Fun, bright swirls of color make these easy rainbow cookies immediately irresistible! Cookie dough is quickly turned into a pinwheel of color with this fun sugar cookie recipe that’s a simple slice and bake effort that’s always a hit.
With their spirals of color, these rainbow cookies are the perfect sweet treat for a cookie exchange, party, holidays, or even game days. The ways in which you can customize them to fit your occasion are endless.
These pinwheel cookies do require some prep work because you need to make the dough (it’s easy!) and then choose and add the food coloring to each section before rolling, stacking, and rolling again. It’s fun, though and it’s a cookie recipe that kids love to help with!
Once the dough has been made, tinted, rolled, and sliced, it’s time to bake these swirly treats! Once out of the oven, they’ll be the most enticing cookie on your dessert table, guaranteed!
Flour – all purpose is fine
Baking Powder – helps the cookies rise
Salt – a flavor enhancer
Butter – softened. I like to use unsalted butter for cookies.
Sugar – white granulated
Egg – large
Vanilla Extract – the classic flavoring for sugar cookies
Powdered Sugar or Flour – used when rolling out the dough to keep it from sticking to your surface.
Gel Food Coloring – provides the most saturated color that will retain its vibrancy even when baked.
How To Make Rainbow Swirl Cookies
Note: This is a summary of the recipe steps. For complete instructions, see the recipe card down below.
- Make the cookie dough by creaming the butter and sugar together before adding the egg and vanilla. Add the combined dry ingredients and mix well.
- Divide the cookie dough into 6 equal parts.
- Add food coloring to each portion of the dough and return each to the mixer, separately, to blend completely.
- Flatten each portion of the dough into rectangle shapes and layer onto one another,
- Roll the stack of rainbow dough into a log. I suggest chilling the log roll before slicing, but that’s optional.
- Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Slice the rolled rainbow dough log into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices and place each cookie on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 7 to 9 minutes. Do not brown the cookies. Remove from oven and cool before serving.
- Don’t be afraid to flatten the dough stack with a rolling pin. You need the layers compact in order to roll the log without gaps.
- Do chill the rolled-up log. Yes, you can roll it up and immediately slice it and bake, but the chilling will help you slice it easily plus it helps the cookie from spreading too much when baking. Even an hour in the fridge will make a difference.
- When slicing the log, use a super sharp knife. Wipe the knife clean with a paper towel between each slice.
- Do not overbake these cookies. Pull them out before they begin to brown. They will continue cooking a bit even out of the oven and on the baking sheet while cooling.
What Does Slice And Bake Mean?
Slice and bake refers to the ease of cutting, or slicing, a log of cookie dough and place each sliced, raw cookie on a baking sheet for its session in the oven.
What Makes These Rainbow Swirl Cookies Slice And Bake?
Because these cookies require layers of colored cookie dough to create the swirl pattern, the different shades of dough are stacked on top of each other and the entire stack is rolled into a log and chilled. Once chilled, you can easily slice off the cookies and bake.
What Kind Of Food Coloring Should I Use?
You’ll need to use gel food coloring with these cookies. The classic liquid food coloring will not give you the saturated color you need – it will fade as it bakes. Go with gel food coloring for the best outcome! Plus, gel food coloring gives you tons of options for variations in color schemes.
Color Variation Ideas
Perfect for parties, holidays, game days, and more, you’ll have fun thinking up ways to customize these swirly cookies. Here are a few color ideas:
Halloween: Green And Orange, Purple and Green, Black And Orange
Christmas: Red And Green
Fourth Of July: Red, White, Blue
Valentine’s Day: Pink And White
St. Patrick’s Day: Rainbow Swirl (of course!) or Green and Yellow
Easter: Pastel Rainbow Colors (just add less food coloring for more subtle shades)
Game Days: Use your favorite team’s colors.
Flavor Variation Ideas
You can’t go wrong with the classic vanilla flavor for these pinwheel cookies, but if you’re making them for a holiday, you might want to amp up the flavor to match the occasion. Just swap out the vanilla extract for peppermint, coconut, lemon, or almond.
Is The Cookie Dough Freezer-Friendly?
Yes. Make and layer the cookie dough and roll it into a jelly-roll log. Tightly wrap the log in plastic wrap and then in tin foil. It will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before slicing.
Baked rainbow swirl cookies should be stored in an airtight container on your countertop. They will keep for up to 5 days.
More Cookie Recipes
Fun, bright swirls of color make these easy rainbow cookies immediately irresistible! Cookie dough is quickly turned into a pinwheel of color with this fun sugar cookie recipe that's a simple slice and bake effort that's always a hit.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 (2 sticks) cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar or flour, for rolling
- Gel food coloring
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, blend the butter and sugar until creamy and light. Add egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.
- Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until combined. The dough may be a little crumbly.
- Turn out the dough onto a surface sprinkled with powdered sugar or flour. Divide into 6 equal parts.
- Add food coloring to each portion of dough and return to the mixer until completely blended. Repeat with each color.
- Flatten each color of cookie dough into a rectangle shape and layer onto one another, creating a stack of cookie dough.
- Press together with a rolling pin and flatten to about ¼ to ½ inch thickness.
- Starting on the largest side, roll the cookie dough into a tube (like a jelly roll) pressing any cracks to keep the roll tight.
- Slice into ¼ to ½-inch slices. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake cookies for 7 to 9 minutes. Do not brown the cookies. Allow cookies to cool for at least 20 minutes on the baking sheet before carefully removing them to a cooling rack.
- Store in an airtight container between layers of parchment paper to keep the candy from attaching to the candy in other cookies.
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Rodelle Gourmet Pure Vanilla Extract, 8 Oz
Chefmaster Liqua-Gel Food Color, 10.5-Ounce, Leaf Green
McCormick Sea Salt Grinder
365 Everyday Value, Unsalted Butter, 16 oz
365 Everyday Value, Baking Powder, 10 oz
365 Everyday Value, All-Purpose Flour, 5 lb
Domino Sugar, Granulated, 4LB Canister
KitchenAid Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer
Amount Per Serving Calories 239Total Fat 10gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 34mgSodium 179mgCarbohydrates 35gFiber 1gSugar 16gProtein 3g