This gingerbread cookie recipe is a family tradition! Tried and true easy cut out cookies to decorate for tasty holiday fun!
Baking and decorating this gingerbread cookie recipe (or "gingerbread boys") around Christmas time is a Gladd family tradition. We do not worry about creating the most elaborate looking gingerbread man, and instead usually focus on how much icing we can fit onto one cookie. To us, it's all about having fun together.
BUT, we do want the gingerbread man cookies to taste good. I love a chewy and soft, but sturdy, gingerbread cookie recipe and this is the one. It is the right amount of sweet and spice and holds it shape. We made our fair share of this gingerbread man recipe over the years so it is tested and true!
Ingredients in gingerbread cookie recipe
The ingredients for this gingerbread recipe are simple and probably everything you have on hand during the holidays.
- flour, baking soda, salt, butter, egg - your baking essentials.
- brown sugar - because brown sugar creates a softer texture and deeper flavor than white sugar
- molasses and spices - this is where the flavor really comes in!
How to make easy gingerbread cookies
Making gingerbread cookies is really very easy. It's basically mixing, chilling, rolling, cutting and baking! The decorating part is up to you! Every step is fun to me and even if you don't love baking you'll have fun with this, too!
Let's quickly walk through the steps together:
- Make the cookie dough - You'll mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Combine them but do not over mix.
- Chill the cookie dough - Chilling the dough is essential to firming the dough and ensuring your cookie cut outs hold their shape. Once your dough is made, divide into two dough balls and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it for up to 1 month.
- Roll the cookie dough - After the dough chills, remove one disc from the fridge and roll it out onto a floured surface. (One dough disc stays chilled in the fridge while working with the other.) Keep flouring the surface as usual to keep it from sticking. If it's difficult to roll at first because it's too cold, let it stand for 5 minutes then try again. I also like to flip the dough disc once or twice while rolling to help keep it from sticking.
- Cut out the cookie dough - You don't have to cut out gingerbread men and can use any cookie cutter for this gingerbread recipe! Work quickly, though, so your dough doesn't soften too much! Transfer immediately to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake the cookie dough - Bake the cookies at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over bake! Although, if you want a crispy cookie, go ahead and bake them longer -- but I like them soft.
(For full recipe ingredients and instructions scroll down below.)
Can you freeze gingerbread dough?
Gingerbread cookies freeze very well and so does the dough before you bake it. So, you have a choice. You can bake cut out the cookies and bake them, then let them cool to room temperature before transferring to a freezer bag. Or, before you roll the dough out, tightly wrap the dough ball with plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Both can be frozen for up to 1 month.
For the baked frozen gingerbread cookies, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw on the countertop for about an hour before decorating. For the frozen dough, allow to thaw overnight in the fridge before rolling out to cut into shapes.
Tips for baking easy gingerbread cookies
- Use a slanted spatula to remove the cookie shapes from the dough surface. The slant helps get underneath the cut out without ruining it.
- Keep your dough surface floured to avoid sticking!
- Use parchment paper and not a silicone liner. Over the years I've learned that parchment keeps a better cookie shape and the grease from a silicone liner makes the cookie spread.
- Do not over bake. These cookies are done in 10 minutes, maybe 12 if a larger size cut-out is used. They might not look done, but they are.
Gingerbread cookies last quite a while. You can make these ahead of time to prepare for a day of decorating up to 1 week in advance. Just store them in a tin or cookie jar in a cool, dry place. Once they are decorated they will last another few days. I always prefer to eat them fresh, so if I'm not planning on decorating or eating them right away, I usually freeze them. But, like I said, you can opt to store them on the counter.
How to decorate gingerbread cookies
You can use your favorite icing recipe or tubs and tubes of store-bought frosting with any sprinkles, candy, etc. The sky is the limit on how you want to decorate your gingerbread cookies!
I used to always make my icing homemade, but for convenience I now pick up the store bought tubes and the kids love switching out the provided tips! Kroger carries Betty Crocker icing tubes with tips and Walmart has their own brand of Great Value icing tubes that work well, too.
Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter , at room temperature
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
- 1 large egg
- 1 batch of your preferred icing
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually mix in the brown sugar, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the spices, then beat in the molasses and egg, mixing well after each addition.
- With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients and stir until just blended. Divide the dough into two halves and shape each into a disc. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm; at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
- When ready to roll out dough, preheat oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Remove one disc from fridge. On a floured surface, roll the chilled dough out to no less than 1/4-inch thickness. If dough is too cold to roll, wait 5 minutes and try again. Keep surface well-floured, flipping dough once or twice while rolling. Cut out shapes of your choice. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets, making sure to place similar sized cookies on the same sheet to ensure even baking. Repeat with remaining dough disc.
- Bake until just light golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. Do not over bake. Cool on pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Decorate as desired once completely cooled.
This post was originally published on December 15, 2011 and updated on December 4, 2019 with new photos and recipe tips.
Excerpt from December 15, 2011:
This year, because the family isn't getting together for the holidays, we decorated gingerbread cookies with Ben's mom when she was in town for Thanksgiving, and then again later with some friends. It was Judah's first experience with gingerbread boys, as last year he was too young to really understand or remember. He was quite shocked at the dough boys as he removed them from the cookie cutters:
He did an outstanding job rolling the dough...
...then went to work decorating the cookies.
Below is my favorite recipe so far for gingerbread boys. As far as frosting, either use store-bought, your favorite recipe, or a simple combination of softened butter, powdered sugar and a little bit of milk and vanilla extract. Divide and add food coloring as desired. I can't wait to collect more memories through out the years of our family baking and decorating cookies together!