This easy recipe for rugelach filled with cinnamon, walnuts, and cranberries is my favourite. We make these cookies every year for the holidays and everybody loves them. The rolling and filling method is simplified so that this recipe is faster and easier to follow.
These cinnamon rugelach with dried cranberries and walnuts are extremely popular around the holidays. The cream cheese dough is easy to work with and so forgiving. And the filling with cinnamon and dried cranberries is downright festive without being fussy or overthought.
Rugelach Cookie Ingredients
Rugelach cookies have two key components: an easy cream cheese dough and a filling. The dough is always the same, made of cream cheese, butter, flour, and salt, but the filling varies depending on the recipe.
You will need the following ingredients to make the best rugelach:
- For the cream cheese dough:
- butter, preferably unsalted butter because you will add a lot of salt to the dough, from both fine kosher salt and cream cheese. If you have salted, it will work. Just adjust the salt in the recipe accordingly, otherwise your cookies may be too salty...
- cream cheese, preferably the Philadelphia brand regular cream cheese sold in a block of 250 grams. This recipe uses the entire block.
- all-purpose flour is needed to bind all the ingredients of the cream cheese dough together and give the cookies structure. If you don't use enough flour, your cookies may spread too much as they bake
- salt is really important to balance out the sweet filling and enhance the savoury nature of the cream cheese dough. Don't skip it. I like to use Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt, but table salt will work, though the cookies will be saltier and you may want to halve the salt in that case.
- For the rugelach filling:
- walnuts but you could use pecans or almonds if you prefer
- dried cranberries but dried cherries will also work or dried apricots too would be lovely in this recipe
- granulated sugar though brown sugar would also work here and would add to the molasses flavour. Brown sugar may also lead to a slightly thicker cookie
- ground cinnamon is added to the filling to make these cookies very flavourful
- cream is needed to bind the filling ingredients together but also to help the tops of the cookies brown and to help glue the cinnamon sugar coating on the surface of the cookies
- vanilla extract adds a ton of flavour to the filling and I highly suggest using the full amount. If you are using an artificial vanilla extract, that will work too, but you may have to use less because it tends to be more potent than the real extract.
- For the topping and to make the cookies sparkle:
- cinnamon sugar is the secret to making the cookies sparkle on top and also to add a little more flavour since the dough is plain and unsweetened. You can buy it or make cinnamon sugar yourself!
Please see the recipe card for the exact ingredients and quantities.
How to Make Rugelach
Traditionally, most bakers create crescent-shaped rugelach cookies, rolling triangles of dough and filling like croissants, but I've found the method takes too much time. My results this way weren't always as nice and the cookies tended to vary too much in size and shape, making baking them properly very tricky. This method makes it much easier and faster to make these cookies. And the shape and size are more consistent too.
I have made this recipe every Christmas for the last twenty years and tested a lot of different ways to shape the cookies. Over the years, I've changed many steps in the process to streamline the process and make the recipe more consistent, easier, and faster.
Step 1: Start by making the cream cheese dough. Combine softened butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (image 1) and mix until the two ingredients are well mixed, soft and creamy (image 2). Add flour and salt to the mixer bowl (image 3) and mix to form a shaggy but well-mixed dough (image 4).
Step 2: Once the dough comes together, divide it into 4 equal pieces with the help of a kitchen scale (image 5), shaping each into a square and wrapping in plastic wrap (image 6) to chill in the refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour (image 7).
Tip: Chilling the dough is important to give the flour time to hydrate, the gluten to relax, and to cool down the butter so that you can roll the dough easily. Cold doughs also help ensure the cookies don't spread.
Step 3: Combine the ingredients for the filling in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal S-blade (image 8) and process into a fairly medium–fine texture (image 9).
Step 4: Roll out each portion of dough to roughly a 7x13 inc (18x33 cm) rectangle (image 10), trimming the edges to straighten them (and patch if necessary). Scatter one-quarter of the filling from edge to edge, pressing it into the dough to anchor all the little bits (image 11). Roll the dough as tightly as possible into a 13-inch (33-cm) log (image 12). Make sure to finish the roll seam-side down so that the seam is under the log of dough.
Tip: These rugelach are rolled and cut the way you would sticky buns or these Crock-Pot cinnamon rolls. The longest part of this recipe is the hands-off time for chilling and baking.
Step 5: use a ruler or a measuring tape as your guide to mark the dough evenly so that you can cut the log into 12 to 14 equal portions, creating slits every inch or so (~2.5 cm) (image 13). Then cut the dough into cookies using a large chef's knife or a bench scraper (image 14).
Step 6: Place the rugelach cookies upright on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan (image 15), spacing them out and staggering them to allow for air flow. Bake until golden brown (image 16) and baked through until the center of each cookie has set.
Fillings for rugelach cookies
Rugelach are always made with the same cream cheese dough. It is a savoury dough, made without sugar, that has a slightly tangy flavour from the cream cheese. The dough really helps the filling shine!
Traditional rugelach cookies are filled with jam, cinnamon sugar, or a filling of cinnamon sugar with ground nuts. You may also see chocolate-filled rugelach. The ingredients are ground together in the bowl of a food processor to make a coarse filling that resembles wet sand.
Other fillings you can try:
- chocolate filling made from chopped chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon,
- nutella or your homemade nutella without hazelnuts if you prefer
- jam or homemade preserves, like this plum jam would be great here!
Baking rugelach so that they don't burn
The fillings for rugelach tend to be heavy in sugar, dried fruit (or jam), spices, and nuts. The trouble with rugelach is that these tasty fillings can burn in the oven if you aren't careful.
You'll notice from the photos that I bake the rugelach standing upright. I don't lay them on their side. There are a few reasons for this:
- to make sure the cranberries and nuts don't burn
- to make sure the cookies keep their shape and that the swirl of dough and filling doesn't unravel
If you choose to shape these rugelach cookies the way I've outlined, make sure to bake the cookies standing up, with the seam hidden underneath. The weight of the cookie ensures that the seam doesn't unravel. Do not lay the cookies down flat to bake them!
Cinnamon rugelach with dried cranberries and walnots
Cream cheese dough
- 230 grams unsalted butter room temperature
- 250 grams Philadelphia cream cheese (full fat, regular) 1 block
- 375 grams bleached all-purpose flour
- 1.25 mL Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt
Cinnamon rugelach filling with dried cranberries
Cinnamon sugar topping
- 30 mL granulated sugar
- 1.25 mL ground cinnamon
- 30 mL whipping cream (35 % fat)
Cream cheese dough
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a square. Wrap and chill dough for at least 2 hours.
Cinnamon rugelach filling with dried cranberries
- In a food processor, combine walnuts with dried cranberries, sugar, cinnamon, cream, and vanilla extract. Pulse mixture until it is ground fairly fine and evenly mixed. The filling will ressemble coarse, wet sand.
How to shape & bake cinnamon rugelach
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a couple of sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll dough into a rectangle that is approximately 13 x 7 inches on a lightly floured surface.
- Sprinkle one quarter of the cranberry filling mixture generously over surface of dough and press lightly. Roll fairly tightly into a 13 inch log, seam-side down.
- In a small bowl, mix together the granulated sugar and the cinnamon to make the topping. Brush the log with cream and sprinkle top generously with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Cut into 12 or 13 pieces (a cut every inch or so). Transfer rugelach to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about an inch, keeping the seam-side of each cookie down and placing each cookie standing upright on the cookie sheets.
- Bake cookies until they are golden brown (this takes at least 25–30 minutes). You want the cream cheese dough to bake completely, the seam side and tops of the cookies should be golden brown.