Gingerbread Cookies - Handle the Heat
Filed Under: Christmas | Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

By Tessa Arias
  |  
November 29th, 2018
4.78 from 9 votes
4.78 from 9 votes

Easy Gingerbread Cookies are thick, soft, and perfectly maintain their adorable shape. This dough is a dream to work with and the cookies can be made ahead of time! Easy cookie icing included.  Click here to download our 10 Favorite Christmas Cookies!

Yield: 24 cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook: 12 minutes

Easy Gingerbread Cookies are thick, soft, and perfectly maintain their adorable shape. This dough is a dream to work with and the cookies can be made ahead of time! Easy cookie icing included.

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: The perfect balance of sweetness and spice that’s quintessential to this time of year!
Texture: These bake up soft and a little chewy with slightly crisp edges.
Ease: Very easy! You can make the cookies ahead of time and freeze them, too.
Pros: An essential recipe to add to your Christmas cookie repertoire.
Cons: None!!
Would I make this again? Every year.

Nothing says Merry Christmas quite like a batch of homemade Gingerbread Cookies baking away in the oven. The aroma alone is the epitome of festive!

But the process of rolling the dough, cutting out shapes, then decorating the baked cookies is a tradition I look forward to every year.

This gingerbread cookie dough is so easy to work with and the cookies actually keep their shape while baking!

This year I got to wondering about the origin of gingerbread cookies. According to Wikipedia, “Gingerbread dates from the 15th century, and figural biscuit-making was practiced in the 16th century. The first documented instance of figure-shaped gingerbread biscuits was at the court of Elizabeth I of England. She had the gingerbread figures made and presented in the likeness of some of her important guests.

Now we all know Wikipedia isn’t always the most accurate, but I found this next part to be even more interesting, “According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s largest gingerbread man was made by the staff of the IKEA Furuset store in Oslo, Norway, on 9 November 2009. The gingerbread man weighed 1435.2 pounds (651 kg).

Easy Gingerbread Cookies are thick, soft, and perfectly maintain their adorable shape. This dough is a dream to work with and the cookies can be made ahead of time! Easy cookie icing included.

Can you imagine?! I wonder if that giant cookie was even edible?

Whatever size you make your gingerbread cookies, I hope you enjoy the process every step of the way.

Easy Gingerbread Cookies are thick, soft, and perfectly maintain their adorable shape. This dough is a dream to work with and the cookies can be made ahead of time! Easy cookie icing included.

How to Make Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients for gingerbread man cookies:

  • Flour: I used all-purpose flour
  • Spices: ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and a dash of salt give these cookies the best Christmas-y flavor
  • Leavening: baking powder & baking soda
  • Butter: use unsalted butter that has come to room temperature
  • Light brown sugar
  • Molasses: more on this in the next tip!
  • An egg

Can I substitute the molasses?

Be sure to use unsulphured molasses in this recipe, not blackstrap which is very potent.

I’ve received a few comments from readers who live somewhere molasses isn’t available. Molasses is a critical component of this gingerbread cookie recipe. So unfortunately substituting it with something different will affect the final taste, texture, and color of these cookies.

If you live in the U.K., you can use treacle in place of the molasses. It’s basically the British equivalent.

If you can’t find molasses or treacle, use maple syrup, dark corn syrup, or honey in its place. You may want to increase the spices in the recipe if you’re using a substitute to make up for that lost molasses flavor.

How to roll out and shape cookie dough:

To make things quicker, easier, and cleaner, I like to roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Be sure to keep the dough moving in quarter turns and push the rolling pin from the center out so you roll it into an even thickness.

As you cut out the gingerbread men shapes, you may find the dough has become too warm and soft. If this happens, just take the entire sheet of dough and pop it in the freezer or fridge until it’s solid again. If the cookie dough is super warm when it enters the oven they may not keep their shape as well, so you can again pop the tray in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up the dough.

How to make SOFT gingerbread cookies:

This recipe should yield gingerbread cookies that keep their shape but stay soft after baking. The ensure this, avoid overworking the dough. It’s not bread dough, so definitely don’t knead it. Use a gentle hand!

Also, be sure not to over bake these. You’ll need to adjust the baking time depending on the size of gingerbread men cookie cutters you use. The smaller the size, the less time they’ll need in the oven. Take the cookies out just before they look completely done, they’ll continue to cook on the pan from the residual heat of the oven.

How to decorate gingerbread cookies:

I’m not a fan of royal icing, so I just included a very simple cookie icing in this recipe. You can learn more about my cheat for easy cookie icing here.

I find the simplest way to decorate these cookies is by making borders with the icing. You can also add buttons or a face with the icing! A squeeze bottle is the best way to make quick and easy work of icing all of the cookies. Plus even the kids can get involved with squeeze bottles!

How to make gingerbread cookies ahead of time:

You can make and refrigerate the dough for up to 2 days. Just make sure it’s in an airtight container so it won’t dry out. The spiced flavor will actually intensify in the fridge, kind of like marinating a steak!

The baked but un-iced cookies can actually be stored in the freezer for a couple months! Simple pop a tray of cookies in the freezer until they’re solid then remove them to an airtight container. Allow to defrost at room temperature. If you’d like, you can refresh them in a 325°F oven for a few minutes.

Decorate these soft Gingerbread Cookies with easy icing! The kids will love this.

More Christmas Cookie Recipes

Be sure to check out my Christmas Headquarters page for more baking recipes, tips, and inspiration!

Easy Gingerbread Cookies are thick, soft, and perfectly maintain their adorable shape. This dough is a dream to work with and the cookies can be made ahead of time! Easy cookie icing included.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

4.78 from 9 votes

How to make
Gingerbread Cookies

Yield: 24 cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Inactive Time 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 32 minutes
Easy Gingerbread Cookies are thick, soft, and perfectly maintain their adorable shape. This dough is a dream to work with and the cookies can be made ahead of time! Easy cookie icing included.  Click here to download our 10 Favorite Christmas Cookies!

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 3 cups (381 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 11/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 sticks (170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (168 grams) unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large egg

For the icing:

  • 2 cups (250 grams) powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Make the cookies:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg to combine.
  2. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg and molasses and beat until combined. On low speed slowly add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Shape the dough into a thick disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  4. Remove the dough from refrigerator and let stand until just warm enough to roll with ease. Place the chilled dough in between two large pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap on a work surface. Roll the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Use a gingerbread man cookie cutter to cut out shapes from the dough and place on prepared baking sheets, spreading at least a 1/2-inch apart. Reroll remaining scraps of dough into 1/4-inch thickness and cut out more shapes.
  5. If at any point the dough becomes too warm to hold its shape, return to the fridge (or freezer) until firm again.
  6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are set and begin to brown slightly at the edges, rotating sheets halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the pans for 3 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Make the icing:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients until a thick and smooth icing forms. Add more milk if the icing is too thick, or more sugar if it’s too thin.
  2. Transfer the icing to a piping bag, ziptop bag with a small hole cut in the corner, or to a squeeze bottle. Decorate the cookies with the icing. Allow to set before serving or storing.
Course : Dessert
Cuisine : American
Keyword : gingerbread cookies

Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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Recipe Rating




  1. #
    Caelyn — December 17, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    Way too much molasses. Overpowering. They don’t taste like a gingerbread cookie. At least they held their shape while baking, but that’s not really much to ask for. Would not recommend unless you are looking for a soft molasses cookie.

    • #
      Emily — December 20, 2021 at 1:19 pm

      We appreciate your feedback. What kind of molasses did you use?

  2. #
    Dina — December 8, 2021 at 6:41 pm

    These are super easy to make! Everyone loved them. I live at 7000 feet and did not make any changes to recipe.

    • #
      Emily — December 9, 2021 at 9:34 am

      Thanks so much for sharing, Dina! Glad they were a hit 🙂

  3. #
    Kristen Ridge — December 1, 2021 at 2:29 pm

    Hello!
    I chose this recipe, after searching for dark brown gingerbread cookie recipe. I’ve made regular gingerbread for years. I researched and found I needed to use “full flavor” molasses to get the dark color. Well, they turned out light brown, like always!! I’m really wondering what is going on…can you help?

    • #
      Emily — December 9, 2021 at 2:42 pm

      Hi Kristen! I discussed this with Tessa, and she said you may have to experiment with different brands to get the specific color you want. Blackstrap molasses will produce the darkest color, but it also produces the most bitter flavor, which is why we don’t recommend it. Tessa’s favorite molasses brands are Grandma’s Molasses Unsulphured Original and Brer Rabbit All Natural Unsulphured Molasses Mild Flavor. I hope that helps! Please let us know what you find out!

      • #
        Kristen Ridge — December 9, 2021 at 4:02 pm

        I ended up using Brer Rabbit’s Full Flavor—and it turned out light. For about ten years I’ve used the Grandmas Original, as you mentioned.

        When I’ve written to people on blogs, they always say they’ve used one of these two types. Are you saying your cookies turn out super dark brown when you use these types of molasses? Blog pictures show super dark brown, but then the cooks always say that they used these types of molasses but when I use them they’re not dark at all. So I’m thinking maybe the pictures are not from what is actually baked?

        I’m going to experiment and use blackstrap. One cook’s blog said that she didn’t notice a flavor difference between it and these lighter molasses types. We’ll see what happens! Thanks for responding.

        • #
          Emily — December 13, 2021 at 10:48 am

          Hi Kristen, I had Tessa look into this further, and she said our photographer used a molasses product from the farmer’s market but couldn’t figure out what kind it was after she shot the photos because it wasn’t labeled like grocery store molasses. She wanted me to let you know also that photos and screens aren’t always true to life as far as precise colors go, especially for browns and tans. Please let me know how it goes if you attempt blackstrap, I’m interested to find out!

          • #
            Kristen Ridge — December 13, 2021 at 11:21 am

            Thanks for looking into this, it’s been interesting to hear from you. I finally found one cook that did indeed use photographs of their cookies and not stock photos or other photos. She reported that only blackstrap molasses will give the super dark brown color, and the other types of molasses all create light gingerbread. She also said that she could not tell a flavor difference between the blackstrap and regular molasses. After reading maybe a dozen blogs/baking websites that say not to use blackstrap, but have accompanying photos showing cookies clearly made with blackstrap molasses, it seems these bakers just copied and pasted info onto their articles without really being doing the work of trying it out. When I do give it a try, I’ll try and get back to you. Sadly I purchased a lot of full flavor molasses as recommended by so many people, and I can’t get more until I use this stuff up. It’s pretty expensive stuff!

  4. #
    Roma — November 22, 2021 at 11:10 pm

    Hi, how can I replace the egg with if I want to make it vegetarian.
    Thankyou
    Roma

    • #
      Emily — November 23, 2021 at 10:20 am

      We don’t publish egg-free recipes, so I can’t say for sure!

  5. #
    Tracey — June 21, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    Hi Tessa

    In Australia we use Golden Syrup for our gingerbread bikkies or cookies as you Americans like to call our biscuits/bikkies ☺️ at Christmas time. It does alter the taste as it’s lighter than molasses hence changing the taste but I love it the way I make it and it can be substituted with same amounts in any recipe that has molasses.

    I imagine UK may be same. Not sure just thought it might help.
    Tracey

    • #
      Tessa — June 22, 2021 at 9:27 am

      I appreciate you taking the time to write in with your suggestion, thanks! 🙂

  6. #
    Diana — December 29, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    I made this as part of my Bakemas series for my IG. They were so delicious and my family and I had a lot of fun decorating them and spending time as a family. My only thing was I rolled the dough too thin so it wasn’t as fluffy as I expected.

  7. #
    Emily — December 26, 2020 at 1:22 am

    These were so good! Soft with First time making gingerbread and these were so easy! Liked the easy icing too!

    • #
      Emily — December 26, 2020 at 1:23 am

      *Soft with great flavor!

  8. #
    Ronieth — October 20, 2020 at 8:55 pm

    Can I just reduce the amount of molasses in the recipe if I only have blackstrap?

  9. #
    Sharni MacKertich — November 25, 2019 at 4:44 am

    Just was wondering how long can I keep the dough before I bake it, so I can make it in advance to bake it a few days later.

  10. #
    Kathleen — December 19, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    I have been baking and cooking my whole life. this is the first time I made gingerbread cookies, this was so easy. Thank you so much.

  11. #
    Brenda — December 19, 2018 at 8:39 am

    Hi, I made the cookies and the flavor is great and texture soft, but I was wondering how yours are so dark? Mine were the lighter brown color.

    • #
      Sarah — December 10, 2021 at 9:09 pm

      I haven’t made these but it calls for light brown sugar. Maybe using dark brown sugar will help get the dark color too?

  12. #
    Lynne Searby — December 15, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Are unsulfured molasses the same as fancy molasses which I can get here in Canada?

    • #
      Trisha — January 7, 2020 at 4:48 pm

      Hi Lynne, as a fellow Canadian, I use Crosby’s Fancy molasses for baking, it is unsulfured. Crosby’s also has cooking molasses which can be used for baking and cooking as well as an unsulfured blackstrap, which I haven’t tried yet.

  13. #
    Andrew Gomes — December 3, 2018 at 3:28 am

    i like this recipe thank you.

  14. #
    Andrew Gomes — December 3, 2018 at 3:27 am

    yes i like.

  15. #
    Zainab — December 1, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Is there any alternative for molasses?

    • #
      Tessa — December 2, 2018 at 9:15 am

      Hi! I’ve just updated the recipe tips box in this blog post with directions for subbing the molasses 🙂

  16. #
    Aneliza — December 1, 2018 at 10:44 am

    Hi Tessa, I’m not sure I can find molasses in my country. Do you think it could be replaced with another ingredient? Thanks in advance! Ps. I love your work!

    • #
      Tessa — December 2, 2018 at 9:15 am

      Hi! I’ve just updated the recipe tips box in this blog post with directions for subbing the molasses 🙂

  17. #
    Rita — November 29, 2018 at 11:15 am

    I’m curious to know…you used light brown sugar instead of dark brown, & then you added in molasses? Isn’t it possible to eliminate the molasses by switching to use the dark brown sugar instead of the light one? The dark brown sugar already has molasses added to it…doesn’t it?? Thank you Tessa! I need to know before I screw anything up! LOL!

    Also; I have snowmen cookie cutters my cousin bought me for Chanukah as a gift. I’m finding that the cookie dough loves to get stuck in the crevices of the ‘hat’ upon its head. Dough breaks off…well, you get the idea! Any suggestions as to use these cutters without an issue, when making this recipe? PS…THIS RECIPE LOOKS SOOOOOOO YUMMY!❤️

    • #
      Tessa — December 1, 2018 at 9:40 am

      Not quite, Rita! Dark brown sugar does have a touch more molasses than light brown, but nowhere near 1/2 cup more as called for in this recipe. You can see more here: https://handletheheat.com/make-store-brown-sugar/

      I would stamp out the shapes with the cookie cutter, but not remove the shaped dough to the baking pan yet. Instead, transfer the stamped out sheet of dough to the fridge or freezer and allow to firm before removing the shapes. This should help prevent breakage. Use your finger to hold down the hat part of the dough as you pull away the cookie cutter too. Hope that helps!

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