A few years ago, I had to go dairy-free. As a lifelong baker, I struggled to adapt to a world without butter. Sure, vegan recipes were amazing. But I missed the recipes of my childhood—especially those buttery sugar cookies that always surface around the holidays.
This year, I finally made a dairy-free sugar cookie that actually tastes like the classic.
My secret: coconut oil. Lauded by many as the answer to all health and beauty problems, coconut oil also makes a great butter substitute. Surprisingly, these cookies don’t taste coconut-y at all. But if you’re concerned about that, you can use a more refined coconut oil, a butter-flavored coconut oil, or any vegan butter.
These cookies also make a great baking activity for kids. My three year old loved rolling out the dough, using cookie cutters, and decorating with sprinkles.
However, if you are baking with kids, I recommend splitting the dough into two batches: one you’re working with and one left in the fridge. This way, when one batch gets too warm (as it does when little hands are poking and prodding it), you have a chilled backup ready to go. The one downside to coconut oil is that it warms up faster than butter at room temperature, and the dough is much easier to work with when it’s cold.
Coconut Oil Sugar Cookies (Dairy-Free + Vegan)
A classic holiday cookie—without dairy or eggs. These cookies are buttery, sweet, and totally addictive. Make them with kids for a holiday activity, or give them out as presents to your dairy-free friends!
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 T baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- parchment paper
- rolling pin
- cookie cutters
Bring the coconut oil to room temperature. You want it somewhat soft, but not liquified. In a mixing bowl, cream together the coconut oil and sugar. I just beat them with a whisk for 1-2 minutes, but you can use an electric or stand mixer if you like.
When the mixture is fluffy and mostly opaque, add the water and vanilla extract. Beat until combined.
Add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour in batches, mixing as you go to prevent lumps. You should end up with a smooth dough that sticks together.
Roll the dough into a ball and then gently flatten into a thick disc. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Cover your workspace with a sheet of parchment paper. Remove the dough from the freezer and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Place another piece of parchment on top, or lightly flour your rolling pin to prevent sticking. Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness.
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough into shapes. If the dough becomes too soft during this step, pop it back in the freezer for 5-10 minutes and then roll it out again. Continue re-rolling scraps until all the dough is used up.
Carefully transfer cut-out cookies to the parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between cookies. Gently press sprinkles into the unbaked cookies.
Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly golden at the edges. Let cool 1-2 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.
Notes & Substitutions
I’m not a big frosting girl, but you can also use royal icing on these cookies. You can make a quick vegan icing by mixing 2 cups powdered sugar with 3 T non-dairy milk and 4 tsp white corn syrup. Color as desired and pipe onto your cookies once they’re completely cool.
If you have problems with the cookies losing their shape in the oven, pop them in the freezer for 5 minutes before baking.
To make this recipe gluten free, substitute your favorite gluten-free flour mix. I like King Arthur Flour’s mix, but I haven’t tested it with this recipe yet.
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Photo: © Elizabeth Steere
Recipe adapted from I Love Vegan.