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Cornmeal Thumbprint Cookies with Pepper Jelly

Cute as a button and sparkling with spicy-sweet jalapeño pepper jelly, these cornmeal thumbprint cookies come with unexpected flavor! We’re talking first bite surprise.

cornmeal thumprint cookies with finger holding one cookie with a bite

With whole grain crunch and understated sweetness, they’re like a cornmeal biscuit with a spread of vibrant spicy jam. They don’t have that sugary taste you expect in cookies.

If you’re looking for a delicious not-too-sweet cornmeal cookie, you want this recipe. And if the pepper jelly scares you away, instead, simply fill your thumbprints with sweet jam or jelly.

Click here to PIN Pepper Jelly Cornmeal Thumbprints!

With the pepper jelly, you’ll find these cookies well-suited for appetizers, maybe a fun addition to a cheeseboard. Try them with a glass of Prosecco or a snifter of good tequila. 

In the dough, there’s nutmeg, sweet paprika, and a pinch of cayenne as well. That revealed, if you’re going for cornmeal thumbprints with regular sweet jelly, you could skip the paprika. But definitely keep the cayenne—it brings in a bright subtle flavor that no one would guess.

With cornmeal and honey, these are like Italian polenta cookies. And whether you fill them with pepper jelly or your favorite raspberry jam, these cornmeal thumbprint cookies are too tasty to miss!

baked cornmeal pepper jelly cookies on a plate

What’s in these thumbprint cookies?

There’s …

Butter, for creamy richness.

Honey, for warm sunshine fragrance and moisture.

Eggs, for color, structure, flavor and leavening.

Cornmeal, for sweet corn flavor with a little bit of chew.

Whole Wheat Flour, for whole grain goodness.

Sweet paprika, for color and a hint of fruit.

Vanilla—simply, vanilla makes cookies taste better, its essence pulls all the other flavors together!

Salt–like vanilla, salt just makes cookies taste better.

Cayenne–just a pinch, for that je ne sais quoi bite.

Pepper Jelly, for twinkling color and sweet heat.

How to make cornmeal thumbprint cookies:

  • Make sure your butter is soft, room temperature. Use an electric mixer or a wooden spoon to beat the butter and honey.
  • Mix in the eggs and vanilla.
  • Mix in the cornmeal, flour and spices.
  • Scoop onto small round balls.
  • Make deep indents to hold the jelly—I use my middle finger.
  • Drop colorful pepper jelly into those little hollows.
  • Bake!

Cornmeal Thumbprint Cookies Tips and Tricks:

  • They may be called thumbprints, but you’ll want to use a finger to make even indentations. Make them deep, all the way to the bottom of the dough, and gently move your finger around, to make the holes a teensy bit wider.
  • To help sticky honey flow out of a measuring cup, coat the cup first with oil. Pour a little oil in a clean measuring cup, swirl the oil around, and then pour it right back into the bottle. Then measure the honey in the “oiled” cup.
  • Form the 1-inch balls using a small cookie scoop—1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons or size #100. (Affiliate link.) A cookie scoop is much more efficient than dropping the dough from a spoon. I use my little scoop to portion all my small treats, like these gluten-free chocolate mint cookies and vegan chocolate to-die-for truffles.


Must I fill the centers with pepper jelly?

No, you can fill with any bright jam, jelly or marmalade. Though you’ll appreciate the sweet pepper jelly centers paired with the honey-sweetened lightly-spiced cornmeal batter. (For these photos, I used a Utah-made jalapeño blood orange preserves. I’m thinking this raspberry jalapeño jam (affiliate link) would be excellent in pepper jelly thumbprint cookies.)

Can I freeze the dough?

Yes! The best is to form the little balls and freeze them. When you’re ready to bake, arrange on a baking sheet, cover, and let them come to room temperature before pressing the finger indents. You can also freeze the dough after you mix it–you’ll just want to let it thaw before scooping and filling.

What’s the best way to store cornmeal thumbprint cookies?

You can keep them in an airtight container for several days. You can also freeze them after baking. Let them thaw to room temperature. (My husband Robbie likes his sweets frozen. I say to each his own—I’ll even pop mine in the oven for a minute refresh, so there’s no chill at all.)

The dough cracks when I make the indents, it that OK?

Yes, it’s normal for thumbprint cookies to have cracked edges after making the “thumbprints.” If the edges have really rough cracks, you can smooth them out with your fingers. Make sure the dough is room temperature when you press your finger to make indentations for the jelly.

Wishing you a holiday season filled with joy and peace. Be sure to get in the kitchen and bake cookies!

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a product via my link, it doesn’t cost you anything and I earn a tiny commission, which helps defray the costs of Letty’s Kitchen blog. Thank you for supporting Letty’s Kitchen.

PS If you make this recipe and love it, please consider leaving a blog post comment. Your comments help other readers learn more about the recipe.

This is an update from the Pepper Jelly Thumbprint Cookies I posted in December 2014.


  • What a fantastic idea! My husband love pepper jelly and he’s going to love these cookies! Reply · 5 December, 2014

    • Letty

      Thanks Martha! The pepper jelly is fun for sure. I sometimes make them with red and green fillings both… Reply · 5 December, 2014

  • Judy

    Thanks, Letty. I loved these at Thanksgiving and will try them at home! Reply · 5 December, 2014

    • Letty

      thanks back to you Judy–enjoy every bite. Reply · 5 December, 2014

  • Everybody in my family LOVES pepper jelly but I’ve never thought to use it in a cookie!! Great idea!! Reply · 5 December, 2014

    • Letty

      Thanks Rose! btw–love your snowball cookies–and the hidden white chocolate filling idea! Reply · 5 December, 2014

  • Patricia Constable

    Hi Letty, I just made Ahbilashas’recipe for thumb cookies this Thanksgiving. Had one with tea this morning. They do look exactly the same though. . PC Reply · 5 December, 2014

    • letty

      Oh I do love Abhilasha’s thumbprints too. And they are made without butter…. Reply · 5 December, 2014

  • Such a fun better-for-you cookie you can feel good about eating. Reply · 5 December, 2014

  • letty

    Thanks Barbara. The recipe from Donna @ Apron Strings is up the “healthier” aisle too. I am mighty tempted with your stuffed cookie idea as well! Reply · 5 December, 2014

  • I love pepper jelly! These cookies looks so yummy, and I love that they are so unique too! Reply · 7 December, 2014

    • Letty

      Thanks Danelle. Fun to see all the different cookies. I love rugelach but the crescent rolling is a bit of labor. Not so with your bars! Reply · 7 December, 2014

  • Wow – I have been making thumbprint cookies since my junior high Home Ec days – but yours are such a fun twist! MUST make! Reply · 12 December, 2014

    • Letty

      thanks Donna–Did you receive my message that I made yours–the Orange Cranberry Nut ones? I made them with date sugar and some ww pastry flour. They are repeaters! Reply · 13 December, 2014

  • Merci

    Can these be frozen? With jelly? Reply · 6 December, 2019

    • Merci, yes. They bake up nicely after being frozen jelly-filled before baking. You can also freeze them after baking. Make sure your container is airtight in both instances. Reply · 7 December, 2019

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