Let's make one thing clear right at the beginning. This is not a ranking of the best cookies in the world. Here at Yummy Bazaar, we believe all cookies are good cookies. Be it chewy, crumbly, crunchy, mild, or super sweet, all cookies have their place in the world, as long as there's even one person who enjoys them.
Rather, this is a concise overview of the most famous cookies, the ingredients they're made of, and their texture-flavor profiles. The purpose of this list is to serve as lead to cookie lovers. There are so many varieties of these small delicious treats in the world that you may have easily missed out on more than a few. This list should guide you to which cookies you should try next.
Now, without further ado, let's discuss what we'd argue are (some of) the best cookies in the world. They did become the most famous for a reason, no?
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Classic chocolate chip cookies are soft and chewy drop cookies (cookies made from a soft dough that needs to be scooped onto the baking sheet). They're traditionally made with wheat flour, butter (though commercial brands may substitute it with oils), sugar, and eggs, with dark chocolate chips mixed into the dough at the end. Additional ingredients may include vanilla and chopped nuts.
One of the most famous cookies in the world, there are many variations of chocolate chip cookies, with bakers experimenting with different flours, sugars, and chocolate. Favorite versions include the double-chocolate chip (with cocoa mixed into the dough) and white chocolate macadamia (with white chocolate chips instead of dark)
Peanut Butter Cookies
It's made with just three ingredients: peanut butter, sugar, and egg. First developed in the USA in the 1910s, it became popular during the Great Depression due to its simplicity and comparatively low cost. The sticky dough is traditionally rolled into balls and pressed down with a fork before baking. These cookies have a somewhat crumbly texture and moderately sweet, nutty flavor.
Classic Sugar Cookies
Sugar cookies are made with sugar, flour, butter (or oil), eggs, vanilla, and a leavening agent. The biggest misconception about sugar cookies is that they're supposed to be dry and crumbly. While sugar cookies have a high ratio of flour to fat, which results in a sturdy dough, the texture of a baked cookie is supposed to be light and medium-soft or slightly crunchy.
Scottish Shortbread Biscuits
Shortbread cookies are among the most popular cookies in the world, with many countries putting their signature twist on them. But it originated in Scotland in the 12th century. The shortbread we know today was created in the 16th century. Initially cut in triangular wedges ("petticoat tails"), today, the most common form is a shortbread finger - a thick and narrow rectangle with small holes.
Classic Scottish shortbread is made with one part sugar, two parts butter, and three-four parts wheat flour. This high ratio of fat to flour and sugar results in tender and crumbly cookies with a moderately sweet flavor.
Italian Shortbread Cookies
Shortbread cookies are famous all over the world. But many countries do not adhere to strict ratios of Scottish shortbread. Italian shortbread-style cookies are considered some of the best cookies in the world. Still, most bakers and manufacturers have long strayed away from the classic recipe. So unless they've specified that it's Scottish shortbread, the ingredients may be quite different.
Italian powerhouse Mulino Bianco cookies, for example, are made similarly to shortbread cookies but sometimes substitute butter for oils, or a mix of two, as well as slightly adjust proportions of fat to flour to sugar. But most importantly, Mulino Bianco cookies have pretty much established what Italian shortbread cookies look like. Like Scottish shortbreads are often recognized due to their signature forms, so are Mulino Bianco cookies. Some of them are so popular that their name has become recognizable as a cookie type.
Abbracci, for example, is a half-white, half-black round shortbread-style cookie, but it's made with the addition of cream, cocoa, and honey.
Macine is likely the most popular among Mulino Bianco cookies, with the recipe closest to classic shortbread. These round cookies with a large hole in the center are often found at Italian breakfast tables.
Baiocchi is a sandwich cookie made with two shortbread-style cookies glued together with chocolate-hazelnut cream. But despite being similar to shortbread in texture and flavor, the cookies don't contain butter.
Tarallucci cookies are also close to classic shortbread with one significant distinction - they wholly swap butter for oil. Tarallucci is easily recognizable due to its design: a water mill in the dented center of the cookie and its name etched on the top edge.
Girotondi is made in a similar way (oil swapping butter) and additionally dusted with sugar on top. Its millwheel-shaped form is possibly the most famous among Mulino Bianco cookies.
Rigoli is a think rectangular-shaped shortbread-style cookie with no butter. Their texture is on the more crumbly side, and their flavor is on the sweeter side due to the extra honey.
Palet Breton (or Galettes Bretonnes) are classic beurre biscuits. These French butter cookies are subtly sweet, with somewhat savory undertones. They're lightly crispy and crunchy, with a very rich buttery flavor.
Cantuccini, cantucci, or biscotti, as they're often called (it literally means "biscuit"), are hard and crunchy almond cookies. They're traditionally made without yeast and baked twice. Modern cantuccini often deviates from classic biscotti recipe, sometimes adding yeast or acids (to make the cookie less dry) and using non-traditional flavorings like pistachios, walnuts, or chocolate.
Sables are a French version of shortbread cookies (though some would argue they're French butter cookies, not shortbread). They're made similar to their Scottish counterparts: a mixture of sugar, butter, and wheat flour, with no leavening agent.
However, the butter to flour ratio may indeed tip them into butter cookie territory depending on the recipe). Sables have a tender, crumbly texture and are traditionally flavored with orange or lemon zest or almonds.
Ma'amoul is an Arab butter cookie made with semolina flour instead of soft wheat and filled with either nuts or a fruit paste. Ma'amoul cookies have a tender and crumbly texture and (no surprise here) a soft buttery flavor. However, the taste of the cookie often gets overpowered by filling. Classic Ma'amoul fillings include pistachios, almonds, and walnuts, or date paste.
A variety of shortbread cookies with a dent in the middle filled with jam. Somewhat similar to Jammy Dodgers, but Jammy Dodgers are a type of sandwich cookie with jam, while thumbprint cookies are open.
Rather similar to classic thumbprint cookies, barquette cookies are boat-shaped crumbly cookies filled with fruit puree. They're one of the signature cookies from the French powerhouse brand LU.
Le Petite Ecolier
Le Petite Ecolier ("little schoolboy") is one of the most recognizable French butter cookies. They traditionally have ridged edges and have a thick chocolate top on one side, which doesn't cover the edges. The design dates back to the 1880s, but its current iteration was created by LU in the 1920s and has remained unchanged since (though other brands have started manufacturing similar cookies).
Palmiers are also a variety of French butter cookies, though they significantly differ from classic sables and Palet Bretons due to being made with puff pastry. Due to their unique shape, they're often called pig's ears or elephant's ears. They're light, crunchy, and not overly sweet, even though they're often dusted with sugar.
A thin and crispy semi-sweet biscuit popular in the UK. The use of malt extract in the recipe alongside standard ingredients like flour, fat, and sugar differentiates them from other classic cookies. They don't contain eggs.
As they're the most popular sandwich cookies in the world, we were obliged to include them on this list. Oreos are made with two thin, dry, and crispy cookies (sometimes called wafers, though they're not really wafers), with a filling made with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fat, and flavorings.
Arguably a sandwich cookie or a cake, the debate is still on. Moon Pie is made with two round graham crackers, filled with marshmallows, and covered in chocolate. A Moon Pie-type Korean snack cake called Choco Pie is particularly popular in Asia.
One of the oldest sandwich cookies in the world. Macaron cookie shells are made by combining stiff-picked meringue with ground almonds and powdered sugar. The soft and chewy sweet cookies are then glued together with dense cream.
No, they have nothing to do with French macarons, though people often mix them up due to the name. In France, a similar cookie is called Congolaise.
Coconut macaroons combine shredded coconut with sugar, egg whites, and sometimes condensed milk. They're soft, moist, and very sweet.
Ladyfingers are light and dry sweet oblong biscuits. They're often used in desserts due to their spongy texture, the most famous being tiramisu.
They're sometimes called Savoiardi (their Italian name) or Boudoirs (their French name).
Langues de Chat
Created in France in the 17th century, the name means "cat's tongue." A small crunchy sweet cookie, it's traditionally made with egg whites, flour, and sugar.
Several Asian countries have their own versions of cat's tongue cookies. In Indonesia, they're known under the name Kue Lidah Kucing, and in the Philippines as Lengua de Gato. Lengua de Gato often uses milk in the recipe.
Flapjack-style cookies made with rolled oats and jumbo oats. Sweet and crunchy, they're a popular side to tea.
Thin, light, and crunchy cookies, flavored with gingerbread (a mix of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) and sweetened with honey or molasses alongside sugar. Gingerbread cookies are traditional Christmas treats, often shaped into various forms and decorated with colorful glaze.
Gingersnaps are thin and crispy cookies flavored with ginger and molasses. Unlike gingerbread, molasses isn't optional, while other spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg can be skipped, though most recipes do add cinnamon. Their closer to Molasses Cookies, but the latter is thicker, chewier, and calls for significantly less powdered ginger.
A variety of sugar cookies, snickerdoodles are made by combining flour, fat, and sugar, sometimes with eggs. One difference is in the leavening agent, with snickerdoodle recipes often calling for cream of tartar (though it can be substituted with baking soda). Another is that snickerdoodles are rolled in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Snickerdoodles can be either crispy or chewy, depending on the recipe.
A spiced honey cookie, Lebkuchen is a traditional Christmas treat in Germany. It's heavily spiced with the recipes, including some combination of coriander, aniseed, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and allspice, and contains a lot of nuts and candied fruit. Lebkuchen can be either thick, in which case it's very dense and chewy, or thin, in which case it's lighter and crunchier, similar to gingerbread.
Napolitaines, also called Mauritanian Sandwich Cookies, are two tender and crumbly butter cookies with a jam filling.
The cookies are made with only butter, sugar, and flour, resulting in a very light and moderately sweet cookie. Napolitaines are traditionally covered in colorful sugar glaze.
This famous Japanese treat was created in the 1960s but has since become one of the most popular biscuits in the world. Pocky consists of sweet and crunchy biscuit sticks coated in a sweet glaze. The original Pocky was covered in chocolate, but now there are over a dozen flavors, including strawberry, matcha, honey, etc.