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These are the best soft gingerbread cookies. They are chewy, soft and perfectly spiced, and the dough is easy to make, roll out and bake! This is my Mom’s recipe that I have refined over the years in professional bakeries.
My Mom’s soft gingerbread cookies are the perfect addition to your class Christmas cookie baking alongside snowball cookies, chocolate crinkle cookies, and spritz cookies. Peruse our collection of traditional Christmas cookies or the 24 best Christmas cookies for more inspiration!
These cookies are so flavorful that you can frost them or leave them unadorned, but I prefer using raisins that are pressed into the dough before baking. The combination is unexpected and delightful!
Table of Contents
- Why You Will Love these Gingerbread Cookies
- Professional Tips for Making Soft Gingerbread Cookies
- Ingredients Needed
- Variations & Substitutions
- What makes gingerbread taste like gingerbread?
- How to Make Soft Gingerbread Cookies
- Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Soft Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
- Before You Go
Why You Will Love these Gingerbread Cookies
- Classic gingerbread flavor with perfect spices. These cookies have all three necessary flavors for the perfect gingerbread: spices, molasses and apple cider vinegar.
- Soft & chewy without underbaking. Even when fully baked these cookies are soft and chewy. They puff and brown during baking then cool into a soft, delicious cookie.
- The dough is easy to mix and roll out. Make the dough using a simple creaming method and then roll out easily either before or after chilling.
- Professional tips throughout. I have made this exact recipe in batches of thousands in both restaurants and for my bakery. I am passing along all my professional tips to you.
- An excellent shipping cookie! These cookies make perfect homemade Christmas gifts! They are beautiful and they ship very well. Package in a decorative box or tin tied with a simple ribbon for an unforgettable gift.
Professional Tips for Making Soft Gingerbread Cookies
- Roll the soft dough between two pieces of parchment paper. Before chilling, quickly roll the dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper. This saves time and it doesn’t work additional, unnecessary flour into the dough. Chill or refrigerate flat for the best results.
- Decorate with raisins. Unlike other gingerbread cookie decorations, you press the raisins into the dough prior to baking. The gingerbread and raisin flavors combine into something truly magical. Just try one batch!
- Bake them just until they puff and crack in the centers. There is a fine line between under and overbaked with gingerbread men. Bake times can be tricky and vary wildly depending on the thickness of the cookie and the shape. Bake until the centers puff, look matte and have small hairline cracks.
- Butter: I use unsalted butter in order to control the flavor of the cookies. Room temperature butter works best in this recipe.
- Granulated Sugar: Granulated sugar will aerate the butter by trapping air in between the sugar and butter molecules.
- Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is less salty per teaspoon than table salt. It is preferable in all baking recipes.
- Molasses: I use Grandma’s Molasses in this recipe and in others like these spice cookies and this gingerbread cake recipe. Unsulphered molasses has a smooth, yet robust flavor that will not overpower the spices.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: The vinegar tenderizes the dough by restricting gluten development. It also adds a little acidity to temper the sweetness and make it “taste like gingerbread.”
- All-purpose Flour: All-purpose flour has the right amount of gluten to make tender, soft gingerbread cookies that hold their shape when rolled and cut.
- Baking Soda: This cookie dough has a high level of acidity from the vinegar and the large quantity of molasses. Baking soda will react powerfully with them and create soft, chewy cookies that puff in the oven then fall flat when perfectly baked.
- Ground ginger: Ginger is the second most powerful flavor in these cookies. Make sure your ground ginger is fresh and a good quality for the most impactful flavor.
- Ground cinnamon: I love Saigon cinnamon but any ground cinnamon will do.
- Ground cloves: While they seem like an unimportant addition, cloves really round out the spice profile. Without it, they would seem flat and just not quite right.
- Optional Decorations: I love the combination of raisins and gingerbread, so I always use them as decorations. You can also make a simple gingerbread icing adding milk to powdered sugar and vanilla just until it is a piping consistency.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
Variations & Substitutions
- Apple cider vinegar: You can taste the difference in the dough when apple cider vinegar is omitted. It also helps tenderize the cookies especially during rolling and re-rolling of the scraps. It is part of what makes these cookies so easy to make and foolproof. If you do not have apple cider vinegar, use plain white vinegar or rice vinegar.
- Decorations: Decorate with raisins before baking or with a simple icing for gingerbread cookies after they cool. Red Hot candies also make a fun and tasty addition.
- Use a variety of shapes & sizes. Break out all those holiday cookie cutters and make a wide variety! Just be sure to bake the same shape cookies together so you don’t have to choose under vs. over-baked cookies!
What makes gingerbread taste like gingerbread?
The three ingredients in gingerbread that make it taste like gingerbread are molasses, spices and apple cider vinegar. The spices should include ground ginger, cinnamon and a little cloves. Unlike other spice mixes like pumpkin spice, gingerbread has a high proportion of ginger to cinnamon.
How to Make Soft Gingerbread Cookies
Use these instructions to make the perfect cut-out gingerbread cookeies every time! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.
Prepare the cookie dough:
Step 1: In a large bowl, whisk together flour and spices. Set aside.
Step 2: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixer, thoroughly cream butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Stir in egg, followed by molasses and vinegar; beat well. If the batter looks slightly curdled, don’t stress.
Step 3: Stir flour into butter mixture. It is easiest to add the flour in several additions, scraping down the bowl between each one.
Step 4: Form dough into two balls and chill wrapped in plastic or in a covered mixing bowl over night or at least 5 hours. I have found that 3 hours of chilling time is okay but the dough will not be as easy to roll out without sticking. Overnight will make the rolling and cutting process a breeze!
Before chilling, roll some of the soft dough between two pieces of parchment until approximately 1/8th inch thick. Repeat with remaining dough. Stack and refrigerate or freeze flat overnight.
Rolling gingerbread cookies:
Step 5: Preheat oven to 375° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll one ball out to 1/8 inch thick.
Step 6: If you rolled the dough between parchment, simply peel off the parchment from both sides but leave the dough on the bottom piece of parchment to avoid sticking. Cut with cookie cutters and gently place cookies 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets.
Dip the cookie cutters in flour, tap off excess and then cut each cookie. This will keep the dough from building up on the cookie cutters especially detailed ones like snowflakes or reindeer.
Step 7: Decorate with raisins if desired. Bake large gingerbread boys (~5” tall) 6 minutes in preheated oven; bake medium cookies (3-4” tall) 5 minutes; bake small to medium cookies (2-3” tall) 4 minutes but watch them because they could easily over bake; and bake the cute little 1” cookies only 3 minutes.
Bake until the centers puff, look matte and have small hairline cracks.
Step 8: Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store for up to two weeks in a sealed plastic bag or a tightly closed container
Make the gingerbread icing:
Step 1: Sift powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Add vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk. Stir with a spatula to combine. Continue to add milk several teaspoons at a time until the icing is thickened but still runny enough to drizzle slowly off your spatula.
Step 2: Spoon icing into a piping bag fitted with a small circle tip or into a plastic baggie with one corner cut off into a tiny hole. Ice as desired.
I like to add more vanilla for flavor but it does tint the icing so it will not be a pure white.
If icing thickens too much while standing, add more milk to bring it back to the correct consistency. This icing is very hard to mess up, so no worries!
Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip
The key to making these cookies ahead of time is preparing the cookies through cutting and then freeze until ready to bake. Freeze the cut cookies spaced properly for baking on parchment sheets. That way you pull the parchment from the freezer, transfer to a baking sheet and bake!
Frequently Asked Questions
Store baked gingerbread cookies in a ziptop baggie or tightly sealed container at room temperature for 10 days. As long as they were properly baked they will stay soft and chewy. For longer storage freeze cut cookie dough between layers of parchment for easy baking!
Yes, you can bake these cookies from frozen but they will take up to an additional 5 minutes to bake depending on the size and shape of the cookie.
A significant amount of molasses keeps gingerbread cookies soft from the added moisture in the dough. The acidity of the molasses and vinegar also inhibits gluten formation, which will produce more tender soft gingerbread cookies.
Gingerbread cookies and gingersnaps have very similar ingredients and spices, however, gingerbread cookies contain more sugar which allows them to be crunchy after baking.
I use Grandma’s Molasses or a similar unsulphered molasses for baking because the flavor is robust yet smooth. Blackstrap molasses can be bitter and the flavor can overpower the spices and delicate flavor of gingerbread dough.
If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!
Soft Gingerbread Cookies
For the Cookies:
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 whole egg
- 1 cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons vinegar I used apple cider vinegar
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- raisins optional for decoration
Preparing the Dough:
- Whisk together flour and spices. Set aside.
- Thoroughly cream butter, sugar, and salt. Stir in egg, molasses and vinegar; beat well.
- Stir flour into butter mixture. It is easiest to add the flour in several additions, scraping down the bowl between each one.
- Form dough into two balls and chill wrapped in plastic or in a covered mixing bowl over night or at least 5 hours. I have found that 3 hours of chilling time is okay but the dough will not be as easy to roll out without sticking. Overnight will make the rolling and cutting process a breeze!
Rolling the Cookies:
- Preheat oven to 375* and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll one ball out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters and gently place cookies 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets.
- Decorate with raisins.
- Bake large gingerbread boys (~5” tall) 6 minutes in preheated oven; bake medium cookies (3-4” tall) 5 minutes; bake small to medium cookies (2-3” tall) 4 minutes but watch them because they could easily over bake; and bake the cute little 1” cookies like my angels only 3 minutes.
- Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Store for up to two weeks in a sealed plastic bag or a tightly closed container.
Make the Icing
- Add powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Add vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk. Stir with a spatula to combine. Continue to add milk several teaspoons at a time until the icing is thickened but still runny enough to drizzle off your spatula.
- Spoon icing into a piping bag fitted with a small circle tip or into a plastic baggie with one corner cut off into a tiny hole. Ice as desired.