With just a few simple ingredients and a super simple process, you can make my healthy and easy Sugar Cookies. They have the classic flavor and texture with less sugar. And they’re so super fun to make with the kids!

healthy sugar cookies with icing

Easy Sugar Cookies

This time of year is made for cookie baking and I love to have at least one baking session with my girls. Because baking with the kids is often a challenge, this cut-out Sugar Cookie recipe has just a few simple ingredients and requires nothing other than your hands to mix it together.

I love the challenge of developing a recipe that has all of the classic texture and flavor, but with a little less sugar and in that way, this healthy sugar cookie is a great option. They have a perfectly crisp texture with about 1 gram of sugar per cookie (not counting the icing).

(For a larger batch perfect for the holidays, check out my Christmas Cookie Cut-Outs for Kids.)

Sometimes I make this whole recipe with the kids and sometimes I bake the cookies and we just decorate them together. It really depends on my energy level and what else we’re up to that day.

Both ways are perfect in their own right, if, of course, a little bit messy…because, kids!

(Find more tips for baking with kids here.)

TIP: They’re a perfect option for younger toddlers—or to simply have an easy recipe in your back pocket to bake with kids.

ingredients in easy sugar cookies

Ingredients You Need

To make these healthy sugar cookies, you’ll need:

  • All-purpose flour: This helps them be light and tender.
  • Sugar: I use granulated sugar here.
  • Baking powder
  • Butter, softened at room temperature: I prefer unsalted butter in baking recipes.
  • Milk: I usually use whole milk, but you can use a nondairy milk if you prefer.
  • Vanilla extract:
  • Pure vanilla extract tends to have a better flavor than imitation vanilla.
  • Easy Icing, optional

TIP: These are egg-free, which makes them a nice option for kids with allergies.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • You can use whole-wheat pastry flour, white whole wheat flour, or half all-purpose and half whole-wheat. The cookies will be darker in color, but the results will otherwise be the same.
  • You can use coconut sugar in place of the granulated sugar.
  • Make them nondairy with vegan butter and nondairy milk.
how to make healthy sugar cookies step by step

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at the simple process involved in making these cookies. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full information.

  1. Form the dough, make a flattened disc of dough and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate. This helps to ensure that it rolls out easily and isn’t too sticky.
  2. Preheat the oven. Roll out the dough between parchment paper.
  3. Cut out the dough with a cookie cutter. You can flour the cutter a little if that helps.
  4. Place onto lined baking sheets and bake.

TIP: You can serve these as is, or plan to decorate them with icing and/or sprinkles.

baked healthy sugar cookies

Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies

You can substitute this gluten-free flour blend if you’d like to make these gluten-free. It’s nearly impossible to tell the difference!

Dairy-Free Sugar Cookies

Yes, you can make these without dairy, but you’ll need to make a few adjustments. Here’s the info:

  • Use plain unsweetened nondairy milk in place of dairy milk.
  • Use coconut oil, just softened (so not totally liquid, but softer than when it comes out of the jar at room temp). I tested it with about 10 seconds in the microwave in a heat-safe bowl.
  • After you initially chill the dough and roll it out, cut out the shapes and put it back into the fridge without trying to get the shapes out. They need to firm up more! Let the sheet pan chill for 10 minutes, then use a flat knife to pop up the shapes. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake as directed.

What do I do if my rolled out dough is sticky?

A easy way to make sure that the cut outs transfer easily to the baking sheet is to dust the parchment paper with flour. That should take care of sticking.

Or, you can roll out the dough, stamp out the shape, and put the whole thing into the fridge for 10 minutes before transferring the shapes to the prepared baking sheet.

Both are good options!

icing for healthy sugar cookies in bowls with spoons

What kind of icing is best?

I like to use a simple mix of powdered sugar and milk to make the icing for these cookies. It’s super easy to stir together and you can color it with food coloring if you want to. It hardens up as it sets.

A little of the icing goes a long way, so while it does add a bit more sugar, you’re still starting off with less in the base of the cookie.

TIP: Alternatively, you can press some sprinkles into the raw cut outs before placing them into the oven to add some color without the icing.

What kind of food coloring do you use?

I used gel food coloring from Wilton in these photos, which has a nice and bright color, though I also like the natural food coloring from McCormick.

icing healthy sugar cookies with paintbrush

Tips for Baking with Kids

As I mentioned, I often bake the cookies and then let the kids decorate them. It can be a challenge to bake an entire recipe with two kids in the kitchen—I find it a lot to manage!—but it can also be fun if you’re in the right mental state of mind.

To make it a little easier, bring the ingredients down to a work surface everyone can reach (like the kitchen table), and help the kids remember to do one step at a time.

This dough is relatively forgiving, so it’s okay if it gets mixed well! Here are some specific steps the kids can do:

  • Help dump the ingredients into a bowl.
  • Mix the butter into the flour with their hands.
  • Roll out the dough between the parchment paper.
  • Stamp out the cookie cutters. (I recommend that the adult transfers them to the baking sheet.)
  • Paint on the icing with a paintbrush!

TIP: You can ALWAYS simplify this down to just one step to do together—that will still be fun!

healthy sugar cookies

Make-Ahead Tips

You can make the dough the night before or a few hours in advance and store it in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap. It will need to sit at room temperature for about an hour to soften up, or you can remove it from the plastic, put it onto a plate, and microwave for 5-10 seconds.

(I’m sure someone will call the baking police on me for suggesting that, but I’ve found that sometimes baking with kids requires you to break up the process into smaller steps!)

How to Store

Store prepared cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-5 days. Or freeze in a freezer bag with as much air removed as possible for up to three months. Thaw at room temperature

Best Tips for Success

  • Gluten-Free: Use this gluten-free flour.
  • Dairy-Free: Use plain unsweetened nondairy milk in place of dairy milk. Use coconut oil, just softened (so not totally liquid, but softer than when it comes out of the jar at room temp). I tested it with about 10 seconds in the microwave in a heat-safe bowl.
  • If the dough sticks after you initially chill the dough and roll it out, cut out the shapes and put it back into the fridge without trying to get the shapes out so it firms up more. Let the sheet pan chill for 10 minutes, then use a flat knife to pop up the shapes.
  • If the dough is a little crumbly, be sure that it’s throughly combined and then if it’s still crumbly, add 1/2-1 tablespoon additional liquid until it comes together. It shouldn’t take much more so add a small amount at a time.
  • You can use whole-wheat pastry flour, white whole wheat flour, or half all-purpose and half whole-wheat. The cookies will be darker in color, but the results will otherwise be the same.
  • You may also like Christmas Cut-Outs, Chocolate Sugar Cookies, Gingerbread Cookies, and Salt Dough Ornaments.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe, so please comment below to share!

This post was first published November 2018.

healthy sugar cookies

Easy Sugar Cookies (Healthy and Delish!)

This makes a small batch of lightly sweet cookies. Double it to make more. If at any point the dough seems too sticky, pop it into the fridge for 5-10 minutes to firm up a bit. Or dust your parchment paper and cookie cutters with flour.
4.96 from 43 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dessert
Calories 196kcal
Servings 5 (Makes about 20 small cookies)

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Easy Icing (optional)

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons milk
  • 1-2 drops food coloring (optional)

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients into a bowl and use your hand to mix together to form a dough. (If the dough is a little crumbly, be sure that it’s throughly combined and then if it’s still crumbly, add 1/2-1 tablespoon additional liquid until it comes together.)
  • Make a flattened disc of dough and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate while the oven preheats. 
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Roll the dough ¼-inch thick between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper. (The flour will ensure that the cut outs are easy to move.)
  • Cut out the dough with a cookie cutter and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 7-9 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. (If for some reason the cut outs are hard to transfer, place the rolled out dough with the stamped shapes into the fridge for a few minutes to firm up.)
  • Remove from the oven, let cool on the baking sheet for a minute, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Make the icing if using: Stir the ingredients together in a small bowl. You want it to be able to spread easily on the cookies and not be too thick. If you place some on the cookies and it runs right off, add a little more powdered sugar. If it's too thick to spread, add a drop or two of milk. You can color the icing with a drop of food coloring if desired.
  • Use a small butter knife or paintbrush to spread on the icing or pipe on as desired. If adding sprinkles or other decorations, add them to the iced cookies right away before it dries.

Notes

  • Store prepared cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-5 days.
  • Gluten-Free: Use this gluten-free cup-for-cup style flour.
  • Dairy-Free: Use plain unsweetened nondairy milk in place of dairy milk. Use coconut oil, just softened (so not totally liquid, but softer than when it comes out of the jar at room temp). I tested it with about 10 seconds in the microwave in a heat-safe bowl.
  • If the dough sticks after you initially chill the dough and roll it out, cut out the shapes and put it back into the fridge without trying to get the shapes out so it firms up more. Let the sheet pan chill for 10 minutes, then use a flat knife to pop up the shapes.
  • If the dough is a little crumbly, be sure that it’s throughly combined and then if it’s still crumbly, add 1/2-1 tablespoon additional liquid until it comes together.
  • You can use whole-wheat pastry flour, white whole wheat flour, or half all-purpose and half whole-wheat. The cookies will be darker in color, but the results will otherwise be the same.
  • To make this dough ahead: Store it in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 24 hours. It will need to sit at room temperature for about an hour to soften up, or you can remove it from the plastic, put it onto a plate, and microwave for 5-10 seconds.

Nutrition

Calories: 196kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 25mg, Sodium: 47mg, Potassium: 38mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 293IU, Calcium: 37mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    These are perfect! I’m amazed that they have such little sugar (do we even call it a “sugar cookie”?!) but still taste pretty good. Turned out well in the cookie cutter shapes. I doubled the recipe and got 20 small-ish cookie cutter shapes.
    However, the icing recipe didn’t work for me. I used just two tsp of milk, and it was superrrr liquidy. I had to add a bunch more powdered sugar, and then it was barely enough for the cookies.

  2. The cookies themselves are fine, especially if you’re decorating them. They’re only slightly sweet. My gripe is with the statement that the 1x recipe makes 20 small cookies. Maybe if these cookies are 1” across. There’s no way. I guessed this in advanced and doubled the recipe and got about 28 cookies (rectangles, squares, circles, triangles, and stars for classic toddler shapes). Recipe should just start as 2x.

  3. 5 stars
    I made these cookies twice so far and they are just perfect, I don’t have to change anything, my little boy loves them and enjoys to decorate them with me. THANKS A LOT!

  4. 5 stars
    Just here to say that if you accidentally double the butter the recipe still works (and tastes delicious!) makes a small amount so it’s a doable project even on a weeknight.

  5. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this great recipe! The cookies taste great and I found the amount to be perfect for baking with a two-year old. He also loved ‘painting’ the cookies afterwards with the icing with food colouring. Will definitely make these again soon!

  6. 5 stars
    These cookies were fabulous to make with my three year old granddaughter. We made Halloween cookies and Thanksgiving cookies, it was a perfect recipe because it only made a few cookies, easy for a toddler. I did however add almond extract, we did not frost, instead I made an egg white wash we added colored sugar to the top and then baked. She was so proud of herself, she helped make the dough, roll it out, cut cut each shape, and decorate. Highly recommend this easy recipe!

  7. Hi. I was wondering if I could make these with coconut sugar.? Have you tried it and does it change the texture of the cookie?

    1. It should work pretty much the same. You may be able to taste the granules a little bit, but in my experience, it’s pretty interchangeable with granulated sugar.

  8. 5 stars
    Hi… just wanted to thank you for this recipe! Love it….. make it all the time for my 2 yr old granddaughter….. she has a lot of food allergies ( Fpies) and these cookies give her a sweet treat….. thanks again.

  9. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! It’s my go to for my two toddlers, especially for the random holidays like Valentines where I don’t want to go all out on but I want to do something fun with the kids. I usually double the recipe because as others have said – I don’t think I’ve ever gotten 20 cookies out of the regular recipe, even using small star cutters. But that’t no problem! It’s easy to double and an easy recipe to work with. The flavor is good too. For someone who loves sugar cookies, you can definitely tell they’re low sugar but I was actually surprised at how much even I liked them.

  10. Love the recipe but mine came out bumpy. The dough was well mixed in from what I could see, I did use raw brown sugar tho, could this be it?

  11. 5 stars
    Added some almond extract and a pinch of salt. Came out as expected and were delicious with icing and sliced almonds on top. Thank you for a quick, simple recipe!

    1. 5 stars
      Just made these again, but with 1 Tbs granulated sugar and 1 Tbs. Monkfruit and they were just as good.

  12. Confusingly small number of cookies which says it’s 20 servings. Double it at least. Otherwise good! Also the icing needs way less milk unless I read it wrong.

    1. I should have read the comments first. Followed the recipe and only have 22 tiny cookies. Not worth the 2 hour I spent on this with clean up Yes I’m a slow baker. Definitely double it to make more

  13. 5 stars
    We loved these simple but healthy cookies!! Even made them half whole wheat and added in ground flaxseed without compromising flavor!

  14. 5 stars
    This is my go-to sugar cookie with my toddler. It’s quick and easy. I make mine in the food processor and roll it out before refrigerating the dough, just because I’m lazy. I do personally prefer to eat a more sugary cookie but I feel good making a whole batch of these and letting my toddler eat them. I use the recommended icing made with almond extract. Thanks for the recipe!

  15. My kids loved these. I was only able to get 10 cookies out of it. When I make them again, I will definitely make more because they began disappearing even before the icing.While it was really hard to manage doing this with my 2 y/o (picture flour everywhere) she was obviously having fun. My 14 y/o gobbled them up quickly.The taste was really nice and had just enough sweetness with the icing. Thanks for posting this recipe.

  16. Hii! So Christmas is coming and i have decided that this year im going to make these sugar cookies…..but i really want to know if they spread or not.

  17. I was really excited about this healthier cookie option for my cookies this holiday season. Sadly I must say I’m alittle disappointed.

    The recipe says can make up to 20 cookies which was great because I needed to make about 60. However 1 batch of this dough made ONLY 8 COOKIES!! I have a rolling pin that exactly measures 1/4 inch dough so I know it wasn’t me and my cookie cutter is 2 inches long 1 1/2 each wide. So this recipe is WAY off. I now have to do 2x the amount of work and twerk the recipe to work out.

    Thankful I decided to start earlier this year because if I waited I would’ve had to redo my Christmas gift ideas. I must say the taste is pleasing; it taste like a very lightly sweetened biscuit for tea (which should nicely complement and soften the sweetness of royal icing).

    1. I’m glad you like the flavor! And yes, the amount of cookies you make will vary depending on the size so you can make additional batches as needed.

  18. 5 stars
    We loved these! My 3, 4, & 6 year old had a blast making them, and I loved the simplicity of the recipe. <3 We used almond milk for the cookies and icing.

  19. This recipe is wonderful and your technique for rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment paper is amazing and works so well. Thank you so much, my three boys are having so much fun! Plus we love how little sugar is in the cookie! Delicious!!

  20. 5 stars
    Yum! Loved by everyone in the family! Perfect for a small batch for dessert and a great, but quick after-dinner activity!

  21. My kids and I made this recipe – super easy and quick! They loved the cookies and I loved that there was only a small amount of sugar! I love that the recipe does not make a huge amount either – don’t need extra cookies hanging around the house! 🙂
    We will definitely be making these every holiday for shape cookies. Thanks for the great recipe!

  22. I don’t have kids but I love the simplicity of this. I was looking for a healthy cookie recipe to make for my health conscious family members. This one is so low sugar but beyond that it’s so easy. My gluten free dough was easy to roll out. I didn’t have to dig out my mixer or even dirty more than one bowl. The whole recipe fit perfectly on one cookie pan. I didn’t have to mix some parts together first, just throw them all in the bowl. I didn’t have to chill it for hours. It wasn’t sticky at all. I personally prefer more sweetness but I could probably fix that with a little stevia and I know some of the people I’m giving these to would prefer them just like this anyway. Awesome. <3 start to finish and cleanup done before my husband got back from the store.

  23. These cookies are so good!!!! I’ made them for the first time last week and now we are getting ready to make them again.

    I love your website! Thank you for the great recipes and informative blog posts.

  24. 5 stars
    Great cookies!
    I used half spelt-80 flour, quarter whole wheat flower and half all purpose flour .
    It is so tasty, no need to add sugar or sweat topping.
    Thank you for a great and easy recipe!

  25. 5 stars
    Hi!
    I am a 12 year old baker
    I was looking for a low carb and healthy cookie recipe, And this is just it!
    Thank you so much for the recipe
    It was delicious!?

  26. 5 stars
    My grand and great grandchild made this on kitchen math day. We used the letters and numbers they are learning and their names. Easy to make and just the right time from start to finish. We put this in their recipe books for future use!!!

  27. 5 stars
    Thank you for the great recipe! I can just switch AP flour to GB flour. It’s so easy to make. My 19-month-old toddler loves it. We bake this once or twice a week.

  28. 5 stars
    Perfect toddler dough! Love that it’s egg-free and low sugar, not fussy about being handled, and yields the right amount for a toddler recipe.

  29. 5 stars
    We frost these healthy cookies with my White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting which makes them even more adorable and delicious! This fantastic frosting recipe is super easy to make and has only 5 ingredients.

  30. I followed the recipe exactly and my cookies came out very bitter!!! 🙁 Is there supposed to be more sugar in the batter? Or does the icing sugar make up for its bitterness?

    1. The sweetness level shouldn’t impact bitterness—have you used your baking powder in other recipes lately? I’m honestly not sure what else it could have been from!

  31. 5 stars
    Lovely healthy recipe, I didn’t have to worry about raw egg when my two year old started eating it while cutting out shapes. I used granulated sweetener, skim milk and greek yogurt instead of butter and still turned out lovely. Very sticky dough, but we managed to cut out some shapes. Husband and toddler were eating these faster than I could decorate them. Thanks so much for the recipe! ?

  32. Can I press sprinkles (either rainbow jimmies or pink decorating sugar) into the tops of the cookies before baking or will they melt in the oven? Not sure if I want to deal with icing since this will be my first baking project with my just-turned-two-year-old.

  33. 5 stars
    These were so good and easy, my first time making cutout cookies! I used white whole wheat flour., and cut them out in Christmas shapes. My 4 yr olds loved painting on the icing (again, super easy recipe that you’ve posted) with a paintbrush. I got 11 cookies and one tiny one from this batch. This will be my go-to for sugar cookies… thank you!

  34. I don’t bake that often and so am wondering if the dough should be crumbly and hard to roll. I used all purpose flour and unsalted butter. Should I add extra milk or butter to help the dough stick together a little better? Thanks!

      1. A smidge more liquid would have done the trick. I tried to explain that in the post but I apologize for any issues.

  35. 5 stars
    These were so fun to make with my 18 month old god-daughter! She loved patting the dough into a disk, pressing down the cookie cutters and using the spatula to transfer them to the baking sheet. I used coconut sugar instead of regular sugar for the cookies and it was just fine. Next time I would add a bit of salt or use salted butter but that’s a personal preference for me.
    She really loved the sprinkles we added, and ended up using the scraps that were too small to make into more cookies as some fun dough to play with (and sneak tastes from!)
    This was a lovely and easy recipe for our first (hopefully of many!) baking project together. Thank you!

  36. Hi. Looking forward to trying these this weekend. I’ve made so many things off your website and all have tasted amazing so expect this don’t be any different! Quick question about the powdered sugar used for the icing- is powdered sugar icing sugar or super fine granulated sugar, or something else entirely? Thanks!

    1. Hi~ It will be called either “powdered sugar” or “confectioners sugar” on the bag. It’s the one that’s a very white powder sold in a flat bag that’s usually 32 ounces. Enjoy!

  37. This recipe is nice and easy. I am curious if other folks are rolling out to 1/4” or thinner. I rolled to 1/4” and got 12 cookies with scant leftover dough. And it took about 12minutes to cook until just barely brown at the edges (at sea level). Next time, I think I’ll try to roll it a bit thinner

  38. 5 stars
    I made this with my 2 year old granddaughter today (without the icing on top) and it turned out great! In fact the adults liked it too.
    Can’t wait to try out your other recipes with my granddaughter.
    Thank you so much!

  39. Great recipe! Toddlers can mix with their hands which is FUN. Makes 10 cookies so may want to double the recipe OR have two people making it together in their own bowl.

  40. I’m planning on making these with my 3 year old but haven’t worked with this kind of icing before. Does it set up/solidify pretty quickly once piped, or does it need to be refrigerated or baked or something to harden? Thanks!

  41. Should I add 2 tablespoon normal sugar or powdered sugar?
    Can I add Coco powder to icing instead of food colour.. if so how much Coco powder should I add?

    1. Regular granulated sugar. I haven’t tried making cocoa icing but add 1 teaspoon at a time until you get a consistency/flavor you like.

  42. Not sure what I did wrong but the dough was very dry and hard to roll after chilling in the fridge. I used earth’s balance vegan spread which was pretty close to melted instead of softened for the butter. Any advice about what I can do next time? (We still ate them as little cookie drops and they are delicious!)

    1. Hi! I haven’t baked with that spread so I can’t say for sure but maybe it firms up when cold faster than coconut oil or butter (which are how I tested this)? It’s possible that spread would work better without chilling at all! (I’m glad you were still able to enjoy them.)

    2. I also used Earth Balance vegan butter and the dough was very dry and crumbly. I used 1:1 gluten free flour, but I’ve never had a problem using this combo of gf and vegan products until now. I added 3 tbsp extra milk and another 2 tbsp of vegan butter, but the dough wouldn’t hold shape, so we had to throw it away. 🙁 Next time would you suggest adding an egg if using vegan butter?

      1. I would suggest using coconut oil instead of vegan butter since that is the nondairy substitute that I’ve tried.

  43. I made these with my 2 year old this weekend – great recipe! The dough was very easy to make, and I love that she could taste it without worrying about raw egg. They baked up quickly and tasted great – just sweet enough. Thank you!

  44. 5 stars
    I made these with my four year old today and they turned out great! Just as satisfying as a higher-sugar cookie and very easy. I added juice from half a lemon to the icing.

    1. I’m not sure that there’s a technical definition but many sugar cookie recipes have around 1 cup of sugar and this one has 2 tablespoons. And each cookie (without frosting) has just over 1 gram of sugar. So in my mind, that’s a small amount!