RA-Friendly Holiday Cookie Recipes

The holidays can be a magical time full of family traditions. For many people, baking Christmas cookies is an essential activity during the holiday season.

However, for someone like me who has rheumatoid arthritis, just the thought of stirring large bowls of thick cookie dough or wrangling with a rolling pin makes my fingers and wrists ache.

Holiday baking with RA

Yet, I don’t want to let my RA keep me on the holiday sidelines or prevent my kids from experiencing fun holiday traditions. As with many aspects of living with RA, I’ve found that with some creativity I am usually able to do accommodated versions of most activities I want to take part in.

Holiday baking is no different, and I’ve found that the following recipes are delicious but don’t involve any stirring or rolling. They also involve minimal clean-up, which also reduces the strain of holiday baking on inflamed joints. As these recipes are so easy, they’re also great to make with kids.

Arthritis-friendly holiday cookie recipes

Pretzel turtles

This is one of my all-time favorites. Begin by preheating the oven to 300 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. This makes for much easier cleanup, as it eliminates the need to scrub the cookie sheet clean later (your joints will thank you!).

Next, arrange mini pretzels on the cookie sheet. Place a chocolate-covered caramel on top of each pretzel (Rolos work fine, or you can spring for Dove chocolates if you’re feeling fancy). If you have kids helping, you can have them unwrap the candies, but there are also bags of unwrapped chocolate-covered caramels available if you’re baking solo.

Once you have a candy placed on top of each pretzel, put the tray in the oven. These only need to bake for 4 to 5 minutes before they are ready. When the chocolate starts to soften, remove them from the oven and press a pecan half into the top of each chocolate-covered caramel. Ta-da, you’re done!

White chocolate-dipped Oreos

Here’s an easy and delicious no-bake recipe. It does require a little bit of stirring, but this is minimal. Start by melting a package of white chocolate chips. This can be done on the stove, but I prefer to do it in the microwave because I don’t have to transfer the melted chocolate to another bowl afterward (less clean up!).

Microwave the white chocolate chips for 30 seconds, then stir. Continue microwaving at 15-second intervals, stirring in between until the chocolate chips are melted.

Once you have a bowl of melted white chocolate, dip an Oreo cookie into the chocolate, and place it on a sheet of aluminum foil, parchment paper, or wax paper. Before the white chocolate hardens, sprinkle with red and green sprinkles for a festive flair. These are adorable, delicious, and only require one bowl and one spoon to wash afterward.

Peanut butter blossoms

Here’s an old-fashioned cookie made easy. Buy some packaged peanut butter cookie dough. Follow the directions on the package as far as preheating your oven, and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper for easy clean-up.

Then, cut the refrigerated cookie dough into round slices and place them on the cookie sheets. Bake according to the instructions on the package. When you remove them from the oven, press a Hershey's Kiss into the center of each cookie and allow it to cool.

For a variation on this, you can use miniature Reeses Cups instead of Hershey’s kisses. You can also make a holiday peppermint version where you use chocolate cookie dough in place of peanut butter dough, and use the red-and-white Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses instead of the standard chocolate kind. Yum!

Simple sugar cookies

Yes, Christmas cookies cut out in a variety of holiday shapes and painstakingly frosted are beautiful, but my hands will be too swollen to make a fist if I do that. Instead, here’s a much more simple take on a classic.

Buy a roll of pre-made sugar cookie dough, follow the directions on the package for preheating, and cut it into slices. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and then place the slices on top.

Next, sprinkle the tops with red and green sprinkles, and place them in the oven. Voila! Quick and easy sugar cookies that are festive without increasing joint pain. It’s a win-win.

Santa hat cookies

If you’re wanting to take your simple sugar cookies to the next level while still keeping it low maintenance, here’s a fun variation.

Follow the instructions above for making sugar cookies, but don’t put the sprinkles on top. You can also opt to buy pre-made sugar cookies. While the sugar cookies are cooling, melt some white chocolate chips by following the instructions above in the white chocolate-dipped Oreos description.

Once the cookies are cool (or taken out of their package), dip a third of each cookie into the melted white chocolate, and place on a sheet of aluminum foil, parchment paper, or wax paper.

Before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle the top half of the white chocolate with red sprinkles, leaving the bottom half of the white chocolate as the trim of the Santa hat.

Next, place a miniature marshmallow at the left side of the cookie where the red-sprinkle section and plain white chocolate section of the cookie meet. This is the ball at the end of the Santa hat. These are cute and elegant in their simplicity.

I’ve found that these delicious, low-maintenance recipes allow my family to enjoy the fun of holiday baking without sending me into a flare. That makes for happy holidays!

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