How to Make Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies
Every bit as delicious as the traditional recipe, these gluten-free gingerbread cookies are easy to make and offer endless possibilities for decorating.
Gingerbread is a beloved holiday treat dating back to medieval times, literally, when entire fairs centered on the spicy-sweet treat singing with ginger and rich with molasses. The ritual of making, decorating and enjoying gingerbread recipes is a favorite childhood memory for me, and happily, it’s just as easy and delicious to make gluten-free gingerbread cookies.
Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 4 cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Vanilla frosting or royal icing, store-bought or homemade
Step 1: Cream butter and sugar
In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. If you have a stand mixer, this is the perfect time to use it! You may also use beaters or old-fashioned elbow grease—just be sure to mix very well.
Step 2: Add the egg and molasses
Add the egg and molasses to the bowl and mix well.
Step 3: Combine the dry ingredients
In a separate bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.
Step 4: Slowly incorporate flour mixture
The trick to getting a well-mixed cookie dough is to add the flour gradually into the wet ingredients. The simplest way to do that is to add the dry mixture in three parts.
To start, gently pour 1/3 of the flour mix into the creamed mixture and beat well.
Step 5: Add remaining flour
Add another 1/3 of the flour to the mixing bowl and stir well, then add the final 1/3. Beat until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated. The batter will be thick and sticky.
Step 6: Chill the dough
The sticky dough needs to rest in the fridge to firm up before you can roll it out and shape it. This also allows the dry ingredients to hydrate more completely, resulting in a spicier, more flavorful cookie.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Step 7: Roll and cut
Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with floured 2-1/2-inch cookie cutters. Gingerbread people are classics, but feel free to use your favorite Christmas cookie cutters. Stars and ornaments are fun to decorate, too.
Step 8: Bake
Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake until the edges are firm, about 8-10 minutes. The cookies will harden and bake a bit more after they’re removed from the oven.
Step 9: Let cool
Remove the gluten-free gingerbread cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Don’t rush to decorate: Frosting or decorating the cookies while they’re warm will result in melted frosting that always feels a bit tacky to the touch.
Step 10: Decorate
Using royal icing or vanilla frosting, decorate the cookies. A piping bag makes it easy to draw on intricate details like facial features and clothing. If you don’t have a piping bag, slather the cookies with frosting and use mini chocolate chips or candies to make eyes, noses, buttons and more. Adding a few drops of food coloring to the frosting makes the cookies extra festive.
How to Store Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies
Once frosted, gingerbread cookies should be stored at room temperature in a covered tin or container, or wrapped in plastic wrap. If your home is very warm, it may be preferable to keep them in the fridge, but the cookies will dry out a bit faster.
Gluten-free baked goods tend to dry out more quickly than traditional bakes, although gingerbread has high moisture content and should last at least three days at room temperature. If the cookies do get a bit dry, wet your fingertips at the sink, shake the water droplets onto the surface of a cookie, and give it a quick 10-15 second zing in the microwave to resoften.
You can make gluten-free gingerbread cookies ahead of time. Raw gingerbread cookie dough can be frozen, tightly wrapped, for up to two weeks. Defrost in the fridge and proceed with the recipe from Step 7.
Unfrosted cookies can be frozen, also tightly wrapped, for up to a month. Defrost in the fridge and decorate.
Tips for Making Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies
What can you do if the cookie dough is too crumbly?
A crumbly cookie dough may simply be too cold from the fridge. Let it sit at room temperature until it softens and is easier to roll out. After rolling and cutting, pop the cookie sheet back in the fridge a few moments to firm the dough so the cookies don’t spread while baking.
If temperature isn’t the problem, mix cold water into the batter, a teaspoon at a time, until it’s easier to roll. The good news is that gluten-free dough won’t get tough from re-rolling and mixing, unlike gluten dough. (Here’s more on how to make a recipe gluten-free.)
Can you use this gluten-free gingerbread cookie recipe to make gingerbread houses?
Generally speaking, gingerbread houses are made from sturdy dough that’s rolled out quite thick. Structure is prioritized over flavor and texture. This recipe may work fine for a small-scale gingerbread house, but it will be more fragile and may snap or crumble.
For a sturdy build, here’s how to make a gingerbread house from scratch. Replace the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free all-purpose blend.
How else can you decorate gluten-free gingerbread cookies?
We have so, so many gingerbread decorating ideas! Add flair with sprinkles, jimmies, chocolate chips, candies, sanding sugar or bits of licorice. Slather the entire cookie with frosting (store-bought is fine!), or tint the frosting with food coloring. Decorate the gingerbread as a penguin or favorite holiday character. Or go abstract and top a plain frosted cookie with chocolate or gumdrop polka dots.
Can you make these gluten-free gingerbread cookies dairy-free?
Replacing the butter in the recipe with a trusted vegan butter should work just fine in this recipe. The butter is vital for fat content and moisture, so don’t omit it entirely or replace it with an oil.