What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you think of cookies?
Like many people, I think of small, flat, and round dessert snacks. My favorite cookies are soft and chewy and studded with chocolate chips, just like the emoji. They’re delicious on their own but even better when dunked into a glass of milk.
I spent a lot of time in the United States so that’s what I think of when I hear the word cookie. But for people in other parts of the world, a cookie can mean something a little different.
They may go by other names but cookies in some form can be enjoyed on every continent. Many are familiar, some may be completely foreign to you, but here are forty cookies (and recipes) from different countries around the world.
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Photo by bhofack2
WHAT IS A COOKIE?
I thought this would be a simple question to answer but it’s not. We all know a cookie when we see it but it’s hard to put into words exactly what a cookie is.
Many people think of a cookie as a baked snack or dessert that’s typically small, sweet, and flat. This is especially true in North America. But in other parts of the world, that isn’t always the case.
As you’ll see in this article, a cookie can take any shape. And while they’re commonly known to be sweet, they can also be savory.
In my search to find a better definition, I came across this description on Wikipedia which I thought makes sense. Generally, a cookie is a type of cake or bread – usually sweetened – that’s made with some form of oil (butter, vegetable oil, lard) instead of a water-based liquid like milk or buttermilk.
Water makes the batter as thin as possible to allow bubbles to form and produce a fluffy cake. In a cookie, water is replaced by much more viscous oils, resulting in a cake that’s considerably denser in texture.
Simply put, a cookie is essentially a denser type of cake made without water.
WHAT ARE THE BASIC TYPES OF COOKIES?
Cookies can be classified in many ways based on ingredients, method, size, and other factors. It isn’t an exact science but generally speaking, most types of cookies can be classified into one of these basic categories.
Drop cookies are cookies made by dropping a glob of soft dough onto a baking sheet. As it bakes, the dough spreads out and flattens into a round disc. The chocolate chip cookie is an example of a drop cookie.
Pressed cookies are made with a soft dough that’s extruded from a cookie press or pastry bag into various shapes before baking. Spritz cookies are an example of pressed cookies.
Molded cookies are made with a stiffer dough that’s molded into balls or pressed into cookie molds before baking. Biscotti and peanut butter cookies are examples of molded cookies.
Rolled cookies are similar to molded cookies. They’re made with a stiffer dough that’s rolled out and then cut into shapes using a cookie cutter. The gingerbread man is a type of rolled cookie.
Also known as icebox cookies or slice-and-bake cookies, refrigerator cookies are made with a stiff dough that’s refrigerated to make it even stiffer before baking. The dough is typically shaped into cylinders and then sliced into discs before baking. The pinwheel cookie is an example of a refrigerator cookie.
Bar cookies are made by pressing the batter into a pan and then cutting it into cookie-sized squares or bars after baking. Brownies are an example of bar cookies.
No-bake cookies are made by mixing fillers like nuts and cereal into a melted confectionery binder and allowing it to cool and harden. Oatmeal clusters are an example of no-bake cookies.
POPULAR COOKIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
To make this list of cookies easier to digest, I’ve broken it down by continent. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide. You’ll also find links to recipes under most of the entries.
1. Chocolate Chip Cookies (USA)
The chocolate chip cookie is one of the most popular types of cookies, at least in North America. As described, it’s a type of drop cookie studded with chocolate chips.
Chocolate chip cookies were invented in Whitman, Massachusetts around 1938. Chefs Ruth Jones Graves Wakefield and Sue Brides chopped up a Nestlé semisweet chocolate bar and added the chunks to a cookie recipe. Today, a chocolate chip cookie recipe typically consists of flour, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, semisweet chocolate chips, and vanilla.
I love ice cream sandwiches, but when they’re made with chocolate chip cookies, they become even better. In 1978, a pair of New Yorkers had the brilliant idea of sandwiching vanilla ice cream between two chocolate chip cookies. That heavenly creation eventually became known as the Chipwich.
RECIPE: Chocolate Chip Cookies
2. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (USA)
Like chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies are one of the most popular types of drop cookies in the US. They’re descendants of Scottish oatcakes and consist of an oatmeal-based dough studded with raisins.
Recipes vary but oatmeal raisin cookies are typically made with flour, oats, eggs, sugar, salt, raisins, and spices.
RECIPE: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
3. Peanut Butter Cookies (USA)
Peanut butter cookies are molded cookies made with peanut butter as its main ingredient. It was invented in the US and dates back to the early 20th century. Originally, they were made with crushed or chopped peanuts and it wasn’t until the 1930s that peanut butter was used as an ingredient.
In 1957, a variation of the peanut butter cookie called the peanut butter blossom was invented. Peanut butter blossoms are essentially peanut butter cookies topped with a Hershey’s Kiss.
RECIPE: Peanut Butter Cookies
4. Sugar Cookies (USA)
Sugar cookies are buttery cookies made with sugar, flour, butter, eggs, vanilla, and either baking soda or baking powder. It’s a versatile type of cookie that can be dropped, molded, or rolled and cut into the desired shapes.
The sugar cookie was believed to have been invented sometime in the mid-18th century in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. German Protestant settlers created a buttery sugar cookie they called the Nazareth Cookie.
Today, sugar cookies are one of the most popular types of cookies made to celebrate the holidays in North America. They’re commonly decorated with additional ingredients like powdered sugar, candy sprinkles, and icing.
RECIPE: Sugar Cookies
5. Black and White Cookies (USA)
Also known as half-and-half cookies or half-moon cookies, black and white cookies are round cookies frosted equally with chocolate and vanilla. They’re believed to have been invented by Glaser’s Bake Shop in Manhattan sometime in the early 20th century.
Black and white cookies have become an important culinary tradition among the Jewish communities of New York City. They’re a common sight at Jewish bakeshops and were even featured on an episode of Seinfeld.
RECIPE: Black and White Cookies
6. Snickerdoodles (USA)
Snickerdoodles are a type of cookie made with flour, butter (or oil), sugar, and salt. They’re rolled in cinnamon sugar and often have a cracked surface after baking.
7. White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies (USA)
As its name suggests, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies are drop cookies made with white chocolate and coarsely chopped macadamia nuts as its key ingredients.
8. Red Velvet Cookies (USA)
Red velvet cookies are soft and chewy cookies made with flour, cocoa powder, and red food coloring. They can be made in different ways but my favorite version is studded with white chocolate chips. It’s essentially a combination of red velvet cake and chocolate chip cookies.
RECIPE: Red Velvet Cookies
9. Crinkle Cookies (USA)
Crinkle cookies are classic American cookies that date back to the early 20th century. They’re rolled in icing sugar and have a characteristically cracked surface.
Crinkle cookies were invented in St. Paul, Minnesota and have become a holiday favorite in the US. They’re traditionally made with chocolate but they can be flavored with other ingredients as well like vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, matcha, and red velvet.
RECIPE: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
When life gives you lemons, you make lemon crinkle cookies.
10. Whoopie Pies (USA)
The whoopie pie is a type of sandwich cookie made with two cookies held together by a cream filling or frosting. Like crinkle cookies, it’s an American classic that dates back to the early 20th century.
The whoopie pie is the official state treat of Maine though several other states – namely Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Virginia – all lay claim to the invention of this popular sandwich cookie.
RECIPE: Chocolate Whoopie Pies
Whoopie pies are traditionally made with chocolate but they can be made with other ingredients as well. If you like red velvet cookies, then you’ll definitely enjoy red velvet whoopie pies.
What better cookie to make for Thanksgiving than pumpkin whoopie pies?
11. Molasses Cookies (USA)
As its name suggests, molasses cookies are made with molasses as its key ingredient. It’s a classic Christmas cookie made with warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, dried ginger, and nutmeg.
Molasses cookies are soft and chewy and have a characteristically cracked surface. They’re very similar to gingersnap cookies except the latter are drier and crispier in texture.
RECIPE: Molasses Cookies
12. Oreos (USA)
The Oreo cookie is without question the most iconic brand of cookie sandwich. It was unveiled by the Nabisco company in 1912 in New York City and has since become the best-selling cookie brand in the US and the world.
Oreo cookies traditionally consist of two chocolate wafers held together by a cream filling. They’ve since been produced in multiple varieties like Oreo Minis, Oreo Thins, Mint Oreos, and Double Stuf Oreos.
RECIPE: Homemade Oreo Cookies
13. Fortune Cookies (USA)
Fortune cookies are crisp cookie wafers made with flour, sugar, vanilla, and sesame seed oil. They’re known for containing a piece of paper bearing a “fortune” inside and are typically served at the end of a meal at American Chinese restaurants.
Fortune cookies may be associated with Chinese restaurants in the US but there’s nothing Chinese about them at all. In fact, they were invented in 19th century Kyoto, Japan where they’re known as tsujiura senbei.
The original Japanese version is larger than the American fortune cookie and is made with a batter containing sesame and miso. Available at temples, they also contain a fortune but the slip of paper is wedged into the bend of the cookie rather than being placed inside.
Makato Hagiwara of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is credited for being the first person to serve fortune cookies in the US. Over time, fortune cookies became associated with Chinese restaurants in the US.
RECIPE: Homemade Fortune Cookies
14. Animal Crackers (USA)
Animal crackers are bite-sized cookies baked into the shapes of various zoo or circus animals. Marketed as crackers instead of cookies, they were invented in England in the 19th century and imported into the US where they became hugely popular.
Nabisco started producing animal crackers domestically in the early 20th century and called them “Barnum’s Animals”, after the Barnum and Bailey Circus. They were initially sold in large tins before Nabisco started selling them in small colorful cartons meant to be hung from Christmas trees. They were a huge hit and are still available to this day.
Animal crackers are a type of rolled cookie made using a cookie cutter. At first, they consisted of simple shapes with few details. It wasn’t until the invention of rotary dies that bakers were able to imprint the intricate details we now see today.
RECIPE: Homemade Animal Crackers
15. Alfajores (Argentina)
The alfajor is arguably the most popular type of cookie sandwich in South America. Its invention is credited to al-Andalus (Muslim-ruled area of Spain) though it’s widely consumed in many countries throughout South America like Peru, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Bolivia. In Argentina, it’s considered a national dish.
Alfajores can be made in different ways but they typically consist of two shortbread cookies held together by a dulce de leche filling. They’re traditionally coated in powdered sugar but they’re often covered in shredded coconut or chocolate as well.
RECIPE: Argentinian-Style Alfajores
In the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, light and crispy cookies are referred to as biscuits. I’ll be using both terms interchangeably in this guide.
16. Butter Cookies (Denmark)
Butter cookies are originally from Denmark. Also known as Danish biscuits, they’re made with a good amount of butter and sugar which gives them a crispier texture. They can be made in a variety of shapes and designs and flavored with different ingredients like chocolate, vanilla, and coconut.
RECIPE: Butter Cookies
17. Shortbread Cookies (Scotland)
Shortbread cookies are a type of Scottish biscuit made with butter, sugar, and flour. They’re very similar to butter cookies except they’re made with less sugar and are baked at a lower temperature.
RECIPE: Shortbread Cookies
18. Gingerbread Cookies (England)
Gingerbread refers to a family of baked confections made with honey and warm spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. They’ve been a popular treat at European fairs and festivals since medieval times.
In England, ginger biscuits have been sold at monasteries and markets since the 17th century. A staple during the holiday season, they’re typically made into a variety of festive shapes with decorative icing, one of the most common being the gingerbread man.
RECIPE: Gingerbread Cookies
19. Gingersnap Cookies (Germany)
Gingersnap cookies are very similar to gingerbread biscuits, except the dough is molded into balls before baking instead of being rolled out and cut into shapes. They’re also baked a little longer which gives them a slightly snappier texture.
RECIPE: Gingersnap Cookies
20. Vanilla Crescent Cookies (Austria)
Also known as vanillekipferl, vanilla crescent cookies are small, crescent-shaped Austrian biscuits. They’re traditionally made with walnuts but they can also be made with almonds or hazelnuts. They get their name from their shape and heavy dusting of vanilla sugar.
Vanillekipferl are originally from Vienna but they’re commonly sold throughout Europe, usually from Viennese coffee shops. Traditionally made around Christmas time, they’re said to be shaped like the Turkish crescent moon to celebrate the Holy Roman Empire’s victory over the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Vienna.
RECIPE: Vanilla Crescent Cookies
21. French Macarons (France)
The French macaron has to be one of the most beautiful and sophisticated-looking sandwich cookies ever made.
A Parisian creation, French macarons consist of two meringue-based discs made with egg whites, almond paste, granulated sugar, icing sugar, and food coloring. They’re incredibly light and airy and held together by a filling, usually buttercream, ganache, caramel, or jam.
RECIPE: French Macarons
22. Meringue Cookies (Switzerland)
Meringue cookies are a type of crisp and dry pressed cookie made with whipped egg whites and sugar. The mixture is extruded through a piping bag into Hershey’s Kisses-like shapes before being baked at low heat.
RECIPE: Meringue Cookies
23. Speculoos Cookies (Belgium)
Speculoos (aka Biscoff) refers to a type of biscuit originally produced in Belgium. Its key ingredients are wheat flour, fat, candy syrup, and sometimes cinnamon.
Although they look similar, speculoos isn’t to be confused with Dutch speculaas, which is made with more warm spices like cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. Speculoos was developed in the 20th century as a cheaper alternative for people who couldn’t afford speculaas.
RECIPE: Speculoos Cookies
24. Krumkake (Norway)
Krumkake refers to a type of waffle cookie from Norway. It’s a descendant of the Italian pizzelle and is typically made using a decorative two-sided iron griddle. While still hot, the cookie is rolled into cones and can be eaten plain or filled with whipped cream and other fillings.
25. Stroopwafel (Netherlands)
Stroopwafel refers to a small, round waffle cookie consisting of two baked layers of dough held together by a sticky caramel filling. A beloved Dutch treat, stroopwafels are usually placed over a cup of hot coffee – just enough to soften the cookie – before eating.
26. Macaroons (Italy)
Not to be confused with macarons, macaroons are small cookies made with sweetened shredded coconut as its main ingredient.
The macaroon was created by an Italian monastery in the 8th or 9th century. It was originally made with ground almond paste, hence the name macaroon, which stems from the Italian word maccarone or maccherone meaning “paste”.
27. Biscotti (Italy)
Biscotti are twice-baked Italian almond biscuits originally from Prato, Tuscany. Also known as cantucci, they’re dry, crunchy, and oblong-shaped and often served as an after-dinner dessert with vin santo. Outside of Italy, biscotti is more commonly served with hot coffee.
28. Savoiardi (Italy)
If you’re a fan of tiramisu like I am, then you’re no stranger to these Italian biscuits known as savoiardi or lady fingers. They’re dry, egg-based, sponge cake biscuits with a similar shape as human fingers, hence the name.
Lady fingers can be enjoyed on their own with hot beverages like coffee but they’re also a common ingredient in desserts like tiramisu, trifle, and charlotte.
29. Amaretti di Saronno Cookies (Italy)
Not to be confused with Amaretto Disaronno liqueur, amaretto di Saronno refers to a type of bitter-sweet flavored macaron from Saronno in Lombardy, Italy. There are many types of amaretti, usually made with almonds, but amaretto di Saronno is the only one made with apricot kernels.
30. Kourabiedes (Greece)
Kourabiedes are almond butter biscuits from Greece. Made with roasted almonds, butter, and rosewater, they’re traditionally prepared around Christmas time and served with a generous coating of icing sugar.
31. Lengua de Gato (Philippines)
We’re originally from the Philippines so lengua de gato is a cookie we’re very familiar with. Meaning “cat’s tongue” in Spanish, it refers to a thin, crispy, and buttery cookie that resembles a feline’s tongue, hence the name.
I’m not sure if lengua de gato originated from Spain or the Philippines. Either way, the Philippines is a former Spanish colony which helps explain the cookie’s Spanish name.
RECIPE: Lengua de Gato
32. Singapore Cookies (Thailand)
Singapore cookies are buttery, flower-shaped shortbread cookies. They’re made with lots of sesame seeds, topped with whole cashews, and brushed with an egg yolk glaze.
RECIPE: Singapore Cookies
33. Matcha Cookies (Japan)
Matcha is an important part of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies but it’s also used as an ingredient in many food products like pastries, cakes, ice cream, donuts, and cookies.
RECIPE: Matcha Cookies
French macarons come in many flavors but matcha macarons are definitely one of my favorites.
34. Sakura Cookies (Japan)
Sakura is the Japanese term for cherry blossom trees. They’re a big reason why hordes of travelers flock to Japan in spring. But did you know that the flowers themselves are actually edible?
Sakura cookies are buttery shortbread cookies topped with preserved cherry blossoms. The flowers are washed, dried, and soaked in ume plum vinegar for several days before being dried and stored with salt.
Not only does the dried sakura look pretty, but it adds a touch of saltiness to contrast with the rich buttery cookie.
RECIPE: Sakura Cookies
35. Acibadem Kurabiyesi (Turkiye)
Acibadem kurabiyesi refers to a Turkish biscuit made with almonds, egg whites, and sugar. It’s traditionally made with a small amount of bitter almonds which gives the cookie its name. Acibadem kurabiyesi in Turkish means “bitter almond biscuit”.
Acibadem kurabiyesi are similar to Italian amaretto cookies. They have a chewy texture and are typically served with coffee or ice cream.
RECIPE: Acibadem Krabiyesi
36. Ghoriba Bahla (Morocco)
Ghoriba bahla refers to Moroccan shortbread cookies made with toasted sesame seeds and almonds. There are many types of ghoriba cookies in Morocco, but ghoriba bahla are known for having a characteristically cracked surface. Without the cracks, they’d be known simply as ghoriba.
I don’t really understand the significance of the cracks or the meaning behind the name, but ghoriba bahla translates to something like “silly cookies” or “stupid cookies”. Bahla means “silly” and pertains to the cracks on the cookie’s surface.
RECIPE: Ghoriba Bahla
37. Kaab el Ghazal (Morocco)
Kaab el ghazal refers to another oddly-named cookie from North Africa. Kaab el ghazal literally means “gazelle ankles” and refers to crescent-shaped cookies filled with almond paste aromatized with orange blossom water. When coated in icing sugar (pictured below), they become known as kaab el ghazal m’fenned.
Almonds are a relatively pricey ingredient so gazelle ankles are typically prepared only for special occasions like weddings and baby showers.
RECIPE: Kaab el Ghazal
38. Ka’ak al-Eid (Egypt)
Ka’ak al-Eid refers to buttery Egyptian biscuits filled with various ingredients like agameya (mixture of nuts, honey, and ghee), pistachios, or dates. They’re coated in icing sugar and traditionally prepared to celebrate Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan.
Also known as kahk, ka’ak al-Eid biscuits originated in Egypt but are consumed throughout the Middle East. They can be plain or stamped with a decorative design, a practice that dates back to ancient Egypt.
RECIPE: Ka’ak al-Eid
39. Ghorayeba (Egypt)
Ghorayeba refers to an Egyptian shortbread cookie made with just three ingredients – flour, ghee, and powdered sugar. It’s basically the Egyptian version of ghoriba. This type of shortbread cookie can be found throughout North Africa and the Middle East where it goes by different names like ghorayeba, qurabiya, ghribia, and ghriyyaba.
Though Egyptian ghorayeba dough is made with just three main ingredients, it’s often garnished with pistachios and other nuts like almonds or cashews.
40. Anzac Biscuits (Australia / New Zealand)
Anzac biscuits get their name from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) which was established during WWI. Wives and women’s groups preferred sending this type of biscuit to soldiers abroad because they kept well during transport.
RECIPE: Anzac Biscuits
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COOKIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
This list of forty cookies is long but it’s just a nibble when you think of all the delicious cookies you can find in different parts of the world.
Case in point, I never thought of our native Philippines as a big cookie-eating country. But in my research, I found nearly thirty types of Filipino cookies, many of which I’d never even heard of!
With all the cookies that exist today and all the cookies that are yet to be invented, no list can ever be complete but this collection of forty is a good start. As with all our food guides, it’s something I plan on refining and building upon over time.
Cover photo by bhofack2. Stock images via Depositphotos.