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Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, these gingerbread cookies are made without molasses. They taste just like real gingerbread, are easy to make, perfect for decorating and spiced to perfection.
This post is dedicated to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, please see below for more details on how to donate.
Nothing says Christmas quite like gingerbread cookies. The warm, spiced flavour floating in the air when baking gingerbread always puts a smile on my face.
I love making gingerbread cookies because they’re so easy to make, great for decorating and taste delicious. The key ingredient to making regular gingerbread is molasses, but this can’t always be found all over the world.
This is why I made this easy gingerbread recipe that requires absolutely no molasses. However, don’t worry my little elf – because these cookies taste exactly like real gingerbread!
Why this recipe is amazing
This simple gingerbread cookies recipe is one of my favourites because:
- It uses no molasses
- It’s super easy to make, all in one bowl
- Yields cookies that are chewy on the inside, but crispy on the outside
- They hold their shape really well
- They’re spiced to perfection
- They taste just like real gingerbread
Molasses is a thick, tacky syrup made from refining sugar cane into sugar. This syrup is commonly used in North America and made popular by gingerbread cookies. However, molasses is not easily found everywhere.
So, what can you use instead of molasses to make gingerbread cookies? Here are my favourite molasses substitutes:
- Brown sugar – is made by mixing granulated sugar with molasses, so it’s the closest match in flavour. I recommend using dark brown sugar, which has a higher concentration of molasses. This is also known as muscovado sugar, which has the highest amount of molasses mixed in. It’s also one of my favourite types of sugar due to its strong, rich flavour.
- Maple syrup – runner up to brown sugar. Maple syrup naturally has a deep, rich flavour, which is very similar to molasses. Ensure you use pure maple syrup, undiluted with simple syrup or water. This type should be slightly thicker and more viscous in consistency.
- Golden syrup – also known as light treacle. Another close relative of molasses, golden syrup is a great substitute due to its caramelised flavour. My favourite type is Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which is extremely viscous and sticky – perfect for gingerbread.
- Honey – one of my favourite sweeteners in the world. As honey is entirely natural, it’s a slightly healthier alternative to molasses or syrups. I recommend using dark honey, as it has a deeper and richer flavour, similar to molasses. Some examples of dark honey would be chestnut buckwheat, pine or thyme honey.
These gingerbread cookies with no molasses use regular ingredients that can be easily found. In order to make these cookies taste as authentic as possible, I like to use a combination of 2 key ingredients.
Let’s have a look:
- Butter – unsalted butter, softened to room temperature.
- Dark brown sugar – can be replaced with light brown sugar or muscovado sugar.
- Golden syrup – can be replaced with maple syrup
- Eggs – medium size, at room temperature
- All purpose flour – cannot be replaced with self-rising flour
- Baking soda – to help the cookies remain chewy on the inside. Cannot be replaced with baking powder.
- Spices – I like to use a combination of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. For an authentic flavour you need to use ginger and cinnamon, but the other spices can be replaced. You can also try using cloves or anise.
- Orange zest – although optional, I highly recommend it. Orange zest adds a subtle zing of flavour and brings out the warm spiced flavours even more. Can also be replaced with lemon zest.
The best part about this simple gingerbread cookie recipe is that it only takes minutes to prepare. You only need one large bowl and hand or stand mixer.
- First, beat the butter with the brown sugar and golden syrup until pale and fluffy.
- Mix in the egg and orange zest until fully incorporated. The mixture should lighten in colour once whipped well.
- Add in the flour, spices, and baking soda. Mix on low speed until a tacky dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
- Roll out the gingerbread dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out your favourite shapes, place on a lined baking tray and bake.
It really is as simple as that! Once the gingerbread cookies have finished baking, let them rest on the baking tray for 5 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack and let cool for at 30 minutes to 1 hour before decorating.
Success tips & tricks
- Do not overwork the dough, as this can make the cookies too dense. Mix only until the dough forms.
- Do not add extra flour. The dough will look very soft and sticky, but this is normal. Once chilled, the dough will become much harder.
- Place the cookies at least 2 inches apart from each other, as they will spread a little when baking.
- Adjust your baking time if baking smaller or larger gingerbread cookies. For smaller shaped, reduce the time by 1-2 minutes, and for larger shapes increase by 1-2 minutes.
- If you like your cookies on the crispier side, bake for an extra 1-2 minutes. Similarly, if you like them softer, bake for 1-2 minutes less.
- It is essential you chill the dough for at least three hours or preferably overnight. Chilling is essential to hard on the dough, but also to allow the flavour to mature and become more intense.
- Although these gingerbread cookies can hold their shape well, I do not recommend it for building gingerbread houses. You will need a much sturdier dough for that purpose.
Decorating gingerbread cookies without molasses is the same as regular gingerbread. All you need is some royal icing and you’re ready to go.
To make my favourite royal icing you will need:
- Powdered sugar – also known as icing sugar in the UK or confectioner’s sugar in the US.
- Egg white powder – or meringue powder. This powder is pasteurised, so it’s safe to consume. It can be replaced with pasteurised egg whites (around 1 tablespoon)
- Lemon juice – to mix with the egg white powder and add a zingy flavour. Leave it out if using real egg whites instead of the powder.
To make royal icing, start by whisking the egg powder and lemon juice until frothy. Add in the sieved powdered sugar and mix well. The consistency should be like wallpaper paste. If it’s too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.
The easiest way to decorate gingerbread cookies is by placing royal icing in a piping bag. Cut a very small hole in the top of the bag then proceed to decorate. I recommend practising on a baking sheet before icing the gingerbread cookies.
Here’s how I decorate my favourite snowflake gingerbread cookies:
Fun ideas for decorating gingerbread cookies:
- Use royal icing to ‘draw’ on the cookies
- Add sprinkles for buttons, eyes or nose
- Use edible glitter for a more over the top look
- Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cookies
- Add candy or dip in chocolate
How to store
These gingerbread cookies without molasses will stay fresh for up to 1 week at room temperature. To store, place in a ziploc bag or airtight container and keep in a dry place at room temperature.
About Cookies for Kids’ Cancer
This post was made in support of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in the USA. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is dedicated to funding research for new, innovative, and less-toxic treatments for childhood cancer. Since 2008, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer has granted nearly $17 million to paediatric cancer research in the form of 100+ research grants to leading paediatric cancer centres across the country.
Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is in a matching window with their friends at OXO, who will be matching every dollar raised through the end of 2021, up to $100,000. Whatever money we raise will automatically double on our fundraising page!
Any little helps, so if you’d like to support this wonderful cause, please visit the Sweetest Season fundraising page.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, absolutely! Gingerbread cookies can still be made without using molasses and it’s much easier that you’d think! See my recipe to find out how to make them.
These gingerbread cookies without molasses with stay fresh for up to 1 week at room temperature.
Yes, these cookies are suitable for freezing. Once the cookies are completely cooled, place in an airtight container and freeze for up to 1 month.
Gingerbread dough is great for freezing if you want to always have a stash at hand. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, then freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, leave in the fridge overnight.
These gingerbread cookies are dry, and although they don’t grow mould or taste rotten, they can go hard. And let’s be honest, no one likes extra-hard cookies!
Gingerbread cookies are ready when they look slightly darker in colour and appear to be dry. When you press the cookie gently, they will still be quite soft like a sponge. The best way is to test 1-2 cookies before baking a full batch, then letting them cool down for 20 minutes. Afterwards, adjust your baking time accordingly.
If you enjoyed this recipe, you will love these too:
If you’ve tried this recipe out, please don’t forget to rate and comment on this recipe. I love hearing from you, so feel free to reach out to me on social media as well and tag me in your posts!
Gingerbread Cookies Without Molasses
- Hand or stand mixer
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened (80 grams)
- ⅔ cup dark brown sugar, packed (100 grams)
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup (80 grams)
- 1 medium egg, room temperature
- 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour (220 grams)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda (3 grams)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder
- ¼ teaspoon allspice powder
- 1 zest half orange
- 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar (150 grams)
- ½ teaspoon egg white powder
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Beat the butter for until creamy, for about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup and beat on high speed until fluffy and smooth.
- Beat in the egg and orange zest until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.
- Separately, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Whisk well to combine, then add into the butter mixture.
- Mix everything on low speed until combined into a sticky dough.
- Place the dough into plastic wrap and flatten it into a disc. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
- Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out the cookie dough to ¼ inch thickness. When rolling, move the pin left to right, then up and down to prevent cracking of the dough.
- Cut the dough into the desired shape, then place on the baking tray about 1 inch apart.
- Bake for 9-10 minutes, then let the cookies cool down on the baking tray for 10minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until completely cold.
- To make royal icing, mix the meringue powder with lemon juice. Add in the powdered sugar and mix until you get a paste. If too thick, add 1-2 drops of lemon juice. Decorate the cookies as desired, then let dry for at least 2-3 hours.
- I recommend using a kitchen scale in grams for more accuracy. The cups used for the conversion are standard US customary cups (1 cup flour = 136g). There are many different types of cups across the globe, which is why I strongly recommend using grams instead.
- Nutritional value is estimative and it is calculated per 1 plain cookie, without royal icing.