Perfect M&M Cookies:
All Butter, No Shortening

One of America's favorite cookies, M&M Cookies are an adaptation of the traditional Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, topped with crayon-colored M&M candies. It's my friend Kathy's signature recipe, one she's tweaked and perfected over many years. Best of all, her cookie recipe uses butter, real butter, not shortening. Bake them crispy, bake them chewy, your choice.

Festive & Colorful for Christmas & Other Holidays. A Favorite for Kids and Kids-at-Heart.
Perfect M&M Cookies ♥ KitchenParade.com, the classic Tollhouse cookie recipe with holiday M&Ms, crispy or chewy.

Do You Have a Signature Cookie?

My friend Kathy is famous for her M&M Cookies. It's not that she doesn't occasionally break the mold and bake something else, she does. But in the almost thirty years we've been friends, I can't think of another cookie she's made twice, let alone many times a year.

Kathy makes 15 – 20 batches a year and at Christmas, shares ten dozen at my friends’ annual cookie swap where new recipes may be ooo-ed and aaah-ed over but Kathy’s cookies are outright coveted.

Topped with red and green M&Ms, the cookies are just so eye-catching – the ones kids snatch up and grown-ups reach for first. Fights have been known to break out over the last cookie on the plate!

Almost Exactly the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

Observant bakers, study the ingredient list. Yes, it’s just a nibble different than the classic Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe, America’s favorite for 75 years. But oh, the difference!

Kathy tweaked the M&M Cookies variation for a decade, achieving a perfect balance of crispy chewiness and chocolaty sweetness. If it stirs an irresistible urge to clip, bookmark, pin, share or print – now! – you’re not alone for the recipe rouses otherwise rational cooks into the kitchen at odd hours.

A Revelation: Crispy vs Chewy

Kathy makes her cookies many times a year. I'm no slacker but make "only" two or three batches a year. But over the years, I became puzzled how my cookies some times turn out so different than Kathy's. Don't get me wrong, hers are awesome and mine are always very good. But some times, they were just different.

So Kathy and I compared notes on specific ingredients, butter brands, flour brands, sugar brands, etc. We compared notes on ingredients by weight. We compared baking sheets. We compared oven temperatures.

And ... we found no differences. How could one recipe produce two such different results, especially from two careful, detail-oriented bakers? We promised ourselves that one day, we'd bake together and figure it all out.

And then late one night (doesn't everybody mix up a batch of random cookies at bedtime?!) I answered our question. It wasn't the ingredients. It wasn't the baking sheets. It was how we treated the baking sheets.


  • Kathy's cookies are crisper, darker, deeper, flatter. Why? She bakes her cookies on bare baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray. Her cookies also spread more and are more fragile.
  • My cookies are chewier, blonder, lighter, rounder. Why? It's an old habit of mine, baking cookies on parchment and even though my notes specify bare baking sheets, some times I forget and reflexively bake Kathy's cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment. These spread less and are less fragile, the better choice for shipping, say.

Perfect M&M Cookies ♥ KitchenParade.com, the classic Tollhouse cookie recipe with holiday M&Ms, crispy or chewy.

Visually, the differences are subtle but the cookies in the photo above were baked on bare baking sheets sprayed with baking spray. Do you see the "legs" around the outer edges? How they're slightly caramelized? Those are telltale signs.

Now mind you, both our cookies are good, very good. And some people like crispy cookies and some people like chewy cookies so in this case, it's easy to "have your cake and eat it too" in a single batch, just by treating the baking sheets differently. Do I have a preference? Yes!

Now that I figured it out, I can actually look at photos from over the years and tell which ones were baked on bare baking sheets and which ones on parchment.

Can you tell? I'm so glad to solve this cookie puzzle!

My Best Tips

I love this recipe! Perfect M&M Cookies are wonderful choice for spontaneous cookie baking, scratching that cookie-baking itch that hits every so often.

First, it's easy to keep a bag of M&Ms on hand. Moreover, the dough itself has no unusual ingredients. It mixes up really fast and there's little down time, even with one oven.

Now some cookie recipes can take almost anything you throw at 'em. The butter temperature doesn't really matter, you can change things up, you can cool them on a rack or not.

This is not that recipe. The only "imperfection" in Perfect M&M Cookies is that attention to detail really matters. That's why my recipe is written with tons of insider tips, the little stuff that makes a difference. Experience helps!

  • Use quality ingredients, good butter (but not European butter), flour from a fresh bag, cane sugar.
  • Take time to thoroughly mix the ingredients.
  • Baking time is important, minutes do matter. Take notes on what works in your own kitchen.

Perfect M&M Cookies: Perfect for Holiday Occasions

Watch for seasonal M&M colors!

Seasonal M&Ms transform these favorite Christmas cookies into black and orange Halloween treats and pastel Easter goodies. For anyone courting Leprechaun Luck, for St. Patrick’s Day, consider the mythical aphrodisiac seduction of all-green M&Ms.

Fun, yes?

Baking Resources



Just updated! First published way back in 2007.

PERFECT M&M COOKIES

First grabbed, first to disappear
Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Start-to-finish: 1-1/4 hours
Makes 4-1/2 dozen medium-size cookies, easily halved
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/8oz/225g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100) brown sugar, golden or dark
  • 1 generous teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature (or warmed in warm water for 5 minutes)
  • M&Ms, 3 regular size (about 5oz) or 5 mini per cookie

Set oven to 375F/190C.

MIX THE DOUGH In a bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking soda.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy. Add the vanilla, then one at a time, the eggs, mixing well after each. If needed, scrape the battle of butter-sugar mixture. Still on low speed, mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture at first, then the remaining flour mixture, each time mixing until well-combined but without mixing more than needed.

CHILL THE DOUGH OR NOT Kathy and I differ here. She bakes her cookies straight off. I sometimes like to chill the dough for several hours or overnight or even for 24 or 48 hours if life takes unexpected turns: the cookie dough is easier to work with and extra flavor begins to develop too, especially for the longer chill times. The chilled dough can change the baking times.

BAKE on BARE BAKING SHEETS For crispy cookies, spray a baking sheet with cooking spray (Kathy uses Pam, I use Baker’s Joy or coconut spray from Trader's Joy). Form balls a tad smaller than a golf ball (weighing about 15g) and arrange well apart on a baking sheet, just 12 cookies per sheet with a standard-size sheet; for consistency, use a small cookie scoop.

~ or ~ BAKE on PARCHMENT For chewy cookies, line baking sheets with parchment. With your hands or a small cookie scoop, form balls (smaller than a golf ball, weighing about 15 grams and arrange on a baking sheet, up to 15 cookies per sheet (these spread less).

BAKE, ADD M&Ms, BAKE AGAIN Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven. Working quickly, gently press 3 regular size or 5 mini M&Ms onto each cookie for another 2–3 minutes, checking at 2 minutes. For crispy cookies, the cookies should be on the brown side of golden, the bottoms crisp. For chewy cookies, the cookies should be more golden than brown but be sure the bottoms are fully cooked.

COOL Let cool for 2–3 minutes (no more, otherwise, they'll stick) and use a thin metal spatula to gently move the cookies from the baking sheet to a cooling rack.

Once cool, stack gently in cookie tins lined with wax paper; use more waxed paper to separate the layers of cookies. Perfect M&M Cookies stay fresh for a good week or more. They also freeze well.

ALANNA's TIPS This dough is so simple but it does take a little extra care to thoroughly mix the ingredients. Be sure to really whisk the dry ingredients together well. When mixing the wet ingredients, make sure to scrape the mixing bowl often so the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla really become one, no streaks. If needed, scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Be sure to fully incorporate the flour. At least with a 1970s-vintage Kitchen Aid mixer, this means wiping down the sides three or four times. Please don't use European-style higher-fat content butters, the cookies are prone to running and burning. Not good! Both Kathy and I use Land O' Lakes unsalted butter for baking although I also use Land O' Lakes salted butter with great results. When positioning the M&Ms atop the partially baked cookies, use a gentle touch and they'll settle in perfectly. If you press, even lightly, the M&M will be buried. But! If you use mini M&Ms, these need pressing! Arrrgh, the details, some times! Cookie sheets and ovens do vary in performance and these cookies are fussy about timing. Track the exact number of minutes in your own environment so your cookies neither under- nor over-bake. If you happen to under-bake a trayful, don't worry, just put it back in the oven for another few minutes, checking after each minute until the color changes. I save a perhaps-obvious tip for last: a double batch.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cookie: 86 Calories; 4g Tot Fat; 3g Sat Fat; 17mg Cholesterol; 55mg Sodium; 11g Carb; 0g Fiber; 7g Sugar; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 2 & PointsPlus 2 & SmartPoints 4 & Freestyle 4 & myWW green 4 & blue 4 & purple 4

Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Cranberry-Mac Morsels (Macadamia Nut-Butter Cookies with Dried Cranberries & Fresh Nutmeg) Frosty Christmas Trees Graham Cracker Toffee
~ more cookie recipes ~
~ more Christmas recipes ~

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 via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. 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, 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.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2007, 2010 & 2019

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

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

Comments

  1. Love the show of holidays for the M&M cookies. One day I'll live near to some calorie burners (little kids) and can make cookies again. My husband would be through several cookie sheets of these in a couple of hours. I know only to well from experience.
    Why do I feel the urge to bake at midnight?

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  2. I agree with Tanna about the calories. It's kept me from baking for years. Now that the grandson is 8, he's making noises about baking Christmas cookies. These look *perfect*! Thanks Alanna!

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  3. I've started making mine with the new dark chocolate M&Ms. They are just wonderful. Use the basic recipe and just substitute. They're much less sweet and still very m&m-y.

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  4. One of the first cookies I ever baked with my mom was chocolate chip cookies with M&M's on top. Now 30 years later, she bakes them with my nieces. You're right, they are perfect.

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  5. Oh my! So tempting. I may have to come up with a gluten-free dairy-free version.

    See what you've started? ;)

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  6. Just made the M&M cookies. Could not roll into a ball, too gooey. They cooked pretty good but the top is cooked and the bottom is still a little soft. Is this normal?

    Taste great but just wondering. Thanks for all your great recipes. The Oatmeal Raisins are the BEST......Mary Brooks

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  7. Hi Mary ~ I'm so sorry you had trouble, gooey is absolutely not normal. And it's hard to imagine how gooey would happen, unless maybe the butter was melted instead of at room temperature, or perhaps the flour was accidentally mismeasured?

    Since Kathy makes them SO much and I tested her recipe myself three times, it isn't likely the recipe. I suspect that the baking issue is related to the dough, too, rather than its own issue.

    I wish I could rush over and bring you some cookies!

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  8. Hi. I just made a double batch of these to share at a cookie swap. I'm not a frequent cookie baker and I had a little trouble getting the size/time right. I think I figured it out after a few sheets. But even though some are a little crunchier than others, they're all delicious! Thanks for sharing the wonderful recipe.

    I found that a 14 oz bag of M&Ms was just shy of enough for the double batch. I put some chocolate chips on top of the last few and it turned out fine.

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  9. TWO SUPRISES ON MY FIRST TRY:
    1. My cookies looked gorgeous until I put the M & M's on them after 9 minutes of baking time. Then they collapsed flat as a, err... crepe! Flavor was great but I would have liked them to have stayed thick. Should I cook them another minute or two?

    2. I followed Alyssa's suggestion about using the dark chocolate M & M's. They were yummy but to my surprise there were no white candies, only red, dark green and light green. Do the regular chocolate candies include white in the holiday mix? The white adds nice contrast, so in the future I may add some white sprinkles if I use the dark chocolate.

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  10. Libby ~ Great tip on the M&M quantities, thank you! And FYI, when Kathy brought her own cookies to my cookie swap yesterday, her edges were crunchier than mine, too. How that happens, I'm not sure. She and I are even using the same cookie sheets (though I've tested on three different cookie sheets, which is something I always do, since learning how different cookie sheets actually do perform very differently).

    Adriana ~ Flat as a crepe. Hmm, no, I don't think that they'd fluff up again. Re: the white M&Ms, I bet I know that answer. The pictures were taken with a batch I tested with Christmas Reese's pieces, the candy-coated peanut butter thingies. They weren't half so good as plain M&Ms (though I'm much looking forward to trying Alyssa's recommendation for dark M&Ms) so I didn't include them in the recipe but the pictures were good, so I let them run. I do apologize for that surprise.

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  11. Anonymous3/02/2008

    I was searching all the comments but nobody mentioned the cookies texture. Do they turn out soft and chewy or crisp/crumbly? I so prefer soft and chewy and am wondering if I should try these.

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  12. Anonymous ~ These are definitely not a 'crisp' cookie - although they can be, if baked a little longer. That said, my friend Kathy and I compared notes again over Christmas and realized that her cookies are slightly crisper than mine, even though I'm following her recipe to the T and even use the same cookie sheets. I also test cookies on two other cookie sheets, also on parchment. So the difference is likely a difference in how much we cream the butter or in our ovens.

    I think these are just completely delicious, I don't think you'll get any complaints, no matter!

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  13. I made these cookies for my son's preschool graduation. I hope they will be a hit tomorrow. I'm not a big chocolate fan, so I had to go by my husband's taste buds. He liked the cookies, but said he would have liked chocolate chips in the cookies, too.

    I had the same problems as two other people's comments.

    1) The dough was a bit too gooey to roll into a ball (I read the comments before I started, so I was very careful about my measurements--I definately used the right amount of flour and the butter was room temp, not melted). So instead I used a spoon and made little mounds on the cookie sheets.

    2) The cookies came out very flat. After cooking several sheets worth of cookies, I discovered that cooking them a bit less worked well. Also, I enlisted my husband to help put the candy on so the cookies were out of the oven a minimal amount of time. They were still very flat, but not as bad as the first few batches.

    I have one question: might refrigerating the dough help? I make snickerdoodles a lot, and the dough has to be cold to roll into balls. Otherwise, it sticks to your hands. Has anyone tried this recipe with cold butter and eggs?

    And one final suggestion: I used an airbake cookie sheet and a baking stone. The cookies cooked more evenly on the stone. However, I only have one, and it takes a while to cool.

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  14. Hello Cookie Bakers ~ With a recent batch, I had the same trouble that others have experienced, the dough being super sticky and gooey. I experimented with another batch and found that chilling the dough seems to eliminate that issue so I've adjusted the recipe to say so.

    Another reminder: these really do spread. I can only get six cookies onto a cookie sheet.

    I've also learned to really watch the cookies as they bake, my new electric oven bakes/heats differently than my old gas oven did. Once I figure out the right timing, it all goes fine.

    The good news, these cookies sure do taste good! They're worth perfecting.

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  15. Anonymous8/11/2010

    Those M&M cookies are amazing!! thank you thank you thank you for perfecting the recipe!

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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