These Gingerbread Men are the ultimate Christmas cookies! This recipe yields soft, yet firm gingerbread cookies that are perfectly spiced, buttery, and hold their shape beautifully. Top them off with my foolproof icing that makes plenty for decorating, and you’ve got yourself a fun holiday activity for the whole family. Recipe includes a how-to video!
Perfect Gingerbread Cookies
Christmas cookie season is here, and I can’t think of a cookie that’s more festive than gingerbread men.
With their adorable icing faces and candy bowties and buttons, they’re almost always the cutest cookies on the tray–but they’re not always the most tasty. Many recipes call for loads of flour to make the very sticky dough (a byproduct of using molasses) more manageable, but this often leads to dull, dry cookies that just don’t taste great.
While my recipe takes a little bit more patience, I simply chill my dough for a few hours, which guarantees gingerbread men that are easy to make and flavorful.
These cookies are soft and perfectly spiced in a way that’s not overwhelming, but still distinctly gingerbread -flavored. Besides their perfect blend of spices, they have a subtle buttery note that adds richness and balances everything out beautifully. Like my well-loved sugar cookies, my gingerbread cookies maintain their shape while baking, so they’re perfect for precise cut-out shapes. Even better, they don’t get too hard (like gingersnaps); instead, the centers are firm, but ultimately melt in your mouth.
I’m confident you’re going to love them, so let’s get to it!
What You Need for Gingerbread Men
These gingerbread cookies are easy to make and so flavorful! Let’s touch on a few of the key ingredients in the cookies:
- Butter. Use unsalted and make sure it’s softened, but not melty.
- Brown sugar. You can use either light or dark brown sugar. Dark brown will add a stronger flavor, so just keep that in mind.
- Molasses. This is an essential gingerbread ingredient! It adds color, flavor, and moisture. Look for molasses that says “unsulphered” on the label and avoid blackstrap molasses, which could make the cookies bitter.
- Egg. Just one egg helps bind our dough together.
- Flour. Use all-purpose flour, and don’t be afraid to add extra when you’re rolling your dough (it will be sticky). Note: I’ve increased the flour just a little bit (about ¼ cup) compared to my original recipe that was published several years ago.
- Spices. We’ll use traditional gingerbread spices, including ginger, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.
While you could always use royal icing, I prefer to frost my gingerbread men with the same easy icing I use for my sugar cookies. It’s super simple, and it tastes much better than royal icing! Here’s what you need:
- Powdered sugar. Sift your powdered sugar before using it to avoid any lumps.
- Milk. Pretty much any kind of milk will work here.
- Corn syrup. Not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup, this ingredient can be left out (you might need a splash more milk) but your icing won’t dry as quickly, as shiny, or as well, unfortunately.
- Vanilla. Just a splash of vanilla extract adds a nice smooth flavor.
- Sprinkles/decoration. Use whatever you like! Or skip the sprinkles and just do some fun icing decorations.
SAM’S TIP: Many have asked if this recipe can be used to make a gingerbread house instead of gingerbread men. While I haven’t tried it myself, I think it should work as long as you keep your house small and simple. The cookies bake up with crisp edges but somewhat tender middles, so if the house is too big, it may not hold up structurally.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Gingerbread Men
- Beat together butter, sugar, and molasses and then stir in an egg and vanilla extract.
- Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then gradually stir them into the wet ingredients. You’ll have a sticky dough, wrap it tightly and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- Generously flour a clean surface and use a rolling pin to roll your dough until it is ¼″ thick.
- Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Gather scraps and re-roll your dough to cut out as many cookies as you can, and bake for 8-10 minutes.
SAM’S TIP: This dough will be VERY sticky once you’ve mixed it all together–this is normal! To make it more manageable, chill it for several hours. Some recipes would instead call for more flour to minimize the wait, but I don’t prefer this because it can make the cookies hard, dry, and much less flavorful. Chilling our dough allows us to let that buttery, perfectly spiced gingerbread flavor shine!
This icing recipe makes a bit more than you typically need so you can have fun decorating your gingerbread men! If you don’t need a lot of icing, simply make a half batch.
- Combine icing ingredients with a whisk, starting with only two tablespoons of milk. You’ll know its ready when you hold your whisk out of the bowl and the ribbon of icing that falls down hold its shape for several seconds before dissolving into the rest of the bowl. If your icing is too thick at this stage, add the remaining milk. If it’s too thin, add some more powdered sugar.
- Transfer icing to a piping bag and decorate! Let the icing harden before enjoying (or don’t, I don’t judge!).
SAM’S TIP: To make the icing in advance, simply store in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap against the surface. You can either refrigerate it or keep at room temperature, but just make sure to stir again before using.
Frequently Asked Questions
This is really a personal preference, but I prefer my gingerbread men to be softer with crisp, well-defined edges and chewy, melt-in-your-mouth interiors. If you like dry, crisp gingerbread cookies, this recipe may not be for you.
No! Gingersnaps are typically very crisp (although I do have a soft and chewy version) and have a different spice profile. Gingersnaps have no nutmeg, more ginger, and less cinnamon, plus a few extra spices that differentiate them from gingerbread men. I add both cayenne and black pepper to my gingersnaps to give them a slight heat, which my gingerbread men don’t have.
Molasses adds flavor, color, and moisture. It’s an essential ingredient for gingerbread and gingerbread men, so don’t skip it! I typically to use “Grandma’s” or “Brer Rabbit” brand.
More Recipes You Might Like
- Peppermint Bark Cookies
- Funfetti Christmas Cookies
- Gingersnap Cookies (Crisp, Snappy Cookies!)
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
For Gingerbread Men
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened (113g)
- ½ cup light or dark brown sugar tightly packed (100g)
- ½ cup unsulphured molasses (120ml) (I use Grandma's or Brer Rabbit brand and avoid using blackstrap)
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 ¾ cups all purpose flour (345g)
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3 cups powdered sugar sifted (375g)
- 2-4 Tablespoons milk
- 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Decorative candies and sprinkles as desired
- Combine butter, sugar, and molasses and use an electric mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment to beat until ingredients are creamy and well-combined.
- Stir in egg and vanilla extract until well-combined. The mixture may look piecey/like it's separating, this is fine and it will come together when you add the dry ingredients.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg).
- With mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until the dough is smooth, cohesive, and completely combined.
- Divide the dough into two parts (it will be quite sticky, use a spatula) and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Rolling and Cutting Cookies
- Once dough has chilled, preheat oven to 375F (190C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (alternatively bake cookies directly on ungreased baking sheet)
- Generously flour a clean surface and lightly flour the dough as well (see note).
- Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to be approximately ¼” (.6cm) thick, and use a cookie cutter (my cookie cutter for these was about 3.5” long) to cut out shapes.
- Use a spatula to place cookies on prepared baking sheet, spacing at least 2" apart and then transfer to 375F (190C) oven, and bake for 8-10 minutes.
- Allow cookies to cool completely on baking sheet before decorating.
Gingerbread Cookie Icing
- Combine sugar, 2 Tablespoons of milk, corn syrup, and vanilla extract in a medium-sized bowl and stir until combined. Look for a consistency where the icing that drizzles off the spoon and back into the bowl holds its shape for several seconds before dissolving back into the rest of the icing. If frosting is too thick, add more milk, about a teaspoon at a time, until the frosting is thick but pipeable. If too thin, add additional powdered sugar until desired texture is reached.
- Transfer to a piping bag with a piping tip (I used Wilton #5), or place in a Ziploc bag and snip a small piece of the corner off. Pipe frosting on cookies and decorate with decorative candies, if desired.
- Allow frosting to harden before enjoying (this took only about 30 minutes for me, but may take longer if your frosting is wetter)
- Keep uneaten cookies sealed in an airtight container at room temperature.
Brown SugarEither light or dark brown sugar will work just fine in this recipe, I typically use whichever I have on hand. Dark brown sugar will yield darker, slightly sweeter cookies with a slightly stronger molasses taste.
Notes for When RollingWhen rolling cookies, generously dust your surface with flour so the cookies don’t stick, and if the dough still seems sticky while rolling dust the dough and rolling pin with additional flour as needed. This is a softer dough by nature but it should not be so sticky that it isn’t manageable. If the dough is difficult to roll (too stiff) or is cracking, let it sit at room temperature for 10-20 minutes before continuing.
Making in AdvanceThe cookie dough may be made and chilled in the refrigerator up to 5 days in advance of rolling, cutting, and baking. The icing may be made 2-3 days in advance and stored in either the refrigerator or at room temperature. To store, place in a small airtight container and cover the surface of the icing tightly with plastic wrap before replacing the lid. Icing will likely need to be stirred again before using.
StoringThese cookies can be stored (before or after decorating) in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks (but are freshest when enjoyed within one week).
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.