How to Host an Awesome Cookie Swap

When I was a little girl, the ladies at my church organized a Cookie Swap.  Until then, I had never heard of a cookie swap, but it ended up being such a fun experience that I will always remember! 

So, I was excited to find out that the “cookie swap” or “cookie exchange” is still popular. According to, these events have been happening for more than one hundred years!  And who wouldn’t get on board with sharing the Christmas baking load?  

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What is a Cookie Swap?

The idea of a cookie exchange is to bake several dozen of one type of cookie, maybe your signature thumbprints, and bring them to the exchange ready to share.  When everyone brings their goodies, the guest will leave the exchange with a wonderful assortment of treats! 

And while you can find many “rules” for how to organize your cookie exchange, you can make it as formal (asking guests to bring specific cookies) to much more relaxed (just come & bring 6 dozen of your favorite cookie).  I prefer a somewhat relaxed approach to the gathering, because most of us are busy & stressed enough at the holidays!

My advice, however would be to keep your guest list to 10 or less, and to invite people that would actually enjoy the process of making homemade cookies rather than it adding undue stress to them during the holidays!  I would make clear in my invitation what you would like for your guest to bring, so they will come prepared! And, as hostess, make sure that you make everyone’s lives easier by providing what you can!

How to Host an Old Fashioned Cookie Swap

Plan the Day

If you are inviting a rather small group of people, it might be wise to check your date out with your guests, because a “swap” won’t be nearly as exciting between only 2 or 3 people!  Find a date that works with most of your guests, and ask them on your invitation to be sure to RSVP. Download my free printable cookie exchange invitation from my Resource Library & edit it with your own information!


Choose Your Guests

Like I mentioned above, you should choose people who would enjoy baking enough to participate without feeling an added burden!  If you set your date close enough to Christmas, you could actually lighten some people’s load by giving them a nice assortment of treats to share at their family gatherings!

Cookie Options

Also, be sure to specify on your invites, what type of cookies you would like your guests to bring… homemade only? Will bars be ok?  What about Christmas candy?  The clearer you can be, the better if you have specific expectations, or you can be laid back and just enjoy whatever may come!  Decide what will work best for you and your guests!

As I was reading about the “rules” for a cookie exchange, the made a good point about specifically asking guests to bring “homemade” cookies.  This will hopefully prevent one person that does make homemade cookies from taking home dozens of store bought ones in exchange for their homemade treats.

Even though you may have one or two that may not follow the guidelines exactly, it would be better to set your expectations in the invitation (although there is no need to say anything if someone doesn’t follow thru as you had wished… hopefully that will be the exception)!


Be sure to ask each guest to provide their recipe to you (maybe by email) ahead of time.  You could then create a little cookie exchange “cookbook” or recipe cards using this template for each of your guests. If you don’t want to go to the trouble or worry with the recipes yourself, you could ask each guest to bring 10 copies of their recipes for the others. 

Set Your Table

Make your table a beautiful place for  cookie displays! Start with a solid or simply patterned Christmas tablecloth, add some tiered trays, pedastal stands, and greenery or flowers around each dish.  Another fun decoration could be tall vases with Christmas sprinkles or red & green candies.  

You may ask your guests to bring their cookies in a nice plate or platter for display. Or you may supply all of the serving dishes if you wish. 

Provide Snacks

Although I feel pretty sure that I could make a meal off of cookies, it would be a good idea to have some simple savory snacks to share with your guests to balance all of that sugar! A cheese ball or cheese & crackers, a veggie tray, fruit, small sandwiches or mini quiche would all be great ideas!  

Don’t overdo yourself making a big spread, buy what you can premade so you will have time to enjoy.  You could also choose to ask each guest to bring a snack along with their cookies. Also, provide a good variety of drinks, tea, coffee (maybe an assortment of seasonal creamers), cocoa, or even milk!?  

May the Best Cookie Win

What you do during your cookie exchange is entirely up to you!  You could plan games, or just enjoy each other’s company & the good food!  However, if your group is a little competitive, you could have a contest for best tasting cookie, best display, & the prettiest cookie. 

Be sure to let your guests know about each category if you plan to have a contest. Give out “secret ballots to each guest & have special prizes for each winner!

Provide Boxes

If each participant will be taking home up to 5 dozen cookies, you may need to find extra large boxes, or you could be more casual and ask each guest to bring several containers for transporting their goodies back home.


Having a cookie exchange is really a gift in of itself in my opinion, but if you would like to send your guests home with a little memento of the fun you’ve had together, there are lots of options!  A small spatula (maybe with a Christmas design) can be tied onto their cookie box. You could also give each guest a Christmas shaped cookie cutter or a small bottle of Christmas sprinkles! 

Cookie Swap Variations:

There are so many ways that you could change up your cookie swap to make a fun, not-so-traditional party! Here are just a few!

Host A Kids’ Cookie Swap 

Invite a few of your kids’ friends  and ask them to bring 2 or 3 dozen of their favorite cookies, have cut out sugar cookies ready for each guest to decorate, and milk in cute glass jars with festive straws.  

Teen Cookie Swap

The same goes for teens as for kids!  Give them something fun to do, like decorating sugar cookies.  You could let them judge each other’s decorated sugar cookies or the cookies that they bring.  Have (lots) of fun food, maybe sliders, chicken tenders with dip, and fun drinks like Coffee Punch!

Ugly Sweater + Cookie Swap

If you host an ugly sweater cookie swap, you may choose to ask guests to bring fewer cookie each since the cookie exchange may not be your sole purpose for your gathering!  Have gifts for the winners of your cookie contest as well as your ugly sweater contest.

Great Cookie Recipes For An Exchange

You can be as simple as you want or ask for more intricate treats, but be sure you let people know what to expect!  If you want your guests to bring anything they like, then you may end up with peanut butter balls, chocolate chip cookies, and some fancy gingerbread men too!

Since most of your guests likely know each other, you all probably already have a pretty good idea who will be the full on Martha Stewart of your bunch!  Just make that Martha knows that not everyone at the party will be spending days on their treats!

Here are a few ideas for simple, but delicious cookie recipes that would be great to make for your next cookie swap!

Peppermint Meltaways  Nothing says the holidays like a yummy cookie with crushed candy canes on top!

Chewy Coconut Cookies  These cookies turn out so thin and delicate that they almost look like lace!  They would be delicious as is, or dip the bottom in chocolate for an extra special touch.

My Cowboy Cookies  This recipe for cowboy cookies is my go to recipe for a delicious cookie that you can really make your own by adding whatever you want to the mix!  I like the idea of Christmas cowboy cookies with red & green M & Ms, chocolate chips & pecans!! And each batch makes about 3 dozen, so it’s a great recipe for sharing!

Snowball Cookies  These snowball cookies are a classic!  They are fairly simple to make & they are delicious!

Eggnog Snickerdoodles    I love snickerdoodles, but the addition of eggnog really makes it extra Christmas-y.

Dark Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies- I LOVE dark chocolate & this one is dipped in white chocolate and  sprinkled with crushed candy canes!  Fancy!

Enjoy the Fun!

There are so many fun things to do around the holidays, so be sure to make your Christmas Cookie Swap enjoyable by inviting friends that will enjoy the experience, keeping is simple, make it clear what you want your guests to bring, and make it a little extra fun & festive with decorations & a fun theme! And remember, above all, to take a step back to enjoy your friends & the festivities!!!

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