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Thumbprint Cookies – easiest recipe ever

This thumbprint cookie recipe is probably one of the easiest cookies I’ve ever made. Throw all the ingredients together (all FIVE of them) and mix it all up. Refrigerate for an hour, roll them into balls, poke, bake, fill, bake. Done. Eat.

When I was young, just married and before kids, I knew how to make a few things. Spaghetti, hamburgers, baked chicken and of course, chocolate chip cookies (as long as I had the instructions on the chocolate chip bag). That was about it. I relied very heavily on a cookbook my dad gave to me when I moved away from home for the first time. The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. Since my parents had been divorced since I was six years old and both parents were always working, I really never learned to cook. Then my mom passed away when I was 23, so I was left to figure it out on my own. I digress. There are several different versions of this book, but the one I linked here is the one I have, and have had since 1986. Of course, there was that incident when I was a brand new mom 18 years ago…

I set the cookbook on the stovetop to answer the phone and promptly forgot about it. That wouldn’t have been a big deal except that I had an electric stove in that little apartment and I had just turned the burner off a few minutes before. Well, if you’ve ever used an electric stovetop you know that the burners take a while to cool down. Needless to say, my cookbook suffered severe burns and I was devastated. My dad heard about it and bought me the same book, a new copy, for my birthday. What a guy :) I still have that book. I still love that book. And that dad. ;)

Well inside the pages of that lovingly tattered cookbook is a recipe for Spritz cookies. Then below that are instructions for using that same recipe to make raspberry thumbprints. I’ve been making these thumbprint cookies, same recipe, no changes except the fillings, every Christmas for 24 years.

I’m sure I could have altered the recipe, added vanilla or almond extract, experimented with spice additions, maybe nuts or almond flour… but why? They are wonderful just how they are. I wouldn’t change a thing. They are firm but soft and totally delicious. I’ve made them with margarine (I used to use it a lot when I was younger) and with butter and they come out great either way. I hope you’ll try them, and maybe even adapt them to fit your tastes. Or maybe you’ll make them as is and love them as much as I do. Either way, I’m happy to be able to share one of my Christmas traditions with all of you. :)

I do have a few tips for this recipe. The recipe itself is rather short, but a bit longer with my added notes. My notes are in red.


Oh, and if you are wondering about the cookies with the red centers, those are maraschino cherries. Didn’t give me the “umph” I thought they would, but they certainly didn’t get thrown away. :)  

Thumbprint Cookies
The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook

printable version

3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups unsalted butter, softened (not melted)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 egg yolk
Preserves, flavors of your choice

Combine all ingredients and mix together until combined. I’m so used to creaming butter and sugar and following those steps, that putting everything together is weird to me now. So, I cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg, then slowly add the orange juice. Then I slowly add in the flour until combined. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Use a cookie scoop to ensure uniform sizing.

Roll balls in your hands to smooth, place on cookie sheet.

Use your thumb or pointing finger to gently press the center of the cookie, forming an indent.



Since pressing the cookie will cause it to lean to one side, after creating all the indents, I turn the cookie sheet around and repress each indent from the other side. This makes then stand back upright. Bake for ten minutes.


Remove from oven, fill indents with preserves, lemon or lime curd, marmalade, or even apple butter.

Return to oven and bake 5-6 minutes more, do not let them get brown. Cool on racks. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.


If you followed my indenting tip above, you should have very little spillage… like this.





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44 Responses to Thumbprint Cookies – easiest recipe ever

  1. 1
    Lana @ Never Enough Thyme says:

    Beautiful thumbprint cookies, Amanda. Those are one cookie I've never made, but I'm about to fix that!

  2. 2
    Ellen says:

    I'm a new follower and these look great! Thanks for all the recipes. :)

  3. 3
    Estela @ Weekly Bite says:

    Those cookies look incredible! I've never ever heard of using orange juice in thumbprint cookies. I can't wait to try this!

  4. 4
    Sue says:

    Your cookies are beautiful, and so perfectly round and uniform, Amanda! So nice to have all the different fillings. The top photo is my favorite!

  5. 5
    Debbie says:

    They look delicious Amanda and are one of my favorites!!!

  6. 6
    Jenn says:

    Of all the cookies I've made year after year, I've yet to do thumbprints…until now. Just one question…how long do these keep, or can they be frozen? I want to fit them into my baking schedule for cookie trays!

  7. 7
    Amanda says:

    Thanks ladies!

    Jenn – you can freeze the dough without a problem. I have never frozen the finished cookies, however I'm sure they would be fine. I would suggest freezing just the dough, maybe already separated into balls, just to be safe! :)

  8. 8
    Chow and Chatter says:

    I am book marking to make them I really need easy not as good a baker as you lol
    lovely post Amanda wow 24 years

  9. 9
    Marie says:

    It just wouldn't be Christmas without some thumbprint cookies! Yours look fabulous Amanda! xxoo

  10. 10
    RecycleCindy says:

    Yum Yum — Those are so pretty and are a wonderful Christmas cookie. Thanks for sharing your step by step process.

  11. 11
    NikiTheo says:

    Would it be okay to use lemon juice instead of orange juice? We're not orange people in my house

  12. 12
    Amanda says:

    Niki – I would imagine you could try it, or even use milk. There really isn't an orange flavor to the cookies at all :)

  13. 13
    Maria says:

    I made similar cookies! Love them!

  14. 14
    BIg Boys Oven says:

    this is classic beauties, I love baking thumb prints cookies. yours are perfect1

  15. 15
    Shelby says:

    Yum Amanda! Awesome photos….and the cherry one? Maybe a little melty chocolate first, then plop the cherry in? Yummy ;)

  16. 16
    Katrina says:

    Great cookies. Great post.
    Love the idea of indenting both side to make it even. Can you tell I've had dam issues in the past? ;)

  17. 17
    Amanda says:

    Love the idea of the chocolate with the cherries, hmmm… Nutella?! :)

  18. 18
    NikiTheo says:

    I was mostly thinking that we don't keep it in the house… I was being flaky there, milk would be perfect! I am not thinking sometimes! :)

  19. 19
    Val says:

    These look so yummy.

  20. 20
    sheila @ Elements says:

    My husband's been wanting me to make some of these cookies so I bookmarked this page. It looks easy, and since I generally suck at making cookies, I'm hoping I'll have some cookie success for a change. :) Wish me luck! :) Cheers! sheila

  21. 21
    marla {family fresh cooking} says:

    Thumbprint cookies are some of my all time favorites, yours came out beautiful!

  22. 22
    Jerri says:

    Your thumbprints look wonderful! I love that you used all the different flavors!

    I'm hosting a Christmas Recipe party on Thursday (with prizes). Hope you can stop by!

  23. 23
    Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] says:

    Ahh gorgeous thumprints!! Did you simply spoon the fillings in? I tend to create a huge mess while doing that!

  24. 24
    Amanda says:

    Thanks you guys! :)

    Avanika – Yes I did, but I used a small measuring spoon, I think it was a 1/4 teaspoon :) Thank you!

  25. 25
    Lisa says:

    What beautiful little thumbprints. I love how you made a whole assortment of them. By the way, I'm holding a giveaway on my blog for Orglamix Organic makeup and you're welcome to come by and enter. http://sweet-as-sugar-cookies.blogspot.com/2010/12/orglamix-organic-mineral-makeup-review.html

  26. 26
    Suzanne says:

    Heading to the kitchen to make these little beauts right now!

  27. 27
    Amanda says:

    Thanks Lisa!!

    Yay Suzanne, let me know what you think!

  28. 28
    Susan @ Entertain Exchange says:

    Love thumbprint cookies – I would love it if you linked them in my Cookie Exchange!

    Susan,
    http://entertainexchange.blogspot.com/
    Party and Entertaining Inspiration

  29. 29
    Cathy McLeod says:

    Amanda, thank you SO much for this post. I have also made these thumbprint cookies for 15 years, but this past year lost that very well used and loved cookbook during a divorce, moving, etc. When I searched for Raspberry Thumbprint cookies with orange juice….there it was again! I am going to have a perfect Christmas with the cookies on the plate in their proper place. Last, thanks for the great tip on keeping the spillage down.

    • 29.1
      Amanda Formaro says:

      Yay, that’s wonderful Cathy!! So glad you found it and I have a fellow thumbprint cookie lover :)

  30. 30
    Golfindaddy says:

    I like to roll the dough balls in the egg white prior to making the filling holes. Handles much better and has a nice browned crust without overcooking. Been making them since the 80′s.

  31. 31
    Annette says:

    Great recipe! Thank you for sharing. Just wondering how many dozens one batch makes. ;D

  32. 32
    kim ausenbaugh says:

    Can you use imperial margarin instead of butter?

    • 32.1
      Amanda says:

      Hi Kim. I have not tried this recipe with margarine so I can’t tell you for sure. I know that margarine and butter are often times interchangeable in recipes, so you could certainly give it a try :)

  33. 33
    phyllis says:

    I am looking for a pineapple cornflake thumbprint recipe.
    Do you have one? My mother made these in the ’50′s.

  34. 34
    Hayley says:

    Thank you for posting this recipe. The Good Housekeeping Isslustrated cook book is a family fave. Its where all of our Christmas recipes come from. This year my mom is not in town for Christmas and i was panicking about how i would find this recipe.Everyone else makes theirs with nuts…That is NOT tradition lol. but thank you thank you now i am going to make them the way our family always has.

  35. 35
    Suzie says:

    These look great. Do you think you could substitute the orange juice for another type of juice? I’m allergic to oranges, and it might not be so bad since its cooked into the cookies, but I don’t typically risk it.

  36. 36
    A J says:

    Making them now … I have made them for quite a few seasons now … They make great gifts … Sidebar .. Mint and apple butter jelly are great for these cookies … I have started to use a lightly greased round measuring spoon if u have one …to make a uniform thunbprint … Use the bottom to make an even indentation … A teaspoon I think makes the appropriate indentation … I know then they tecnicaly aren’t thumb print cookies are they .. Lol

  37. 37

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