Incredible Holiday Cookies (No Oven Required)

Behold: Six recipes that deliver gorgeous results and are no-bake, which means no rolling out, no stressing out, more calm. See how it feels to be the star of the cookie swap.


By Yvonne Ruperti
Photos by Sam Kaplan

Cookie-Covered Cherries

Total | 1 hour

  • 20 maraschino cherries
  • 2 Tbsp light rum (optional)
  • 2 cups blanched sliced almonds
  • 1 cup 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup puffed rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Garnish variations (pick as many as you like): 1½ cups nonpareils, sprinkles, crushed sliced almonds; 1 cup cocoa powder

  • Remove the stems and place the cherries in a bowl. Toss with the rum (if using) and let sit for 30 minutes or up to overnight; drain.
  • Place the next six ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture comes together, there are no large pieces of almonds, and the texture is fairly smooth. Scoop a scant tablespoon of cookie dough and form into a ball. Flatten the ball in your palm and place a cherry on the dough. Mold the dough around the cherry, completely covering it, and roll into a ball. Roll the balls in garnishes. (Make ahead: Store in an airtight container in a single layer in a cool, dry place for up to 3 days. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.)

Makes 20 balls.

Salty Chocolate Peanut Butter Sammies

Total | 1 hour and 15 minutes

  • ½ cup chunky peanut butter
  • 2 tsp confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 32 Ritz crackers (about 1 sleeve)
  • 12 oz 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (if needed)
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt, for sprinkling

  • Stir the peanut butter, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a bowl until combined and creamy. Spread a teaspoon of the filling onto half of the crackers. Top with the remaining crackers, gently pressing to allow filling to almost reach the edge.
  • Place the chocolate in a deep microwave-safe bowl and microwave on 50% power until melted, stirring frequently. If the chocolate seems too thick (like pudding), stir in the vegetable oil 1 tsp at a time.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a fork or small offset spatula, dip each sandwich cookie into the chocolate. Gently shake the cookie above the chocolate to allow excess to drip off. Place on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle the tops with sea salt. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. (Make ahead: Store cookies well wrapped, with parchment between layers, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.)

Makes 16 cookies.

WHITE CHOCOLATE–HAZELNUT VARIATION

Follow the previous recipe as directed, but make the filling with ½ cup chocolate hazelnut spread (such as Nutella), 1 tsp cocoa powder, and 1 tsp pure vanilla extract. For the white chocolate coating, place 12 oz chopped white chocolate in a deep microwave-safe bowl and microwave on 50% power until melted, stirring frequently. Bring a small pot of water up to a simmer, remove from heat, and place the bowl of melted white chocolate on top to keep warm. If the chocolate seems too thick (like pudding), stir in the vegetable oil 1 tsp at a time.

Cinnamon-Honey Jam Thumbprints

Total | 30 minutes

  • 1 cup blanched sliced almonds, plus ½ cup crushed
  • 18 low-sodium saltine crackers
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp plus 1 tsp honey
  • 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup raspberry or apricot preserves

  • Process the sliced almonds, crackers, and cinnamon in a food processor until finely ground. Stop the processor and add the honey and vanilla. Pulse until the mixture begins to come together into large pebbles. Check the dough's consistency—it should hold together when squeezed (if too crumbly, add a little water). Transfer dough to a bowl.
  • Roll rounded tablespoons of dough and press the bottoms into the crushed almonds. Place each dough ball on a work surface, make an indentation with your finger, and spoon ½ tsp preserves into the center. (Make ahead: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. These cookies become firmer and drier as they sit.)

Makes 20 cookies.

Eggnog Sandwich Sweeties

Total | 45 minutes

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp water
  • 12 Tbsp (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp rum extract
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 70 vanilla wafers (such as Nillas, 1 box)
  • 1 cup decorating sugar or sprinkles (optional)

  • Whisk the yolks, sugar, and water in a medium heatproof bowl until well combined. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and gently whisk until the yolk mixture is heated to 170°F. (If you don't have a thermometer: Whisk yolk mixture over simmering water until the sugar is completely dissolved, foamy, and warm to the touch, about 8 to 10 minutes.) Pour into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until the mixture is room temperature. With the mixer running, slowly add the butter, 1 Tbsp at a time. Continue to beat until creamy and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes more. Stop the mixer and add the extracts, nutmeg, and salt. Mix the buttercream on low speed until completely combined.
  • Pipe or spoon 1 Tbsp buttercream onto half of the wafers. Top with the remaining wafers and roll in the decorating sugar or sprinkles (if using). (Make ahead: Store in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 5 days. The buttercream will soften as it comes to room temperature.)

Makes about 2 cups buttercream, enough for 35 cookies.

Nutty Chocolate Pretzel Bars

Total | 1 hour

  • 9 oz chocolate wafers (such as Nabisco Famous Wafers)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 12 oz 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup mixed roasted nuts, chopped
  • 1½ cups (3¾ oz) coarsely chopped pretzels
  • ¾ cup (4 oz) soft caramels
  • 1 tsp water
  • ½ cup chocolate chips or 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (optional)
  • ¾ cup green and red candy-coated chocolates, like M&M's (optional)

  • Line a 9-in. square baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-in. overhang on two sides. Process the chocolate wafers in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl, add the melted butter, and stir until fully moistened. Firmly press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  • Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream over medium heat until it just comes to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Gently whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the chopped nuts and pour over the crust. Sprinkle the pretzels over the chocolate, pressing to adhere. Place the caramels and water in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on 50% power until melted, stirring frequently. Drizzle over the pretzels. Top with chocolate chips and M&M's (if using).
  • Chill until the ganache sets, about 1 hour. Use the overhangs to lift out of the pan; cut into squares. (Make ahead: Store in an airtight container, with parchment between the bars, in the fridge for up to 3 days.)

Makes 16 bars.

Candy Cane Crispy Stars

Total | 1 hour 45 minutes

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 10 oz marshmallows
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 12-oz bag white chocolate chips
  • 5 cups puffed rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for cutter
  • ½ cup crushed candy canes

  • Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with baking spray. Melt the butter on low heat in a large nonstick skillet or pot. Add the marshmallows and cook, stirring frequently, until completely melted and combined with the butter. Stir in the peppermint extract. Remove pan from heat.
  • Add ½ cup white chocolate chips and the cereal and stir until cereal is evenly coated. Immediately pour onto the prepared sheet. Using an oiled spatula, spread the mixture in an even layer. Set aside to cool briefly, about 3 minutes. Before the mixture completely sets, cut out stars with a 2-in. oiled cutter. (You will need to oil the cutter often, as the mixture does stick to the cutter.) The remaining mixture can be pressed back together for more stars. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased parchment paper.
  • Place the remaining cup white chocolate in a deep microwave-safe bowl and microwave on 50% power until melted, stirring frequently; stir in the vegetable oil. Place the melted chocolate in a piping bag or a ziptop bag with a corner snipped off. Drizzle the chocolate over the cookies and sprinkle with the crushed candy canes. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes. (Make ahead: Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Best if served within 2 days.)

Makes 30 stars.