December 12, 2016

Gram's classic Christmas thumbprint cookies

Blue and white plate with finished thumbprint cookies filled with raspberry jam.

These thumbprint cookies are rolled in chopped walnuts and filled with your favorite jam or jelly for a traditional Christmas cookie that is sure to be a family favorite.

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Thumbprints are a classic holiday cookie and they are a popular Christmas cookie for Christmas for good reason. They are flavorful, colorful, and relatively easy to make. Plus they are versatile as you can change the color and flavor of the filling.

There are many kinds of thumbprint cookies with different cookie bases and different fillings (like these peanut butter and jelly thumbprint cookies). These cookies are how my family always made them - rolled in chopped walnuts and filled with a red jam or jelly. 

These walnut and jam thumbprint cookies are one that is requested each year, and is usually the first to disappear from its cookie tin.

This recipe came from my great-grandmother, handed down to us through my mother. I remember making and eating these cookies throughout my childhood. They definitely have a sentimental feel about them when I make them, when I place them out on a platter at Christmas, and when I eat them. 

Close-up of finished thumbprint cookies filled with raspberry jam.

When making thumbprint cookies, I like to use raspberry and/or strawberry jam to fill the thumbprint centers. I like the red color for Christmas. However, you can use other jams or jellies as well - blueberry, mixed berry, peach, currant, and others will all be delicious. 

A relative reminded me recently that my great-grandmother would sometimes fill the thumbprint holes with red or green frosting. She does have this written as an option on her recipe card. I had forgotten about that since my mom always made them with jam, and we always have as well.

Her recipe is sparse - no mention of how much nuts to use - they aren't even listed in the ingredients. In the instructions, it just says "roll in nuts" without mentioning what kind, how much, chopping, etc. We've always used chopped walnuts.

There is also no mention of separating the eggs. I guess when you make them every year for your adult life, it's pretty intuitive! 

I have modified my great-grandmother's recipe just a bit and I've also made it a little clearer over the years so that others can follow it. 

If you don't already make thumbprints for your holiday cookie tray, please add them. You wont be disappointed.

Yield: about 30 cookies
Author: Amy (Savory Moments)
Gram's Classic Thumbprint Cookies

Gram's Classic Christmas Thumbprint Cookies

Thumbprint cookies are rolled in chopped walnuts and filled with your favorite jam or jelly for a traditional Christmas cookie that is sure to be a family favorite.


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups chopped walnuts
  • your favorite jam or jelly


  1. Separate the eggs putting the two yolks into a large mixing bowl and the two whites into a small, shallow bowl. Use a fork to lightly beat the egg whites with a teaspoon of water. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In your mixing bowl with the yolks, add the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer or wooden spoon until lightened and fluffy. Stir in the flour and salt until combined.
  4. Place the walnuts in a pie plate or large shallow dish.
  5. Roll the dough into a ball 1 tablespoon at a time. Roll and coat in the egg whites and then roll and coat in the walnuts. Place on the baking sheet about 1-inch apart and repeat until all dough is used.
  6. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and use your thumb to "print" a well into the center of each cookie. Fill the center with about a half teaspoon of your jam/jelly/preserves (I like to use a red one like strawberry and/or raspberry).
  7. Bake for another 10-12 minutes, just until the cookies begin to turn golden.
  8. Remove the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Did you make this recipe?
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I hope you give these thumbprint cookies a try! Let me know in the comments below.

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Finished thumbprint cookies filled with raspberry jam on a plate with a tea towel.

This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated in 2023 with new text and more to improve reader experience.

Check out these other favorite Christmas cookies: 

Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies

Mexican Wedding Cakes

Chocolate Chip Snowball Cookies 

Rosemary Shortbread Christmas Tree Cookies

Eggnog Snickerdoodles 


  1. i love thumbprint cookies! my family recipe is very similar to this one. :)

  2. I don't have a family recipe for thumbprint cookies so I would love to try yours, Amy. I love the nuts in your gram's recipe.

  3. They are definitely a must in the holiday cookie platter!

  4. I adore thumbprint cookies! Made some not long ago and all gone. I never saw thumbprints with nuts what a great idea!

  5. an oldie but a goodie! they look perfect to my eyes. :)

  6. I love thumbprints and yours sound delicious! I had 2 sheets of them in the oven and accidentally turned off the oven instead of the light. Checked them when the timer rang and they weren't baked. Took them out, reheated the oven and put them back in to bake. No wonder they're crumbly! Funny what you said about instructions, intuitive for sure!

  7. Thumbprints are my favorite Christmas cookies, how wonderful to have a recipe from your great-grandma. Happy Holidays Amy!

  8. Great share and they look so festive and wonderful. Love thumbprints any time of year but particularly at Christmas. They're just special and so great your recipe comes from your great grandma.

  9. When I write recipes for myself (not to share), I also tend to say things like "roll in nuts" without any mention of quantity. I just figure I'll know what to do. :-) Anyway, love thumbprint cookies! A real classic. BTW, I’m taking off for the rest of the year, so I want to wish you happy holidays!

  10. These cookies are so festive Amy, perfect for the holidays...I have never baked thumbprint cookies...
    I hope you are having a great week :)

  11. Thanks for linking your recipe to First Monday Favorites at Sid's Sea Palm Cooking. Those cookies look amazing, but even better is that the recipe is from your Greatgrandmother. Hope to see you next month as well.

  12. Oh I love these. And there is something even more special being a family recipe

  13. You can't go wrong with a recipe from Gram. Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Love a family classic! I only made thumbprint cookies once, they turned out cute, but I definitely need more practice ;-)

    Yours look wonderful!

  15. I like the use of walnuts in these cookies, I've not seen thumbprints like that before!

  16. I love recipes that have been passed down for generations, even if they do require a bit of tweaking sometimes. I had a cake recipe from my great-great-grandma that had baking instructions of bake in a moderate oven until done. You don't see that very often in cook books! Thanks for sharing at our virtual cookie exchange!


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