Gingerbread cookies are more than just a treat; they are a heartwarming blend of tradition, taste, and timelessness. Each bite transports you to a world of comforting spices and sweet delights. They echo memories of family gatherings, festive holidays, and the simple joys of baking at home. Whether you’re looking to recreate cherished childhood memories or start a new tradition, these cookies promise a touch of magic in every bite.

Close up overhead view of a gingerbread man cookie.

Ingredient Breakdown & Substitutions

Raw ingredients on a clean kitchen counter to make homemade gingerbread cookies.

Salted Butter: Brings richness; unsalted butter with a pinch of salt can be substituted. Alternatively, a plant-based butter substitute can be used.

Brown Sugar: Adds moisture and a caramel-like flavor; white sugar is an alternative but will slightly change the taste.

Molasses: Key for classic gingerbread flavor. Can be substituted with either a 1:1 ratio of 5 tablespoons honey + 5 tablespoons brown sugar or 5 tablespoons dark corn syrup + 5 tablespoons maple syrup.

Eggs: Provide structure and richness. For an egg-free alternative, use 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed mixed with 2 1/2 tablespoons of water per egg, or a commercial egg substitute.

Spices (Cinnamon, Ginger, Allspice, Cloves): These create the signature warm spice profile; adjust according to preference.

All-Purpose Flour: The base of the cookie; a gluten-free cup-for-cup blend can be used for dietary needs.

Using substitutions can affect final taste and texture.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make the dough ahead of time?

Yes, the dough can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.

Do I have to chill the dough?

Yes. Chilling your dough is an important step that will re-solidify the fat in the recipe and make your dough much easier to work with. You don’t want to skip this step!

How thick should I roll the dough?

Aim for a ¼ inch thickness for the best texture.

How do I prevent the dough from sticking?

Lightly flouring your surface and rolling pin can help prevent sticking.

What if I don’t have a gingerbread man cookie cutter?

Any cookie cutter shape will work. Get creative!

How do I know when the cookies are done baking?

They should be firm to the touch and slightly darker around the edges.

Can these cookies be frozen?

Absolutely, they freeze well for up to 3 months.

Did you Know?

Gingerbread has a rich history that dates back to medieval Europe. Originally, gingerbread was made from breadcrumbs, sweetened with honey, and spiced with ginger. Over time, as global trade introduced new spices and molasses, the recipe evolved into the beloved cookie we know today!

Visual Guide to Making Gingerbread Cookies

A collage of process shot images to show how to make gingerbread cookies.

Decorating Ideas

Decorating gingerbread cookies is a classic holiday activity that adds a personal touch to your treats. Here’s a simplified guide to give your cookies a traditional and charming look:

Preparing for Decoration

  • Royal Icing: Make a basic royal icing using powdered sugar, egg whites, and a few drops of lemon juice. The icing should be thick enough to hold its shape, but still easy to pipe.
  • Piping Bag: A simple plastic piping bag or a zip-top bag with a small corner cut off will work for icing your cookies.
  • Colored Icing (Optional): If desired, divide the icing into portions and add food coloring. Classic colors include red, green, and white.

Basic Decorating Steps

  1. Outline: Start by outlining the gingerbread cookies with a thin line of icing. This creates borders and sections on the cookie.
  2. Fill In: Fill the outlined areas with a slightly thinner icing to create a smooth surface. Use a toothpick to spread the icing evenly.
  3. Let It Dry: Allow the base layer of icing to dry completely before adding more details.

Traditional Details

  1. Faces and Buttons: Add simple facial features and buttons using small dots or lines of icing.
  2. Clothing Details: Create cuffs, collars, and belts on your gingerbread figures with thin lines of icing.
  3. Simple Patterns: Add stripes, dots, or zigzags for a festive touch.


  • If your cookies are spreading too much, the dough might be too warm. Refrigerate it for an additional 20-30 minutes before rolling and cutting.
  • In case the cookies turn out too soft or too crispy, adjust your baking time slightly during the next batch. Remember, ovens can vary.
  • Cookies Too Hard: Avoid over-baking; they will harden as they cool.

Tips From the Chef

  • Always soften your butter to room temperature for easier mixing.
  • Refrigerate the dough to make it easier to handle and enhances flavors.
  • Don’t overwork the dough; this can lead to tough cookies.
  • Keep cut-outs a similar size and thickness for uniform cookies and baking.
  • Keep decorations minimal to highlight the shape and flavor of the cookies.
Gingerbread man cookie on a baking sheet.

Storage & Freezing Instructions

Store your gingerbread cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. If you wish to freeze them, place them in a single layer on a tray, freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer bag. They can last up to three months in the freezer. To reheat, let them thaw at room temperature and, if desired, warm slightly in the oven for a few minutes.

More Favorite Holiday Treats

Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTube, Facebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.