Rainbow Cookies - Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe! (2024)

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Make perfect rainbow cookies from swirls of soft and buttery sugar cookie dough rolled up into brightly colored pinwheels. This rainbow cookie recipe is fun and easy, with just 30 minutes of chill time. Guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s face!

If you love rainbow desserts, be sure to check out my pastel rainbow cupcakes or this rainbow sheet cake.

Rainbow Cookies - Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe! (1)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Easy Rainbow Cookies
  • Why You’ll Love This Rainbow Cookie Recipe
  • Ingredient Notes
  • How to Make Rainbow Swirl Cookies
  • Recipe Tips
  • Variations and Decorating Ideas
  • Can I Make The Dough in Advance?
  • How to Store Rainbow Cookies
  • More Sugar Cookie Recipes
  • Get the Recipe

Easy Rainbow Cookies

These bright and colorful rainbow cookies turn my best cut-out sugar cookie dough into a fun treat that you can bake for parties, bake sales, or any other occasion. I am so excited about these, they came out even better than I expected! Soft and buttery like a classic sugar cookie and swirled with the colors of the rainbow, this recipe uses a similar technique to my pinwheel cookies to achieve that perfect roll.

Why You’ll Love This Rainbow Cookie Recipe

  • Thick and soft. These rainbow sugar cookies are sliced quite thick, so they’re soft and tender and melt away in your mouth.
  • Just sweet enough. My original sugar cookies are usually topped with icing, so there’s not a ton of sugar in this dough. In my opinion, it’s just the perfect amount of sweetness.
  • Customize the flavor. There’s a light vanilla flavor from the extract as well but if you want an even stronger flavor, add an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract or add some almond extract too.
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Ingredient Notes

You need just a few pantry staples plus gel colors to make these bright and colorful rainbow cookies. I’ve included some quick notes here. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for the full ingredient list and recipe details.

  • Butter – I recommend unsalted butter, brought to room temperature.
  • Baking Soda and Milk – Dissolving baking soda in milk before mixing it with the other ingredients kickstarts the leavening process.
  • Flavoring Extract – You can use vanilla extract or almond extract. Feel free to use more or less flavoring to taste.
  • Food Coloring – I recommend gel food dyes as they offer the brightest colors, see below.

What’s the Best Food Coloring to Use?

The best food coloring for cookies is gel colors, like the kind from AmeriColor or Wilton. Gel food coloring only requires a couple of drops and yields bright, vibrant colored dough as you see in the photos. I used 7 colors, but you could easily make this recipe with 6 colors if needed.

How to Make Rainbow Swirl Cookies

This rainbow cookies recipe requires a bit more hands-on time than regular sugar cookies, as you’ll need to roll out each color. But these slice-and-bake cookies are still super easy to make! You’ll start by preparing the sugar cookie dough:

  • Combine the wet ingredients. Beat the butter and sugar until the sugar is creamy, then add the eggs and vanilla (or almond) extract. Next, dissolve the baking soda in milk before stirring this into the batter.
  • Add the dry ingredients. Add the salt and flour one cup at a time, mixing to form a stiff dough. You may need to kick the mixer up a notch to get the dough to fully combine.
  • Portion it out. Divide the dough into equal-sized balls. If you have a food scale, weighing the dough into equal sizes is best. My dough weighed 1250g, so about 178g per color (7 colors), bigger than a baseball but smaller than a softball. It’s a little more than a 1/2 cup of dough.

Color and Shape the Cookie Dough

Next, you’ll need to dye the prepared cookie dough with all the colors of the rainbow before rolling out and rolling up the dough for slicing:

  • Dye the dough. Dye each dough ball an individual color. You can do this by hand or with a mixer. I’ve included more tips below, but this is how I did it by hand. Flatten each ball, add the color, smear it around, and then use your hands to combine. You may need to add additional gel colors to get the vibrancy you want. Doing this by hand is a bit labor-intensive, but 100% worth it!
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  • Roll out each color. Roll out each color into a rectangle approximately 12 inches long. You want it to be as thin as possible without ripping the dough.
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Rainbow Cookies - Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe! (8)
  • Stack the dough. Place the first on a piece of parchment paper and stack the rest on top of each other. Once they are all stacked on top of one another, it’s very thick.
  • Flatten the dough. Cover with a second piece of parchment and roll it out again until the entire dough is 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Rotate the dough as you work so you can evenly roll it out.
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  • Roll the dough up into logs. Using a pizza cutter, trim any excess dough off the sides of your flattened dough stack. Then, cut the dough into two halves. Roll each one into a log as tightly as possible.
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  • Chill. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and place the logs seam side down in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Slice and Bake the Cookies

Finally, all that’s left to do is slice and bake your rainbow cookies!

  • Slice. Use a sharp knife to cut the chilled dough log into 1/2″ thick slices. Use your hands to shape the slices into a circle if needed. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. These won’t spread very much, so you don’t need to worry about placing them too far apart.
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  • Bake. Bake at 350° for 9 to 11 minutes. The bottoms should be just slightly brown. Cool for 5 minutes on the sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe Tips

If this is your first time working with dyed cookie dough, here are a few helpful tips.

  • Use a stand mixer (if possible). Even though I showed this mixing by hand, I recommend using the stand mixer to dye the dough. If using the mixer, start with yellow and gradually work to the darker colors, cleaning the mixer as needed.
  • Always wear gloves. If mixing by hand, be sure to wear gloves. Flatten the dough, add a couple of drops of color, smear with your hands and work the dough between your hands, add additional color as needed. This takes some work to do, and a lot of handling.
  • Don’t worry about streaks. If you have some streaky dough, that’s fine you won’t even notice when it rolled out.
  • Weigh the dough. If you have a food scale, weighing the dough into equal sizes is best. My dough weighed 1250g, so about 178g per color (7 colors), bigger than a baseball but smaller than a softball.
    • Use parchment paper to roll out the dough. This helps to keep the dough from sticking. If you do find the dough is sticking, dust a little powdered sugar over the dough or on the rolling pin.
    • Chill the dough. It’s important to chill the dough once it’s rolled so that you can easily slice them without damaging the shape. Don’t skip this step!
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    Variations and Decorating Ideas

    You can enjoy these rainbow swirl cookies exactly as they are, especially if they’re warm from the oven! They’re the perfect accompaniment to a big, cold glass of milk.

    • Add frosting. Since these cookies aren’t overly sweet, frost them with buttercream frosting. This strawberry frosting or marshmallow frosting would also be delicious.
    • Add sprinkles. You can never go wrong with a finish of rainbow sprinkles, especially on rainbow cookies!
    • Decorate with icing. Use my easy sugar cookie icing and get creative with designs.
    • Holidays. Adapt your cookies for different holidays! I have a holiday variation of this recipe in the form of Christmas pinwheels. Also, see my festive tips on how to decorate sugar cookies and find loads of inspiration in my Valentine’s Day sugar cookies tutorial for more ways to decorate these rainbow cookies.
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    Can I Make The Dough in Advance?

    Yes. Like most sugar cookie dough, you can prepare the dough for these rainbow swirl cookies up to 2 days in advance. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

    You can also freeze the rainbow cookie dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and then in foil to prevent freezer burn. Thaw overnight in the fridge. I recommend leaving the chilled dough on the counter for 10 minutes so it’s a bit easier to work with.

    How to Store Rainbow Cookies

    • To Store. These rainbow cookies will last for several days when stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
    • Freeze. You can also freeze these cookies for a month in an airtight container. Thaw them on the counter before serving.

    More Sugar Cookie Recipes

    • Sprinkle Sugar Cookies
    • Patriotic Sugar Cookies
    • Chocolate Sugar Cookies

    Print

    Rainbow Cookies - Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe! (17)

    Rainbow Cookies

    5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 3 reviews
    • Author: Julianne Dell
    • Prep Time: 60 minutes
    • Cook Time: 11 minutes
    • Total Time: 1 hour 11 minutes
    • Yield: 36 to 40 cookies

    Print Recipe

    Description

    Easy rainbow cookies made from swirls of buttery sugar cookie dough rolled up into brightly colored pinwheels. These are so fun to make with just 30 minutes of chill time!

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup (190g) granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 4 tablespoons (60m) milk
    • 12 teaspoon (5-10ml) almond or vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 5 cups (600 g) all-purpose flour
    • Gel colors for dying (see notes)

    Instructions

    1. Beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until the sugar is dissolved and creamy.
    2. Add the eggs and flavored extract to the butter and beat until all ingredients are well incorporated. Then, in a small glass dish, dissolve the baking soda in the milk and add to the mixture, beating until combined.
    3. Finally, add the salt and the flour 1 cup at a time and mix until a stiff dough forms.
    4. Divide the dough into 6 or 7 equal sized balls. Dye each one the individual color using either your mixer or your hands (see notes for additional tips).
    5. Starting with the red, roll each individual color into a rectangular shape, about 12 inches long. Roll between two pieces of parchment paper and lightly dust with powdered sugar if needed to prevent sticking. Dough will be relatively thin when rolled, place the first one on piece of parchment paper and stack each color on top of the other.
    6. Once all the color are stacked, cover with a second piece of parchment paper and proceed with roll out the cookie dough again until it’s about ¼ – ½ inch thick, it should expand quite a bit.
    7. Trim off the excess sides and then cut the dough into two halves. Roll each one tightly into a log, about 9-10 inches long and about 2-inch in diameter at the thickest point. Wrap each log with plastic wrap and place seam side down and chill for at least 30 minutes.
    8. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.
    9. Remove the dough from the fridge. Using a sharp knife, cut them into ½ inch wide slices. If they are misshaped, gently roll between your hands to shape into a circle. Place about 1-inch apart on the baking sheet.
    10. Bake at 350° for 9-11 minutes just until the bottoms turn slightly brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Notes

    • See blog post for complete step-by-step photos.
    • If you have a food scale, weighing the dough into equal sizes is best. My dough weighed 1250g, so about 178g per color (7 colors), bigger than a baseball but smaller than a softball. It’s a little bit more than 1/2 cup of dough.
    • I used 7 colors, but you could easily do it with 6 colors. Use color from Americolor or Wilton for best results.

    Nutrition Information:

    1 cookie

    135

    5.7 g

    73 mg

    5.6 g

    18.9 g

    0.5 g

    2.3 g

    23.9 mg

    • Category: Dessert
    • Method: Baking
    • Cuisine: American
    Rainbow Cookies - Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe! (2024)

    FAQs

    What is the secret to making cookies? ›

    The key is to always use top-quality ingredients as they'll result in a better cookie; it really is that simple.
    1. Always use butter.
    2. Choose the right sugar.
    3. Choose the right flour.
    4. Check your flour is in date.
    5. Choose the right kind of chocolate.
    6. Cream the butter and sugar.
    7. Beat in the eggs.
    8. Fold in the flour.

    Do I put colored sugar on cookies before or after baking? ›

    For this technique, you'll want to decorate your cookies before baking. We recommend using decorative sugar (also known as colored sanding sugar), Turbinado sugar (coarse golden sugar) or pearl sugar (coarse clear sugar). It all sounds super fancy but it's really very easy!

    What are rainbow cookies made from? ›

    Rainbow cookies are typically composed of layers of brightly colored, almond-based sponge cake (usually almond paste/marzipan), apricot and/or raspberry jam, and a chocolate coating. Commonly referred to as a "cookie," their composition is closer in many ways to a layered cake or petit four.

    What can I add to sugar cookie mix to make it better? ›

    You can add citrus zest, cinnamon, or almond extract to the dough. You could also ice them with a tasty frosting and add some nuts or toasted coconut. I already made lemon cookies but i don't think I added enough lemon extract they are tasteless.

    What not to do when making cookies? ›

    15 Common Cookie Baking Mistakes You Might Be Making
    1. Your cookies aren't baking evenly. ...
    2. You use eggs straight from the fridge. ...
    3. You use the wrong kind of flour. ...
    4. You measure flour the wrong way. ...
    5. You soften butter too much — or not enough. ...
    6. You use stale baking powder or baking soda. ...
    7. You overwork the dough.
    Nov 4, 2020

    What makes cookies chewy and not hard? ›

    If you enjoy your cookies soft and chewy, chances are likely the recipe contains a common ingredient that serves a very specific purpose. No, it's not granulated sugar, nor the butter. It's not the egg, all-purpose flour, or even the vanilla extract. The simple, yet oh-so-necessary component is cornstarch.

    Can I sprinkle colored sugar on cookies before baking? ›

    Purchase decorating sugar.

    From ultra fine to large crystals, choose the kinds you like best. After your cookies have been cut and placed on the cookie sheet, sprinkle the sugar over the top of the cookie in any design or pattern you like. Bake the cookies as directed in the recipe.

    How do you keep sugar cookies from bleeding in color? ›

    Start with a base icing that has white gel added to it. Uncolored royal icing has an off-white natural tinge and is more likely to allow bleed and absorb color. Add white gel to your base to act as a stabilizer to prevent color bleed right off the bat. The biggest culprit in color bleed is usually oversaturated color.

    How thick should sugar cookies be before baking? ›

    On a lightly floured surface, roll out the cookie dough to ¼-inch thick. Cut out using cookie cutters and bake on a baking sheet lined with a silpat mat or parchment paper for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges just barely start to turn golden. Cool completely before decorating with royal icing or frosting.

    What are rainbow cookies called? ›

    Italian Rainbow cookies are sometimes also called Neopolitans, Venetian Cookies, 7 Layer Cookies, Italian Flag Cookies, and even Tri-color cookies. Many of you probably know them as Seven Layer Cookies (3 cake, 2 chocolate and 2 jam).

    What is the flavor of rainbow cookies? ›

    These rainbow cookies are moist, mellow, and full of almond flavor. The colorful layers of almond cake are sandwiched together with jam and topped with chocolate. These classic rainbow cookies taste better than the bakery — and they make great gifts!

    Why is it called a rainbow cookie? ›

    Rainbow cookies originated in Italian immigrant communities of the United States during the 1900s to honor their native country. They are also called "tricolore" because of the resemblance to the Italian flag with white, red, and green layers.

    What happens if you add too much sugar to sugar cookies? ›

    Sugar sweetens the cookies and makes them an enticing golden brown. Adding too little sugar can affect the taste and texture of cookies. Adding too much can cause them to be brittle. Take your time creaming the sugar and butter together at the beginning.

    Can you roll out store bought sugar cookie dough? ›

    Just roll the dough into one inch balls and then coat them in equal parts cinnamon and sugar. Then I press them gently with a glass before baking them according to the directions on the package. That's it!

    How to jazz up sugar cookies? ›

    5 Ways to Get Fancy with Your Sugar Cookies
    1. Make a fancy thumbprint cookie. ...
    2. Turn them into sandwich cookies. ...
    3. Decorate with melted chocolate. ...
    4. Try different flavorings in the sugar cookie dough. ...
    5. Roll cookie dough logs in sparkly sugar.
    May 1, 2019

    What are 4 tips to keep in mind while making cookies? ›

    My tips are:
    1. weigh your ingredients.
    2. use chopped chocolate bars instead of chips.
    3. make 1 cookie right away and 1 after overnight refrigeration to see how much cold affects spread; depending on the outcome, I leave the dough out a couple hours before baking.
    Nov 7, 2020

    What makes a cookie perfect? ›

    The best cookies have layers of texture. A slightly crisp outer shell that holds up to some heat with an inner core that's soft and chewy. Premium cookies taste great at room temperature, straight out of the fridge or slightly heated. Creating cookies in small batches is key.

    What are 3 factors that contribute to a chewy cookie? ›

    The ingredients you use and how you shape your cookies both play an important role in whether your cookies turn out crispy or chewy. The type of flour and sugar you use, if your cookie dough contains eggs, and whether you use melted or softened butter all factor into the crispy-chewy equation, too.

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