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.
REMEMBER TO SUBSCRIBE TO our FREE Oh Sweet Basil NEWSLETTER AND RECEIVE EASY RECIPES DELIVERED INTO YOUR INBOX EVERY DAY!
When you try a recipe, please use the hashtag #ohsweetbasil on INSTAGRAM for a chance to be featured in our stories! FOLLOW OH, SWEET BASIL ON FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | PINTEREST | TWITTER FOR ALL OF OUR LATEST CONTENT, RECIPES AND STORIES.
These were the best gingerbread cookies I’ve ever made! My daughter and I didn’t have any issues with the dough, once we got the hang of it. I added butter flavored extract to my plain shortening as suggested by another baker, and a slotted spatula made the dip in the glaze pool easier. Thanks so much for this recipe!
Yay!! Thank you so much Chris!
We loved these cookies so much! All the tips and tricks were so helpful. My son thought they tasted like a doughnut, the texture was so good. I have one question, my glaze looked so beautiful and shiny as it dried, but the next morning it had dulled. It almost looked like little snowflake patterns all over. Has this happened to anyone else? About 3/4 of the cookies look like this the next morning. Most were in an airtight container, but about a dozen were left on a plate and both locations have the same look.
Hi Kammy! Yes, that happens to ours too. I kind of love it, but I also wish I could preserve the shine if I want to. I need to experiment on a few ideas I’ve had but until then, know that it is normal. And I actually think they taste better a day or two after making them. I’m so glad that you love them!
We made this recipe and it’s so delicious! Soft and chewy and they don’t lose their shape. Perfect with a cup of coffee! Definitely our go-to recipe for gingerbread from now on. Thank you for sharing a family recipe!
Also, my 17 y.o. daughter misread the recipe and accidentally just threw all the ingredients together and mixed it. (She mixed up the glaze instructions with the cookie instructions) and the cookies still turned out amazing. The dough was super easy to work with I didn’t even need flour to roll it and remove from my counter to transfer to the baking pan. She used a metal fish spatula to dip the cookie in the glaze and it worked perfectly to let the glaze drain through the slots.
Ooohhhhh…great tips! Thanks for sharing!
Yesssssssss, Amber!! Welcome to the inner circle of people who know! Haha! Thank you so much for taking time to leave a comment and happy holidays!
I never comment on recipes but I had to with these! SO so good! I was a little scared to make them after reading comments of them being tricky. I had no issues at all with the dough and actually made it with half butter half shortening because that’s all I had. I will make these every Christmas and can’t wait to share them with others! Thank you for sharing!
You’ve made my day Abbie! Thank you so much! Merry Christmas!
These are amazing! I can’t stop eating them. So soft and flavorful. I love the glaze instead of a traditional icing. Easy to make and cut, and baked so nice! Thanks for sharing!
Mary!! You have seriously made my day! Thank you so much for taking time to leave a comment and I’m so thrilled that you loved this recipe!
Soft, chewy gingerbread cookies are my favorite. These finished cookies are wonderful. That said, in my many years of baking, this ol’ grandma has never worked with a more difficult dough. There was absolutely no cutting them out. The dough was far too soft to hold a shape. I molded a gingerbread shape as best as I could. We had hysterical laughing at the odd shapes. My daughter sent pictures to her friends, so they could have a good laugh, too. My grand son says they are ‘delicious’. It’s unlikely they will last until Christmas. I’m undecided if I have the ambition to try making them again. I don’t typically weigh ingredients, but this is one recipe that I believe it may have been helpful to know the weight of the flour. I think a bit more flour would have helped, but the hints said NOT to add more.
Hi Tami! I’m so sorry that the dough was so difficult! In the recipe card, there is a little button below the ingredients where you can switch the recipe to metric and it will give you the weight of the ingredients needed. You can add a little more flour if needed. I’ve only ever made these in Utah so lower elevations might need a little more flour. Happy holidays!
We avoid shortening, too. I was thinking about using half butter and half coconut oil. Do you think that will work? I also like to use turbinado sugar on top of muffins, so I plan to sprinkle some of that on top of the gingerbread boys before the glaze sets. Thanks!
I love the idea of sprinkling the turbinado sugar on top of the glaze! That will be so pretty! I honestly don’t know how it will work with coconut oil. I haven’t ever tried that. We’ve had readers try half butter and half shortening and all butter. The feedback is that it makes the cookies a little crunchier. If you try coconut oil, let us know how it goes!!
This recipe looks amazing. However, I’m looking to make drop cookies. Do you think I use this recipe for drop cookies? Thanks, Tina
Ohhh I’d worry about that bake time if they were drop cookies plus the heat distribution of the warm dough would be different so that center could end up a dough mess. I wouldn’t recommend it. If you want a gingerbread drop cookie, try our gingerbread cookies (https://ohsweetbasil.com/reindeer-noses-candy-cane-gingerbread-cookies/) and omit the candy cane kisses if you want.
These were outstanding!!! So good!
The best right?! I’m so glad you enjoyed them Sarah!
Can butter be used instead of shortening? I hate things made with shortening-always have.
Hi Sha! You definitely can make them with just butter, but it will drastically change the texture of the cookie. They will be firmer and more crunchy. Still totally fabulous!
If mine aren’t chewy is it because I didn’t cook the molasses mixture long enough?
Hi Jamie! My first guess would be that they were either over mixed or over baked. A mismeasurement of the flour or shortening could do it. I hope this helps!
These were the best gingerbread cookies I have ever had!
Right?! I couldn’t agree more. They are a dream come true!
I really wanted these to work, but I had so much trouble getting them from the counter to the baking sheet. I tried using a thin metal spatula and a knife, but neither worked. Then I had trouble with them falling apart in the glaze, which seemed a bit thick to me. The “parts” taste delicious, but I’m disappointed that they’re not the cute little gingerbread men.
Well dang it Deborah! I’m so sorry!! Did you use cooking spray on your counter before you rolled the dough out? If I have a good amount of cooking spray down, I usually can just pick the cut dough up with my hands from the counter and set them on the cookie sheet. And if they were falling apart in the glaze, it sounds like they might have been just slightly under-baked. The glaze thickness can be totally up to you. I like mine a little thicker. Feel free to thin it out if you want!
We loved these at our house….couldn’t stop eating them! I had some mimi trees and snowflakes I cut them into and they were so cute!! Will be making these again and every Christmas time!
LOVE to hear this Liz! They have become a family tradition for us too! I can’t keep my hands out of them!
I followed the recipe exactly, but the dough is so sticky I can’t roll it out. Even with cooking spray it is sticking to the counter rolling pin and my fingers and hands. Is there anyway to save it?
Add a little extra flour…maybe 1/4-1/2 cup.
So I recently tried a big, soft, chewy gingerbread men at a bakery and loved them so much that I went out in search for a recipe. This seems like exactly what I’m looking for! I can’t wait to try it! I have a couple of questions though, have you ever tried it with out the glaze? Does it actually lose its moisture without it? I was hoping to make them plain so my kids can decorate them with royal icing for Santa on Christmas eve. Last question, how long do they need to defrost after froze? Thanks so much, I’m really looking forward to this!
Hi Crystal! You can definitely make these without the glaze. Just store them in an airtight container after they cool. They actually stay soft when they are frozen. If you pull them out maybe a half hour ahead of time, they should be back to room temperature and ready for decorating! Enjoy!!
These are truly SO good! My cookie cutters were way bigger than these so I have huge cookies, but no one is complaining! I used butter in place of shortening and my cookies are still soft and perfect!
Yay Stephanie! This makes me so happy! And thank you for the feedback on using all butter! We have had so many questions about that.
Delicious, made the recipe with my granddaughter yesterday and it is a keeper for many years to come. For those asking about butter vs shortening, we did the test yesterday. First batch with shortening only, very tender and soft but we where missing the butter taste, if you do big gingerbread man (5 to 7 inches) they brake easily.
Second batch: half butter/half shortening, perfect for our taste, still soft like the kids prefer and easy to handle the big ones and we did decorated them with colored royal icing.
Third batch, butter only, a little bit less tender and sturdy enough to dip in a glass of milk. We filled out bags to give away with one of each batch with funny instructions how to eat according to the batch. Merci pour la belle recette et joyeux temps des fêtes et de partage !
Louise, you are the best!! Thank you so much for the thorough feedback! When you did all shortening, did you use the butter flavored Crisco? So glad you enjoyed these cookies!
Hello Sweet Basil, no I had only regular shortening but I did use a few drops of a butter flavored extract. And the cookies are a hit with my grandchildren !
I’m so glad your grandchildren loved them! And thank you so much for responding so quickly. We are getting a lot of questions about using butter instead of shortening so your feedback helped so much!!
Can you use butter instead of the butter flavored shortening? I don’t use shortening. Please let me know. Keeping my fingers crossed that I can. 🤞
Hi Lori! You definitely can make them with just butter, but it will drastically change the texture of the cookie. They will be firmer and more crunchy. Still totally fabulous!
Has anyone tried using butter instead of shortening? Im allergic to shortening but these look divine. 😍
We’ve had a few people ask about this. I’m anxious to hear if anyone tries it. I’m afraid they would be dry. If you try it, let me know!!
These are FABULOUS!!! They weren’t the easiest cookie to make, but boy these are a new favorite!! I had some problems with the shape distorting when I tried to move them to a cookie sheet, but I found if I let the dough cool off a little, it was easier to work with (it was still plenty warm though) thank you so much for a new family tradition!!!
Yay!! This makes me so happy Hilary! And thanks for the tip on transferring the cookies!
I am back again to say that I think these gingerbread boys get better with age! I also love them best straight from the freezer..it is crazy to me that they stay so soft when I take them out..seems like they should be rock hard, but they are perfect! Thanks again for this recipe…it’s a winner!!
RIGHT?! Thank you Hilary! I couldn’t agree more…better with age and divine straight from the freezer!
Is there a specific reason why shortening is used and not butter? I don’t use shortening therefore would like to know. Thanks
Shortening keeps the cookies moist and chewy.
Interested to know why the dough needs to stay warm? We have been using a pretty good recipe for a few years, and I usually do the opposite: work with half the dough while chilling the other half in the fridge, or it gets too soft to work with.
We’ve found that the dough dries out if it chills too much. Then the baked cookies aren’t as chewy.
I just have regular shortening would that be ok or does it have to be butter flavored?
I prefer the butter flavored. It gives the cookies a more rich flavor, but regular shortening will work fine.