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Beautiful Jam Thumbprint Cookies are classic Christmas cookies that add a festive touch to your holiday table. Share the jam thumbprints with neighbors, serve them for after-school snacks with a glass of milk, or whip up a batch when you need a quick, crowd-pleasing dessert. Nobody can resist the soft, buttery shortbread cookies with a bright, fruity dollop in the middle!

Side shot of a silver plate full of the best thumbprint cookie recipe!

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

A throwback to childhood, classic thumbprint cookies are buttery shortbread cookies rolled in sugar and filled with jam. They’re easy to prepare and popular with both kids and adults — making them a traditional Christmas cookie for generations. Best of all, you only need a handful of basic ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen. Let’s skip an extra trip to the grocery store and mix up this easy thumbprint cookie recipe in minutes!

Origin

We might think of these cookies as American treats from our youth; however, they actually originated in Sweden. Called Hallongrotta (which means “raspberry cave” in Swedish), jam thumbprints are traditionally shortbread cookies made with butter, flour, sugar and vanilla, and then filled with raspberry jam.

Square image of a plate of easy thumbprint cookies with milk and jam in the background

How to Make Thumbprint Cookies

While you can fill these versatile little cookies with a variety of flavors — from strawberry, raspberry or apricot jam to lemon curd, caramel, or chocolate — we’re preparing a basic thumbprint cookie recipe today. Simple, high-quality ingredients and a few tips and tricks make these cookies really stand out from the rest of the treats at the holiday exchange!

Ingredients

  • Butter
  • Sugar
  • Egg
  • Vanilla extract
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Jam
Shortbread cookie dough in a mixer
  1. Mix the dough.
  2. Chill the dough.
  3. Shape into balls, roll in sugar, and fill with jam.
  4. Chill again.
  5. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 12-14 minutes.
Process shot showing how to make the best thumbprint cookies
Process shot showing how to make jam thumbprint cookies
A batch of shortbread thumbprint cookies cooling on a wire rack

Grab a mug of homemade hot chocolate, serve the cookies on a beautiful tray, and watch your children smile!

Child's hand holding a mug of homemade hot cocoa

How to Keep Thumbprint Cookies from Spreading

The shortbread cookie dough is firm and thick enough that you could roll the balls and bake the cookies right away. However, after rounds of testing, I found that chilling the dough not once — but twice — helps to prevent the cookies from spreading in the oven. Putting cold dough into the oven keeps the cookies thick and soft, which is just how we like them!​​​​​​​

Also, never place your cookie dough on a warm baking sheet. If you’re working in batches, wait for the baking sheets to cool before adding fresh, cold dough to the tray.

How to Prevent the Cookies from Cracking

Work gently with the firm dough. Shape into balls until the dough is very smooth, roll in the sugar, and carefully use your finger, thumb, or a small measuring spoon to gently press down in the center of each cookie. If it starts to crack in spite of your efforts, you can usually just press the dough back together.

Storage​​​​​​​

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. They will stay fresh for about 3-4 days. Tip: To keep them nice and soft, place a piece of white sandwich bread in the container with the cookies.

You can freeze the baked cookies in an airtight container or Ziploc freezer bag for up to 3 months.

Front shot of a platter of thumbprint cookies on a wooden table with jam in the background

Recipe Variations

  • Any flavor of preserves, jam or jelly will work. Raspberry is traditional, but strawberry and apricot are also popular choices.
  • Instead of jam, use caramel or maraschino cherries to fill your thumbprint cookies.
  • You do not need a leavening agent in these cookies; however, if you would like them to be slightly “puffier,” you can add ½ teaspoon of baking powder to the dough.
  • I like to keep it simple by rolling the cookies in granulated sugar. For a twist, you can roll the dough balls in sprinkles, in finely-chopped nuts, or in coconut. If using coconut, you may need to dip the dough balls in an egg wash before coating in order to help the coconut flakes adhere to the dough.

Tips for the Best Thumbprint Cookie Recipe

  • Chill the dough twice (before shaping and after shaping) to prevent the cookies from spreading in the oven. A cold dough is also easier to roll.
  • To prep ahead, you can chill the dough in the refrigerator for longer than 30 minutes (or overnight). The longer the dough chills, the harder it will get. If you find that it’s too firm to scoop and roll, just let it sit on the counter at room temperature for a few minutes.
  • Use high-quality ingredients for these simple cookies. The jam really stands out! I like Bonne Maman brand in raspberry, strawberry and apricot.
  • Add the jam before baking the cookies. Some recipes suggest that you add the jam after the cookie base is baked; however, I find that baking the cookies with the jam helps the filling set.
  • Thumbprint Cookies with Icing: for a “fancy” touch, drizzle melted white chocolate over the tops of your cooled cookies.
  • Serve the tray of cookies with a cold glass of milk, a mug of mulled cider, homemade hot cocoa, or a simple pot of coffee or tea. It doesn’t get any cozier than that!
Classic thumbprint cookies filled with apricot and strawberry jams

More Classic Christmas Cookies to Try

Side shot of a silver plate full of the best thumbprint cookie recipe!

Thumbprint Cookies

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 13 minutes
Chilling Time 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour 8 minutes
Servings 19 cookies
Calories 153 kcal
Beautiful Jam Thumbprint Cookies are classic Christmas cookies that add a festive touch to your holiday table!

Ingredients
  

  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) salted butter, softened at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup raspberry, strawberry or apricot jam (or other jam, jelly or preserves flavor of choice)

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, cream together butter and ½ cup of sugar. Add egg and vanilla, mix to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and salt. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Beat until completely combined. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Set aside.
  • Place remaining ¼ cup of granulated sugar in a small dish.
  • Scoop the chilled dough into heaping tablespoons (I like to use a cookie scoop for this step) and roll into balls. Roll the dough balls in the granulated sugar. Place on prepared baking sheets.
  • Use your thumb or finger to create an indent in the center of each ball. Spoon about ¼ – ½ teaspoon of jam into the center of each cookie. Place the baking sheets back in the refrigerator or freezer to chill for about 10 more minutes.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies are set and golden brown on the bottom. Cool on the baking sheets for about 5-10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Notes

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. They will stay fresh for about 3-4 days. Tip: To keep them nice and soft, place a piece of white sandwich bread in the container with the cookies.
You can freeze the baked cookies in an airtight container or Ziploc freezer bag for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookieCalories: 153kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 2gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 28mgSodium: 100mgPotassium: 21mgFiber: 1gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 236IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 6mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: jam thumbprint cookies, jam thumbprints, thumbprint cookies
Course: Cookies
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Thanks to you, my 17 year old son is in charge of our thumbprints and he uses your 3-ingredient shortbread cookie (with granulated sugar) and the Bonne Maman jam. They are a favorite cookie around here.

    1. Wonderful! I bet they’re amazing! 🙂 Can’t wait until my boys are a little older and can be in charge of those duties, too. Hah!