A Christmas classic! Gingerbread cookies are deliciously spiced and incredibly fun to make and decorate! Make these cookies soft and chewy or crispy and crunchy.
* This post was updated with new photos 🙂
Before making these cookies, I took a second to ask myself, "Is it too early to start Christmas baking?"
I mean, I'm the gal who puts their Christmas tree up on November 2nd. I won't draw the line on cookies!
I don't think you can get much more classic than gingerbread cookies during the holidays! You can cut and decorate them however you like, they make adorable gifts, and they can even double as ornaments. And don't get me started on how incredibly fun it is to decorate these cookies!
To decorate gingerbread cookies, you can use store bought icing, Royal icing, or just a simple 2 ingredient icing!
Gingerbread cookie spices:
You can customize what spices to use for gingerbread cookies. You do need ginger (shocker), but you can tweak the amounts of everything you include if you like a milder spiced cookie. I've also seen some recipes include nutmeg, which is always welcome in holiday baking!
How to make gingerbread cookies:
1. Whisk together dry ingredients.
2. Cream butter and sugar.
3. Whisk in wet ingredients.
4. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
5. Chill dough.
6. Roll, cut, bake, eat!
About chilling gingerbread cookie dough:
It's really important to chill gingerbread cookie dough before rolling, cutting, and baking! There are really 3 main reasons for why you need to chill gingerbread dough:
1. It's too sticky to roll when it's first mixed up. Chilling sets the butter so the dough is easier to work with.
2. It relaxes the gluten. Tightened gluten can spring back on itself when rolled and baked. So resting the gluten helps with rolling and keeping the shape of the cookies.
3. And (maybe most importantly!) it helps the cookies keep their shape! Chilled butter melts less easily when baked, so you can cut intricate shapes with little spreading.
* If you find your dough has warmed too much at any point while you're rolling and cutting your cookies, wrap the dough and chill it for another 20 minutes to firm up!
Gingerbread cookie storage:
The great thing about this recipe is it is so so easy to double, triple, quadruple, you name it! AND gingerbread cookie dough keeps very nicely in the freezer.
If you plan on making and baking your gingerbread cookies within a few days, the dough will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. If you find it's firmed up too much to roll out comfortably, simply knead your dough a bit to warm it enough to roll (but not too much to soften the butter!).
To freeze gingerbread cookie dough, wrap with plastic wrap, followed by another layer of aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge before using.
For the baked cookies, keep them stored in an airtight container at room temperature. They'll keep for up to 1 week.
Icing for gingerbread cookies:
You can always get fancy and decorate your gingerbread cookies with royal icing. But if I'm being honest, I usually stick to a simple powdered sugar/milk icing for my cookies. It's less of a hassle!
You can also use some store-bought icing, but it's so easy to make at home, I don't think you'd even need it! All you need is 1 cup of powdered sugar and 2 to 3 tablespoons of water, milk, or heavy cream. And voila! That covers icing.
If you plan on stacking your iced cookies, you should ideally let them air dry for around 24 hours to let the icing set up properly.
Tip when icing your cookies: if some cookies didn't turn out how you hoped, you can always scrape the icing off and start again! Or eat the evidence. I like option 2.
Check out these other recipes!
Classic Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
For the gingerbread cookies:
- 2 & ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ⅓ cup light or dark brown sugar, packed * see notes
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup unsulphered molasses
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the simple icing:
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 to 3 tablespoons milk, heavy cream, or water ** see notes
- In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine, and set aside to work on the wet ingredients.
- In a large bowl, combine your butter and sugar. Beat using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is pale and creamy. Add in the egg, and whisk until combined. Add the molasses and vanilla, and whisk again to combine.
- Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Fold the ingredients together until you no longer see any dry ingredients, and you're left with a thick, sticky dough.
- Transfer the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap, shape the dough into a disk, and wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days in the fridge before rolling.Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.
- Unwrap the chilled dough and place on a well floured work surface and flour the top. Roll the dough out into about a ¼ inch thickness. Cut the cookies using your desired cookie cutters. Group the scrap pieces of dough together, and repeat the rolling and cutting process until the dough is used up.
- Transfer the cut cookies onto the prepared baking sheets. The cookies won't spread too much, but it's best to leave a bit of space between each one to let the air circulate around them. Bake the cookies in the center of your preheated 350°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned along the edges and slightly puffed. *** (see notes)
- Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Transfer to a wire rack, and cool completely to room temperature before decorating!
- To make a simple icing to decorate the gingerbread cookies, combine powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of water, heavy cream, or milk. Whisk to combine. Add more water, milk or heavy cream as needed to get your desired consistency. Use to decorate cookies as you like!