These thick and chewy gingerbread man cookies will be the best Christmas cookie you eat this year and I’m not even scared to 100% guarantee that!
A few years ago we received a delivery of little gingerbread men from one of my more-like-family friend, Kerri. She’s an incredible baker/chef and she and her husband were bringing us a holiday family tradition from James’ mom. Oh my goodness, you know how I love a good recipe passed down through family members and this one will absolutely forever be a part of my Christmas tradition. But they aren’t what you think. They are 1 million times better. And best of all, they can be made months in advance and don’t change a bit!
Best Christmas Cookies
When I pulled the plastic off of the plate to reveal the famous little men I’d been hearing about, I fully expected a crunchy gingerbread cookie. Nothing fancy, just like you’d get at a gingerbread house event.
These gingerbread men couldn’t be any more different!!!
They are sink-your-teeth-into-them-soft-and-chewy and my gosh, the flavor is unreal!! The perfect blend of spices and that glaze is the finishing touch you never even knew was so important. You guys!!! I cannot beg you enough to trust Kerri in literally everything in life, but especially on these cookies!
And FYI to you, I love them even more straight up out of the freezer, and no, they will not be hard even frozen. It’s a little secret treat, no one even has to know you’re picking in them.
I’ll let Kerri take it from here…
Infamous Gingerbread Boys
Hey friends! I’m back! We met a few months ago when Carrian shared the caramel Bugles recipe which would be another great holiday neighbor treat. Good gracious, they are dreamy! But that’s a story for a different day. Today it’s ALLLL about gingerbread boys (that’s what we like to call them).
This is a recipe I married into, and it might just be the best thing about marrying my husband! Ok, just kidding…there are a million and one reasons he’s the best, but these cookies are right up at the top of the list.
Our first Christmas together, we made these cookies with my mother-in-law, Sondra, the gingerbread boy master. So I learned all the tips and tricks from the best of the best. These cookies are legendary…literally known around the world! My sweet mother-in-law makes hundreds of these every Christmas. Some get shipped to Japan, others to Phoenix, and more to Portland, OR. It’s not Christmas for these friends and family without Sondra’s gingerbread boys.
Now James and I have carried on the tradition, and several of our friends can’t wait for our plate of Christmas goodies to show up at their door! We want to spread the love to you all!
What Ingredients Do You Need for Gingerbread Man Cookies?
Let’s jump into the list of ingredients. There isn’t anything too surprising here, pretty much exactly what you would expect in a gingerbread cookie recipe. It’s when we start to combine all these ingredients that the magic starts to happen so be sure to read the next section that describes how to make them carefully.
- Molasses: we always use Grandma’s brand, don’t skip the molasses!
- Shortening: we like to use butter flavored Crisco to add more richness and flavor
- Sugar: just regular white granulated sugar
- Egg: helps with leavening and gives the cookies structure
- Vanilla: flavor
- Baking Soda: helps make the cookies nice and chewy
- Water: you want the water to be really hot. I just let my faucet run until it’s as hot as it will go and use that. No need to boil it.
- Cloves: one of the layers of flavor that go into these cookies
- Cinnamon: adds warmth and flavor and is so Christmas!
- Salt: cuts through the sweetness and actually enhances the flavor
- Ginger: a must in gingerbread recipes of course
- Flour: all purpose flour
- Powdered Sugar: all the sweetness and structure for the glaze
- Milk: whole milk preferably but any milk will work. Add a little less milk if you want a thicker glaze on the cookies.
- Vanilla: adds great flavor to the glaze
The measurements for each ingredient can be found in the recipe card at the end of the post.
How to Make Gingerbread Man Cookies
I’m not going to sugar coat this for you (pun intended)…these cookies take some work and TLC. My husband and I usually tag team this, and we’ve got it down to a perfect dance in the kitchen. Once you get started, things move fast, so you want to make sure to start by prepping your work space and all your ingredients.
Prepare Your Space
- Prep your cookie sheets with parchment or silpat.
- Get your cooling racks out and set them over parchment to lessen the mess.
- Have a glass bowl ready to reheat the dough.
- Preheat the oven.
Make the Glaze
- Mix all the ingredients until smooth and set aside.
Make the Cookies
- Add the shortening and molasses to a pot and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk vigorously in the beginning to help emulsify the two together. Let it simmer for 2-5 minutes.
- PRO TIP: Make sure it doesn’t scorch! It will look like nothing is happening as it simmers, but suddenly the mixture will coat a spoon and run off in a cohesive, sticky sauce.
- Cream the sugar, egg and vanilla in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
- Measure out the hot water in a glass measuring cup and dissolve the baking soda in the water. Then add it to the sugar and egg mixture and stir on low to combine.
- Add all the spices and salt to the mixture and beat until combined.
- Add the hot molasses mixture to the bowl and mix to combine.
- Slowly add the flour. The wet ingredients will soak up the flour quickly and the dough will seem very sticky.
- Spray your counter where you will be working with cooking spray and remove the dough from the bowl to your work surface.
Cut the Cookies
- Roll out about 1/3 of the dough, placing the rest of the dough in your glass reheating bowl, until it’s about 1/2″ thick. Then cut out your cookies with your desired cookie cutter while the dough is still hot. Use a really thin metal spatula to carefully lift the cookies from the counter without distorting the shape and place on your prepared cookie sheet.
- PRO TIP: The dough needs to stay hot while you are rolling it and using the cookie cutters. When you gather up the scraps from your first round, form them into a ball and add it to your remaining dough and warm it up in a glass bowl for 5-10 seconds. Then roll it out and cut the cookies again. Repeat these steps until the dough is gone.
- PRO TIP: Don’t tell anyone I said this, but the dough is sooooooo tasty! I can’t keep my hands out of it when I’m making these! Shhhhhh!
- Bake the cookies. The larger your cookie, the longer you will need to bake it. Smaller gingerbread boys will only take about 5 minutes to bake. A larger 3-4″ cookie will take 7-8 minutes. A full size 5-6″ gingerbread man cookie will take 10 minutes.
- When the cookies are done, quickly remove the pan from the oven and set it right by your glaze bowl.
- As soon as it’s humanly possible to handle the cookies, completely dunk the cookies and place them on a cooling rack to drip and dry. Some fingertips have been sacrificed for the perfect glaze…ha! Dunking them while they’re hot sort of seals the cookie and locks in the chewiness.
- PRO TIP: Rotate the cookies after they set for a few minutes so they don’t get stuck to the cooling rack.
Gluten Free Gingerbread Man Cookies
I have a friend who made a gluten free version of this cookie last year and she says they were delicious. She substituted the flour with Gfjules flour (1:1). Then for the glaze, you can’t dunk the hot cookies in the glaze because the GF flour soaks it up and makes the cookie sticky. My friend recommends dunking right before serving or not at all. You could also treat the glaze like a dip and just dunk and eat. I would make the glaze a little thicker if you go this route.
How Long Will Gingerbread Cookies Keep?
Gingerbread cookies should be stored in an airtight container or freezer bag, and will keep for up to 1 month at room temperature. They will keep for several months in the freezer. Let them cool and dry completely and layer them in an airtight container with wax paper or parchment paper between each layer.
I have had them even a year later, and they were still tasty! Carrian mentioned this at the beginning, but they really are divine straight from the freezer. I have a friend that takes our Christmas goody plate and stealthily removes the gingerbread boys from the plate to a ziploc bag and sticks them in the back of her freezer and eats them all herself! She says that secret stash helps her survive winter break. Haha! That makes me so happy!
Can I Make Gingerbread Cookies Ahead of Time?
Here is quite possibly the best part about these cookies! You can make them way ahead of time and the quality won’t suffer at all! Store them as stated above and pull them out when you’re ready to assemble your cookie plates.
December gets INSANE for me with all the parties and family gatherings and school performances and Christmas cards and gift buying and gift wrapping and holiday baking and family traditions and now I’m already exhausted just thinking about it.
I start baking these right after Thanksgiving to check one thing off my list early!
Using Gingerbread Cookie Dough for Gingerbread Houses
We use this same dough to make all the pieces of our annual gingerbread house as well. It works so well! We triple the spices so that it is super fragrant and festive. Roll the dough out quite a bit thinner, maybe 1/4″ thick and increase the baking time so they get really crispy and sturdy.
I have scoured the interwebs for gingerbread man cookies like these, and there are none…nothing that look anything like these perfectly chewy and thick gingerbread boys with a sweet thin glaze! Oh Sweet Basil is setting out to flip the Christmas cookie world on its head! These cookies are going to be your new favorite Christmas cookie recipe!! I’m dying for you to make them!
More Christmas Baked Goods You’ll Love:
- Christmas Sugar Cookies
- Peppermint Bark Cookies
- Gingerbread Bars
- Dulce de Leche Christmas Tree
- Peppermint Chocolate Snack Cake
- Chocolate Andes Mint Cookies
- Orange Cranberry Poppy Seed Bread
- White Chocolate Molasses Cookies
- All our Christmas recipes!!
Chewy Gingerbread Man Cookies
- 1 Cup Molasses, Grandma's brand
- 1 Cup Butter Flavored Shortening
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 Large Egg
- 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
- 2 teaspoons Baking Soda
- 1/2 Cup Water, hot
- 3/4 teaspoon Cloves
- 3 teaspoons Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Ginger, ground
- 6 Cups Flour
- 6 Cups Powdered Sugar
- 2/3 Cups Milk
- 4 teaspoons Vanilla
Prepare Your Space.
- Prepare your work space as you will need to move quickly when baking. Set out multiple cookie sheets with parchment or a silpat. Arrange cooling racks (I prefer to use 4) over parchment or any paper to catch icing drips. Finally, set aside a glass bowl for reheating the dough in the microwave.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Mix all ingredients until smooth in a glass bowl and set aside.
- On a medium heat, add the molasses and shortening to a pot. Simmer molasses and shortening for 2-5 minutes (do not scorch). Whisk vigorously in the beginning to help emulsify the two together. It will look like nothing is happening, but suddenly the mixture will coat a spoon and run off in a cohesive, sticky sauce.
- Meanwhile, in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.
- In a glass measuring cup, dissolve baking soda in hot water and add to creamed mixture. Stir on low to combine.
- Blend cloves, cinnamon, salt and ginger into creamed mixture.
- Add hot molasses mixture and beat again until incorporated.
- Beat in flour, slowly at first and then notice how the extremely full and wet bowl soaks up all the flour and becomes a very sticky dough. Remove to the table where you'll be cutting.
- Spray the counter with nonstick spray and remove 1/3 of the dough. Usingn a rolling pin, roll the dough about 1/2" thick and using a very small cookie cutter (you can use bigger, but small is our favorite way) cut out little gingerbread men while the dough is still hot. See NOTES!
- Bake at 375 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on cookie size. Very small men need 5 minutes while a 3-4" needs 7-8 and a regular sized cookie needs 10 minutes.
- Remove the pan quickly to the counter by the glaze and immediately dip each hot cookie completely in the glaze.
- Drain cookies on cooling rack until dry.
- Store in an airtight container or freezer bag. To freeze, press out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Cookies are good for up to 2 months in the freezer when properly stored. .
- The dough will seem too sticky to roll but don't add flour. It will roll out fine.
- Use cooking spray on the counter and rolling pin and not flour to roll it out.
- Keep the dough warm at all times. If it cools down, warm it up in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.
- Dunk them in the glaze right when the come out of the oven even though they are hot. If they've baked enough you can remove them, if they are still too soft you won't be able to pick them up as they will need to bake a little longer to avoid squishing them.
- Rotate the glazed cookies after a few minutes so they don't stick to the cooling rack.
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