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How to Make Gingerbread Cookies

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It’s always the right time to learn how to make gingerbread cookies! These classic holiday cookies are soft, moist, and hold a perfect shape! I’m sharing my tips and tricks on making homemade, deliciously spiced, brown sugar and molasses-flavored cookies ready to be decorated and enjoyed all season long!

overhead shot of colorful decorated gingerbread cookies in holiday shapes.

Gingerbread Cut Out Cookies

When I think of traditional holiday cookies, it’s always classic gingerbread cookies that comes to mind. They’re timeless cookies that every home baker should know how to make, especially this time of year!

Would you believe, I’ve had everything from gingerbread cake to chewy ginger snaps on the blog, but this is the first time I’m sharing my gingerbread cookies recipe.

These cookies have a chewy bite with crisp edges which helps to hold their shape. They’re sturdy, yet moist and have the perfect surface area for decorating. To top it off, each mouthwatering bite has that signature warm spiced and molasses flavor which is sweetened with brown sugar!

The dough comes together easily, and I’m going to walk you through the steps to rolling, cutting out shapes, and baking to get the best results every time.

Why you’ll love making Gingerbread Cookies

Easy to make – Learning how to make gingerbread cookies is way too easy to ever go back to store-bought cookies again. There is a bit of extra effort (let’s call it love) that goes into getting them the perfect shape, but it’s worth it!

Simple ingredients – Gingerbread has complex flavors but they don’t come from complex ingredients. Everything can be found in your pantry or at your local grocery store.

Better than store-bought – These bakery-style gingerbread cookies taste so much better when they are homemade. Make a batch from scratch, cut them out into festive shapes, and add them to all your holiday cookie trays!

So much fun to decorate! – Once they’re baked, the kids can get in on the decorating with icing, sprinkles, and melted chocolate!

candy cane gingerbread cookie with a bite missing.

Equipment you’ll need

  • Hand Mixer – I use my hand mixer way more often than my stand mixer, but either will work well.
  • Mixing Bowls – I love these with the grippy bottoms.
  • Parchment Paper – Both for baking the cookies on and for handling the cut-outs.
  • Cookie Cutters – Shown are 3″ Christmas cookie cutters. I used a gingerbread man, a Christmas tree, a candy cane, and a snowflake.
  • Rolling Pin – Makes getting the dough evenly flat so much easier!
  • Wilton piping tips – If you’re feeling fancy, using a piping tip helps give your cookies a polished look when using frosting.

Ingredients

Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card.

  • SHORTENING – I went with shortening instead of butter in these cookies because I wanted to make sure they would hold their shape. Shortening does a slightly better job with this and also helps give the flat dough to a nice rise as it bakes.
  • SUGAR – Needed for sweetness! Since we’re using molasses on its own, we’re sticking with white sugar.
  • SALT – Brings out the flavor in all the other ingredients, maximizing the taste in every morsel.
  • MOLASSES – Medium or dark molasses is the kind that is widely used in gingerbread (Grandma’s is the most widely available brand). It’s got a more robust flavor than light molasses, however, blackstrap molasses goes too far the other way. This is what gives the gingerbread that beautiful dark brown color and signature flavor.
  • WHITE VINEGAR – A neat trick to getting the cookies to rise. When the acid in the vinegar reacts with the baking soda, it’s like magic. It also helps to keep them soft rather than becoming hard and crunchy.
  • FLOUR – The base of the cookie! As with any baking recipe you want to make sure to measure it correctly. I’ve only tested with all purpose white flour.
  • BAKING SODA – A leavening agent that helps trap air which will help keep the gingerbread cookies from falling flat.
  • SPICES – Cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
overhead shot of labeled ingredients for gingerbread cookies.

How to make Gingerbread Cookies

  1. STEP ONE: In the bowl of a stand mixer or using an electric hand mixer, cream together the shortening, sugar, and salt over medium speed. Once combined, add in the egg, molasses, and vinegar and continue mixing.
  2. STEP TWO: In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and spices. Then, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, a bit at a time. Mix until combined into a thick dough.
  3. STEP THREE: Cover with plastic wrap and transfer it to the fridge to chill for a minimum of 2 hours. Do not skip this step!
  4. STEP FOUR: Preheat the oven to 375°F. For details on how to roll out and cut shapes out of the dough, see below. Then meet me right back here.
  5. STEP FIVE: Bake the gingerbread cookies for 5-6 minutes until firm. Do not overbake, you don’t want them to burn or become crunchy. Once they’re done, allow them to cool completely before decorating with icing, sprinkles, and candy!
collage of 4 photos showing the process of rolling out & cutting a gingerbread man cookie.

How to Roll & Cut Gingerbread Cookie Dough

  1. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and keep the dough in 1 big pile.
  2. Cut out 2 sheets of parchment paper, at least 1 inch bigger than the cookie cutter. On one of the pieces of parchment paper, take a 1-inch ball of dough and roll it out to be ⅛ inch thick (add flour to the rolling pin if it’s sticking).
  3. Press the cookie cutter into the flattened dough and remove the excess around the edge and add it back to the big ball of dough. Remove the cookie cutter.
  4. Take the other piece of parchment paper and place it on top of the cutout dough and flip it over. Gently peel the top piece of paper off (the cookie will now be upside down).
  5. Then gently flip the dough back over onto the parchment-lined baking sheet (spacing the cookies 1-inch apart) and peel the top paper off (the cookie will now be right-side up again). This ensures a perfect shape!
collage of 4 photos showing how to cleaning cut gingerbread cookies.

What to serve with Gingerbread Cookies

What’s a classic Christmas cookie without a classic holiday drink to pair with it?! Wash it down with slow cooker apple cider or some slow cooker hot chocolate.

You can also serve them on a dessert platter with easy peanut brittle, candied pecans, or no-bake melted reindeer bark!

And sometimes you just need a side of vanilla ice cream!

Tips & Possible Substitutions/Additions

  • If preferred, the dough can all be rolled out at once, then cut into shapes. I just find it more difficult to transfer the cutout dough onto the baking sheet while still retaining its proper shape, especially if they’re intricate.
  • You can use butter instead of shortening if you would rather that. It should be unsalted and softened at room temperature.
  • When peeling the parchment paper off of the gingerbread cookies, start from the bottom and peel back the paper nearly horizontally in the opposite direction. Doing it at this angle will help the dough not stick as much.
  • When removing the excess dough from around the cookie cutter, use a toothpick to get into the small crevices if needed.
  • The vinegar is definitely a bonus but can be omitted if you don’t have any.
  • Even though the dough is rolled out very thin, the cookies puff up and cook through nicely in the oven.

How to store Gingerbread Cookies

How to store leftovers

Always keep them stored in an airtight container to keep them from drying out.

How long will gingerbread man cookies last at room temperature?

If they don’t have any icing on them, they’ll stay fresh at room temperature when stored properly for up to 3 weeks. If they have icing on them, I recommend eating them within a week.

Can I freeze gingerbread cookies?

You can, so by all means, make lots! These can be frozen with or without icing for up to 3 months. I like to separate layers with wax paper so they don’t freeze together. When you’re ready to eat them, thaw them at room temperature and enjoy!

overhead shot of decorated gingerbread cookies on a wooden table.

FAQs

What was used to decorate these gingerbread cookies?

White, blue, yellow, green, and red cookie icing with a small icing tip was used! Red and green mini M&M’s and red & white sugar pearls were also used.

This is just a jumping off point. You can decorate yours how you like. I do recommend royal icing or cookie icing to be your go-to!

Can I make the dough ahead of time?

Yes! If the dough is sealed in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator, it can be made up to 3 days ahead of time.

Is this the same recipe I can use to make a gingerbread house?

No! You need crispy, sturdy, and hard gingerbread to make a house.

Chocolate Chip Snowball Cookies

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Click here for my entire collection of Classic Christmas Cookies.

overhead shot of gingerbread cookies on a cookie sheet.

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overhead shot of colorful decorated gingerbread cookies in holiday shapes.

Gingerbread Cookies

Melissa Williams
It's always the right time to learn how to make gingerbread cookies! These classic holiday cookies are soft, moist, and hold a perfect shape! I'm sharing my tips and tricks on making homemade, deliciously spiced, brown sugar and molasses-flavored cookies ready to be decorated and enjoyed all season long!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 5 mins
Chill Time 3 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 5 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 45 cookies
Calories 67 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup granulated white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ tablespoon ground ginger

Instructions
 

  • In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the shortening, sugar, and salt on medium speed until smooth. Add in the egg, molasses, and white vinegar; beat well.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger.
  • A little at a time, add the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix until well combined. The dough will be thick.
  • Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. The dough needs to be cold to properly roll out.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator and keep the dough in 1 big pile. Cut out 2 sheets of parchment paper, at least 1 inch bigger than the cookie cutter. On one of the pieces of parchment paper, take a 1-inch ball of dough and roll it out to be ⅛ inch thick (add flour to the rolling pin if it’s sticking). Press the cookie cutter into the flattened dough and remove the excess around the edge and add it back to the big ball of dough. Remove the cookie cutter. Take the other piece of parchment paper and place it on top of the cut out dough and flip it over. Gently peel the top piece of paper off (the cookie will now be upside down). Then gently flip the dough back over onto the parchment lined baking sheet (spacing the cookies 1-inch apart) and peel the top paper off (the cookie will now be right-side up again). This ensures a perfect shape!
  • Bake for 5-6 minutes or until just firm. Do not overbake or they will become crunchy.
  • Decorate with your icing and candies of choice and serve!

Notes

Using 3″ cookie cutters, this will make approximately 45 cookies. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 67kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 1gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 34mgPotassium: 65mgFiber: 0.2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 6IUVitamin C: 0.001mgCalcium: 10mgIron: 1mg

Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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