Soft Buttermilk Sugar Cookie Recipe

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This soft sugar cookie recipe has been one of my absolute favorites since I was a little girl.   There's something so simple and so perfect about these soft vanilla sugar cookies--a soft, tender interior with just the hint of a sugary crunch on the exterior.   

Soft Sugar Cookies in a parchment lined container, tied with a floral print ribbon.

This recipe makes a soft sugar drop cookie, not the kind you make with cookie cutters (if you want an amazing cut out sugar cookie, I have one of those, too).  These classic sugar cookies have been a family favorite for generations.  They're perfect for after-school snacking or family gatherings.

Hand holding a large, soft sugar cookie.

You can add a dollop of buttercream frosting to these soft sugar cookies if you want, like lofthouse cookies, or use them to make sandwich cookies with frosting inside, but I like them best just plain.  This is a great recipe all on its own, and I think they're the best sugar cookies ever.  The addition of buttermilk to old fashioned soft sugar cookies makes them more soft and tender, and the lactic acids in the buttermilk help to neutralize the sometimes metallic taste of sodium carbonate in the baking powder.

Ingredients for Soft Sugar Cookie recipe on a marble surface.

Soft Buttermilk Sugar Cookie Recipe:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Soft sugar cookie dough in a silver mixing bowl.

How to Mix the Soft Sugar Cookie Dough

  • In a large mixing bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat after each addition.
  • Combine the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and corn starch) in a separate bowl, and mix together.
  • Combine wet ingredients (buttermilk and vanilla).  
  • Add the dry flour mixture and liquid ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating between the wet and dry.  

What to Substitute if you Don't Have Buttermilk for Soft Sugar Cookies?

  • If you don't have any buttermilk, you can use regular milk and vinegar instead to make sour milk.  Add vinegar to the milk, just a little at a time, and stir until the milk just begins to curdle. 
  • You can also use lemon juice instead of the vinegar, but that will add a bit of lemon flavor to your soft buttermilk sugar cookies recipe.
  • Sour cream can be used instead of buttermilk.  Use 3/4 cup of sour cream thinned with milk or water to replace buttermilk in this recipe.

Soft sugar cookies being scooped out and rolled in sugar before baking.

Scoop the cookie dough out (I like using a cookie scoop to get even cookies).   Drop dough directly into a bowl of sugar and gently roll the dough in the sugar. 

You could sprinkle sugar on top of each cookie, but rolling the cookie dough in sugar makes a more even coating, and makes less mess.

Place the sugar-coated cookie dough on prepared baking sheets. (I use pre-cut parchment paper to line my cookie sheets--so much easier than using curly rolls of the stuff!)

Soft sugar cookies being scooped out and rolled in sugar before baking.

If you use regular baking sugar, you'll get a slightly crinkled top.  If you want extra crunch, use coarse sugar crystals (typically found with cake decorating supplies rather than the sugar for baking) or raw sugar.  All are delicious, but I used just regular, fine white sugar here to make these sweet sugar cookies.

Freshly baked soft sugar cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes.  The cookies will turn a light golden brown color.

Store in an airtight container or plate covered with cling wrap.

Stack of soft sugar cookies on a marble surface.

The cornstarch in these cookies helps to create the incredibly tender, soft texture that I love so much.  That pillowy texture combined with the delicate crackle of the crisp sugar on the outside of the cookies makes the most amazing combination.

If you can't get enough of classic, old-fashioned cookie recipes, definitely try this pecan cookies recipe, too!

Soft sugar cookies packaged up to give as a gift with a fabric ribbon bow and matching gift tag.

And the taste?  Simple, classic, and absolutely perfect.  These sweet sugar cookies aren't the flashiest cookies around, but I'll bet you'll love them as much as I do. 

Printable Old Fashioned Buttermilk Soft Sugar Cookies Recipe

Want a one page, printable version of this soft buttermilk sugar cookie recipe?  Click on the image below to print or save the PDF.

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Other Soft Cookie Recipes You Might Like:

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Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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