Bake

Turmeric Sugar Cookies

September 17, 2018
19 Ratings
Photo by Jenny Huang
Author Notes

A whole new way to sugar cookie, thanks to one ingredient: ground turmeric. Coupled with butter and sugar, this often-savory spice not only gets to show off its incredible color, but flavor too. Our staff thought they were everything from lemony, to tangy, to raspberry-y. What notes will you pick up? —Emma Laperruque

Watch This Recipe
Turmeric Sugar Cookies
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 22 minutes
  • Makes 24 cookies
Ingredients
  • Cookie dough
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups (333 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/3 cups (299 grams) all-purpose flour
  • Sugar crust
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Heat the oven to 375° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
  2. Add the butter, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium for a few minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla. Continue beating—again, scraping down the sides as needed—until cohesive and fluffy.
  4. Add the turmeric and baking powder and mix on low just to combine. Add the flour and mix on low again until completely combined. Detach the bowl from the machine and use the rubber spatula to make sure there are no floury dry spots on the sides or bottom of the bowl.
  5. Stick the dough in the fridge to firm up for 10 or so minutes. Meanwhile, you can clean up and make the sugar crust mixture: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and turmeric, and stir.
  6. Scoop the dough by generously rounded tablespoons (about 40 grams each). I fit 6 on each sheet tray, so start by scooping 12 cookies. Roll each dough blob lightly between your hands into a smooth sphere. Now roll each sphere in the sugar. Divide evenly between the lined sheets. No need to flatten—they’ll spread in the oven.
  7. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes until puffy, slightly crackly, and just beginning to brown around the edges. They will fall as they cool. That’s good. You want them crispy around the edges and chewy-tender in the middle.
  8. Cool for a few minutes on the tray, then use a spatula to transfer to a cooling rack.
  9. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.
  10. These freeze well.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • SophieL
    SophieL
  • goodgalsasha
    goodgalsasha
  • Dominique Agri
    Dominique Agri
  • Laura Rallios
    Laura Rallios
  • Kt4
    Kt4
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

56 Reviews

Heather H. December 24, 2019
Can cookie cutters be used for this dough recipe?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. December 27, 2019
Hi Heather! My hunch is that the dough might be too soft—but you could certainly form it into blocks, wrap, refrigerate for a few hours, and see. If it's too soft at that point, no harm done! You can just let it soften up a bit and scoop from there.
 
SophieL December 7, 2019
I made these cookies exactly as written and they're wonderful! My turmeric was a bit old so next time I'll add more and also make them smaller. I love the reviewer comments and am getting some great ideas for variations (Chinese five-spice? Wow!). This recipe's a keeper. Thanks!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. December 9, 2019
Thanks, Sophie!
 
goodgalsasha May 2, 2019
love the flavour but could not get the cookies to spread as thinly as was shown in the video.
what could i have done wrong?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. May 2, 2019
Hello! Did you use chilled butter or chill the dough at all? My first thought is that the butter and/or dough might have been too cold.
 
Miss B. April 13, 2019
I picked up mostly on the taste of sugar and butter, but maybe my turmeric has losts its flavour. Still super tastey!
 
moody B. February 11, 2019
I had a strange experience with these cookies! I followed the recipe exactly as written, but I refrigerated the dough for about 5 hours while I was out of the house. When I baked them up, they turned red inside! I'm not kidding, the cookies are golden yellow ish on the outside but the red inside is obvious, when bitten into they are deep red inside. Taste good if not a little... strange.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 11, 2019
Mine usually have a reddish inside, too!
 
Kt4 February 11, 2019
Fascinating!

From schoolessons.com: Turmeric is an natural colour indicator because it changes its colour in acid medium as well as in base medium.

When turmeric is combined with any base liquid like it turns red in colour while when turmeric comes in contact with any substance like that of vinegar, that is acidic in nature, it turns yellow.
 
Anagha December 4, 2019
Actually this is very common. Since Baking powder is acid base, when it touches turmeric it turns red. This chemistry fact is used to even scare people in villages in India. The con artist would dip the knfe in turmeric, and when he would cut the lime, it would turn red, he would scare the people that the goddess is mad at them hence this is happening : )
 
Dominique A. January 29, 2019
I made half this recipe and added lemon zest. The texture is perfectly chewy with crisp edges. They're not too sweet and have a great nutty flavor. Thanks for the recipe.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. January 29, 2019
Lemon zest sounds awesome! So glad you enjoyed.
 
Amber G. January 5, 2019
Used King Arthur GF measure for measure flour and they turned out great, y’all! Chilled them for ~30 mins and they kept their shapes fairly well. They’re delicious and subtle and everything I hoped they’d be. Thanks for a great recipe, Emma!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. January 6, 2019
Yay! Thanks, Amber!
 
judy December 14, 2018
I love sugar cookies. I have an anise recipe much like this that I love because I Love licorice. I like that I can roll the dough into a log, wrap and put in "icebox" for icebox cookies. I have made versions with orange zest, pecans, brown sugar instead of white, adding chocolate, or candied citrus zest--or both!. I usually use 1/2 AP and 1/2 WW pastry flour. I tell myself it isomer nutritious as I eat another one! This weekends foray for the holidays is orange zest and chopped cranberries. I have several now in logs in the fridge ready to bake when family comes. Happy holidays, folks. I'll have to give turmeric a try. And what about a garam masala or Chinese 5 spice with a hit of chili? Hmmmm so many possibilities for a simple basic dough.
 
Laura R. December 12, 2018
These cookies are delicious!! I made them for my dad who has rheumatoid arthritis. We try to get as much natural anti-inflammatories into him as we can. These cookies will do the trick. Not only were they simple to make but very tasty, too. These will definitely be a regular. Thanks for the great recipe!
Also, I followed the advice of another reviewer and refrigerated the dough longer than 10 minutes. Actually, I refrigerated them overnight. The dough was perfect to work with.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. December 13, 2018
Thanks so much, Laura! So glad you and your dad enjoyed them.
 
Kt4 December 9, 2018
This sounds very interesting! I'm going to have to give them a try. Thinking I might divide the dough and also add all the Golden Milk seasonings (ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, pinch black pepper) to half for comparison.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. December 9, 2018
Ooh! That sounds like such a delicious comparison—if you try, please let me know how it goes.
 
Jenny December 5, 2018
I made these exactly as written and they were great! Soft in the middle and just slightly crisp at the edges. The turmeric is indeed very subtle, but I like the mystery of it. I would never guess it was turmeric if I didn’t know. I think they’d be great as an ice cream sandwich!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. December 6, 2018
So glad you enjoyed, Jenny! I also think they'd be great as an ice cream sandwich :)
 
Jennifer K. December 2, 2018
Hey Emma! These are definitely our new house favorite! I've made them several times already.

I wanted to make these for my niece, but she needs gluten free ... can I substitute the AP flour with coconut or almond flour ... ooh, maybe oat four?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. December 3, 2018
Hi Jennifer! So happy to hear that your family's enjoying the cookies. With respect to adapting the recipe for your niece: I think your best bet would be an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. (I worry that using just one type of gluten-free flour, such as coconut or almond, would be too drastic a swap.) If you give it a try, I'd love to hear how it goes.
 
Jennifer K. December 4, 2018
Thank you! I'll let you know how it goes.
 
Jennifer K. December 13, 2018
Okay, so I tried the gluten free version. The only substitute I made was all-purpose gluten free flour blend. The dough was even softer than the original, so keeping it chilled was key. Once the dough warmed up, it was too tacky to handle. Smaller balls were required ... my first pan melted into several large squares. ;-) The cookies came out flatter and little more delicate, but the taste was the same and just as good. Hopefully they will survive transport to my niece.
 
Ashley November 17, 2018
I made a double batch of these for an early Thanksgiving treat. They are wonderful! I used a gluten free flour blend of sorghum, cornstarch, and tapioca, so I'm not if that influenced the fact that they spread A LOT. They're super thin and huge, but still chewy at the centers, with a crisp crust and edge. I added extra turmeric to the batter, and they're a delightful golden yellow, with an earthy, sweet flavor. So far it has just been myself and my mom who tried them, but we have been picking away at them all evening. These will become a regular in the cookie rotation.
 
Kat S. November 8, 2018
This recipe inspired a whole slew of suger cookies with unexpected flavors. We made a batch and split it into sections and mixed different spices into each. Paprika was a particularly fun one.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. November 8, 2018
Whoa! What were some of the others?!
 
Erin H. October 29, 2018
These cookies definitely did not disappoint! I found the turmeric to be subtle, but it adds such great, unexpected note to the flavor. The texture was a perfect balance with the crunchy edges and soft middle. Mine didn’t crack, so I just pulled them when the edges started browning (10 minutes.)

The only thing I would do differently next time is lessen the sugar, as they are a tad too sweet for my preference. Otherwise, I love everything about this cookie!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. October 29, 2018
Thanks, Erin!
 
Lisa October 27, 2018
These are definitely different, but good for the adventurous one. I substituted half the butter for tahini and used all rice flour. The texture was great, chewy edges and soft-ish in the middle (I like it that way.) I can definitely taste the turmeric. I may make them again and decrease the turmeric slightly and add ground ginger.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. October 28, 2018
Thanks for reporting back on these adaptations, Lisa! Love the idea of adding ground ginger.
 
Michelle C. October 23, 2018
My last six are in the oven now. The aroma is delightful & the flavor equally so. I haven't experienced much tumeric but LOVE these (grownup) sugar cookies. I had to bake mine for 13 minutes & the results are crispy edges & chewy center. Yum. I also drop each blob directly into the shallow bowl of sugar crust. Then with finger tips, I sprinkle the mixture onto the blob then gently toss between both hands to form a ball. Note, I did end up with yellow finger tips. LOL. Thank you FOOD52 for this recipe that I'll be using for Christmas!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. October 28, 2018
Thanks, Michelle! Means a lot to me that you'll repeat them for the holiday :)
 
Michelle C. December 21, 2019
Season's Greetings Emma, I meant to reply last year...where did the time go? These yummy turmeric sugar cookies have become a must bake for the holidays! I add red & green sugar to the sugar crust mixture so my cookies are festively dressed! Thanks so much for this recipe. Enjoy the holidays.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. January 6, 2020
"Where did the time go?" I wonder this a lot! So glad you're enjoying the recipe.
 
Jennifer U. October 7, 2018
Great recipe! The Turmeric is not overwhelming and the color is nice. Outsides are crispy and inside is chewy just as the recipe promised. It's a keeper!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. October 7, 2018
Yay! Thanks so much, Jennifer.
 
Ayesha October 1, 2018
I just made these, and they're great! I have a few notes that may be helpful to others (like me) who are not professional bakers:
1. The dough was very wet for us, and we had to keep them in the freezer for about 30 minutes or so, otherwise our hands would be covered in very wet dough and no smooth ball would actually be formed. 10 minutes in the freezer wasn't enough. The dough being wet could be due to a variety of reasons: ambient temperature, humidity, our ingredients, etc but I'm only sharing so that if anyone else goes through the same thing all they need to do is chill it for longer (and don't add more flour).
2. Another comment recommended adding more turmeric. I think it depends on what you want. These were more on the subtle side, but I think the impact of turmeric goes beyond its spicy flavor- the turmeric adds warmth, a brightness, and in a way (a good way) sorts of cuts through the sweetness. We're Indian and we cook with turmeric a lot- I thought the amount of turmeric was just fine but my mom did think we should have added more. And I do want to make these again but with more turmeric! I think it's a matter of preference.
3. I was hesitant to make these because I was baking for kids and thought this recipe would be a bit too "grown up" for them, but they all loved it! I would definitely recommend this recipe to people who are hesitant to make something out of their comfort zone.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. October 1, 2018
Hi Ayesha! So glad you and your family loved the cookies—and thanks so much for sharing this great feedback. Such a useful note about chilling vs. adding more flour...that's what I always say about pie dough, too!
 
Sarah September 30, 2018
I just made these this weekend, but I added some extra ingredients: pinch of saffron, chopped pistachios, diced dried apricots, pinenuts, dried goji berries, and a little lemon zest. They were soooooo good! My friends and boyfriend couldn't stop eating them! These are a keeper and I will definitely be making them again. Thank you for the recipe :)
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 30, 2018
So glad y'all enjoyed 'em—those extra ingredients sound sooo good!