Skip to Content

No Cookie Cutters? Try These 5 Clever Sugar Cookie Hacks Instead

No Cookie Cutters? Try These 5 Clever Sugar Cookie Hacks Instead

Share this post:

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one of these links and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Here’s a fun fact: The first cut-out sugar cookie in America was shaped as Pennsylvania’s keystone emblem!

How do you reckon they got that shape? I don’t think they had a keystone-shaped cookie cutter in the mid-1700s.

My money is on freehanding.

When I shared this little fun fact with a friend, she didn’t call it far-fetched or argue about the technique.

Instead, she just said: “Wait, aren’t sugar cookies the ones you shape with your hands?” She was talking about drop-style cookies, of course.

Today, I’ll be expanding a bit on how these cookies can technically be classified as both drop and cut-outs.

Don’t worry; I’ll also circle back to the cutting techniques and share my top five tricks for shaping sugar cookies without a cutter!

Drop-Style vs. Cut-Outs: Is It Okay to Cut Sugar Cookies Into Shapes?


The cracked drop-style sugar cookie is quite popular because it’s so easy to make—pinch a walnut-sized dough ball, drop it on the pan, and bake.

But you can also consider festive cut-outs to be sugar cookies. That’s as long as they have the basic ingredients (sugar, butter, and flour) in nearly the same ratios as the classic sugar cookie recipe.

The shapes and cutting techniques, however, don’t matter much. They could be flowers, stars, snow crystals, or whatever your heart desires.

Why are sugar cookies so fit for shaping (with or without cutters)?

For one, they don’t rely heavily on leaving agents, so they can keep their shapes nicely.

Plus, they tend to have a relatively high flour-to-butter ratio, which makes them sturdy enough to shape and handle.

Making Sugar Cookie Dough More Suitable for Cut-Outs

To make the cookies even more resilient, some people use a larger flour portion for cut-out recipes than the regular drop-style batches.

In fact, if you’ve picked up a box of Betty Crocker’s sugar cookie mix, you’ll find two separate sets of instructions on the back. The one for cut-outs calls for extra flour.

Ideally, you want a sugar cookie dough with a 1:2:3 or 2:2:3 ratio of sugar, butter, and flour. Mostly, I lean toward the second option because the extra sugar balances the flavor better.

Making Sugar Cookies Without a Cookie Cutter

In a perfect world, you’d have a drawer full of fun-shaped cookie cutters in your drawer. Both metal and plastic cutters would be okay for sugar cookies.

However, even if you don’t have any cutters, you can still make a festive and cute batch of cookies.

Here are five easy methods to try:

1 – Do a Drop-Style Snowman

Technically, this tactic is a bit of a cheat because you’re not really “cutting” the dough.

You just need to pinch out three cookie balls (like you would in a drop-style recipe) and conveniently arrange them to make a snowman.

Still, I had to mention it because the cookies look a lot like genuine cut-outs.

For best results, make sure the difference between the balls is enough to show up after baking but not too large that the snowman looks out of proportion.

Using a 1” ball for the bottom, ¾” in the middle, and ½” for the head will do the trick.

2 – Use a Cup and a Fork

Dipping the rim of a drinking glass in flour and using it as a cookie cutter is super straightforward.

But you’re probably wondering: If I’m going to make round sugar cookies, why not just do them drop-style and call it a day?

Well, there are a couple of reasons:

  • You might want them flat and even, which is harder with drop cookies.
  • We’re not really leaving them as plain rounds. You’ll use a fork to make a criss-cross pattern on top!

3 – Try the Slice-and-Bake Technique

Another fairly easy way of cutting out cookies without a cutter is to roll the dough into the log, chill it a bit, and then slice rounds out of it.

Thankfully, you can use the slice-and-bake technique with many sugar cookie recipes.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to settle for plain round cookies here, either.

I particularly love this method because I can roll the log over sprinkles before chilling it. This way, the slices end up with a neat, colorful, and crunchy rim!

4 – Freehand It

If you’re keeping the design simple, you can grab a sharp knife (or a pen blade) and freehand it.

Even a basic square can look good on your sugar cookies once you ice them and top them with sprinkles.

Once you’re comfortable with the basic shapes, you can start taking things up a notch. Maybe try your luck with the historic keystone cookie?

Just make sure you’re moving the knife up and down rather than dragging it through the dough. Otherwise, you might cut off more than you intended.

5 – Make Your Own Template

For more complicated cut-outs, I recommend making a template first.

Some draw their designs digitally and print them on cardstock.

But you can always trace any drawing on a piece of paper, cover it with tape on both sides to “laminate” it, and then cut it out with a pair of scissors.

That’s your cookie-cutting template, ready to go.

How to Hand Cut Sugar Cookies

Bonus Point: The “lamination” will help you peel off the template from the dough and protect it from stains long enough for you to finish the batch!

General Tips for Cutting Sugar Cookies

Whether you’ll make do with whatever you have lying around your kitchen or use a proper cookie cutter, there are three tips to keep in mind:

  • Flouring: Make sure you dip the rim of the cup or cutter in flour first.
  • Temperature: Chilling before cutting is crucial! Even if you find the dough softening while you’re cutting, you can always pop it back in the fridge for a few minutes.
  • Timing: The obvious approach is to cut the sugar cookies after chilling and before baking. That said, I have heard of people baking the whole dough sheet and cutting it when it’s fresh out of the oven. You’ll need a metal cookie cutter here, though.

Final Thoughts

As long as I have colorful sprinkles, the slice-and-bake is my go-to cutter alternative.

Yet, I would highly recommend the paper template method.

Sure, it requires much more prep, but I love how it opens up the door to a whole lot of cookie shapes that you wouldn’t find in the best sets of cutters on the market!

Share this post: