Every year in elementary school, my teachers organized a Valentine’s Day party with the help of a few parent volunteers from our class. Unless the holiday fell on a Friday, my mom rarely signed up to do anything. She worked part-time as a scientist and took every Friday off of work to spend time in the classroom grading our spelling tests and math worksheets, which she much preferred over party planning!
When February 14th arrived, we came to school dressed in our favorite pink, red, or heart-themed outfits with matching hair ties and bracelets. (Well, at least the girls… Some of the boys boycotted and wore black and blue instead!) As we grew older, some girls started painting their nails to coordinate with their clothes, too.
Life was much more fun back then… No romantic dates or restaurant reservations or red roses to worry about—just lots of sweetheart candies and chocolate kisses!
While the students ran around outside during the lunch recess, the parents set up festive tables inside and hung red crêpe paper streamers around the walls. When we came back to the classroom, we pulled out our homemade shoebox “mailboxes” covered in heart-shaped stickers and walked around the desks, dropping a little paper Valentine in each person’s box.
Finally, after all of that waiting, we were allowed to eat the food! Although the volunteers tried to set out some not-so-sugary options like Goldfish or pretzel sticks, we always gravitated towards the desserts. Miniature vanilla cupcakes topped with tall swirls of red and white frosting, thick Lofthouse-style sugar cookies covered with pink icing, fudgy brownie bites, stiff heart-shaped sugar cookies coated in pink- and red-colored coarse sugar crystals… Plus red fruit punch and pink lemonade to wash it all down!
I’m pretty sure I tried to take at least one of each treat…
Because I started feeling nostalgic when I spotted those heart-shaped cookies during my last visit to the grocery store, I decided to create my own healthier recipe when I returned home. These Ultimate Healthy Cut-Out Sugar Cookies are the result! They’re soft, buttery, and taste like those traditional ones from the bakery or your grandma’s kitchen… But they contain NO refined flour or sugar—or guilt!
I think that sounds like the perfect Valentine’s Day treat, don’t you?
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST HEALTHY SUGAR COOKIES
These healthier sugar cookies start with white whole wheat flour. White whole wheat flour comes from a special type of finely ground white wheat, whereas regular whole wheat flour is made from red wheat. This gives white whole wheat flour a lighter taste and texture, similar to that of all-purpose flour, but it still has the same benefits as regular whole wheat flour!
Note: Whole wheat pastry flour would be a great substitute!
The other dry ingredients include baking powder, cornstarch, and salt. You’ll only use a tiny bit of baking powder—just enough to give the cookies a more tender texture! Although it may sound like a strange ingredient for cookies, the cornstarch helps keep them soft by soaking up the extra moisture in the dough.
Unlike many traditional recipes that call for an entire stick or two of butter (I don’t even want to think about all of those calories!), this recipe only uses 2 tablespoons of butter. Yes, that’s it! That really helps keep these healthy sugar cookies low calorie and low fat. Then to make this recipe even easier, you’ll melt the butter to make the cookies more tender, instead of creaming it with sugar.
In other words… You only need a bowl and a fork. No mixer required—and fewer dishes to wash! Always a good thing in my kitchen.
I use a secret ingredient to give these sugar cookies that iconic buttery taste… Butter extract! It’s a clear liquid and sold on the baking aisle near the vanilla extract. Walmart also sells a larger 4-ounce bottle on their wedding aisle for a really inexpensive price! You can find it online, too.
Note: The butter extract is required to make the cookies taste like traditional recipes. You may substitute vanilla extract if you prefer, but they won’t have the same iconic flavor.
To sweeten these skinny cookies, you’ll skip the refined sugar and use a combination of two different wholesome ingredients instead: honey and vanilla stevia. Vanilla stevia is my new favorite find! Stevia is a plant-based, no-calorie sweetener that’s clean eating friendly. It’s very concentrated, so a little goes a long way! This is the type that I buy, and it’s sold in a small bottle with an eyedropper. You can find it at many health-oriented grocery stores, as well as online. (And you’ll use it in all of these recipes of mine, too!)
Note: Because cookie dough requires a precise balance of liquid and dry ingredients, you cannot use pure honey. I included appropriate substitutions in the Notes section underneath the Instructions.
Once you’ve mixed up the dough, it’s time to chill. Chilling is mandatory. The cookie dough will be sticky after stirring together all of the ingredients, and chilling helps it stiffen so you can roll it out and slice it into fun shapes with cookie cutters!
To chill, shape the dough into a 1”-thick rectangle on top of a very large piece of plastic wrap, and lay another very large piece over the top. See that photo above? You want lots of excess plastic wrap on all four sides because you’ll roll out the cookie dough between the sheets of plastic wrap. That’s right—no need to flour your work surface or rolling pin! I love an easy clean-up like that.
Once you’ve cut out as many shapes as will fit, peel the scraps away from the shapes, instead of lifting the shapes out of the scraps. This trick ensures that those pretty hearts (or stars… or candy canes… or whatever seasonal cookie cutters that you’re using!) maintain their shape and don’t become stretched out or deformed while transferring them to the baking sheet.
Tip: You can gather and re-roll the scraps to cut out more cookies, but I recommend that you only do this once! When you roll the cookie dough too many times, it becomes tougher and not quite so soft and chewy after baking.
Then after a quick trip to the oven, time to cool, and a little icing (if you have the patience!)…
Pure sugar cookie bliss! ♡ And when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy sugar cookies!
The Ultimate Healthy Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
FOR THE COOKIES
- 1 cup + 6 tbsp (165g) white whole wheat flour (measured like this)
- ¾ tsp cornstarch
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp butter extract
- ¼ cup (60mL) honey
- ¾ tsp vanilla stevia
FOR THE ICING (optional)
- 10 tsp confectioners’ style erythritol
- 2 tsp nonfat milk
- To prepare the cookies, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, egg, vanilla extract, and butter extract. Stir in the honey and vanilla stevia. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Transfer the dough to the center of a large sheet of plastic wrap, and shape into a 1”-tall rectangle. Cover the top with another large sheet of plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
- Leaving the cookie dough between the sheets of plastic wrap, roll it out until 1/8” thick. Lightly flour your cookie cutter, and press it into the dough, making sure each shape lies as close to its neighbors as possible to minimize unused dough. Peel the unused dough away from the shapes, and place them onto the prepared baking sheets. Reroll the unused dough, and repeat.
- Bake the cut out cookie dough at 350°F for 8-10 minutes. (The rerolled dough may require a little less time.) Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- To prepare the icing, stir together the confectioner’s style stevia and milk in a small bowl. Spoon into a zip-topped bag, and snip off the corner. Pipe onto the cooled cookies.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
Due to IBS, I cannot use stevia products. How would I substitute something else?
It means a lot that you’d like to try my recipe, Donna! I’ve actually covered the answer to this exact question in the Notes section of the recipe (located directly underneath the Instructions!). I know it can be easy to miss! 😉 I’d love to hear what you think of these sugar cookies if you try making them!
Would I be able to substitute oat flour here? I saw the comment about almond flour, but my son has a tree nut allergy so that’s out. We would like to make these for santa, and my husband has requested oat flour if it’s an option. Your recipes are great! Thank you!
It means so much to me that you’d want to make these for Santa for Christmas Eve, Keeley! That’s such a huge compliment. Picking out Santa’s cookies was always a special part of Christmas in our family! 🙂 Oat flour should be fine to substitute! However, if you don’t have a kitchen scale, then be really careful when measuring it. Oat flour is a bit more absorbent than wheat-based flour, so even a little bit too much can start to dry out your cookie dough and make it crack when you try to roll it out. However, if measured carefully, your cookies should end up with the same taste and texture!
I’d love to hear what you and your family think of these sugar cookies if you end up making them!
Eda Poroj says...
Can I substitute arrowroot for cornstarch? My daughter’s stomach can’t process anything corn based.
You’re so sweet to want to adapt these cookies so your daughter can have them too, Eda! She’s so lucky to have you. 🙂 I think that substitution should work, knowing that your daughter can’t consume corn. I’d love to hear what both of you think of these sugar cookies if you try making them!
What about maple syrup instead of the stevia?
Maple syrup is fine to substitute for the honey! However, it won’t work in place of the stevia, and I’ve actually covered why in the Notes section of the recipe (located directly underneath the Instructions!). I know it can be easy to miss! 😉 I’d love to hear what you think of these sugar cookies if you try making them, Nat!
Simone Reber says...
Hi Amy! I love your recipes, they are so delicious! I was wonder if instead go of vanilla stevia i could use vanilla extract? What other substitutes do you recommend? Happy Holidays! Cant wait for Santa to try them!
I really appreciate your interest in my recipe, Simone! Unfortunately, vanilla extract won’t work in place of the vanilla stevia. Stevia is a sweetener, whereas vanilla is only a flavoring agent. However, I’ve already provided the best alternatives in the Notes section of the recipe (located directly underneath the Instructions!). I know it can be easy to miss! 😉
I’m truly honored that you’d consider making these for Santa (picking out Santa’s cookies was always a special part of our Christmases!), and if you end up making these sugar cookies, I’d love to hear what you and Santa think of them! 🙂
So you send out an email promoting your “Cute Halloween Cookies” made with Wilton Cookie Cutters 3 days before Halloween? On Amazon they would not arrive until November. Maybe better forward planning the next time? (Nonetheless, your sugar cookies are excellent.)
I really appreciate your interest in my recipe! I don’t have any control over Amazon’s shipping, but I’ve found Wilton’s Halloween-themed cookie cutters at Target and Walmart. Perhaps it’s worth checking either of those stores? Local grocery stores sometimes carry Wilton products too! 🙂
Sarah Caruso says...
Hi Amy. I think you’ve made a mistake in the substitution of the stevia with coconut sugar? If you take out the half cup honey and stevia and substitute both with coconut sugar (like you have written) then we lose 1/2 cup of liquid and the “batter” crumbs out WAY to dry… I had to add milk back to mine to get it to the right consistency. Did I miss something or does that need to be updated?
It means a lot that you tried my recipe, Sarah! All of the measurements are correct, including the coconut sugar alternative in the Notes section. 🙂
However, there’s only ¼ cup of honey (not ½ cup!) in my original recipe, and since you referenced ½ cup of honey, I’m wondering if you perhaps doubled most of the recipe but didn’t double the coconut sugar?
If that’s not the case, then did you make any other modifications or substitutions besides the coconut sugar, such as coconut flour instead of the white whole wheat flour?
If you used white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour, like I mentioned would work in the Notes section!), then how did you measure it? Did you scoop the flour directly from the container with measuring cups, by any chance? Or, if using the spoon-and-level method to fill them, did you shake your measuring cup back and forth at all in between adding spoonfuls of flour to it?
Sarah Caruso says...
I did double the recipe, yes, sorry for the confusion. And I used the level method for the flour. I know your big on weighing, but honestly the difference it would have made in the amount of flour wouldn’t have caused it to be as dry as it was. I’m confused though as to why taking out 1/2 cup liquid and replacing it with a 1 3/4 cup dry substitute is supposed to yield the same results?
Thanks for clarifying, Sarah! In this recipe, coconut sugar contributes to the liquid volume. Coconut sugar dissolves in liquids, including melted butter and eggs (whereas flour just forms a paste or dough!), so ½ cup + 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar does “bulk up” the liquid ingredients the same way that ¼ cup of honey does. I used to be a chemist before I was a baking blogger, so I love nerdy kitchen chemistry things like this! 😉
The spoon and level method actually can lead to that dry texture, which is why I asked about it. If you shook your measuring cup back and forth at all while spooning flour into it to fill it (ie to “level out” the top), even just gently, that will compact the flour. When the flour is compacted, more flour will fit into the measuring cup. This can then lead to adding 1 ½ times as much flour to the cookie dough (aka 2 cups + 1 tablespoon for a single-batch recipe, or 4 cups + 2 tablespoons when you double the recipe — rather than 2 ¾ cups, as there should be in a double batch!). That difference in flour — or an additional 1 cup + 6 tablespoons — will make a huge difference and has the potential to make your cookie dough as dry as it was.
That’s why I’m so big on weighing. It’s much easier and leads to the best taste and texture every time you make a recipe! 🙂
Sarah Caruso says...
Thanks for taking the time to respond! I do appreciate it! And I’ve been following your recipes for quite awhile now… Greek yogurt is my “secret ingredient” too. ☺️ You’re my favorite baker! (Minus my mom, lol) ❤️
It’s my pleasure, Sarah! I’m happy to help. That means so much to me — thank you for taking the time to let me know! ♡ Your mom sounds like such a special lady too!
Hi Amy – I am definitely going to give your recipe a try but like some of the others who have left comments. Can you please clarify how I should alter the recipe because I cannot use stevia. When I saw the notes section, but it says 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut sugar. So does that mean the honey should be 1/2 instead of the 1/4 cup that’s listed in the ingredients listing? And thank you for introducing butter extract, so excited to use this.
I really appreciate your interest in my recipe! Both the Ingredients list (¼ cup honey + ¾ teaspoon vanilla stevia) and Notes section (½ cup + 2 tablespoons coconut sugar) of the recipe are correct.
Stevia is very concentrated, so only ¾ teaspoon is required to achieve the same sweetness level as ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar. Because honey is a liquid, whereas coconut sugar is a solid, it contributes more to the liquid volume. Therefore, ½ cup + 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar is the “liquid volume” equivalent of ¼ cup of honey.
If you’re using coconut sugar, you’ll need ½ cup + 2 tablespoons — to replace the honey AND stevia — and that will achieve the same taste and texture. (The appearance will be speckled, though!)
I’d love to hear what you think of these cookies if you end up making them!
Hi! I only have pure honey at home and no maple or agave syrup. Is that ok?
I really appreciate your interest in my recipe, Cynthia! I’m not quite sure what you’re asking. Honey is the sweetener I called for in this recipe, and pure maple syrup and agave are the alternatives I mentioned would work as replacements for honey if you don’t have honey.
Were you trying to ask about what to do if you don’t have stevia, perhaps? I just want to make sure I fully understand your question so I can give you the best possible advice! 🙂