Cookie Exchange – Rules & Recipes

Hosting a cookie exchange for friends and family is such a great way to get everyone together during the holidays. I'm sharing my tips on how to throw a great exchange as well as a host of recipes that everyone will love!

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Christmas cookie exchanges are such a fun way to get friends and family together during the holiday period. It’s a great way to get everyone in the festive spirit and enjoy some yummy cookies! Get my top tips to plan a cookie exchange along with 19 tasty and easy cookie recipes for you all to enjoy!

Cookie exchange set up for a party
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If you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate the holiday season and share the joy of baking, a cookie exchange is the perfect event. But you may be wondering if there are cookie swap rules (there are) and how to do a cookie exchange that will accommodate all your guests in a fun, creative, and delicious way. The good news is that everything you need to know about hosting a cookie exchange is in this post. Including a list of 19 delicious Christmas cookie exchange recipes!

  • Try a variety of treats: A cookie swap allows you to enjoy a diverse selection of homemade treats without having to bake an entire assortment yourself. Plus, you get to taste cookies that you might not have tried otherwise.
  • Fun quality time: The holiday season is all about sharing memories, building connections with loved ones, and embracing a sense of togetherness. A cookie exchange is a fun and delicious way to do just that – bringing friends, family, and communities together.
  • Gets you into the holiday spirit. Exchanging cookies represents the spirit of giving and sharing, spreading joy and warmth during this season. What better way to do that than over cookies? Wear your favorite Christmas sweater and get ready to spread some sugary holiday vibes!
Yumna with sisters laughing at cookie exchange party
  1. Have 8-12 people participate. You get a great selection of cookies that everyone can try and plenty for your guests to take home to share with their families. Invite people that you know love baking and will be happy to attend!
  2. Timing matters. I like to throw a cookie exchange in the week leading up to Christmas. And because that time of the year is busy for everyone – I keep it short and sweet. A good cookie exchange should last about 2 to 3 hours. Enough to sample the cookies, mingle with friends, and pack up a goodie box to take home.
  3. Be mindful of allergies. If possible, request your guests to include information about common allergens in their cookies, such as nuts, dairy, or gluten. This can be included on the place card and the recipe card so other guests are aware.
  4. Prepare for extra guests. Make a few extra batches of cookies in case someone forgets or more guests attend than expected.
  5. Consider donating cookies to charity. To extend the holiday spirit beyond your guest list, consider donating your cookies to a local shelter, hospital, senior care home, or another community organization that can brighten someone’s day and make the festive season more meaningful.
Holding box of cookies at cookie exchange party

Hosting a cookie exchange is easier than you think. Follow these steps to host a successful cookie exchange that will leave you and your guests with a variety of delicious treats and warm hearts full of precious memories.

  1. Invitations and planning. Send out invitations (I like to do this via email) indicating the date, time, and location of the cookie exchange. Encourage your guests to RSVP with the type of cookie they plan to bring to avoid double-ups. I also include cookie swap rules in the invites so everyone is on the same page.
  2. Setting up the cookie display. I set up our large dining table with a runner and festive holiday decor along with a variety of cake stands and platters to showcase the cookies. Add place cards for each cookie next to the recipe and make a note of any allergy or dietary information.
  3. Swapping and sharing. As guests arrive, have them set their cookies on the display. Mingle with your guests and have everyone sample the cookies. You can even consider having a voting session for the most creative, tastiest, or best-decorated cookie. Perhaps offer small prizes to winners, adding an element of friendly competition.
  4. To-go boxes. Have a smaller area with to-go cardboard boxes or tins, tissue paper, and ribbons. This designated spot makes it easy for guests to pack cookies in the containers to take home. Make sure they don’t forget the recipe cards that go with the cookies.
Cookies displayed for cookie exchange party
  • Cookie type: Either have your guests select the cookie or assign them yourself so you have a good variety and prevent duplicates. My favorite cookies for a cookie swap are shortbread, iced, gingerbread, sugar cookies, chocolate, stuffed or sandwich, fruit, thumbprint, and butter cookies.
  • Homemade cookies only: All cookies must be homemade, not store-bought. Additionally, a cookie exchange doesn’t have to be limited to cookies only. You can include brownies, bars, and scones.
  • Amount of cookies: I encourage people to bring 36-48 cookies to ensure everyone receives a fair share of treats and prevent anyone from feeling overwhelmed. You want plenty of cookies for your guests to take home. I don’t think you can ever have too many cookies!
  • Print recipes: I ask my guests to send me their recipes a few days before the exchange so that I can print them out for others to take home. You can also have your guests bring a few copies of the printed recipe so you’re not overwhelmed.
Cookies at a cookie exchange party

What else to serve

Although everyone is here for the cookies, I always serve a small selection of savory snacks and seasonal drinks. Easy finger food appetizers like stuffed mushrooms, a cheese board, and crostini with roasted tomatoes are all perfect. if time permits, make a Christmas wreath charcuterie board or Christmas tree vegetable platter to stay with the holiday theme. I also have a batch of vegan hot chocolate ready to serve.

Holding box of cookies at cookie exchange party

What’s a cookie exchange without cookies? You can never have enough cookies, and this collection of these sweet treats will leave you and your guests delightfully satisfied. Check out these Christmas cookie exchange recipes for you and your guests to make.

Christmas cookies

  • Holiday Sugar Cookies – These festive cookies are quick and easy to make. Crispy on the outside and perfectly chewy in the middle, with fun crushed peppermint on top.
  • Chocolate Crinkle Cookies – With rich, chocolatey interior and a beautiful snow-like exterior, these crinkle cookies strike the perfect balance of a fudgy brownie and a classic cookie. Plus, that dusting of powdered sugar makes them extra fancy!
  • Gingerbread Cookies – This classic Christmas cookie is an absolute joy to make and even more fun to eat. Infused with a blend of warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, this cookie is a beloved treat during the holidays.
  • Lofthouse Sugar Cookies – Wanting that classic store-bought sugar cookie, but the invite says homemade cookies only? Make your own soft-baked cookies with this copycat recipe. They’re incredibly soft with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and sweet frosting.
  • Peanut Butter Blossoms – Delicious peanut butter cookies are topped with a Hershey’s kiss for a treat that has just the right amount of sweet, slightly salty, creamy, and chocolatey.
  • Italian Christmas Cookies – These cookies are lightly sweetened with anise flavor shining through. Add some lovely glaze and red and green sprinkles for cookies that are a hit at any gathering.
  • Maamoul – This Middle Eastern treat is made with semolina flour and two classic fillings: creamy dates and crunchy walnuts. What sets these cookies apart is their intricate designs that resemble snowflakes.
  • Ginger Snap Cookies – Quick and easy to make, these ginger and molasses-infused cookies are bursting with flavor. They’re easy to make and have a soft and chewy texture that’s so irresistible.
  • Biscotti Cookies – These elegant cookies are a classic and a delicious way to mix things up! And you have four flavors to choose from: almond, chocolate chip, pistachio lemon, and cranberry orange.

All other cookies

  • Thumbprint Cookies – With a shortbread base and sweet jam-filled center, this crowd-pleasing dessert is fit for a party like a cookie exchange. Learn how to make jam so you can fill the cookies with your favorite flavors.
  • Cardamom Cookies – These spiced cookies are perfectly soft with rich flavors of molasses and lemon in every bite. They are simple to make and make a great cookie contribution to a cookie swap night.
  • Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies – Take your beloved peanut butter cookie and dip it in chocolate to make it extra festive for the holidays without much effort. Soft and chewy with a delicious chocolate coating adds a special touch.
  • Date Cookies – Rich, buttery, and chewy, these Mediterranean-inspired cookies have a pretty simple cookie base but are jazzed up with naturally sweet dates and crunchy pecans. The result is an irresistible cookie perfect for a cookie exchange.
  • Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies – Crunchy around the edges and deliciously chewy on the inside, with chocolate chips and fresh cranberries in every bite.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies – A good, classic, made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookie is hard to beat. This one has the perfect balance of sweet, a little salty, and rich with chocolate chips wrapped up in a treat that’s crispy around the edges with a chewy center. Every cookie exchange needs a classic chocolate chip cookie!
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies – Chewy and rich with Nutella flavors, these cookies take just 5 minutes to prep and 4 ingredients. They are perfect to share with family and friends to help them get their chocolate fix.
  • Snickerdoodles – This simple and humble cookie has been a favorite, and for good reason. The cinnamon-sugar coating crackles ever-so-slightly as you take a bite revealing the soft, chewy interior. Everyone loves these comforting treats.
  • Pistachio Cookies – These cookies are made with almond flour and rolled oats so they are gluten-free. And the pistachios add a lovely flavor and green tinge to the cookies, making them festive and delicious!
  • 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies – These flourless cookies are gluten-free, dairy-free, and most importantly fuss-free. They’re easy to make with basic pantry staples making them a perfect last minute cookie option.
6 image collage of cookie recipes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a cookie exchange?

It is a fun event, usually held around the holidays, where guests bring cookies and accompanying recipes to share and “exchange” with their friends.

How many cookies should you bring to a cookie exchange party?

This depends on how many people are participating. As a general rule, I like to encourage my guests to bring about 3-4 dozen cookies for an intimate party of 8-10 people. If you have a larger guest list, consider doubling the amount of cookies so everyone has a variety to bring home. The good news is that we have many Christmas cookie exchange recipes to accommodate big and small parties.

Do you have to exchange cookies only?

Absolutely not! While cookie exchanges typically involve batches of homemade cookies, you can incorporate other delicious treats into your evening. Consider making peppermint brownies, reindeer brownies, or chocolate peppermint bark. You can also include pecan date bars or peanut butter chocolate bars to mix things up.

Boxes of cookies at party

Now that you know how to do a cookie exchange, what are you waiting for? I hope these tips, tricks, and cookie swap rules are helpful as you get ready to host a cookie exchange party. And if you are a guest to one, I hope you found a few new cookie recipes to try! Most importantly, I hope you can create a memorable and enjoyable cookie exchange where everyone leaves with delicious treats and heartwarming memories.

Full List of Recipes

Check out the picture cards for all the recipes listed above. You can click on any of the recipes cards to take you directly to those recipes.

White plate on marble background of sugar cookies dipped in white chocolate

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

These pepper sugar cookies dipped in white chocolate & crushed peppermint are a wonderful treat for the holidays – dairy free and made with simple pantry items!
20 minutes
5 from 76 votes

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

These deliciously rich and fudgy chocolate crinkle cookies have a fun crackled exterior and chewy, chocolate center – and they're easy to make!
1 hour 5 minutes
5 from 8 votes

Gingerbread Cookies

Simple, Gingerbread Men Cookies! These gingerbread cookies are easy to make and fun to decorate with a simple 2-ingredient royal icing for decorating!
5 from 11 votes
Soft baked Lofthouse cookies topped with icing and sprinkles on a round plate next to a cooling wire rack with more cookies. Small bowls of icing and sprinkles nearby.

Soft Baked Lofthouse Cookies

Craving those classic store-bought sugar cookies? Bake your own homemade soft-baked Lofthouse cookies with frosting with this copycat recipe!
1 hour 10 minutes
5 from 5 votes

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Delicious peanut butter cookies topped with a Hershey's Kiss! These peanut butter blossoms, or Hershey Kiss cookies, if you prefer, are soft, chewy, and oh-so good!
55 minutes
5 from 40 votes
Decorated Italian Christmas cookies stacked on a round plate.

Italian Christmas Cookies

Make your holidays merrier with Italian Christmas Cookies infused with anise seeds and topped with colorful sprinkles for extra festive fun.
1 hour 5 minutes
5 from 8 votes
Maamoul cookies on a round decorative plate with extra walnuts dusted with powdered sugar.


These Maamoul cookies are made with semolina flour + two classic fillings – creamy dates & crunchy walnuts – a delicious Middle Eastern treat!
13 hours 5 minutes
5 from 90 votes
Plate of ginger snap cookies with red napkin on the side

Ginger Snap Cookies

Quick and easy to make, these ginger snap cookies and bursting with flavor. Ready to enjoy in less than 30 minutes.
20 minutes
5 from 32 votes
Breakfast, Dessert, Snack

Biscotti Cookies

Try four flavors of biscotti – almond, chocolate chip, pistachio lemon, and cranberry orange. Easy recipe for delicious homemade biscotti!
1 hour 5 minutes
4.9 from 97 votes
Three different jam filled thumbprint cookies on a wire rack with a jar of jam nearby.

Thumbprint Cookies

This jam thumbprint cookie recipe is so easy and so good! With its shortbread cookie base and sweet jam filled center you can't go wrong!
25 minutes
5 from 17 votes
Stack of cardamom spiced cookies on a small plate
Dessert, Snack

Cardamom Cookies

Easy and quick to make, these cardamom cookies are perfectly spiced and bursting with flavor. Perfect to enjoy with a cup of coffee on a dull day!
20 minutes
5 from 86 votes
Round plate with cookies stacked on top of eachother with a few off plate and broken and a small dish of chocolate chips.

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

These Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies are easy to make in one bowl, soft and chewy and so festive for cookie exchanges and holiday gatherings!
20 minutes
4.8 from 21 votes
Date cookies on a white plate

Date Cookies

A fun mediterranean inspired cookie recipe, these buttery date cookies are sweet, nutty, chewy and completely irresistible – perfect for cookie exchanges 
30 minutes
5 from 601 votes

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

The best Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies you’ll ever make – they’re crunchy around the edges, incredibly chewy throughout and filled with chocolate chips!
32 minutes
5 from 93 votes

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Classic, made-from-scratch soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies! These tasty cookies are the best homemade chocolate chip cookies to add to your repertoire!
1 hour 25 minutes
5 from 11 votes
A plate of chocolate hazelnut cookies with a glass of milk

Chocolate Hazelnut Nutella Cookies

These easy chocolate hazelnut cookies are made with Nutella along with one egg, flour and chopped hazelnuts- quick, easy and a crowd favorite
17 minutes
5 from 7 votes
Snickerdoodles stack tall on a round plate with extra cookies nearby and a glass of milk in the background.


Learn how to make perfect Snickerdoodle cookies with this simple recipe for chewy, cinnamon-sugar goodness. Bake them any time of year!
25 minutes
5 from 6 votes
Plate of holiday pistachio cookies topped with pistachio pieces

Pistachio Cookies

These pistachio cookies are a healthier version of my favorite Middle Eastern cookies. Gluten free with no added refined sugar. Delicious and easy to make.
20 minutes
5 from 66 votes

3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies are quick, easy-to-make & tasty. They're made with peanut butter, egg & sugar so they're naturally flourless & dairy-free
20 minutes
5 from 2839 votes

For more similar roundup of recipes, be sure to check out: Festive New Years RecipesHealthy Appetizers for HolidaysEasy Christmas Morning Breakfasts, and Cozy Winter Recipes.

If this guide on how to do a cookie exchange has helped you, or you have anything to share with me, be sure to leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experiences! And if you snapped some shots of you cookies share them with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

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  1. Barbara Ann Nelson says:

    I’m so excited to have found your web site. I was a homecook for years. At 40 I started cooking classes, a year my catering company was born, and the natural progression was to teach & cook professionally. I love learning.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      That makes me so happy to hear! Hope you enjoy all the recipes and posts I share on my website.