Easy-to-make, old-fashioned sugar cookies — straight from Grandma’s kitchen to yours. Don’t be fooled by their simple appearance and ingredients. These cookies boast a sweet, buttery flavor and soft, tender texture that will have everyone nibbling “just one more” with every walk through the kitchen.

Old-fashioned Amish sugar cookies on a baking sheet.

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Sometimes you just need a classic, no-fuss cookie. And, unless you’re craving chocolate — in which case soft chocolate chip cookies are the answer — a simple sugar cookie always hits the spot.

You will love these cookies because they’re incredibly easy to make and have an old-fashioned simplicity that everyone loves. But don’t confuse simple with boring; they’re anything but! They have a sweet, buttery taste and light, tender texture. I dare anyone to resist a plate of these cooling on the counter.

These will forever be known in my family as Grandma’s melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies. But, as happens sometimes, upon doing a little research I realized that these beloved family favorites are well-known in baking circles as Amish sugar cookies.

It’s said that versions of this recipe have circulated since the 1700s and originated with the Amish, or Pennsylvania Dutch. They eventually were included in a popular Amish cookbook, explaining the name.

To me, that doesn’t diminish the joy whatsoever. On the contrary, it’s fun imagining this recipe being passed among circles of lady friends years ago — before we all just found recipes online — to land with my mother-in-law, among who-knows-how-many hundreds of others, to be subsequently cherished and baked hundreds of times for school parties, potlucks, playdates, and more.

Close-up of a cookie with a bite out of it.

What’s in Amish sugar cookies?

Amish sugar cookies are made with powdered sugar and vegetable oil. Not in place of granulated sugar and butter — in addition to them. Delicious, yes. Healthy, less so. 😉

Here’s what you will need.

  • Vegetable oil: either canola or regular vegetable oil work well. You can also use melted coconut oil if you prefer.
  • Butter: I typically use unsalted, but salted is fine.
  • White granulated and powdered confectioners’ sugar: this combination is one of the keys to these cookies’ tender texture.
  • Eggs.
  • Baking staples: all-purpose flour, salt, cream of tartar, baking soda, and vanilla extract.

Need a substitute for cream of tartar?

Use 2 teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar in place of the 1 teaspoon cream of tartar.

Cream of tartar is listed among the ingredients of nearly every “Amish sugar cookie” recipe you’ll find. But it’s not as frequently used in modern cooking and may not be something you keep in the pantry.

Baking science nerd alert! Cream of tartar is an acid that, when combined with baking soda, acts as a leavening agent — ie., makes things puffy! In recipes like these cookies, you can easily substitute another acidic substance to achieve the same effect. Lemon juice and white vinegar happen to be very convenient ones!

Tips, tricks, and variations

  • Chill–or don’t: As written, this recipe does ask that you chill the dough for 1-2 hours. You can skip this step if you want or need to, but add an extra 1/2 cup all-purpose flour to the dough to make it more manageable. This means you’ll use a total of 4 and 1/2 cups flour. Although your finished cookies will be ever-so-slightly more dense, I doubt anyone would notice unless they were truly scrutinizing the two side-by-side, which seems unlikely.
  • Snag a cookie scoop: A cookie scoop makes it super quick and easy to portion out the dough. It also ensures they cookies are an even size and makes it easy and fun for kids to help. This is the exact cookie scoop I use for these.
  • Flatten–or don’t: You can either bake straight from the scooped balls of dough for a puffy, dome-like cookie, or flatten them slightly with the bottom of a glass for a thinner, slightly more crisp cookie. We love them both ways; those shown in the photos here were flattened.
  • Add frosting or sprinkles: Top cooled cookies with a thin layer of buttercream, or add a pinch of festive sprinkles before baking. My family is so disappointed if I make these any way other than our usual plain-Jane method that I don’t even try — I just experiment with other cookie recipes instead — so you’ll have to do this and let me live vicariously through your colorful and adventurous ways.

Freezing instructions

Good news! Amish sugar cookies work beautifully with your freezer — you can freeze either the unbaked balls of dough or the fully-baked cookies. Either way, you will look like a genius the next time you need sweet treats on short notice!

To freeze before baking (preferred method): Make the dough as directed, scoop mounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet or plate, and place in the freezer, uncovered, for about an hour. (This will flash-freeze the dough balls so they don’t stick together and are easy to separate when you want to bake them later.) After an hour, combine the frozen cookie dough balls in an airtight container or zip-top plastic bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, place cookies directly from the freezer onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake as directed, adding just 2-3 minutes to the baking time.

To freeze after baking: Let baked cookies cool fully, then stack in an airtight container, separating individual cookies with wax paper. Defrost at room temperature as needed. These are still good, for sure, but in my opinion slightly less fresh and less convenient than freezing the balls of raw cookie dough and baking as needed.

Weathered baking sheet with a batch of cookies arranged on top.

More sugar cookies

Enjoy! These cookies are a beloved favorite in my house, and I hope they become a go-to for you, too. If you make them, let me know in the comments below!

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Old-fashioned Amish sugar cookies on a baking sheet.
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Melt-in-your-mouth Amish Sugar Cookies

Easy-to-make, old-fashioned sugar cookies — straight from Grandma's kitchen to yours! With a sweet, buttery flavor and soft, tender texture everyone LOVES.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar can substitute 2 teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Using a hand or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, oil, granulated, and powdered sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; blend well.
  • Sprinkle flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt over the dough. Mix on low speed just until combined. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Scoop dough into balls and arrange on the baking sheets. If you prefer a tall, puffy cookie, bake as-is. If you prefer a thinner, more crisp cookie, flatten each slightly with the bottom of a drinking glass.
  • Bake for 9-11 minutes, just until the centers are set and the edges have a slight golden tinge. Cool on the baking sheets for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Butter: I usually bake with unsalted butter, but you are fine to use salted. Consider reducing the added salt in 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Yield: This recipe yields 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on the size of scoop/dough balls that you use. I use this cookie scoop and usually get close to 3 dozen. It’s very easy to halve the recipe, as well.
  • Chilling: You can skip chilling the dough, but add an extra 1/2 cup all-purpose flour to the dough to make it more manageable, for a total of 4 and 1/2 cups flour.
  • Storage: Cookies keep well covered at room temperature at least 3-4 days.
  • Freezing: To freeze before baking (preferred method): Scoop mounds of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet or plate, and freeze, uncovered, for about an hour. Combine the frozen cookie dough balls in an airtight container or zip-top plastic bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Bake directly from the freezer, adding 2-3 minutes to the baking time. To freeze after baking: Stack cooled cookies in an airtight container, separated with wax paper. Defrost at room temperature as needed.

Nutrition Estimate

Serving: 1cookie, Calories: 140kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 23mg, Sodium: 144mg, Potassium: 33mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 171IU, Calcium: 5mg, Iron: 1mg
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