A traditional Pennsylvania Dutch treat, sand tart cookies are a crisp, buttery, rolled sugar cookie. You’ll love this easier slice-and-bake recipe!
Why you’ll love it: There are no fancy ingredients in these easy-to-make sugar cookies.
How long it takes: 10 minutes to prep, plus chilling time
Equipment you’ll need: mixing bowl, parchment or waxed paper, baking sheet
Servings: makes 6 dozen cookies
These sugar cookies are just like Grandma used to make. With a crisp delicate texture, and buttery sweet flavor, sand tart cookies are really irresistible.
Sand tart cookies are perfect on a holiday cookie platter and go well with any beverage. Coffee, tea, or milk are classic choices or serve the cookies with homemade ginger spiced hot chocolate or an apple cider mule for a special treat. Shortbread cookies are wonderful with a glass of wine, too.
This is another one of my grandma’s favorite recipes from her stained and tattered school cookbook. We always called them sand cookies. I thought it was because of the texture, kind of grainy (in a good way!) or sandy from the sugar. Upon doing a bit of research, I found that that their true name is Sand Tart Cookies and they are originally a German (Deutsch) cookie that “immigrated” to the United States. It’s so cool to find recipes from around the world in my grandma’s well-worn cookbook.
Most of the recipes for this traditional Pennsylvania Dutch cookie use chilled dough that you roll very thin and cut with a cookie cutter. Some bakers press sliced almonds, or a pecan half into the dough, brush with an egg wash, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking. Others roll the dough into small balls and bake. These are fine baking methods but a bit labor intensive.
Since my motto is keep things simple, I’ve converted this cookie recipe into convenient slice-and-bake cookies. Mix up the dough, form it into logs, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake. Slice into thin rounds and bake. A fresh cookie in minutes! Some folks call them refrigerator or icebox cookies.
Decorate the cookies with colored sugar to make them a bit more festive for the holidays. They’re great sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, too, or just plain.
I’ll get you started here with the ingredient list and extra tips. You’ll find a printable recipe card at the end of the post with complete instructions and nutrition information.
What’s in sand tart Cookies?
I can assure you, there’s no sand in sand tarts! The ingredients are simple and I bet you already have everything you need in your sandbox, er, I mean, pantry.
- Butter: Choose unsalted butter for baking, unless directed otherwise. Take it out of the refrigerator an hour or two ahead of time so it has a chance to soften. Rock hard butter is almost impossible to work with.
- Sugar: Regular granulated white sugar provides sweetness, crunch, and the “sandy” texture of these cookies.
- Flour: Choose all-purpose white flour. Whole wheat flour is a little too assertive and heavy for delicate sugar cookies.
- Pure Vanilla Extract: A good quality vanilla is important in this recipe.
- Baking Soda, and pinch of Salt: Mix these two dry ingredients with the flour.
This is a matter of personal preference. Many people prefer cookies that are soft and chewy while others are very firmly in the crispy camp. Sugar cookies are “supposed” to be just the way you like them!
Warm dough: Make sure your dough stays well-chilled. Warm dough will spread more.
Hot cookie sheets: If you are re-using cookie sheets for multiple batches, the pan can be pretty warm yet when you arrange the unbaked cookies on it. This will cause the butter in the cookie to melt before the cookie has a chance to bake.
Not enough flour: Another reason is that perhaps you were a bit light-handed with the flour or add-ins. Measure carefully and follow the recipe instructions.
If you’re wondering if chewy cookies are safe to eat, the answer is yes. Chewy cookies should have a soft center with lightly browned, crisp edges; however, they shouldn’t have raw dough in the center.
How do you tell? Take the cookies out of the oven and look at them closely. If the middle of the cookie looks shiny or glossy, and is really soft when you touch it with your fingertip, the cookie is underbaked and needs a couple more minutes in the oven.
Make These Sugar Cookies Your Own
- Decorate them: Before baking, sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar to add a colorful touch for the holidays. Match the cookie to the occasion (green sugar for St. Patrick’s Day, red sugar for Valentines’ Day, etc.).
- Add a flourish. For a more traditional sand tart, press almond slices or a pecan half into the cookie before baking. Another option is to brush the tops with an egg wash (one egg white, lightly beaten) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking.
- Lemon flavored cookies: Substitute a teaspoon of lemon extract for one teaspoon of the vanilla extract. The two flavors complement each well. Or try these lemon sugar cookies!
Storage & Make-Ahead Tips
Refrigerate/Freeze Dough: Tightly wrapped cookie dough logs can be refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen for a month. If the dough is frozen, thaw it on the counter for an hour before you slice it.
Refrigerate/Freeze Cookies: Baked cookies keep well in a tightly sealed container for a week on the counter, a couple weeks in the fridge, or a month in the freezer.
- In large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt until well-blended. Add flour and soda. Mix well until flour is completely incorporated.
- Divide dough into three parts and shape into three logs, about twelve inches long. Wrap well in parchment paper or waxed paper.
- Refrigerate dough at least overnight or up to a week. It can also be frozen for up to a month. Thaw frozen dough on the counter for one hour before slicing.
- When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 375°F.
- With a sharp knife, cut logs into ¼ inch slices. Place on cookie sheet 2 to 3 inches apart and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Cool on baking sheet five minutes and remove to wire rack to cool completely.
- Before baking, sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar to add a colorful touch for the holidays.
- For a more traditional sand tart, press almond slices or a pecan half into the cookie before baking. Brush the tops with an egg wash (one egg white, lightly beaten) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
- Cookie dough will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week or in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw slightly before slicing.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.