How to Make Red Velvet Cookies for Your Holiday Cookie Plate

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With their cream cheese filling and coat of sugar, colorful red velvet cookies are a fun twist on the classic thumbprint cookie.

Christmas is all about traditions—Christmas baking included! Everyone has favorite cookie recipes, like spritz, gingerbread and cutouts. Thumbprints are also always popular on the holiday cookie tray. But every now and again, it’s fun to play with tradition and give the classics, including thumbprints, new flavors. Enter red velvet cookies with cream cheese filling.

These thumbprint cookies are similar to the standard jam-filled variety but with a red velvet twist thanks to a touch of cocoa powder, red food coloring and, of course, a dollop of cream cheese filling. They look festive and taste amazing.

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How to Make Red Velvet Cookies

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This recipe for red velvet cookies with cream cheese filling comes to us from Virginia baker Colleen Delawder who says they’re as delicious as they are pretty. Our Test Kitchen can attest! Here’s what you’ll need to make them for your cookie plate:

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon red paste food coloring
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 1/2 cup coarse sugar

For the filling:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg white, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

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Tools for Making Red Velvet Cookies

  • Vanilla extract: If you splurge on any baking ingredient, let it be on good vanilla extract. Nielsen-Massey is always a fantastic option.
  • Coarse sugar: Coarse decorating or sanding sugar gives these cookies sparkle and crunch. You don’t want to skip it!
  • Red food dye: A potent red dye is essential for any red velvet recipe. Make sure your pantry is stocked!

Directions

Step 1: Make the red velvet dough

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Whipping up these cookies is simple. Start by creaming together the butter and sugar. Don’t skimp on time here! Beat for at least 5 minutes until the mixture is very light and fluffy. This will give your cookies the best texture.

Next add in the egg yolk, vanilla and red food coloring and blend until combined.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa. Slowly add the dry ingredients into your mix until combined.

Step 2: Roll into balls 

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Roll the cookies into 1-inch balls. You can use a cookie scoop to help portion and then roll by hand to get the right shape.

Once you’ve made the balls, give them a roll in some coarse sugar. If you don’t have sanding sugar on hand, regular sugar will do—but coarse sugar gives the cookies a bit more crunch and looks like sparkling frost.

Step 3: Make the thumbprints and bake

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Place the cookies two inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Then, using the back of a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, press a well into each cookie. You can use your thumb if you want to stay true to the thumbprint moniker, but the spoon makes a more uniform shape.

Once shaped, pop the cookies into a 300ºF oven for 10 minutes. While they bake, work on the next step.

Step 4: Whip up the cream cheese filling

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To take your red velvet cookies from good to great, you’ll need to whip up a quick cream cheese filling. The filling is simple: Just use your hand mixer to beat together the softened cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and salt until well blended. That’s it!

Step 5: Fill and bake again

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Now, it’s time to fill. If the indentations in your cookies don’t look as deep as they did going into the oven, you can always reshape them with the back of the spoon.

Fill each well with a teaspoon of filling, then put the tray back into the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Once baked, let the cookies cool on a wire rack.

Serving and Storing Red Velvet Cookies (and All Your Holiday Cookies)

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These red velvet thumbprints are the perfect addition to any holiday cookie tray and will go fast at the next cookie exchange. Like all Christmas cookies, they look gorgeous nestled onto a pretty holiday platter or packaged up with a bow.

If you’re saving the cookies for Santa or just a little closer to Christmas, be sure to keep them in an airtight container. You can even bake these a month in advance, freeze them and defrost later. Just follow our Christmas cookie storage tips.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.