These Soft Gingerbread Cookies are inspired by childhood memories and holiday traditions. We love food that evokes nostalgia, and what’s more of an honor than trying to recreate someone’s recipe that stirs something inside of you? Our soft gingerbread cutout cookies come out of the oven with crisp edges and chewy interiors. Over time, the chewy interiors overtake the crisp edges, making each bite delectably soft and chewy.
Soft Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
We developed this recipe in partnership with Taste of Home and Kitchen Aid (!!) to celebrate the season of mixing and mingling. We committed to developing a gingerbread cookie recipe that was irresistibly soft. To achieve that ideal texture we rely on both butter and vegetable shortening. The reason for this is because butter contains about 16 percent water while shortening is pure fat. The water in butter evaporates off during baking, which can create a dry cookie.
BUT using more shortening, by weight, than butter, decreases that evaporation. Additionally, shortening has a higher melting point, which means the cookies have more time to rise during baking (instead of spreading out quickly). Because of this, cookies made with vegetable shortening often retain more moisture and are taller, creating an overall thick and chewy cookie.
The only caveat with shortening is that it doesn’t taste nearly as good as butter, which is why we still use a bit of butter in these cookies. We recommend using shortening in cookies, like gingerbread, that have big and bold flavors. Avoid using shortening in more delicately flavored cookies like these Margarita Cookies.
Ingredients in Gingerbread Cookies
The full recipe is written out below, but here’s a quick look at what you’ll need and a few notes on what makes some of these ingredients key to making soft gingerbread cookies.
- All-purpose flour: we always recommend measuring by weight for baking. Use a food scale if you’ve got it. If you don’t, use the fluff, spoon and level method for measuring flour. Learn more about how we measure flour.
- Baking soda
- Vegetable shortening: this is key for giving the cookies that soft chewiness!
- Dark brown sugar: important for adding chew and deep molasses flavor.
- Molasses: working alongside the dark brown sugar, these two ingredients add tons of depth of flavor. Molasses also helps with making these soft and chewy. It’s also an important ingredient for activating the baking soda.
- Spices: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and kosher salt are the spices you’ll need for these soft gingerbread cookies.
- Cider vinegar: just a splash of vinegar brightens and enhances the spices and helps to activate the baking soda.
- Egg: one large egg adds structure to these cookies. Be sure to use an egg labeled as “large.” Out of shell, it should weigh 50 grams.
How to Make Soft Gingerbread Cookies
Let’s take a look at the steps to making these gingerbread cookies before you get started.
Make the Dough
Start by beating the fats together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Once those two are combined and smooth, beat in the sugar, molasses, egg, and spices. Beat in the vinegar and then start adding the dry ingredients and mix it just until it’s combined.
Chill the Dough
This dough is sticky (key for making soft gingerbread cookies). Divide the dough in half and form each half into a rough rectangle. Wrap each rectangle of dough in plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer. Chill the dough until it’s firm, about 1 hour (or you can store it in the freezer for 1 month).
Cut out the Cookies
When you’re ready to get baking, preheat your oven to 350ºF with the rack set in middle position. All ovens either run a little hot or a little cooler than they say, so get an oven thermometer to be sure—this way you can adjust the oven setting as needed to hit the perfect baking temperature.
Roll the gingerbread cookie dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Be sure to NOT roll it out any thinner. It’s important that these cookies are rolled out thick so they stay nice and soft during baking.
Once you’ve rolled out the dough it’s time to cut out the cookies. I like these gingerbread cookie cutters. Be sure to use a 3-inch or 4-inch cookie cutter. If the cutter is smaller, bake the cookies for less time and vice versa.
Bake the Cookies
Bake the cookies until their edges are set and the centers are puffed, this will take just 8 to 10 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet pan for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
How to Decorate Gingerbread Cookies
Dots candies (holiday Dots are great), crushed candy canes, peppermint candies, red and green sprinkles and colored frosting or royal icing are also great ideas. If you do want colored icing, feel free to add a bit of gel food coloring to this gingerbread cookie icing recipe.
I like to outline the gingerbread cookies and/or add a simple smiley face and little squiggly lines on the arms and legs to make it look like they are wearing clothes. Play around with the decorating! If you love icing, make royal icing and flood the entire surface of the cookies. The sky’s the limit.
Expert Tips for Making Soft Gingerbread Cookies
- The cookie dough is really sticky so we recommend one of two things:
One, lightly dust your countertop, rolling pin, and the dough itself with flour before rolling out. After the first few rolls, dust both sides of the dough slab to ensure it isn’t sticking to the counter top.
Two, you can roll the cookies between two sheets of parchment paper. We still recommend dusting the dough lightly with flour before rolling between parchment.
- Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature. This is essentially for incorporating the butter, shortening and sugar together!
- If you can, measure all of your ingredients out by weight. Baking by weight, instead of cup measurement is more efficient and reliable.
- It’s important to use two baking sheets for this recipe—while one sheet is baking, the other is cooling. Do not roll out, cut out or place cookie dough on baking sheet until the oven is free for another round of cookies. The moment they are arranged on the sheet they should be transferred to the oven.
How to Freeze Gingerbread Cookies
There are two ways you can freeze gingerbread cut out cookies. First, you can freeze baked gingerbread cookies stored in a resealable zipper-lock bag or airtight container for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw at room temperature for a few hours.
The second way you can freeze these cookies is to freeze the cookie dough. Wrap the cookie dough tightly in plastic wrap then store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Roll the dough out and bake as directed.
– Baked, unfrosted gingerbread cookies will last up to 2 weeks stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
– Baked and frosted gingerbread cookies will last up to 1 ½ weeks stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
– Baked gingerbread cookies (frosted or unfrosted) will last in the freezer for up to 3 months.
We have not tested this recipe to be gluten-free, so we cannot recommend making that swap. If you try it, we would recommend using Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-Free Flour Blend.
Decoration is totally up to you! We love to frost the cookies with our Gingerbread Cookie Icing and then sprinkle some of them with clear, sparkly sprinkles. We also love to use Red Hots (cinnamon candies), though they can be challenging to find. We recommend ordering some from Amazon. Other candy ideas include crushed candy canes and mini Dots.
More Holiday Cookies to Try
- If you love spiced cookies then you’ll love our Chewy Cardamom Cookies!
- Our Hermit Cookies are also heavy on the spice. They’re a traditional New England cookie loaded with dried fruit, candied ginger and butter.
- Our Hazelnut Shortbread with Dark Chocolate is a fan-favorite year over year.
- If you love to sip on eggnog, consider trying our Eggnog Cookies! They’re soft, spiced and bound to surprise you!
- Our Pumpkin Whoopie Pies are perfect for all of the fall and winter holidays. A must-try recipe!
Soft Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
- 3 cup (350g) all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup (92g) vegetable shortening
- ¼ cup (58g) unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup (170g) packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup (180g) (125mL) unsulfured molasses
- 1 large egg (50g)
- 1 tablespoon (4g) ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon (5g) ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon (2g) ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon (1g) ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon Morton kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Clear sparky sprinkles or pearl sugar
- Red hot candies
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda.
- In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat shortening and butter on medium–high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add sugar, molasses, egg, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and salt. Beat on medium until combined, scraping bowl as needed, about 1 minute. Beat in vinegar. With mixer on medium, add flour in three increments and beat until combined.
- Divide dough in half and transfer to large sheets of plastic. Form each portion into a flat rectangle and wrap tightly in plastic; chill in freezer for at least 1 hour or up to 1 month.
- Heat oven to 350ºF (176ºC) with rack set in middle position. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Working with 1 rectangle of dough at a time, cut dough in half, rewrap other half in plastic and place back in freezer.
- Lightly dust counter and dough with flour. Roll dough to ¼-inch thickness (flipping dough and adding flour as needed to keep it from sticking to counter). Cut out cookies using a 3- to 4-inch cookie cutter. Peel away scraps and space 6 cookies, about 1 inch apart, on one prepared baking sheet.
- Bake until edges of cookies are set and centers are slightly puffed, 8–10 minutes, rotating halfway through.
- Cool cookies on sheets 5 minutes; transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
- Repeat rolling, cutting and baking with remaining dough and dough scraps. Keeping dough chilled between batches and allowing sheets to cool completely before placing dough cut outs on sheets.
- In a medium bowl combine confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, extract and 3 tablespoons water using a fork. Switch to a whisk and mix, adding additional water by teaspoon as needed, until icing is smooth and ribbon-like. Icing should hold a ribbon shape for a few seconds. Season with salt to taste.
- Transfer to a piping bag and use as desired.
- Once cookies have cooled completely, decorate as desired with Cookie Icing, sprinkles and red hots, if using.
- Let sit at room temperature to allow icing to set before storing in airtight containers for up to 1 week.