Gingerbread cookies are one of the most classic cookies to have come Christmastime, and, really, year-round! They’re loved by many for their warm, spiced molasses flavor, no matter how they’re cut and decorated. Our gingerbread cookie recipe will set you up for sweet success, whether you prefer cookies shaped like gingerbread buddies, snowflakes, candy canes or Christmas trees. We share all of our best tips and tricks so you can perfect the time-honored tradition.
How to Make Gingerbread Cookies
Make the dough
First, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and molasses, and mix until combined. Then, combine the dry ingredients before adding them to the creamed mixture.
Chill the dough
While it might be tempting, don’t skip chilling the cookie dough. It helps prevent the cookie dough from spreading too much while baking, and also makes the dough easier to roll out. We recommend refrigerating the gingerbread cookie dough for four hours minimum—although you can keep it in the fridge overnight if you’d rather bake the next day.
Cut the cookies, and bake
After the cookie dough has chilled in the fridge, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface. Using your preferred cookie cutters, cut and move the unbaked cookies to an ungreased baking sheet. Then bake, cool and decorate!
Ingredients for Gingerbread Cookies
- Molasses: Dark molasses is the best type of molasses to use when making gingerbread for bold flavors and that beloved gingerbread color.
- Brown sugar: Brown sugar sweetens and adds moisture and a flavor that pairs really nicely with the molasses.
- Ground ginger: The namesake spice of gingerbread cookies!
- Cinnamon and cloves: These two warming spices add a little more dimension in conjunction with the ground ginger and molasses to create the flavor that we all know and love.
- Baking soda: Baking soda helps the cookie dough rise so your gingerbread cookies come out with a bit of height.
- Frosting and food coloring: You don’t have to decorate these cookies, but if you do, here’s how you’ll do it. You’ll start with a vanilla frosting of your choice, then dye one-third of it green, and one-third red. The remaining will stay white, so you’ll have three holiday-ready colors, all set for decorating!
Step 1: Cream the butter and sugar
In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, for five to seven minutes. Beat in the egg and molasses.
Editor’s Tip: Here’s a guide to how to cream butter and sugar. One of its best tips? Cutting the softened butter into cubes before you add it to the mixer to make it easier for the butter to combine with the sugar.
Step 2: Combine the dry ingredients
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.
Step 3: Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture
Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating well.
Step 4: Refrigerate the dough
Cover the dough, and refrigerate until easy to handle, about four hours to overnight.
Editor’s Tip: Don’t skip this step! While it may be hard to wait for the cookie dough to chill, it will make rolling out the dough easier later.
Step 5: Roll out the dough
Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness.
Step 6: Cut out the gingerbread cookies
Cut the dough into cookies using floured 2-1/2-inch cookie cutters. You can use gingerbread people or holiday shapes like trees, mittens and snowflakes. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Editor’s Tip: Roll out the dough directly on a sheet of parchment dusted with flour. Use the cookie cutter to create shapes and remove the excess dough. Then slide the parchment onto the baking sheet, and bake away!
Step 7: Bake the gingerbread cookies
Bake cookies until the edges are firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the baked gingerbread cookies to wire racks, and let cool completely.
Step 8: Frost the gingerbread cookies
Prepare the vanilla frosting of your choice. Divide the frosting into three bowls. Tint one bowl red and another bowl green, leaving the remaining bowl white. Decorate the gingerbread cookies as desired!
How to Decorate Gingerbread Cookies
No matter how you decorate the cookies, be sure to let them cool completely before applying frosting so that it won’t melt or spread too much. To keep things simple, make an icing with confectioners’ sugar and milk or water, or make a citrusy icing like in these iced orange cookies for a little punch of flavor. Then dip the cooled cookies into the orange icing.
Otherwise, this gingerbread cookie recipe makes perfect little gingerbread people! Use royal icing to draw on eyes, a smile and buttons down the middle. Don’t be afraid to get creative. You can draw on hair, clothing and accessories to give each cookie some character. Consider using some gumdrops for a little dimension! If you need some inspiration, here are more ideas for decorating gingerbread buddies.
Have fun decorating other gingerbread shapes too, whether it’s a Christmas tree with a zig-zag garland and a star sprinkle on top, a candy cane-shaped cookie with some stripes, or a gingerbread snowflake with a little sparkle from sanding sugar.
How to Store Gingerbread Cookies
Let cookies with any icing or frosting completely dry before storing to preserve the pretty decorations. Once the frosting has set, store decorated gingerbread cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks, separated by sheets of waxed paper.
How to Freeze Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread cookies freeze wonderfully. Here are two ways to make them last longer if you want to work ahead:
- To freeze gingerbread cookie dough: Keep wrapped cookie dough in the freezer so you can whip up a batch whenever the mood strikes. Simply thaw the dough in the fridge overnight, and roll them out the next day. Cookie dough will last in the freezer for up to three months.
- To freeze baked (undecorated!) gingerbread cookies: Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheet, then transfer the baking sheet to the freezer, and keep the cookies there until frozen solid. Then, transfer the frozen cookies to freezer-safe containers, and store in the freezer for up to six months. Thaw at room temperature, then decorate and enjoy!
Gingerbread Cookie Tips
What kind of molasses should you use to make gingerbread cookies?
Dark molasses gives the classic color you’d expect for gingerbread cookies. Plus, if you love molasses, this type will give you the bold flavor you’re looking for. However, light molasses will work just as well if you’d prefer a lighter cookie with tamer flavors and a little more chewiness.