Old-fashioned Christmas Gingerbread Man Cookies are a sweet way to celebrate the holidays! You’ll love cutting out these wholesome cookies, made with warm spices and real molasses. Piping on the decorations is so fun!
Christmas and cookies, they just go together, don’t you think? In my book, one of the most delightful things about the holidays is that the weather and the mood are perfect for lots of fun, flavorful baking projects. Cookies are extra perfect, because they are easy to share, easy to freeze (if you want to get ahead of the game and make them in advance), and easy to decorate.
I mean, don’t get me wrong! I also adore cakes, pies, bread… all kinds of holiday goodies. But cookies are just one of my favorite ways to celebrate, especially with the kiddos.
When it comes to holiday cookies, what Christmas cookie celebration would be complete without cookies that you cut into fun shapes? These gingerbread man cookies are a prime example. Everyone loves cutting out these whimsical little treats, and decorating them with funny faces, candy buttons, you name it. Plus, they are tender, spicy, and sweet!
What Ingredients Do You Need?
The ingredients for these traditional cookies include plenty of warm spices, like cinnamon and cloves, as well as molasses, for a deep, dark flavor similar to cane syrup. The result is a cookie that truly tastes like a timeless, holiday treat!
For the Cookies
- Flour: All-purpose flour is what you want in this recipe, but you can substitute a 1:1 gluten-free flour, or use half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose. The texture may vary slightly if you make these substitutions.
- Spices: Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves are all here! They’ll give your gingerbread men that classic, sweet spiciness.
- Baking Soda: Baking soda (not baking powder) is added to give the cookies a light texture.
- Butter: The butter should be softened to room temperature.
- Brown Sugar: Be sure to pack the brown sugar into the measuring cup as you measure it!
- Egg: A large whole egg helps bind the mixture together.
- Molasses: There are different levels of molasses, with blackstrap being the darkest and most intense, and light molasses being the most common kind in grocery stores. Avoid using molasses labeled “dark” or “blackstrap” in this recipe—it is too strong, and will overpower the other ingredients.
For the Icing
- Powdered Sugar: The base of the cookie icing is powdered sugar, also known as confectioner’s sugar. Do not use regular sugar.
- Milk: A splash of milk thins the icing to the right consistency.
- Corn Syrup: Regular light corn syrup makes the icing more glossy, and helps dissolve the sugar.
- Vanilla: A little vanilla adds a sweet and scrumptious taste to the plain sugar icing.
To make these cookies, you’ll need to mix up the dough, and then let it chill for at least an hour before cutting. Gingerbread dough can be very sticky, and almost impossible to work with if not chilled.
Make the Cookies
- Combine the Dry Ingredients. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients (that’s flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, baking soda, and cloves). Whisk or stir with a fork to combine, and set it aside.
- Combine the Wet Ingredients. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. You can do this in a stand mixer, or just use a hand mixer and a big mixing bowl. Add the eggs and molasses to the creamed butter and sugar, beating until well combined.
- Combine the Dry and Wet Ingredients. Working in small batches, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, beating well after each addition. The dough will form into a sticky mass.
- Chill the Dough. Divide the dough in half. Place each ball of dough on a piece of parchment paper, lay another piece on top, and roll out the dough to a ¼ inch thickness. (You can also roll the dough between sheets of wax paper.) Place the dough sheets, inside their parchment papers, on a baking sheet and chill for at least one hour, but ideally two hours or more.
- Preheat the Oven and Cut the Cookies Out. When the dough is chilled and you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F, and line two clean baking sheets with parchment paper. Peel the upper sheet of parchment off of the dough, and cut out gingerbread men using cookie cutters. Place the gingerbread man cookies on the baking sheets, leaving a small amount of space in between them.
- Bake. Place the baking sheets in the preheated oven, and bake your gingerbread cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies are ready to come out of the oven when they are slightly browned on the edges.
Cool and Decorate the Cookies
- Cool the Cookies and Make the Icing. Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool completely. In the meantime, make the icing by combining the powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Whisk the mixture until perfectly smooth. If the icing seems too thick, you can thin it with additional milk. If it is too thin, you can thicken it with additional powdered sugar.
- Decorate the Cookies! Spoon the icing into a piping bag fitted with a very small, round tip, and pipe the icing onto the cookies to make faces, buttons, outlines, etc. Allow the icing to dry for about 30 minutes before serving.
Tips and Hacks
Making gingerbread men is such a wonderful activity to do, especially with little kitchen helpers! If you decide to try these cute little cookies, take a look at the following helpful tips for making them the best ever.
- DIY Piping Bag: You can make your own piping bag out of a zip-top bag! Just cut a tiny, tiny piece (about the size of a pinhead) from the corner of a bag. Fill with icing, and “pipe” the icing through the hole you made. It’s best to cut an extremely tiny hole first, because you can always make it a bit larger, but if you make it too big, you’ll have to scrape the icing into a new bag.
- Customize the Cookie Shapes: Naturally, you don’t have to just make gingerbread people! You can use any cookie cutter you like with this dough. Gingerbread snowflakes, gingerbread dogs, gingerbread dinosaurs… it’s up to you!
- Sprinkle Plenty of Flour: Since gingerbread dough is sticky and moist, even when chilled, have a small bowl of flour on hand for sprinkling. The flour will absorb into the cookies as they bake.
- Add Flavor: Feel free to add a little orange or almond extract to the dough for a delicious holiday flavor boost!
- Add Sprinkles: Press pretty sprinkles into the icing, or shake glittery sugar sprinkles over it, for even more color and decoration.
Gingerbread man cookies are a wonderful treat on their own, but you can also serve them with a big glass of icy cold milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk). Looking for something a little more special? How about one of these easy drinks?
- Coffee: For the adults, a hot cup of coffee is perfect with warm gingerbread men. Add a splash of this easy Homemade Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer and you’re in heaven!
- Egg Nog: I love the store-bought stuff too, but if you haven’t tried making your own Easy Homemade Egg Nog… you are in for a treat!
- Cider: Warm Instant Pot Pumpkin Apple Cider is a seasonal delight, and it goes beautifully with spicy, homemade gingerbread. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Gingerbread man cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for about one week that way. If you’re worried about keeping the decorations intact, store them in layers with sheets of parchment in between.
Can I Make These Ahead?
Yes! You can make and freeze gingerbread cookies up to two months in advance! Make sure to freeze them in airtight containers, and thaw at room temperature before serving. Alternatively, make the dough in advance and freeze it, in freezer bags, for two months. Thaw in the refrigerator before rolling, chilling, and cutting.
For the Gingerbread Cookies:
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅔ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- 5 tablespoons molasses
For the Icing:
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, baking soda, and cloves. Set aside.
- In a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and molasses, beating until well combined.
- Little by little, add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, beating to combine after each addition, until the dough comes together.
- Divide the dough into two balls, and roll each ball of dough between two sheets of parchment to a ¼ inch thickness. (You can also roll the dough between sheets of wax paper.)
- Chill the rolled dough for at least one hour, but ideally two hours or more.
- When ready to cut and bake, preheat the oven to 350°F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Peel the upper sheet of parchment away from each piece of chilled dough. Cut gingerbread men out of the dough using cookie cutters, and place them on the baking sheets, leaving a little room between them for spreading.
- Place the cookies in the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly browned on the edges.
- Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool completely.
- While the cookies cool, make the icing by combining the powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Whisk until smooth. (If the icing seems too thick, you can thin it with additional milk. If it is too thin, you can thicken it with additional powdered sugar. Keep in mind that thicker icing will stay in place better on the cookies.
- Spoon the icing into a piping bag fitted with a small, round tip. You can also use a plastic sandwich bag, cutting a tiny sliver off of one corner to make a very small piping hole.
- Pipe the icing onto the cookies as desired. Allow the icing to dry for about 30 minutes. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
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