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
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.
- 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.