Icebox Cookies Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 20 min. + freezing Bake: 10 min.

Updated: May 30, 2024

Icebox cookies are a nostalgic, slice-and-bake treat everyone loves, making them a summertime favorite. The buttery dough comes together quickly, with a few simple ingredients, and can be stored in your freezer until you’re ready to whip up a batch for company.

If you’re not familiar with icebox cookies, aka “refrigerator cookies,” they’re similar to a sliceable sugar cookie. They became popular in the 1930s, around the same time refrigerators became commonplace in kitchens across America. Since the easy-to-make dough could be prepped in advance and stored in the fridge (or icebox) until needed, these old-fashioned cookies became an overnight sensation. 

Although the original recipe hasn’t changed much, we found a few ways to tweak it over the years, resulting in an even more delicious cookie. Here’s everything you need to know about how to make classic cookies, including different variations and the best ways to store them.

Ingredients for Icebox Cookies

  • Butter: The star ingredient for chewy, melt-in-your-mouth cookies that binds everything together nicely. You’ll want softened butter for this recipe. 
  • Brown sugar: Molasses-coated crystals lend a sweet note to these buttery, surgery cookies, although you could substitute brown sugar for white, depending on what you have on hand. 
  • Egg: Along with butter, a freshly beaten egg will keep your dough intact and moist. You could even add an extra egg yolk for creamier cookies.
  • Vanilla extract: The secret sauce that will fill your kitchen with intoxicating aromas as your cookies bake off. If you’re feeling fancy you could make vanilla extract at home.
  • Flour: You’ll need all-purpose flour for this recipe, but if you’re looking to keep things gluten-free, a flour alternative works just fine.
  • Baking soda: This leavening agent is crucial for helping your icebox cookies fluff up instead of falling flat during the baking process. 
  • Cream of tartar: You may need to make a grocery store run for this one, but trust us it’s worth it. The key to a chewy cookie lies in the cream of tartar. It also helps activate the baking soda while preventing your sugar from crystallizing too much.
  • Walnuts: If you prefer a nuttier cookie, chopped walnuts (or pecans) are the way to go, but you can also leave them out if nuts aren’t your thing or you have allergy concerns. 

Directions 

Step 1: Bring the butter and eggs to room temperature 

Allow the butter and eggs to come to room temperature for 30 minutes.

Step 2: Cream the butter and sugar  

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to cream the brown sugar and butter for three to five minutes until the mixture becomes lighter with peaks. You could also employ a stand mixer to speed up the process. 

Step 3: Add the egg and vanilla 

Next, add the egg and vanilla extract to the mixing bowl and beat well, for another three to five minutes until smooth. 

Step 4: Combine the remaining ingredients 

At this point you’ll want to combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt then add this to the creamed mixture until fully incorporated. If you’re using nuts, now’s the time to fold them in. 

Step 5: Shape and freeze the dough 

Sprinkle more flour on a flat surface, then shape the dough into three cylindrical logs before tightly wrapping them in waxed paper. Place them into the freezer for at least 12 hours or overnight. 

Step 4: Slice the dough and bake your cookies 

Once the cookie dough is adequately chilled, remove it from the waxed paper and slice it into 1-inch discs. Grease a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray or use a silicone mat to prevent your cookies from sticking. Then arrange the slices in three rows, spreading 9 to 12 discs around the sheet. Bake for six to eight minutes before allowing them to cool on a wire rack, or 8 to 10 minutes for crisper cookies.

Editor’s Tip: Use your sharpest knife to ensure clean cookie cuts without breaking the dough.

Icebox Cookie Variations 

  • Have fun with mix-ins: In addition to nuts, dried cranberries are delicious in icebox cookies, as are cherries and pineapple. Broken candy canes, chocolate chips and butterscotch pieces are more fun ways to get creative with your dough.
  • Decorate with sprinkles: For more colorful cookies, roll your logs in rainbow sprinkles before slicing them for birthday parties. Or, try red and green sugar crystals if you’re making these cookies for the holidays.  
  • Utilize warming spices: A dash of cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice is another easy way to elevate your cookie dough and make your house smell heavenly at the same time.

How to Store Icebox Cookies 

If you happen to have extra cookies on hand (although we doubt you will!), they can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for two to three days, or a week in the fridge. 

Can you refreeze icebox cookie dough? 

Yes. If you have unused dough, reseal the logs in plastic wrap, then place them in airtight containers or Ziploc bags in the freezer. If you’ve already sliced the dough, you can separate the discs between sheets of waxed paper, stack them in a log and then freeze them in storage containers or bags. 

Icebox Cookie Tips 

What if the dough is too soft to make logs?

Over-mixing your butter can tend to have this effect on the dough, so err on the side of caution when creaming your butter and sugar, and don’t overbeat! If your dough still feels soft or sticky, let it chill in the fridge for 20 minutes until it’s slightly colder to form into logs.

How do you slice icebox cookies evenly?

You’ll want to use your sharpest knife and make sure your dough is fresh out of the freezer and still cold to the touch. Dough that’s room temperature or thawing is harder to slice and can risk breaking, crumbling or getting mushy once it makes contact with the knife. Rotating the logs a quarter turn as you slice through them can also help hold their circular shape.

Do icebox cookies require baking?

As with any slice-and-bake treat like refrigerator cookies, they do need to be baked. When you choose to do so, on the other hand, is entirely up to you. Icebox cookie dough can last for two to three months in the icebox so you can prep a few logs in advance and pull them out whenever you need one.

Icebox Cookies

Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 10 min
Yield 7 dozen.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Combine next 4 ingredients; add to creamed mixture. Stir in nuts if desired.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into three 10x1-in. rolls. Tightly wrap each roll in waxed paper. Freeze for at least 12 hours.
  3. Cut into 3/8-in. slices and place on greased baking sheets. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Nutrition Facts

1 cookie: 31 calories, 1g fat (1g saturated fat), 5mg cholesterol, 32mg sodium, 5g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 0 fiber), 0 protein.

This cookie recipe from my 91-year-old grandmother was my grandfather's favorite. She still makes them and sends us home with the dough so that we can make more whenever we want, I love to make a fresh batch when company drops in. —Chris Paulsen, Glendale, Arizona