When I was growing up my dad and I did an annual cookie bake-off for the holidays. We often baked up at least ten different kinds of holiday cookies, which we would then arrange on a plate and deliver to friends and neighbors.
As I got older I did a lot of the shopping and organizing for this holiday tradition. I remember going to the grocery store and picking up bags of white sugar and flour (along with lots of chocolate chips, marshmallows, caramel, you name it!).
While I deeply love holiday traditions and nostalgia around the holidays (I even have tree ornaments that my family made from dough the year I was born!), buying and making a lot of cookies with sugar and flour is just a no-go for me these days.
Instead, I like to create delicious recipes that are nutrient-dense. And, of course, filled with herbs.
This brand new holiday cookie recipe took a couple tries to get it right, but it’s already a favorite in our house.
Before we get to the recipe, let’s take a closer look at the ingredients.
Nettle Leaves (Urtica dioica)
Nettle leaves are a nutrient-dense powerhouse, filled with important vitamins and especially minerals. They are also exceptionally high in protein and fiber. I love nettles in every way, whether it’s eating them fresh in the spring, drinking the nourishing infusion, or adding them to baked goods like the recipe below.
I set out to create a nettle-infused cookie recipe because I was inspired by a study done in April of 2021, which showed that adding nettles to bread significantly increased the nutrient content, including fiber, calcium, copper, and iron.1 The nettle-enhanced bread also had superior antioxidant qualities. No surprise there! Nettles are amazing!
For this recipe, admittedly, there isn’t a lot of nettle in every cookie, but I believe that every way you add nettle to your life counts!
If you are powdering your own nettle for this holiday cookie recipe then I recommend using a small spice grinder (that you haven’t used for coffee) and then using a fine metal sieve to remove any larger bits. You want the powder that you use in the cookies to be completely fine.
Orange Peel (Citrus x sinensis)
Oranges aren’t just a sweet fruit treat! Orange peels have long been highly regarded as herbal medicine. Orange peels are bitter and pungent and are wonderful for stimulating digestion as well as for breaking up stuck mucus congestion. There’s also some evidence that the peel may help regulate blood glucose.2
Here’s the trick to working with orange peels for medicine: make sure you use the entire peel, even the white pith.
As noted with the nettle leaf, if you are powdering your own orange peel for this holiday cookie recipe then I recommend using a small spice grinder (that you haven’t used for coffee) and then using a fine metal sieve to remove any larger bits. You want the powder that you use in the cookies to be completely fine.
Rosehips (Rosa spp.)
Rosehips are sweet and sour nutrient-dense fruits! If you know me, then you know I love to add rosehips to many desserts, whether it’s a spiced cake, chia pudding, or teas.
While fresh rosehips are famously high in vitamin C, they are also filled with all sorts of phytonutrients, which are known to strongly modulate inflammation. Rosehips have been shown to decrease inflammation associated with arthritis as well as heart disease.
They are also yummy!
For this holiday cookie recipe I used the deseeded rosehips from Mountain Rose Herbs. Buying them prepared like this saves a lot of time! But, you could certainly harvest fresh rose hips, remove the seeds, and use them in this recipe. If you choose to do that I would mash them up, adding just a touch of water or apple cider, to make them into a jam-like consistency.
Almonds are full of antioxidants, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They’ve been shown to have numerous health benefits including protecting the heart and even lowering blood glucose levels.3,4,5 I love that they are nutrient-dense and satisfying!
Nettle and Rosehip Thumbprint Cookies
These salty and sweet delicious holiday cookies are filled with an abundance of phytonutrients from almonds, nettles, oranges, and rosehips. The tartness of the rosehips filling is the perfect addition to the sweet and salty nature of the cookies. They are super simple to make and go well with a cup of roasted dandelion root tea.
What you’ll need…
- 3 T deseeded dried rosehips
- 1/2 cup hot water (or hot apple juice/cider)
- 1 cup finely ground almond flour (use a sifter if necessary)
- 1 T finely ground nettle leaf powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 T finely ground orange peel powder
- 3 T butter, softened
- 1/4 cup honey (or sweetener of choice)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Combine the rosehips and hot water (or apple cider) in a small bowl or saucepan. Stir well and let sit in order to rehydrate the rosehips.
- Mix together the almond flour, nettle leaf powder, orange peel powder, and salt.
- Mix in the butter and honey. (I use a hand pastry mixer.)
- For this next step I recommend washing your hands well and then leaving them wet/moist (this helps to prevent the dough from sticking on your hands.) Use a soupspoon to measure out the dough and then, using your moist hands, roll into a ball about the size of a quarter. Place the ball on a cookie sheet and use your thumb or finger (or a spoon) to create an indent in each cookie.
- Bake for 10–12 minutes or until the bottom is slightly browned. If your cookies have risen to the point that the thumbprint is no longer visible, you can now use a small spoon to press a little more of a “thumbprint” into the center of each cookie.
- Let cool.
- By now your rosehips should be hydrated and entirely mushy (not hard). Pour off any excess water (or apple cider). Give them a taste. Are they sweet enough? If not, add a bit of honey. Add a dollop of the rehydrated rosehips to each cookie. I recommend adding the rosehips just before serving.
Yield: 9–11 cookies
Enjoy these holiday cookies!
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Do you like to make cookies for the holidays?
What kinds of herbs and spices do you like to add to your holiday baked goods?
Please share in the comments below.
- Maietti, Annalisa, Paola Tedeschi, Martina Catani, Claudia Stevanin, Luisa Pasti, Alberto Cavazzini, and Nicola Marchetti. “Nutrient Composition and Antioxidant Performances of Bread-Making Products Enriched with Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica) Leaves.” Foods 10, no. 5 (April 25, 2021): 938. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10050938. ↩
- Chau, Chi-Fai, Ya-Ling Huang, and Mao-Hsiang Lee. “In Vitro Hypoglycemic Effects of Different Insoluble Fiber-Rich Fractions Prepared from the Peel of Citrus Sinensis L. Cv. Liucheng.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 51, no. 22 (October 22, 2003): 6623–26. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf034449y. ↩
- Kalita, Soumik, Shweta Khandelwal, Jagmeet Madan, Himanshu Pandya, Boindala Sesikeran, and Kamala Krishnaswamy. “Almonds and Cardiovascular Health: A Review.” Nutrients 10, no. 4 (April 11, 2018): E468. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10040468. ↩
- Dikariyanto, Vita, Leanne Smith, Lucy Francis, May Robertson, Eslem Kusaslan, Molly O’Callaghan-Latham, Camille Palanche, et al. “Snacking on Whole Almonds for 6 Weeks Improves Endothelial Function and Lowers LDL Cholesterol but Does Not Affect Liver Fat and Other Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Healthy Adults: The ATTIS Study, a Randomized Controlled Trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 111, no. 6 (June 1, 2020): 1178–89. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqaa100. ↩
- Li, Sing-Chung, Yen-Hua Liu, Jen-Fang Liu, Wen-Hsin Chang, Chiao-Ming Chen, and C.-Y. Oliver Chen. “Almond Consumption Improved Glycemic Control and Lipid Profiles in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” Metabolism – Clinical and Experimental 60, no. 4 (April 1, 2011): 474–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2010.04.009. ↩