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These classic Gingerbread Man Cookies are a fun and festive addition to your Christmas cookie tray! Warmly spiced with molasses, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice, the thick, chewy and soft old-fashioned gingerbread cookies are always a family favorite. Cut out a batch and have fun decorating these sweet treats with your loved ones!

Soft gingerbread man cookies in a cookie tin with fun decorations and icing

Gingerbread Man Cookie Recipe

Every mom (or grandma!) should have a go-to simple gingerbread cookie recipe that she can turn to year after year for a special Christmas treat. These old-fashioned gingerbread cookies are thick, soft, chewy and perfect for decorating with kids! After many rounds of testing and tweaking, this has quickly become our favorite version of the holiday classic. They’re perfectly spiced (not bland), they hold their shape, and they’re moist and chewy — not too hard or crunchy. In our opinion, they are the best gingerbread man cookies!

Should gingerbread cookies be hard or soft?

While some folks might prefer thin, crispy gingerbread cookies (often called Moravian spice cookies), we think that classic gingerbread cookies should be firm enough to hold their shape without spreading in the oven, but also soft and supple with a tender crumb. When you sink your teeth into them, you get a bit of chewy resistance and a flavorful explosion of molasses and spices.

Soft Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

To create this recipe, I actually started with our favorite old-fashioned gingerbread cookies from Colonial Williamsburg. Those soft, thick and chewy cookies are not traditionally cut into gingerbread man shapes, so I knew that I’d need to firm up the dough slightly. I also wanted a more traditional gingerbread man cookie flavor, since the Williamsburg “ginger cakes” have a more subtle, mild taste. More ginger and cinnamon, plus the addition of spices like allspice and cloves really gives these cookies that bold taste that we all know and love.

After many rounds of testing, many sticks of butter, and numerous jars of molasses, here’s how I finally achieved that perfect combination of soft and chewy cookies that still hold their firm edges in the oven (without spreading into unrecognizable blobs):

  • Moist Dough. You want the dough just stiff enough that it doesn’t stick to your hands and the counter, but still moist enough (thanks to a good ratio of butter, molasses, and flour) that the cookies stay soft, tender and chewy.
  • No Eggs. The original Williamsburg recipe does not include any eggs in the dough. This is somewhat unusual for gingerbread cookies, so I tested the recipe by adding an egg as well. I found that the egg caused the cookies to puff up a little more, giving them a somewhat cake-like texture. Instead, we prefer the eggless-dough, which is slightly more dense and chewy.
  • Roll Thick. We like a thicker cookie that you can really sink your teeth into, so I found that rolling the dough to a ¼-inch thickness is slightly too thin for our liking. Roll the dough to a thickness somewhere between ¼-inch and ½-inch thick for the perfect texture!
  • Chill Twice. While our traditional Williamsburg gingerbread recipe does not require you to chill the dough at all, I found that the cookies keep their sharp edges best when the dough is chilled not once, but twice! Yes, you can get away with only chilling the dough once before rolling it out (the cookies will just puff a bit more in the oven), but if you chill the dough a second time — for about 10 minutes in the freezer — after the shapes are cut and on the tray, they will truly keep their firm edges while still maintaining that soft texture.
Overhead image of gingerbread man cookie recipe cooling on a wire rack

How to Make Gingerbread Man Cookies from Scratch

This easy and delicious gingerbread cookie dough comes together in just minutes! You’ll need to be patient while it chills in the fridge, but the end result is well worth the wait…

Ingredients

  • Sugar
  • Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Evaporated milk
  • Molasses
  • All-purpose flour

Step 1: Mix Dough

Cream together the sugar, spices and wet ingredients, then gradually add the flour until the dough comes together.

Process shot showing how to make a simple gingerbread cookie recipe

Step 2: Chill

Divide the dough into two parts, plop the dough onto large sheets of plastic wrap, wrap tightly, and then press into discs. Chill for at least 2 hours (or overnight).

Simple gingerbread cookie recipe chilling dough

Step 3: Roll and Cut

Working with one ball at a time, roll the dough and cut out your desired shapes.

Process shot showing how to cut out gingerbread man cookies with a gingerbread man cookie cutter

Step 4: Chill Again

Chill the shapes on the baking sheets in the refrigerator or freezer for about 10 more minutes.

Gingerbread man cookie dough on a baking sheet

Step 5: Bake

Pop the cool trays into a 375 degree F oven and bake just until the cookies are set — but still soft.

How Long to Bake Classic Gingerbread Cookies

The total baking time will depend on the size of your cookie cutter and on the thickness of your dough. In general, 10-12 minutes in a 375 degree F oven should be perfect (my cookies always take exactly 11 minutes). The cookies are done when the edges are just starting to brown, but they’re still fairly soft in the center. They will firm up as they cool, so be careful not to overbake them or the cookies will become hard. Cool completely before decorating.​​​​​​​

Horizontal overhead shot of a simple gingerbread cookie recipe set on a wire rack

Why do my gingerbread cookies spread?

There can be a number of different reasons that cookies spread. Here are a few tips to ensure clean, crisp edges on all of your gingerbread men this season!

  1. Chill the dough. This particular cookie dough is rather sticky and soft, so it’s very important that you chill the dough for at least 2 hours before rolling and cutting. Chill again, just before baking, to make sure that the dough is nice and cool.
  2. Not enough flour. The total amount of flour required for this dough tends to vary (often by the humidity in the house and the season). If you don’t have enough flour in your dough, the cookies are more likely to spread. While mixing, add small amounts of additional flour, as necessary, to create a dough that’s quite stiff and slightly sticky. I typically need about 5 ½ cups of flour, plus more when rolling and cutting.
  3. Don’t Overmix. Whipping the wet ingredients too much or overmixing can add too much air to the cookie dough, causing them to collapse and spread in the oven.
  4. Line the Baking Sheets. Spraying the baking sheets with cooking spray or greasing with butter or lard causes cookies to spread. Instead, line the baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats for “grip.”
  5. Cool Baking Sheets. Never place cookie dough on warm baking sheets.
Horizontal side shot of soft gingerbread cookie recipe cooling on a wire rack

How to Decorate Gingerbread Man Cookies

Frosted gingerbread man cookies are the sweetest holiday treat! Set out an array of decorations and let your kids get busy. There’s no right or wrong way to do this! I’ve included a simple recipe for a great cookie icing, but you can also use frosting, store-bought tubes of icing, or a simple dusting of powdered sugar right before serving. Outline the cookies with white icing or fill in the entire cookie for maximum sweetness — whatever you prefer.

More Fun Gingerbread Man Cookie Decorations

  • Red, white and green sprinkles are always an easy, festive touch and will stick nicely to your icing before it sets.
  • Red hot cinnamon candies make great buttons or reindeer noses.
  • Mini chocolate chips create perfect little eyeballs.
  • Candy eyeballs are also a cute way to create a face.
  • From round button candies to piped bowties or hairbows, you can get as detailed as you like on your cookies. Find more fun ideas here!

Gingerbread Man Icing (No Egg)

This basic cookie icing is just a classic combination of confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla extract and corn syrup (for shine). It firms up in about 30 minutes, and can be used white or tinted with food coloring for an array of options. For detailed designs, place the icing in piping bags or Ziploc plastic bags (and snip off one corner to use for piping).

Horizontal shot of soft gingerbread man cookies in a tin

Gingerbread Man Reindeer Cookies

Did you know that you can create reindeer cookies out of gingerbread man cookie cutters? To do so, turn the gingerbread man cookie upside down. The legs of the man become the reindeer’s antlers, the arms become the reindeer’s ears, and the head is the reindeer’s face. Check out my cookies below for a cute example!

Overhead image showing how to make reindeer cookies out of gingerbread man cookie cutter

Storage

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Make Ahead

Prepare the dough up to 1 day ahead and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, you can freeze the dough discs for up to 1 month. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight and then proceed with rolling and cutting as instructed.

To bake the cookies in advance, allow them to cool completely, wrap tightly, and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw on the counter at room temperature before decorating.

Tips for the Best Gingerbread Man Cookie Recipe

  • Keep the dough cold to prevent the cookies from spreading in the oven. Chill for at least 2 hours before rolling, and then chill again in the freezer or fridge for about 10 minutes before baking.
  • Don’t be shy with the flour. Keep your work surface very well floured to prevent the dough from sticking to the board when rolling and cutting. It’s also helpful to flour the cookie cutter before each use.
  • Don’t overbake the cookies. Watch for the cookies’ edges to just start to turn a slightly darker color. The insides of the cookies should still be soft when they come out of the oven. They will firm up as they cool, resulting in that great chewy texture that we’re looking for. Overbaking the cookies will yield dry, hard or crunchy cookies.
Overhead shot of a cookie tin full of soft gingerbread cookies

More Christmas Cookies You’ll Love

Square image of a tin of soft gingerbread man cookies

Gingerbread Man Cookies

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 11 minutes
Chilling Time 2 hours 10 minutes
Total: 2 hours 31 minutes
Servings 34 cookies (using a 3 ½ inch cutter)
Calories 173 kcal
Thick, soft and chewy, these classic Gingerbread Man Cookies are a fun and festive addition to your Christmas cookie tray!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 5-6 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

Optional Icing:

  • 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Decorative candies, sprinkles and food coloring, if desired

Instructions

  • Add sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, baking soda and salt to the large bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until well combined.
  • Add softened butter, evaporated milk, and molasses. Mix again until completely combined, starting on the lowest speed so that the liquid doesn’t splash out of the bowl. Gradually increase the speed until the butter and sugar are creamed together.
  • Put the mixer back on low speed and add 5 cups of flour (one cup at a time), stirring constantly until the flour is completely incorporated.
  • The dough should be quite thick and slightly sticky. If it’s still too soft and sticky, add additional flour (½ cup at a time), just until a fairly stiff dough comes together. I typically use at least 5 ½ cups of flour total for this recipe — sometimes up to 6 cups if the air is particularly humid.
  • Plop about half of the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Wrap it up, then flatten it into a disc. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or overnight).
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  • Working with one disc of dough at a time (leave the other disc in the fridge to stay cool), roll out the dough to a thickness between ¼-inch and ½-inch on a very well-floured surface. Use a floured cookie cutter to cut the dough into desired shapes. Don't be afraid to continually add more flour as you work, since the dough will become sticky. Re-roll the dough scraps until all of the dough is used.
  • Use a metal spatula to place shapes onto prepared baking sheets. Chill in the freezer (if there's room) or in the refrigerator again for about 10 minutes (this second round of chilling will just ensure that the cookies don't spread in the oven).
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until slightly golden brown but still soft. Make sure that you don't bake them for too long or they will become hard and crispy. To maintain the soft, chewy texture, pull them out of the often while they're still soft and let them firm up slightly while they cool.
  • Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Once the cookies are cool, decorate with desired icing, frosting, candies and decocrations. If you'd like to prepare the icing here, mix together confectioners’ sugar, milk, corn syrup and vanilla until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add more milk, about a teaspoon at a time, until the frosting is spreadable. If the icing is too thin, add powdered sugar until desired texture is reached. Transfer icing to a piping bag and decorate cookies as desired. The icing will set in about 30 minutes.

Notes

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Make Ahead:
Prepare the dough up to 1 day ahead and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, you can freeze the dough discs for up to 1 month. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight and then proceed with rolling and cutting as instructed.
To bake the cookies in advance, allow them to cool completely, wrap tightly, and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw on the counter at room temperature before decorating.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookieCalories: 173kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 2gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 180mgPotassium: 180mgFiber: 1gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 176IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 36mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: gingerbread cookies, gingerbread man cookies, gingerbread men
Course: Cookies
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made 2 batches today and the recipe was perfection…even at close to 7,000 feet of altitude here in CO. The fact that it’s based on the gingerbread recipe from my hometown of Williamsburg makes it even better! Thank you!

  2. I make a PeanutButter Blossom cookies like this;
    1 can sweetened condensed milk
    1cup jiff peanut butter
    2cups bisquick
    1 bag Hersheys kisses
    All unwrapped

    Oven 350/ cooks 7 mins
    I cream together the peanut butter and condensed milk. Then by hand wearing a rubber glove Brooklyn I mix in one cup of bisquick at a time till next well it’ll form you spell in a form a big ball with nothing stuck to the sides. Take Some dough and roll it into 1 1/2 to 2″ balls. Place on a boiled wrapped cookie sheet And put in the fridge for half an hour. Then put in a preheated oven For 7 minutes No longer.
    Take immediately out of the oven and press a chocolate kiss down into the center. It will puddle inside the middles. Let cool thoroughly. Best peanut butter blossom cookies I’ve ever made and everybody loves them. So I hope you like them too