Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

Close-up of two jam thumbprint cookies with open jars of homemade jam behind them.
This post is brought to you by Wholefully partner Ball® Canning.
Recipe At-A-Glance
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Vegetarian, Holiday Recipe40 min
A buttery shortbread cookie with a puddle of fruity jam? Yes, please! Thumbprint Cookies are a classic for good reason—they are festive, easy, and oh so tasty.

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My pantry is chock-full of beautiful canning jars full of creative and interesting flavors of jam. Jam is a classic canning staple that a lot of folks start off with, which is wonderful! Canning jam at home is simple, easy, and fun. But then the question comes: what in the world do you do with all of that jam? A person can only eat so many PB&Js!

Well, one of my favorite ways to use up a surplus of homemade jam is in classic Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies! With the buttery chew of shortbread and the delicate flavor of sweet, fruity jam, thumbprint cookies are a Christmas tradition for a lot of folks. I love the flavor, I love how simple they are to make (we’re talking only 7 ingredients!), and I love that they can showcase my jam creations. Let’s make some cookies!

Overhead of baked shortbread cookies filled with jam on a cooling rack.

What kind of cookies are thumbprint cookies?

Some folks use a basic sugar cookie dough for the base of thumbprint cookies, but we prefer a simple shortbread dough—which is one of the simplest cookie doughs around.

Shortbread dough contains no leaveners (like baking soda or baking powder), and typically includes just three ingredients—flour, butter, and sugar. We modify the shortbread dough here slightly by adding an egg, which softens the finished cookie ever-so-slightly to give it a satisfying chew.

Wholefully Protip

Rolling thumbprint cookies in sugar before baking gives them a satisfying crunch and a beautiful snow-kissed appearance!

A hand rolling a ball of shortbread cookie dough in sugar for classic thumbprint cookies.
How do you make thumbprint cookies?

One of the best parts of thumbprint cookies is just how darn simple they are to make! Here are the basic steps:

  1. Make the shortbread base by creaming together butter and sugar. Add in an egg and vanilla extract for flavor.
  2. Then add the dry ingredients—flour and salt—to the butter mixture until combined.
  3. Form the dough into 1 tablespoon balls, roll in sugar, and place on a baking sheet.
  4. Press into the dough balls with your thumb (hence the name!) or the end of a wooden spoon.
  5. Chill for a few minutes in the freezer.
  6. Fill each indentation with your favorite jam!
  7. Bake until just very slightly golden on the bottom.

Close-up of spooning jam into the thumbprint on top of a cookie.

What’s the best jam to fill Thumbprint Cookies?

ANY! Yup, any kind of jam or jelly will be delicious in your cookies. You often see raspberry thumbprint cookies and apricot thumbprint cookies, but really any jam that you find delicious will do the trick. In these photos, we’ve used jam recipes from Ball® Canning: Mixed Berry Agave Jam and Peach Jam. Apple Jelly and Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam would also be wonderful options!

Wholefully Protip

We obviously prefer homemade jam, but you could also use store-bought jam and get similar results.

Two jam cookies sit on a kitchen linen with open jars of jam behind them.

What’s the best way to keep thumbprint cookies from spreading in the oven?

With so much fat in shortbread cookies (2 whole sticks of butter!), spreading can be a bit of a problem. We prevent spreading by chilling the dough before filling the cookies with jam. This helps the cookies bake properly before all the butter melts into a puddle.

Wholefully Protip

When baking cookies, you want to use softened, room temperature butter. Do not melt or warm your butter to soften it—this can lead to cookies that spread!

Overhead of jam filled cookies on a baking sheet before baking.

How do you make thumbprint cookies with icing instead of jam?

This is a breeze! Simply bake the cookies without jam (but still with an indentation), and then when the cookies have fully cooled, fill each indentation with our fan-favorite Sugar Cookie Icing.

Do these cookies need to be refrigerated?

No—in fact, it’s pretty widely thought that the flavor of shortbread cookies improves after a day or two in an airtight container at room temperature.

Close-up of a jam thumbprint cookie with a bite out of it sitting in front of another cookie and an open jar of jam.

How do you store thumbprint cookies?

We recommend stashing them in an airtight container at room temperature. If your jam puddles are still quite sticky after cooling, you might want to separate the layers with parchment paper before storing to keep the cookies from sticking to each other.

How do you freeze thumbprint cookies?

Thumbprints freeze wonderfully! Once they are fully cooled and filled, place them on a baking sheet and freeze them solid. Then transfer them to a zip-top freezer bag or other food storage container.

We love storing frozen cookies in Ball® Canning’s Pint and a Half Jars! They stack beautifully in these tall, narrow jars. They also also make a wonderful gifting container. The jar looks beautiful, and it protects the cookies so they are completely intact, no matter how far they have to travel!

Finished shortbread cookies stacked up in a Ball Mason Jar for gifting.

How long do thumbprint cookies last?

We recommend eating them within a week, but if you can’t get through them in that time, pop them in the freezer, where they’ll last up to 6 months before losing any quality.

 
Close-up of two jam thumbprint cookies with open jars of homemade jam behind them.

Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies Recipe

Yield: 2 dozen
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

A buttery shortbread cookie with a puddle of fruity jam? Yes, please! Thumbprint Cookies are a classic for good reason—they are festive, easy, and oh so tasty.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup jam

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a mixing bowl using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the vanilla and egg, and mix until combined.
  3. Add in the flour and salt to the creamed butter mixture in two additions, mixing well until combined.
  4. Fill a small saucer with granulated sugar. Form the dough into 1 tablespoon balls using a cookie scoop or your hands. Roll in the sugar, and then place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, placing cookies about an inch apart.
  5. Using your thumb or the end of a wooden spoon, make an indentation in the center of each dough ball. Place the cookies in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to chill.
  6. When the dough is chilled, fill the indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon of your preferred flavor of jam. Don’t overfill the indentation, or your jam might run out in the oven.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookies just begin to turn slightly sandy brown. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 3 minutes on the baking sheet, and then transfer to a wire baking rack to finish cooling.

Notes

  • Thumbprint cookies are really not the time to make large cookies–smaller is better to get the right ratio of crumbly cookie to soft jam. Stick to one tablespoon of dough per cookie.
  • Any jam will do the trick here! Some of our favorites are Mixed Berry Jam, Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam, Peach Jam, Apricot Jam, and Raspberry Jam.
  • Jam isn’t the only thing you can put in thumbprint cookies! Lemon curd and chocolate-hazelnut spread are both delicious.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1 cookie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 93Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 97mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 0gSugar: 10gProtein: 2g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

This post is brought to you by Wholefully partner Ball® Canning.
The content and opinions expressed here are my own. Want to be a sponsor? Let’s work together!

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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