Complete Holiday Guide to Freezing Cookies ~ I’ve tracked down the best tips and tricks for make ahead cookies so you can enjoy more of your holidays inside and outside of the kitchen!
There’s nothing on this earth as good as a fresh baked cookie, am I right? And I think we all want to be that poised baker that pulls a tray of warm cookies out of the oven without breaking a sweat. But carving out the time to shop for the ingredients, make the batter, bake them, and clean up the 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.
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.
- To 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 from Liz at That Skinny Chick Can Bake ~ after Liz puts her frozen cookies into a freezer bag she seals the bag most of the way, then inserts a straw into the bag and sucks out as much air as she can. Then she completely zips or seals the bag. 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.
Freezing Coated Cookies
You can freeze cookies that get coated in powdered sugar, 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.
- When the dough is completely thawed, coat them in the appropriate coating and then bake as per the recipe.
PRO TIP from Sally at Sally’s Baking Addiction ~ Sally makes a point to label her freezer bags with the date, temperature, time, recipe name, and any special instructions, etc. This is really helpful when you’re making coated cookies that need an extra step before baking.
Freezing Rolled and Cut Cookies
For cookies that you roll out and then cut out with a cookie cutter, you have a few options…
- 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.
- 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. This is a great option if you want to prep ahead for a cookie decorating party.
PRO TIP from Laura at Tutti Dolci ~ Laura bakes frozen cut out cookies straight from the freezer, adding a few minutes to the baking time (usually 1-3 minutes, depending on the recipe) no thawing necessary.
Freezing Royal Iced Cookies
Freezing royal iced cookies is a little tricky, but they can turn out alright. Some find the icing colors can run or spot after freezing, others do not.
- 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, individually, to protect them in the freezer.
PRO TIP from Bridget at Bake at 350 ~ Bridget successfully freezes baked cookies decorated with royal icing. She puts each cookie in an individual freezer bag, and then stacks the bags in a freezer container for extra protection. She thaws these cookies in the bags, in the container, at room temp for several hours before unwrapping. Martha Stewart agrees, fyi.
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 from Tricia at Saving Room for Dessert ~ Tricia says her Whoopie Pies, with a marshmallow based filling, freeze beautifully. She likes to serve them chilled because the filling doesn’t ooze out as much when you bite into them :)
Freezing Baked Cookies
Some 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 from Pillsbury ~ 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!
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.
PRO TIP from Betty Crocker ~ the folks at Betty Crocker suggest you “avoid freezing cookies that are known for their delicate texture such as meringues. And beware of freezing cookies that are coated with chocolate. They’ll taste fine after thawing, but they may have a white-color haze (known as bloom) that will make them not-so-great as gifts.”