These simple-to-make Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies are holiday cookies packed with festive flavor thanks to an orange shortbread crust and cranberry filling. Of course, if you have leftover cranberry sauce in your fridge, that will work perfectly, too!
(This recipe for Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies was originally published in November 2009, but was updated with new photos in 2018).
Though I'm now fully trained in all things turkey (thank you Butterball University!), I wasn't a huge contributor to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house this year. Mainly due to the fact that I had just gotten back from my Butterball trip a couple days earlier and was playing major catch-up with work (still am!) and didn't have time to do much of anything.
But I did want to bring a little something. So, I settled on Martha Stewart's Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies.
They're both festive and simple-looking; not to mention, I love anything with cranberries (and had 2 bags in the freezer!).
Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies Recipe
Also? This thumbprint cookie recipe is easy! But, in my opinion, it's a little bit more fun than the typical thumbprint cookie. I mean, cranberry sauce? I'm in love!
Even if you think you don't like cranberry sauce very much, I encourage you to try these cookies... You can add more sugar to the cranberry filling if you want, which will obviously make it sweeter instead of tart.
Also, if you already have leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving or Christmas, you can simply use that to fill these cookies, which means you can eliminate an entire step from this recipe.
But if you're making the cranberry filling from scratch, that's pretty easy, too. Just remember that both the cookie and the cranberry filling need to be cooled completely before you complete them.
You can make the cookies in advance and keep in an airtight container or you can make the cranberry filling in advance and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
The thumbprint cookies are definitely reminiscent of shortbread... But with a delicious orange flavor thanks to orange zest. Once you make the dough and roll it into balls, you'll dunk them in egg white and coat them in sugar.
Then place them on parchment paper-lined baking sheets and press your thumb into them to form an indentation. Hence the name, thumbprint cookies!
Once the cookies are cooled and the cranberry filling is cooled, spoon a small amount of filling into the indentation.
And your cranberry thumbprint cookies are ready to be devoured. To me, these really are the perfect flavor combination and I love the way the sweetness and citrus flavors of the cookie works together with the tartness of the cranberry sauce.
These are the kinds of cookies I want to just keep popping into my mouth. Until the whole batch is gone and I'm sitting here like, "what?!" At least cranberries are good for me?"
Just looking at these cranberry thumbprint cookies is making me crave another big serving of cranberry sauce!
I honestly can't get enough and find it to be a shame that cranberry sauce is such a seasonal food. It's not even a "winter" food really... I feel like once the holidays are over, cranberry sauce is banished from our lives until the next year.
I'm hoping these cookies can help keep it alive, potentially all winter long!
These cranberry thumbprint cookies add a fun splash of color to a holiday cookie platter, but please note that it's best to keep them in an airtight container in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
If you can keep them around long enough, that is!
Oh, and if you really, really don't like cranberry sauce, feel free to fill these thumbprint cookies with whatever you want! Maybe a curd or a pastry cream?
Do you love cranberry sauce or is it too tart for you?
More Holiday Cookies
If you're looking for more delicious holiday cookie ideas, check out some of my favorites:
- Gingerbread Shortbread Cookies
- Sparkling Peppermint Sugar Cookies
- Eggnog Linzer Cookies
- Gingerbread Shortbread Cookies
- Cornflake Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Cookies
- Eggnog Gingerbread Cookies
- Chocolate Peppermint Sour Cream Crinkle Cookies
- Fresh Cranberry, White Chocolate & Oatmeal Stuffed Cookies (from Waves in the Kitchen)
Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup yellow cornmeal (stoneground if possible)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar, divided
- ½ tsp finely grated orange zest
- 1 large egg, separated
- 1 cup (4 oz.) fresh cranberries
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup granulated sugae
- 1 2-inch strip orange peel
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter and ¼ cup sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add orange zest and egg yolk and mix until just combined.
- With the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture until just combined.
- Whisk the egg white in a small bowl and put the remaining ¼ cup sugar on a small plate. Take about 2 teaspoons of dough, roll into a ball, dip into the egg white, and then roll in sugar. Place on prepared baking sheet.
- Place about 1 inch apart and gently press center of dough with your thumb to make a little imprint. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until cookies are pale golden, rotating trays halfway through. Let cookies cool on racks for a few minutes before moving to wire racks to cool completely.
- Once the cookies are cooled, spoon a small amount of filling into the indentation.
- In a small saucepan, add cranberries, water, sugar, and orange peel. Bring to a boil over medium-heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, while gently mashing cranberries until they’re thick and “jam-like,” 5-6 minutes.
- Remove orange peel, transfer cranberry sauce to a bowl and let cool completely before filling cookies.
- Recipe from MarthaStewart.com
- I recommend storing cookies in fridge once filled with cranberry sauce.