Biscochitos: traditional new mexican christmas cookies


Featured Content: November 29, 2010 … Just in time for “biscochito season” this year!

I’m counting down the days until Alex, Boli and I hop on a plane and make the full-day journey back West. We couldn’t have chose a better time to visit since Christmas in New Mexico is the most enchanting and belly-satisfying time of year.

No Christmas Turkey here! We’ll enjoy meals of Tamales, Christmas Tacos, Posole, Menudo, Red and Green Chile and we’ll top-off each meal with a few Biscochitos  (beez-coh-chee-tohs) dunked in a cup of coffee or served alongside a glass of wine. Every year my grandmother would bake dozens upon dozens of these sparkling cookies in the shape of diamonds, stars, angels, bells and simple circles. A plate of Biscochitos would be waiting for visitors who’d stop for good conversation and hot coffee.


Biscochitos are a melt-in-your-mouth-can’t-have-just-one shortbread sort of cookie. They are flavored with cinnamon-sugar sweetness and aromatic anise seed. But vegetarians be warned (yes, I said vegetarians, not vegans) these cookies contain lard.

During college my mom and my nina would each send me bubble-wrapped boxes of biscochitos. Now that I have a kitchen it’s time I bake my own. Below is my grandmother’s recipe in my mother’s handwriting. Like all grandmother recipes this one calls for ingredients in approximations and variations. The one I share with you is a combination of my grandmother’s, my mother’s and my nina’s recipes. You may substitute vegetable shortening for lard and water for wine but I guarantee that the cookies will not be nearly as delicious*.

*This has been confirmed by some of the Chez Pannise trained chefs at a school I attended.

biscochito recipe
Makes 9-10 dozen small cookies.
1 1/2 cups lard (1 pound box)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 teaspoons anise seed
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sweet white wine (plus a 1/4 extra if needed)

1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Cream together the lard and 1 1/2 cups sugar. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and anise, add to the lard/sugar mixture. Mix well.

In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this dry mixture to the wet mixture. Knead well with your hands until dough sticks together, it should be slightly sticky but able to form a firm dough ball. If the dough is too dry add more wine a teaspoon at a time, if it is too sticky add more flour a teaspoon at a time.

Divide the dough into three large balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight so the dough becomes firm and manegable.

The next day preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough with a liberally floured rolling pin on a liberally floured surface 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Dip one side of each cookie into cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on cookie sheet sugar side up. To ensure all cookies bake evenly, bake each shape cookie in batches of alike shapes and sizes. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the bottom of the cookies are brown and the tops are golden.

Remove from oven, and immediately dip in cinnamon-sugar again, dipping them while they are warm is key to getting the cinnamon sugar to stick. Store in a cool-dry place or freeze for up to six months.

If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, beginning Monday, November 16, 2009 please VOTE for me at Bon Appétit! YOU will be eligible to win a fabulous prize and I would win a dinner with Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild. xogabriela

50 Responses to “Biscochitos: traditional new mexican christmas cookies”
  1. Trena says:

    Thank you for posting this recipe , it is wonderful. My husband and I took our vacation in New Mexico this fall and went to alittle hole in the wall Mexican Restaurant in Ruidoso. They gave us these cookies at the end of the meal, and we both ate them at the same time, it was like heaven in a cookie. We asked the owner what they were, and with broken English, she was proud to say it was her homemade recipe. I googled this recipe and found you. My husband and I just made them, and they are pretty darn close to the ones we had in NM. We miss the people, the beauty, and the food of NM, and will be back. Thank you for sharing your grandmothers recipe.

  2. Sandra says:

    Thanks for sharing your recipe! A neighbor gave us some biscochitos once several years ago and some of them had this darker brown center or swirl that tasted like caramel or at least that’s the flavor I recall. I’ve been searching for a recipe that resembles this cookie for years but I haven’t been successful. Our neighbor at the time was not willing to share the recipe. Have you ever come across this biscochito variation?

  3. swKITTY says:

    I just made a big batch of these for xmas gifts! Now I have another wonderful NM tradition (green chiles in sept is the other) reignited. They taste just as great as I remember. Thank you for posting this!

  4. Mark DeSautel says:

    Hi Gabriela, I am usually thrown out of the kitchen because of “bad form” as it were, but your recipe gave me deliverance until my next faux pas. The biscochitos were a hit. One response was “just right” because I didn’t use too much lard which would have made them soft. Is this true?

  5. Brenda says:

    I think you forgot to add the wine into your instructions, no? You mention adding more if necessary at the knead, but I don’t see the addition originally…

    Your Grandma’s recipe sounds lovely. I also have one from my Grandma that’s a family treasure ; ) Thanks.

  6. I have heard of different versions with Orange Juice, White wine, Brandy, Jim Beam and Jack Daniels.-

    any comments?

  7. omg….they r just what my mother ordered and that cookie is my grandkids best recipie we have been doing this everyyear for 6 years but i have been making them for30 years my mom tought me i teach my grand kids now forever in my family . so when i cross over my family will keep this going.. it’s all about christmas in the spanish familia… one thing different i do besides the wine i do 1 shot of jim beam.. thank you…

  8. I spent many years in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and know their biscochitos well. What a treasure to have this recipe hand-written by your abuela.

    Feliz navidad y properso año nuevo!


  9. Yvette says:

    WOW! Our recipes are very similar! Must be a New Mexico/El Paso thing! LOL!
    Good luck with the contest! I will be sure to vote for you! Have a wonderful time in New Mexico!
    Feliz Navidad!!!

    • gabriellemarielopez says:

      Interesting that you use ginger in the dough, I’ll have to experiment and add some to my next batch. Biscochitos are truly a gem of the Southwest (they’re also the official state cookie of New Mexico!).

      Maybe you can help me resolve an ongoing debate between my mom and my nina? My mom uses water in her biscochitos, my nina use wine. Do you happen to know the baking chemistry behind how they differ? I swear that my nina’s wine infused cookies are slightly more tender than my mom’s….shhh… don’t tell my mom.

      Enjoy your holidays!

  10. Charlie says:

    So, I just got a recipe in my email from my sister for Grandma’s recipe for biscochitos. I ran into a slight problem with one of the ingredients… so I googled it…funny I end up here! I always remember walking into Grandma’s house and eating biscochitos. Anyhow…I am having trouble finding Anise seed, I have read on other sites that you can substitute fennel for the spice in chinese and indian food, it was not specific to cookies…what is your take on this?

    • gabriellemarielopez says:

      Hi Charlene! I am by no means a purist when it comes to cooking and although I haven’t used fennel much, my brother Michael who just happens to be visiting me this week is familiar with the spice and he says, “that you should give it a try in small batch of biscochitos before making a whole bunch.” He also says that fennel has a milder licorice-like flavor than anise seed so you may need to adjust the amounts. I’d also add that I know plenty of people who do not enjoy anise seed flavor so you can omit it all-together if you wish. Lastly, another solution since it sounds like you have access to Asian spices might be to grind-up and add some star anise as the anise seed substitute (in my experience star anise is very strong so you’d just need a pinch). Hope this helps! Merry Christmas to you and your family!!! xogabriela P.S. I’d love to hear what you end up using, please let me know :)

      • Charlie says:

        I substituted fennel for the anise seed and it worked like a charm. I didn’t have a mortar and pestle to grind the fennel seed, so I just put it into a ziploc bag and pounded it with my kitchen hammer then ran it through a sieve. I used the same amount as what was called for in the recipe. I think it tasted great, and so did my boys, husband included. They were definitely a hit!

  11. One delicious cookie.

    • gabriellemarielopez says:

      Yup, so good my vegetarian friends will pretend there’s no lard in them…and eat them by the dozen!

  12. Thank you Gabriela, you’ve solved a puzzle we’ve been contemplating. Here at ChickiePoo’s my husband and I have been longing for some New Mexican food, so we created Santa Fe Weekend. Our menu which changes daily has only food we loved in NM. BUT, for dessert we wanted biscochitos and the recipes varied in some ways, the amount of sugar and wine or brandy. So, off we go. Right now, I’d like to make these cookies. Mainly because they are from you and your family. I almost cried when I saw the neatly written, plus additions, on the 3 X 5 cards. If I may ask for your grandmother’s name, I’d like to name them after her. Until then, they will be named Gabriela’s Biscochitos.

    Thank you for posting this.

    • gabriellemarielopez says:

      I’m so happy to hear that you love NM food and that you feature it on your menu! Nad I’m so happy you enjoyed the Biscochitos….hope your company enjoys them as well!

  13. simiao says:

    The dough is in the fridge and am waiting with bated breath for tomorrow. Figured out the anise seed situation. xo!

  14. Alice Chavez says:

    Great bizcochito recipe – used the cookie press and they are beautiful and delicious.

  15. gabriellemarielopez says:

    Tammy! Thanks so much for letting me know that you tried my recipe and enjoyed it!!!! Have a wonderful holiday!

  16. Gabrielle~Thanks so much for posting this recipe, my family is also from NM and I have been using my Aunt’s recipe, decided to try yours, it is FABULOSO!!!
    I’m off to vote for you if I still can ;) I’ll be back to follow, thanks again and have a wonderful time in Nuevo!!

  17. 'nette says:

    Great biscochitos recipe!!! the recipe cards on the page look just like my grandmother’s!!

  18. Priscilla says:

    I voted for you–lord woman, they do not make it easy! however, I am a big believer in gabriella’s kitchen, so I persevered.

    These look just awesome. I’m even tempted to try these while John and I have X-mas here in NJ. :D

    See you Thursday!!!

    • gabriellemarielopez says:

      thank you! and I have some in the freezer that I’ll take out for you to taste-test on Thursday! xogaby

  19. These look so lovely and I am a serious shortbread addict. I think it is really wonderful to include the handwritten recipe. Last time I was home I scanned and printed all of my mother’s old recipe cards because I like having family favorites recorded in her writing.

  20. Yummy…differnt from biscottis.Interesting…thanks

  21. judy says:

    Glad you showed the original recipe–I saw 3 teaspoons of anise. I thought you meant oil. I use anise oil in my cookies, but in yours it is seed. Might want to fix that. Can’t wait to try these.

  22. naqiya says:

    ps: sweet potatoes and squash turned out really well, except the squash got realllyyyy soggy. next time i’ll add it later. come try some!

    • gabriellemarielopez says:

      Yea, always add squash and other high water, fresh vegetables (tomatoes especially) when the root vegetable are almost done!

  23. naqiya says:

    i want!!!!!

  24. Theresa from New Mexico says:

    It wouldn’t be Christmas in New Mexico without biscochitos. I make them every year. Except instead of wine I use brandy.

  25. Awesome! I love the touch of the authentic hand-written recipe. You just cannot get that. I have several cards from my Grandmother that I treasure like gold.

    I am going to try this recipe on the family/coworkers this Christmas. Thank you for that!

    • gabriellemarielopez says:

      I’m going to give the brandy a try on my next batch (which will be made very soon if Alex and I keep eating them at current pace!)

    • gabriellemarielopez says:

      I hope you enjoy them! Make sure to use lard (but warn your veggie friends)! The shortening version just doesn’t cut it!

  26. margot says:

    yum, yum, yum!!!
    unless i’m stupid, it looks like you’ve left out the amount of flour your recipe calls for (i see 6 c. in the handwritten one). at first i became super excited that this was somehow naturally gluten-free, lol. I may have to try to figure out a GF flour blend that can work for these as memory reminds me that they are fantastic.

    • gabriellemarielopez says:

      Thanks Margot! I fixed it :)
      Also let me know if you come up with a gluten-free version, I’d love to try it out. And yes, these are the cookies you remember as being delicious, sorry about the lard.

  27. gloria says:

    I tried to vote for this recipe but you have to register and put in all kind of personal info which I prefer not to do. I must say though that the Biscochitos looks awesome and you are lucky to have your Grandmother’s recipe. Good luck.

    • gabriellemarielopez says:

      Thanks for trying Gloria! For those who would like to vote the required information is: email, city, state, zip.

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