Best Thumbprint Cookie Recipes: Sweet, Spicy and Savory

Lemon Thumbprint Cookies with Lemon Marmalade Filling

Lemon Thumbprint Cookies with Lemon Ginger Marmalade Filling

This year has been the year of the College Care Package for me.  When I saw what the colleges were offering for “care packages” for exam week etc., I was pretty underwhelmed, and thought my kids would be also.  I’ve tried to be creative with their packages, including everything from room deodorizers to mementos from home to current political articles.  Two things are constant however…money and food.  In trying different kinds of food (frozen soup to whoopie pies), I have become more careful with my choices, opting for food items that:  a) ship well, b) last a long time, and c) taste good to my individual kids.

One of the choices meeting the above criteria was thumbprint cookies, something that would allow me to use a variety of different fillings that each of them would like.   Upon a google search I discovered literally hundreds of recipes for  all shapes and kinds of thumbprint cookies.  I had no idea of the popularity of this humble cookie!  It may be because they are easy to make, easy to adapt to a wide range of tastes, and fun for the family to make together around the holidays.  I don’t know, but I started wading through them and got caught up for an entire morning just trying to figure out what to try.

Incapable of deciding on one classic thumbprint cookie, I spent the next week trying out a variety of recipes, aiming for the best of class in the sweet department, the spicy, and the savory.  True to form, each family member had a different favorite.

The husband favored the savory (cornmeal with lime marmalade), the daughter went for the spicy (lemon zest with raspberry habanero filling), and the son for the sweet (chocolate sprinkle with nutella filling).  Me?  Peanut Butter & Cocoa all the way (Raspberry jam filling).  So, just remember, even as this post is titled Best Thumbprint Cookie Recipes, “best” is a relative term in the world of food…in most worlds actually.

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies with Berry Jam Filling

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Thumbprints with Raspberry Chambord Jam Filling

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Thumbprints with Raspberry Chambord Jam Filling

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.

Yield: 18 2 1/2″ Cookies


  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 t  kosher salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 c) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Raspberry  Chambord Jam  (berry jams seem to pair great with this one)


Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

  1. In large bowl, thoroughly whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In stand mixer using a paddle attachment, beat the butter, peanut butter, and sugars together until fluffy (about 2 minutes), scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.
  3. With the machine on the lowest speed, slowly pour the flour mix into the batter. Mix until just incorporated, scraping sides as needed.
  4. Gather dough together into large ball , wrap in saran wrap, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes
  5. Using small ice cream scoop or melon baller, scoop rounded balls onto lined cookie sheet about an inch apart.
  6. Press a small indentation into each cookie with your thumb.  Don’t worry if the sides crack a little.
  7. Bake for 11-14 minutes or until the dough it just set.  While the cookies are still warm, you can push the indentation in a little deeper if you need to.  Cool on a wire rack.
  8. After cookies are cooled, fill with raspberry jam or your favorite berry jam.


Polenta Thumbprint Cookies with Lime Marmalade Filling

Polenta Thumbprint Cookies with Lime Marmalade Filling

Polenta Thumbprint Cookies with Lime Marmalade Filling

adapted from Australian Good Taste, March 2001


  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal (polenta)
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (I used sliced almonds and ground them in coffee grinder to a fine grind)
  • 1/4 cup lime marmalade or lime jelly


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper
  2. Using stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until pale and creamy.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until just combined.
  3. Add flour, cornmeal and ground almonds, a little at a time, with the mixer turned on low.
  4. Using hands or small scoop (melon baller), make dough into balls and place on lined trays. Use your thumb to make a deep indent in center of each ball.
  5. Bake each tray 20 minutes, or until cookies are golden underneath and pale on top (be careful not to overcook).  Transfer to wire rack to cool.
  6. Fill with a small spoonful of Lime Marmalade (or jelly of your choice)
  7. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for 2 days.


Chocolate Sprinkle Thumbprints with Nutella & Dulce de Leche Filling

adapted from Brown Eyed Baker recipe

Chocolate Sprinkle Thumbprints with Nutella & Dulce de Leche Filling

Chocolate Sprinkle Thumbprints with Nutella & Dulce de Leche Filling

Yield: 2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on size


For the Cookies:

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  • 1/2 cup Nutella or 1/2 cup Dulce le leche (or both)

For the Dulce le leche Filling:

  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Directions for cookies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt; set aside. Pour the chocolate sprinkles into a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture. Once it is mostly incorporated, slowly increase the speed back to medium-high and beat for another minute or so until a dough forms.
  3. Scoop out a tablespoon of dough, roll it into a ball, and then roll it in the chocolate sprinkles and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing your cookies about 1½ inches apart on the baking sheet. Make a slight indentation with your thumb (or the back of a melon baller – my favorite tool for this task) on the tops of all the cookies. Bake for 10 minutes, then make a deeper indentation in the middle, and bake for an additional 8 minutes. The cookies should not brown much at all around the edges. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, make the chocolate icing for the filling. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until light and creamy. Reduce speed to low, add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and mix until combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth. Add the milk and the vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar or milk to achieve the desired consistency.
  5. Once the cookies are cool, spoon in some nutella or dulce de leche filling.
  6.  Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Directions for Dulce de Leche:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Pour one can (14 ounces) of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk) into a baking dish, the size of which will fit into a larger roasting pan.  Add a pinch of sea salt.
  3. Set the baking dish inside the roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with water about halfway up the side of the baking dish.
  4. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Check after 1 hour to see if the milk is light brown and caramelized, and give it a little more time if needed, in 10 minute increments.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool.  After it is thoroughly cooled, whisk the Dulce de Leche with a hand whisk until smooth.
  6. Store in refrigerator and warm it up gently before using.


Ginger Thumbprints with Champagne Jelly Filling

adapted from recipe of Abby Dodge

Lemon Zest Thumbprints with Pear Champagne & Strawberry Jelly Fillings

Lemon Zest Thumbprints with Pear Champagne & Strawberry Jelly Fillings

Yield: 22 cookies

For cookies:

  • Unsalted butter 8 tablespoons (4 ounces), softened
  • Confectioners’ sugar 2/3 cup (2 ounces)
  • Ground ginger 2 teaspoons
  • Table salt 1/4 teaspoon
  • Yolk from large egg 1
  • Crystallized ginger, finely chopped 3 tablespoons
  • Pure vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon
  • All-purpose flour 1 1/3 cup (6 ounces)
  • For rolling:
  • Granulated sugar 3 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup Champagne or wine jellies (I used Pear Champagne Rosemary & Strawberry Champagne).


  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line one large or two medium cookie sheets with nonstick liners.
  2. In stand mixer, beat together the butter, confectioners’ sugar, ground ginger and salt until smooth and blended, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the yolk, chopped crystallized ginger and vanilla extract and beat until blended.
  4. Add the flour and beat on medium-low speed until just blended, about 1 minute.
  5. Put the granulated sugar in a ramekin and set aside.
  6. Using a mini ice cream scoop (1 tablespoon size), scoop out the dough and roll dough mounds between your palms to form 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the reserved granulated sugar and arrange on the prepared cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Using a finger, press down into the middle of each mound to make a well that’s almost down to the bottom. Don’t worry if the edges are slightly cracked.
  7. Bake until the tops look dry and the bottoms are light brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Let the cookies sit for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Fill and serve immediately or cover and store at room temperature. Just before serving, use a small spoon to drop a scant 1/2 teaspoon or more of the jelly into the indentations of each cookie.


Cheddar/Parmesan Thumbprints with Hot Pepper Jelly Filling

Cheddar Parmesan Thumbprints with Tomato Jam & Lime Marmalade Filling

Cheddar Parmesan Thumbprints with Raspberry Habanero & Lime Marmalade Filling

adapted from recipe by Kelly Williams, Better Homes and Gardens


  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (2 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or other)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup raspberry habanero jelly and/or lime marmalade


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly oil sheets; set aside
  2. In food processor, combine cheeses and butter. Process until well combined. Add egg yolk and pepper, and process until combined.  Add flour, a little at a time, and pulse several times until a soft dough forms; set aside.
  3. In one small bowl whisk together egg white and water. In another small bowl place chopped nuts.
  4. Using small ice cream scoop (or hands), shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Roll balls in egg white mixture, then in pecans.  Place about 1 inch apart on cookie sheets.  Press thumb into center of each ball to make indentation.
  5. Back about 15 minutes or until edges are firm and lightly golden.  Press puffed centers down a bit when they come out of the oven, and place on rack to cool.
  6. Before serving, place tomato jelly or lime marmalade in center of thumbprint.  Store unfilled in refrigerator up to 3 days or in freezer up to 3 months.


Lemon Thumbprints with Lemon Ginger Marmalade Filling

Lemon Thumbprint Cookies with Lemon Marmalade Filling

Lemon Thumbprint Cookies with Lemon Ginger Marmalade Filling

adapted from Emeril Lagasse, 2003

Serves:  4 dozen


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup lemon ginger marmalade (or lemon curd or lemon jelly)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly butter 2 large baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to blend.
  3. In a large bowl using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions and beat just until moist clumps form. Gather the dough together into a ball.
  4. Pinch off the dough to form 1-inch balls. Place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Use your floured index finger or 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon to create depressions in the center of each ball. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  5. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely (you may want to push down the puffed up indentation a bit at this point).
  6. Fill each indentation with nearly 1/2 teaspoon of lemon marmalade.
Variety Tray of Thumbprint Cookies (Stainbrook)

Variety Tray of Thumbprint Cookies



There you have it!  There is a ton of delicious-looking thumbprint cookie recipes, but they don’t really differ much from each other.  Some use powdered sugar instead of granulated and some use less flour and more butter.  I found that the recipes that used more flour or less butter to be too dry for my taste.

Do you have a favorite we should try?  It is the cookie time of the year, so we’d love to hear your favorites also!



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5 Responses to Best Thumbprint Cookie Recipes: Sweet, Spicy and Savory

  1. Marjorie Hegstrom December 13, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    Hi Dorothy! Can these be frozen?

    • dorothy stainbrook December 13, 2012 at 11:09 am #

      Hi Marjorie! I froze the dough before baking on most of them and it was fine. I have not tried freezing the cookies after baking though. I would imagine the cookie itself would freeze fine, but I wouldn’t freeze the jam filling, as it would alter the texture quite a bit. Let me know if you do freeze the baked cookies with success.

  2. nanabumpa December 5, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    I love your recipes for thumbprint cookies, especially the lemon with lemon ginger marmalade. Since my visit to England and Scotland I have been looking for a lemon marmalade here in the state but have been unsuccessful in finding any. Grapefruit, yes, but not lemon! Maybe you could help me with that.

    • dorothy stainbrook December 6, 2012 at 5:19 am #

      Hi Susie, Thanks for the nice comment. The lemon marmalade I used in the post is one that we make and sell at HeathGlen’s kitchen, in fact it is our most popular marmalade. You can see it and/or order it from the website which is, or you can go directly to that page by copying this link into your address bar: I haven’t seen other lemon marmalades for sale in this area of Minnesota, but I’m sure some people in California sell them online also.


  1. Thumbprint Cookies and Recipe Roundup - November 28, 2012

    […] An assortment of thumbprint cookies, including a savory version (above); sweet potato biscuits; black forest cake; Torta di Noci (walnut tart from Sorrento); butternut squash casserole; Philly cheesesteak pizza; bourbon bacon fat chocolate chip cookies; homemade tater tots; wild rice harvest salad; gluten-free Russian tea cakes; pumpkin-pecan pie cupcakes; and caramel apple almond crisp. […]

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