Cranberry Macadamia-Butter Cookies

So what happens when you substitute real dairy butter with a nut butter in a Christmas-y cranberry cookie? One excellent cookie, that's what. The dough starts with a nut butter made with macadamia nuts, you'll make it yourself by grinding the nuts in a food processor. The cookies turn out crisp on the outside, chewy in the center, bright with bits of dried cranberry and lightly spiced with fresh nutmeg. No wonder this cookie was voted my family's Favorite Cookie of the Year!

Cranberry Macadamia-Butter Cookies ♥, a favorite Christmas cookie recipe, crisp on the outside, chewy in the center, lightly spiced with fresh nutmeg.

Homemade Christmas Cookies, Made from Scratch with Macadamia Nut Butter. Real Food, Fresh & Inventive. Bright Color. Great for Food Gifts, Cookie Swaps & Holiday Platters.

  • "... a family favorite. I have to make at least an extra half batch ..." ~ Anonymous
  • "Truly an excellent cookie ..." ~ Susan

If At First You Don't Succeed ...

Once in a while, a recipe shows such promise you almost obsessively make it again and again, until getting it exactly right.

That’s what happened with these crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-in-the-middle bright-colored cookies, voted the family favorite "new recipe" their first year and a cheerful addition to holiday cookie platters ever since.

That first year, I mixed batch after batch, each an improvement but still, the cookies were never quite right.

Now mind you, all this work wasn't for a recipe of my own: it was for a recipe printed in a national cooking magazine, a recipe which, it turned out, sure didn't seem to be well-tested let alone "tested until perfect".

Why did I put so much effort into a cookie recipe? Didn't I already have enough reliable, time-tested recipes? (I did.) But ...

  • The recipe completely puzzled me. It came from a national magazine. How could it be so, well, not ready for publication?
  • I liked the taste so much! Even when the texture was off (and I could tell, comparing my cookies to the magazine's photo), really, there's just something special about sweet-tart cranberry and nutmeg.

So I made batch after batch, trying to figure out what was happening.

Finally I Found the Trick!

The macadamia nut butter must reach a consistency someplace beyond creamy commercial peanut butter, smooth and almost runny.

The inspiring recipe called for just 2/3 of a cup of macadamia nuts. In my large food processor that small quantity turns out a grainy, crumbly mess of nuts, hardly a nut butter. The cookies tasted great but didn’t flatten properly.

Luckily, the fix was easy: just re-write the recipe for a bigger batch!

You won't be sorry, the cookies are that good!

And the dough freezes well so you can bake some now, the rest later.

So a caution: if you happen to cut this recipe in half, you'll need to process the full amount of macadamia nuts even if you use only half for the cookies. The leftover half won't go to waste, just stir it into morning oatmeal or process in a smoothie, both so good!

And It's Worth It

Mine is a family with lots-lots-lots of favorite Christmas cookie contenders, some big cookie years, there were 30 or even 40 different kinds of cookies.

But that first year, we voted that this was our collective Favorite Cookie of the Year.

And I've been making them ever since ... so far, that's almost twenty years!

What's In Cranberry Macadamia-Butter Cookies?

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Usually I'm a big fan of substitutes, in this case, I recommend sticking with the recipe.


No Butter, Instead, Macadamia Nut Butter We're all familiar with peanut butter and almond butter. Macadamia nut butter? That's new. In my experience, you can't "just buy" macadamia nut butter. So that's why we have to process the macadamia nuts to create a runny nut butter. The only trick is patience, it takes longer than you might think for a food processor to break down the nuts to the needed consistency.

A reader made these cookies with a pecan butter and was happy. I tried cashew and was not. I do think almond butter might work, so long, again, as it's runny. I would definitely process it, just to break it up.

Dried Cranberries I like to chop up the cranberries in a food processor, just a bit, so they evenly distribute throughout the cookies. Do be sure that the cranberries, while dried, are also "fresh". You know how they dry out and get hard, sitting in the pantry for a few months? Soft, plump dried cranberries work much better.

Fresh Nutmeg Ahhh, nutmeg. If you can freshly grate nutmeg, go for it. If not, ground nutmeg works well too. Either way, choose freshness, either a just-opened container of ground nutmeg or a whole nutmeg recently purchased and grated. It makes all the difference.


... Dry Ingredients flour + baking soda + salt

... Sugars white sugar + brown sugar

... Wet Ingredients eggs + vanilla

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most iluminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

The Macadamia Nut Butter Must Be Runny I can't emphasize this enough. It's the trick to getting the cookies to reach the right texture. Think runny peanut butter, that's what you're shooting for.

To get there, process the macadamia nuts in a food processor, letting it run for longer than you can imagine, watching it change, scraping the sides often, practicing patience. That runny texture will happen.

If you're impatient, you might think about adding a little water. But don't. If the processing just goes on too long (this hasn't ever happened to me but ...), try adding the 2 teaspoons of vanilla to the food processor, this way the flavor proportions don't get up-ended.

I learned this the hard way. Back in about 2004, this recipe completely puzzled me. I liked the taste so much, I made batch after batch, trying to figure out what was happening. Af first, the texture wasn't right. The trick I finally figured out? You have to make sure sure that the macadamia nut butter reaches a consistency just a stage past runny peanut butter. Finally perfection, so perfect, they were voted the family favorite that year!

Use a Stand Mixer This dough is quite heavy, it's too much for a hand mixer. If you don't have a stand mixer, after processing the full amount of macadamia nut butter, continue mixing the dough in two batches.

Use Fresh Nutmeg To my taste, it's the nutmeg that takes these cookies over the top. If your nutmeg is just-fresh, straight from a just-opened container, that's good. If your ground nutmeg is kinda old and dusty, well, sorry. I have one of those small nutmeg grinders but really, it gets old too, even if the nutmeg is freshly ground on the spot because the nutmeg itself is years old. Fresh nutmeg matters!

Watch the Timing For sweet, chewy cookies, take the cookies out of the oven before they "appear" done, they'll finish baking on the hot baking sheet. Take note of the timing in your own environment, in mine, 9 minutes is perfect, 10 is too much.

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this recipe fro this lovely little cranberry cookie hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Cranberry Macadamia-Butter Cookies ♥, a favorite Christmas cookie recipe, crisp on the outside, chewy in the center, lightly spiced with fresh nutmeg.


Hands-on Time: 40 minutes
Chill Time: 10 minutes
Start-to-Finish: 65 minutes
Makes about 5 dozen medium-size cookies

This isn't a hard cookie to make but it is pretty finicky. Please pay attention to what make seem like small details in the recipe, they're present for a reason.
  • 1 cup (125g) dried cranberries, preferably plump and pretty
  • 1 cup (200g) white sugar
  • 1-1/3 cups (180g) macadamia nuts
  • Cranberry-Sugar mixture
  • Macadamia-Butter
  • 1 cup (200) light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • White sugar in a small bowl

SETUP Heat oven to 375F/190C. Line three baking sheets with parchment. Set up stand mixer.

CRANBERRIES In a food processor, chop the cranberries with the sugar until the cranberries are roughly chopped (not tiny bits) that will distribute more evenly throughout the cookie dough than whole dried cranberries. Transfer to the large mixing bowl for a stand mixer.

MACADAMIA-BUTTER In the same food processor bowl (washing isn’t necessary), make a nut butter by processing the nuts until very smooth and runny, think runny peanut butter, about two minutes and some times more, do be patient and scrape the bowl several times. Once it's runny, scrape out of the food processor bowl into the mixing bowl.

COOKIE DOUGH In the mixing bowl, use the paddle attachment to thoroughly combine the Cranberry-Sugar mixture, the Macadamia-Butter and brown sugar. Add the vanilla and eggs and combine well. Sprinkle the baking soda, salt and nutmeg across the top of the dough and mix in well.

Mostly mix in about 1/3 the flour at low speed, repeat with another 1/3, then fully mix in the last 1/3, then quit to avoid overworking the dough.

CHILL Cover the dough and chill for 10 minutes. It's okay to chill longer but then you'll have to wait until the dough almost softens up to scoop properly.

MEASURE OUT Scoop dough with a a small cookie scoop (a small spoon works fine too). Use the warmth of your hands to roll the dough into one-inch balls, flatten just a bit, then press the tops of each ball (just the top!) in the dipping sugar.

Arrange the cookies on the baking sheet, leaving two inches between the balls for the cookies to spread, that's 20 cookies per baking sheet in 4x5 rows. Gently press the balls just once with the tines of a salad fork, flattening a bit more.

Bake for 8 - 10 minutes (9 minutes is perfect in my oven) or until just golden, the cookies will look "undone" in the centers but will finish baking on the hot baking sheet out of the oven. Let cool briefly, then transfer to a paper towel or rack to cool completely.

ALANNA's TIPS Do not cut this recipe in half! Halving it looks straight-forward but it's not. Instead, if you must, process the full amount of 1-1/3 cups of macadamia nuts into a runny nut butter. Use half the nut-butter for your half-batch of cookies, cutting all the other ingredients in half too. Use the remaining half of nut-butter in morning oatmeal, on toast, even a protein punch for smoothies. I often stock up on nuts when they're on sale, then store in the freezer to keep fresh. Macadamia nuts must be thawed before starting this cookie. Nuts usually taste better when roasted or toasted first but that’s not needed here. One baker successfully substituted pecans for macadamia nuts, I think almonds would work too, just make sure to get to that runny nut-butter consistency. Do grate fresh nutmeg, it's really special! The cookie dough will be quite thick, it's too much for a hand mixer. Watch the first tray carefully, removing it from the oven when the cookies have begun to flatten but are still a bit puffy and still look a bit unbaked. The cookies will flatten and the golden color will continue to develop. I haven't tried this but it does occur to me that with using the "flax egg" technique, this could be a vegan 100% plant-based cookie. Must try!

RECIPE HISTORY Please know, when I first published this recipe in 2005, I stuck with the 2/3 cup macadamia nuts which led to all kinds of confusion, some of which is shown in the comments below. To avoid further confusion, I finally just updated the recipe to double the recipe using a full 1-1/3 cups macadamia nuts. It's just simpler that way, I wish I'd done it way back in 2005! And the cookies are so good, I'm happy to have more!

NAME HISTORY Formerly called Cranberry-Mac Morsels and also Macadamia Nut-Butter Cookies with Dried Cranberries & Fresh Nutmeg and also I-Can't-Seem-to-Get-the-Name-Quite-Right too.

Per medium-size cookie: 57 Calories; 2g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 9g Carb; 0g Fiber; 39mg Sodium; 6mg Cholesterol; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Sorry, due to technical issues during a laptop conversion, Weight Watchers points will be updated later.

My Oldest Christmas Cookie Recipes

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Shop Your Pantry First

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Anonymous7/22/2007

    I have made these cookies for several years and they are a family favorite. I have to make at least a triple batch and they disappear as fast as I make them!


  2. I love cranberyy anything so was quite happy to find the recipe, but what holds these cookies together? The one egg? I am looking at some very dry batter right now.

  3. Karen ~ Cookie tip line, here! Did you let the macadamia nuts process until they were a runny peanut butter? That's completely the trick with these cookies. And at least in my large food processor, I had to do double the nuts to get that consistency. The good news is that even if the nuts weren't done to the runny peanut butter stage, the cookies will still TASTE good. That's what happened with my first couple of batches, what kept me continuing to test until I got it right.

  4. Anonymous1/15/2009

    I am very tempted by this recipe, but do not have macadameia nuts on hand. As they are very expensive, can I substitute pecans (We traveled through Gergia over Xmas, and I have a ton in my pantry as a result), or walnuts or almonds? I have never made a nut butter besides peanut butter. If you don't have an opinion, I will go ahead and give the pecans a whirl.

  5. Hi Susan - Good questions! Here's my instinct: almonds would be closer to macadamia nuts in flavor than pecans. That said, pecans might just work beautifully too. If you have fresh cranberries on hand, this recipe for Fresh Cranberry Drop Cookies might appeal. Let me know, yes?

  6. Anonymous1/16/2009

    What kind of flour do you use? we have plain flour or self raising here and its always stated in our recipes which one to use. The same goes for the sugar. You just state it as sugar when we have ordinary granulated or slightly finer caster sugar which we would normally use to bake. does it matter which one to use?

  7. Hi Anonymous - Oh dear, the vagaries of crossing countries with recipes! In U.S. recipes, 'flour' will always mean all-purpose flour, a wheat flour that is enriched, either bleached or unbleached. That's because self-rising flour is available but not used so much. In addition, 'sugar' or 'white sugar' will always mean granulated sugar. I occasionally use super-fine granulated sugar for baking fine-textured cakes but this recipe was tested with regular granulated sugar. Thanks for asking, I've been meaning to put in an ingredient glossary to help, you've been my inspiration, again!

  8. Anonymous1/31/2009

    Cutting back on eating after the holidays and sticking with the WW rules, I was looking for a sweet treat that was 1 point and tasted good. I don't like macadamia nuts and substitued walnuts. To get the right consistency for the nut paste, I added a few scant teaspoons of water. Truly an excellent cookie -- thanks.



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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna