookies to avoid marring the surface.
freezing royal iced cookies
Freezing royal iced cookies is a little tricky, but they can turn out alright. Some bakers find that the icing colors can run, or spot, after freezing, but others do not. You might try freezing a test cookie to check.
- Make sure your frosting is completely dried/set before freezing.
- Arrange the cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for an hour.
- Carefully pack the cookies, either individually, or layered between waxed paper, to protect them in the freezer.
- Iced cookies do best in a sturdy freezer container so they won’t break.
PRO TIP: Yes you can freeze baked cookies decorated with royal icing. Puts each cookie in an individual freezer bag, and then stack the bags in a freezer container for extra protection. Thaw the cookies in the bags, in the container, at room temp for several hours before unwrapping.
freezing sprinkled cookies
There’s much debate on this question. Some cooks do it successfully, some recommend against it. I think the answer is that it depends on your sprinkles; some are made with dye that tends to run if exposed to any type of condensation or moisture, which can happen during freezing and thawing. You can feel safe freezing cookies with decorative sugar, and white or silver sprinkles and nonpareils.
- If you must freeze colored sprinkled cookies, take care when thawing them. I suggest thawing in the packaging in the refrigerator overnight. Then bring to room temperature on the counter, still in the packaging. Unwrap carefully.
PRO TIP from LandO’Lakes ~ the butter experts recommend double wrapping cookies in plastic wrap, and then in freezer bags for best protection.
freezing filled cookies
Sandwich cookies, thumbprints, and other filled cookie are problematic to freeze because the filling texture can be affected by freezing. It kind of depends on the filling. Jam fillings are not a good choice.
- The best solution for sandwich cookies if you aren’t sure is to freeze the individual halves, either baked or unbaked, then bake or thaw the cookies, and fill afterwards.
- When it comes to thumbprints you can freeze the dough, shaped into a disk. Then thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and proceed with the recipe. Or you can freeze pre-rolled balls of dough and let them thaw before proceeding.
PRO TIP: be sure to take a minute to label your freezer bags and containers, it will save headaches later. If possible include the baking time and temperature so there’s no guess work.
freezing baked cookies
Most cookies do well being frozen after they are baked. Simple cookies like shortbread, gingerbread, sugar cookies, oatmeal cookies, and chocolate chip cookies all freeze well once baked.
- Make sure your cookies are completely cooled first.
- Flash freeze the cooled cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Then you can put them in a freezer safe container or zip lock baggie.
- To thaw frozen baked cookies, put them, still in the packaging, in the refrigerator overnight, then bring to room temperature on the counter. Do not package to send or give until they have come to room temperature.
PRO TIP: heat thawed baked cookies in a 300F oven for a couple of minutes to revitalize and re-crisp them. This works for unfrosted and uncoated cookies only.
cookies you should not freeze!
- Cookies with a high moisture content (i.e. with a very thin batter) like wafer cookies, pizelles, lace cookies or Florentines won’t freeze well. Cookies that are meant to be very thin and crisp will not freeze well either.