Soft & Chewy Gingerbread Men Cookies are perfectly spiced with molasses, cinnamon, ginger and other warm spices, and sweetened with brown sugar. The best way to spread Christmas cheer might be singing out loud for all to hear, but these cute little fellas come in a close second!
Soft & Chewy Gingerbread Men Cookies are part of my personal Christmas cookie trifecta. The other two cookies are these perfect peanut butter blossoms and classic sugar cookies decorated with frosting and sprinkles or M&Ms. Although I have been making a chocolate peppermint cookie for a couple of years now that keeps inching it’s way up on my list of “must bakes” each Christmas season.
Even though gingerbread is a classic Christmas cookie, it’s not one I grew up with. In fact, I don’t even remember ever having had a gingerbread cookie until probably 8 or 9 years ago when I just started searching for a gingerbread cookie recipe on a whim. I’m not sure where my original recipe came from since those were the days before most food blogs really got started and I definitely wasn’t keeping track of sources anyway, but since then I’ve made small adjustments to the flour-to-butter-to-spice ratio, tweaking things just a bit here and there to yield the most perfect soft & chewy gingerbread men cookies you can imagine.
Just the aroma of the molasses and cloves and ginger and cinnamon is enough to transport you to Santa’s workshop and make you feel like one of his baker elves. This is such a fun Christmas baking tradition to make with my girls because we turn on Christmas music and they love to help use the gingerbread men cookie cutters. Although you can obviously use whatever cookie cutters you like or even cut out house shapes with a sharp knife to make 2-D gingerbread cookie houses that you can decorate with candy and eat (unlike the hard gingerbread houses that are just for decorating). I’m partial to gingerbread snowflakes and like to sprinkle them with plain ol’ granulated sugar after frosting them with royal icing.
Just be aware that while the recipe says to bake the cookies for 9-10 minutes, you might need a little more or less time depending on whether your cookie cutters are small or extra large. I have a few really big tree and train cookie cutters that I have used in the past and those gingerbread cookies take more like 11-12 minutes to bake. Tiny cookie cutters take more like 8 minutes in the oven. But the regular size cookie cutters that you are most likely to use will give you perfect soft & chewy gingerbread men cookies right around the 9-10 minute mark every time.
The royal icing is super simple to make with just a little corn syrup for shine and no messing around with meringue powder (which I can never find in the store anyway). You can use a piping bag with a small tip for decorating or do what I always do and just fill a freezer safe ziploc bag with your royal icing and then snip off one of the corners with scissors. Just don’t snip off too much.
While these gingerbread men are perfect for eating all by themselves, they also make AMAZING ice cream sandwiches if you want to put a little vanilla or strawberry ice cream between two of them. Seriously, those gingerbread ice cream sandwiches are my favorite!
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 egg
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- 2-3 tablespoons room temperature water
- Pinch of salt
- Gel or liquid Food coloring (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add the molasses (it really does help to spray your measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring the molasses - it will pour out more easily afterwards) and egg and mix again to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices, then mix until everything is completely combined. Scrape the gingerbread cookie dough out of the bowl onto a large piece of plastic wrap, then wrap it up into a disc and put it in the refrigerator to chill for 3 hours or even overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4" thickness. I always find I need to be generous with the flour so the cookies don't stick to the counter or the rolling pin, but you don't need to worry about having cookies that look dusted by flour because it will be absorbed into the dough as the cookies get rolled out.
Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets, leaving a little space between each cookie. They don't spread much, but you just don't want them touching while they are baking. Bake for about 10 minutes until they just start to look set but do not overbake or they won't stay soft. Let cool for 5-10 minutes on the pan. Remove from cookie sheets to cool completely on wire racks. Frost or decorate when cool with royal icing.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla, corn syrup and 2 tablespoons of the water. If should be thick, but if it is TOO thick, whisk in another 1/2 tablespoon at a time, checking consistency after each half tablespoon. If you go too far and it gets too runny, whisk in two additional tablespoons of powdered sugar at a time. You want the royal icing to drizzle off you whisk into the bowl and hold it's shape for a second or two before melting back into the rest of the icing. If desired, you can separate your icing to different small bowls at this point and add food coloring, then transfer to piping bags with small decorating tips.
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