Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

Get in the holiday spirit with some spicy, chewy gingerbread cookies! They keep their shape when cut with cookie cutters and they stay soft and delicious! They’re the ultimate Christmas cookies.

Chewy gingerbread men and other cutout cookies arranged on a plate with cookie cutters

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Christmas is in the air!

Slowly but surely I’m breaking out the Christmas decorations — hopefully I’ll be able to really go at it today before I have another work week of never seeing the sun. 

Get in the holiday spirit with some spicy, chewy gingerbread cookies! They keep their shape when cut with cookie cutters and they stay soft and delicious! They're the ultimate Christmas cookies.

But I did put up a really cute table runner and a little treescape thingy in a dome on our dining room table.

And we finally replaced the $25 4-foot pre-lit tree I got about 5 years ago whose lights had burned out after the first year!

Get in the holiday spirit with some spicy, chewy gingerbread cookies! They keep their shape when cut with cookie cutters and they stay soft and delicious! They're the ultimate Christmas cookies.

It looked pretty terrible, restrung with a strand of lights that had a white cord. You could see the cord a mile away against that green tree. Silly me. I accidentally strung the green-corded ones up on the white porch trim, and I was NOT restringing both sets of lights!

Get in the holiday spirit with some spicy, chewy gingerbread cookies! They keep their shape when cut with cookie cutters and they stay soft and delicious! They're the ultimate Christmas cookies.

WELL! This year we got a big tree – 7 feet tall. Pre-lit, and since it’s new the lights actually work! It’s just beautiful. We haven’t decorated it yet but it is gorgeous all on its own, there in the corner of the living room with its white lights glowing in the branches.

Cat and christmas tree

There’s only one problem.

Gray cat hiding in Christmas tree

I was hoping since the cats are a year and a half old now they would be a little more relaxed than they were last year when they were kittens and kind of… leave the tree alone. 

Yeah. Not happening.

Calico cat looking at Christmas tree with white lights

Penny is pretty respectful of the tree, but Pepper is a chewer and a climber. He’s also 12 lbs. 

And while the tree may have been able to withstand Penny’s tiny 6 lb kitten-like weight, a 12-lb cat leaves the tree with a nice gap of bent-down branches all the way around the tree at exactly the height of the back of the chair, which happens to be his entrance point. 

Christmas tree with gap around middle from where cats have been sitting

I would love suggestions on keeping a cat out of a fake Christmas tree if you have any. Right now, I’m armed with a spray bottle, which he couldn’t care less about.

He is the cuddliest, most loving, most mischievous and neurotic cat. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. 

Woman with rolling pin in vintage flowered apron, rolling cookie dough between sheets of parchment paper

So apart from decorations, there are a few other things that really make it feel like Christmas time for me. Watching A Christmas Story, drinking eggnog, making zeppole (fried Italian donuts) on Christmas morning, and baking some adorably-shaped chewy gingerbread cookies.

Woman in vintage flowered apron cutting out shapes for chewy gingerbread cookies with cookie cutters

I’ve been making this recipe for years, and since it’s from Cook’s Illustrated (one of the magazines from America’s Test Kitchen) it’s pretty much perfect.

If you’re unfamiliar with America’s Test Kitchen, they basically take a given dish and test the heck out of it until they have it absolutely perfect. More butter, more flour, different technique, different temperature — they identify key issues with a recipe (Lasagna takes too long, buffalo chicken is too greasy or not crispy enough, etc.) and solve them. 

Chewy gingerbread cookies and gingerbread men shapes on baking sheet waiting to be baked

With this one, they have recipes for both crispy and chewy gingerbread cookies, since a lot of people use the crispy ones for ornaments or gingerbread houses. But I just want to eat them, and the chewy ones are just amazing — perfect texture, and full of all those Christmasy spices.

Chewy gingerbread snowflakes in a stack, surrounded by other gingerbread cookies and cookie cutters

And there’s no egg in the dough so you can eat as much of it raw as you want. A big bonus!

Chewy gingerbread cookies arranged on a plate with cookie cutters and Christmas trees in background

They don’t spread out a ton either, so you can still use cookie cutters and decorate them with icing, if you wish. I’ve had a Christmas party for several years with eggnog and cookie decorating, and I’d decorate and eat these chewy gingerbread cookies over crunchy sugar cookies any day!

Closeup of chewy gingerbread stars, snowflake, and men arranged on a plate

Cute cookie cutters are a must. These “ninjabread men” ones are my faves. 

Ninja-shaped chewy gingerbread men, or ninjabread men

I also love these tiny 2″ cookie cutters. You can probably get away with cooking them for 7 minutes instead of 8-11 if you’re using really small cutters, so they will stay chewy.

Overhead view of chewy gingerbread men, gingerbread girls, Christmas trees and snowmen with cookie cutters

I like miniature desserts though – they’re not too much of a commitment if you just want a little something sweet, and you don’t feel too bad having two or three.

The best part, in my opinion, is they’re chewy — and they stay chewy. 

Hands breaking apart chewy gingerbread cookie to show soft texture

Consider giving these chewy gingerbread cookies a try this year – they may just become part of your Christmas tradition too!

Chewy gingerbread cutout cookies on parchment paper with cookie cutters

Chewy cutout gingerbread cookies arranged on a plate

Chewy Gingerbread cookies

Course: Dessert
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 30 cookies
Author: Caroline Lindsey

Get in the holiday spirit with some spicy, chewy gingerbread cookies! They keep their shape when cut with cookie cutters and they stay soft and delicious! They're the ultimate Christmas cookies. From Cooks Illustrated.

Print

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar packed
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter softened slightly and cut into 12 pieces
  • 3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 2 tbsp milk

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda. Set mixer to stir until ingredients are well-mixed.
  2. Stop mixer, add butter, and mix on low until mixture resembles damp sand, about a minute and a half. (If you have a plastic bowl guard that will help keep flour from flying out, it would be a good idea to add that before you turn the mixer on)
  3. While mixer is running on low, slowly add the molasses and milk. Spraying your measuring cup with cooking spray before adding the molasses will help it come out smoother and be easier to clean. Turn mixer to medium for about 10 seconds to thoroughly mix dough.
  4. Turn out dough onto a piece of parchment paper and pat into a ball. Cut dough into two pieces and roll each piece out to 1/4" thickness between two pieces of parchment paper. Don't roll it too thin or your cookie won't be as chewy!
  5. Put dough, in its parchment paper, in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. It is MUCH less sticky and easier to cut after hardening for a bit.

  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set shelves to upper-middle and lower-middle positions.
  7. Remove one sheet of dough from the freezer. Peel parchment off one side of the dough, replace parchment, flip over, and peel off the other side of the parchment. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter and place cookies about 3/4 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  8. Dough will soften quickly so when you finish cutting your shapes in the first piece of dough, re-roll it out between parchment paper again and replace into the freezer while you cut shapes out of the second piece of dough. Dough can be recombined and re-rolled as many times as necessary.
  9. You can bake two sheets at a time, if you switch the top and bottom sheets halfway through. Bake for 8-11 minutes or until the centers of the cookies are set and barely retain an imprint when you tough them. Do not overbake.

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Jennifer C
    December 5, 2016 at 6:27 am

    Yummy cookies! You should buy the cats a cat tree to replace the Christmas tree. They have them on Amazon and I bought one for my cats recently. Cats love to climb and so you can give them something else to climb on. Whatever you get, smother it in cat nip to compete with the Christmas tree and to encourage him to get all over it. Since your cats are young, they are likely to love a tree and get tons of use out of one. 🙂

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      December 5, 2016 at 10:04 pm

      I wish space in our house wasn’t so limited! If we had a cat tree, it would probably live where the Christmas tree is now, and that wouldn’t be a good association to make. Which cat tree did you get, can you link me? Thanks!

  • Reply
    David
    December 10, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Okay, Caroline… I love the tree, especially with the cat, and I love your apron. The dough looks amazing and the karate cutters are brilliant! I do love soft and chewy gingerbread but usually it doesn’t keep its shape. Yours does. That is also brilliant!

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      December 11, 2016 at 12:18 am

      Thanks, David! It’s a vintage apron I got on 4th Ave. years ago and is the decor inspiration for my kitchen! I love it too. It’s great, you can have the best of both worlds with this recipe — a chewy cookie AND cute shapes! Hope you enjoy them next time you make gingerbread cookies!

  • Reply
    Melissa
    December 4, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    Are there no eggs in this recipe?

    • Reply
      Melissa
      December 4, 2017 at 11:19 pm

      And can I use light brown sugar?

      • Reply
        Caroline Lindsey
        December 6, 2017 at 11:06 pm

        The dark brown sugar has more of a molasses taste to it so if you use light brown sugar it will be a bit less rich than the dark brown. But it should work the same, cooking-wise, and there’s enough molasses in the recipe itself I’m sure it would still have plenty of molasses flavor. Let me know how it is if you try it!

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      December 6, 2017 at 11:03 pm

      That is correct, there are no eggs in this recipe!

  • Reply
    Camille Banks
    December 5, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Just finished making 150 of these cookies for a customer and even though they spread more than I would have liked, and more than the pictures show, they definitely still resemble gingerbread men shapes and taste really good.

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      December 6, 2017 at 11:08 pm

      Hi Camille, sorry your cookies spread! If you leave the dough in the freezer longer before cutting, and put them right in the oven before they have a chance to soften too much, I think they will hold their shape better for next time. They’re so tasty though!

      • Reply
        Camille Banks
        December 7, 2017 at 12:39 pm

        Hi Caroline,

        I will definitely try that next time, thank you!

  • Reply
    Tanya
    December 15, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Can you make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate? If so, for how long?

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      December 19, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      Yes, you can make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate! I’d roll into sheets (or at least flatten into disks to roll later) before chilling, so that when you take them out of the fridge they’re almost ready to cut into shapes. If you refrigerate a big bowl of dough it will probably take forever to soften enough to roll out, just to have to chill again!

      I’m not sure how long in advance but at least a couple days, and if you need to make them even further in advance just stick the dough in the freezer. The dough will take a little longer to soften but they hold their shape even better when the dough is a little extra chilled anyway!

  • Reply
    Aryn
    December 18, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Do you think you could make the dough several days in advance, put it in the freezer and then thaw a few minutes before cutting into shapes?

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      December 19, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      Yes, definitely! You might have to thaw a little longer before it’s pliable again but honestly I think the cookies hold their shape better if the dough is a little *extra* chilled.

  • Reply
    Charlotte Jane
    December 21, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    I made three sheets of cookies and they are snaps instead of soft. I rolled them thick and just don’t know what to do. Do I take them out before the cookies move to a slight touch? This is my first try at Gingerbread and I got super excited..now I’m just frustrated. I know its me..just don’t know what to do and I don’t want to scrap the entire batch!! LOL!! Help!!

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      December 21, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      Hi Charlotte Jane, ack! Let me help you troubleshoot! Here are my thoughts.

      The dough is the same whether you are making snaps or chewy gingerbread. The difference could be:
      1) How thick you roll them. You said you rolled them thick, so that’s probably not it (or try rolling to like 1/3 or 1/2 inch, rather than 1/4-inch).
      2) How long you bake them. Bake them for a couple minutes less time and see if that helps. The centers should be set, but not firm. They should be softer than you expect when you take them out of the oven.
      3) The temperature of your oven. When I got an oven thermometer I realized my oven always runs about 20-25 degrees cool, so now I go by my standalone thermometer instead of what it says on the actual oven. Here’s one very similar to what I have (affiliate link) http://amzn.to/2BM6paD. You just hang it from your oven shelf and go by what it says – your oven may run hot and that could be the issue.

      That said – if you still have dough left, try rolling the next ones a little thicker and/or baking them for less time, until you can troubleshoot your oven temperature (if you so desire).

      If you DON’T have dough left and you’ve made them all already, put your crunchy cookies in a ziploc bag or airtight container with a piece of bread and leave overnight. I haven’t tried that trick on these gingerbread cookies, but it has totally worked for me when I’ve had chocolate chip cookies go crunchy – they’re super soft the next day!

      Hope this helps! I want you to have the chewy gingerbread cookies of your dreams for Christmas!! Please let me know how it goes!

      • Reply
        Charlotte Jane
        December 26, 2017 at 2:38 am

        Hi there!! Thanks so much for the reply!! I did have some dough left so I tried again!! I rolled out the dough and cut out the cookies very quickly. I then placed the tray with the cookies that had been cut in the fridge for about fifteen minutes before baking . I still struggled a bit with the baking time but the last batch was fantastic!! I also discovered that if I put frosting on the cookies and let them sit overnight they went from too hard to soft and dreamy! Thanks so much for all the tips!! I am so excited with the outcome of my my first gingerbread adventure!

        • Reply
          Caroline Lindsey
          December 26, 2017 at 11:50 am

          Hi Charlotte Jane,

          Thanks for coming back to tell me how everything went! I’m so glad everything worked out in the end. Gingerbread is so good!! <3 Caroline

  • Reply
    Nick
    December 22, 2017 at 8:19 am

    I made these diary-free / vegan by using Earth Balance instead of butter, and a little bit of cashew milk instead of cow’s milk. They turned out great! The dough needs to be VERY cold to work at all. I kept putting it back in the freezer after it started deforming when cutting shapes out with a cookie cutter. I would recommend around 30 min in the freezer for the dough to firm up. But after baking for 10 min @ 350*F, they came out chewy and delicious 🙂

  • Reply
    Francesca'
    November 10, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    We made your gingerbread cookies and they turned out great!! Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe!!

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      November 11, 2018 at 8:50 am

      So glad you liked them! I can’t wait to make a batch myself this season!

  • Reply
    TJ Ryan
    December 10, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    So struggled with cooling them. How do you cool them? They fell through my wire rack….help

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      December 13, 2018 at 7:02 pm

      If they’re so soft they’re falling through your wire rack I might let them cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing to a rack! Hope that helps!

  • Reply
    Ash L
    December 13, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    If I substitute allspice instead of cloves, do I need to remove or reduce the cinnamon? I can’t wait to make these!!

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      December 13, 2018 at 7:08 pm

      I’d probably keep the cinnamon the same if you’re subbing allspice for cloves. I find cloves to be extremely potent so I would think you wouldn’t want to reduce the other spices if you’re subbing allspice (which I find to be less intense than cloves for the same quantity). Hope they come out well for you! They’re some of my favorites!

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