These soft gingerbread cookies use almond butter to replace most of the butter, wheat flour for a few extra nutrients, and applesauce to keep them soft.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies | Gingerbread cookie recipe

Here it is: a recipe that’s been years in the making! Growing up outside of Minneapolis, my family used to take my sister and me to a Dayton’s holiday display at Christmas, a life-sized department store window display filled with animated characters from stories like Pinocchio or the Velveteen Rabbit. We would wait for hours to walk through, my sister and I waiting in expectation for the end so we could have huge, soft gingerbread cookies. Here’s our spin on this recipe: and it’s just as delightful as I remember!

Also try: Gingerbread Waffles, Gingerbread Syrup and a Gingerbread Martini

Soft Gingerbread Cookies | Gingerbread cookie recipe

How to make soft gingerbread cookies

Ever since childhood I’ve been on a quest for perfect soft gingerbread cookies: spicy, soft, and gooey. And I think (*hope*) we’ve finally got it! Since our recipes focus on healthy eating, we’ve also tried to keep these cookies a bit healthier than the standard: we’ve used almond butter to replace most of the butter, and thrown in some wheat flour a few extra nutrients. A bit of apple sauce helps keep them soft. And this gingerbread cookie recipe is finished with turbinado sugar instead of icing, which is a more “natural” sugar (plus it’s much easier than icing!).

We’ve found throughout the years that healthy cookies are, well, just not that good. Healthy cookies taste weird and leave you wanting someting more. But “healthier” cookies—like these soft gingerbread cookie recipe—while they’re not quite as healthy, they’re completely delicious and satisfying.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies | Gingerbread cookie recipe

Tips for making “healthier” Christmas cookies

  • Cookies do need fat, typically butter, to create that cookie-like texture. Omitting or replacing all the fat (with a substitute like apple sauce) usually lends for a cake-like texture, which is not altogether satisfying for a cookie. A good alternative is almond butter, which we’ve used in these gingerbread men: it’s a natural fat with plenty of nutrients and protein. We combined it with a small amount of butter, as well as a bit of applesauce to keep the cookies soft and moist, but not too much to become cake-y.
  • Cookies do need sugar, either refined or natural. We love cooking with natural sugars like honey or maple syrup, but have found they change the taste of a cookie more than sugar. For this cookie, we used a combination of brown sugar and molasses, with turbinado sugar (a less processed sugar) as the garnish. Medjool dates can also be used to add natural sweetness (like in our healthy buckeyes), but we find dates work best in no-bake cookies, not baked goods.
  • Baked cookies generally need a flour-like substance. Fat, sugar, and flour are generally frowned upon in the health food world, but if you want to make cookies, you’ve generally got to incorporate these ingredients. Alternatives include flourless cookies and using substitutes like oat flour. For these gingerbread cookies, we’ve used all-purpose flour with a bit of wheat flour for flavor and a small amount of health benefits. We’ve found that replacing white flour with up to ¼ wheat flour in baked goods works well, but adding more than ¼ wheat flour results in a dense, tough texture.
  • Make smaller portion sizes. We love to make mini-desserts; they’re not only cute, but give you less of everything while still feeling satisfied.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies with turbinado sugar | Gingerbread cookie recipe

Now, for some healthy cookie ideas! We’ve also teamed up with our friend Ashley over at Edible Perspective, who is a healthier cookie aficionado like ourselves. Here are a few of our combined ideas from our blogs:

This recipe is…

This soft gingerbread cookies are vegetarian.

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Soft Gingerbread Cookies


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
  • Yield: 25 to 35 1x

Description

These soft gingerbread cookies use almond butter to replace most of the butter, wheat flour for a few extra nutrients, and applesauce to keep them soft.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup wheat flour
  • Turbinado sugar (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, add 1 egg, ½ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup molasses, ¼ cup almond butter, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 2 tablespoons applesauce; vigorously whisk to thoroughly combine.
  2. To the wet ingredients, stir in 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 teaspoons allspice, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour, and ½ cup wheat flour until well combined. Turn out onto plastic wrap and form into a rough ball; cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour, or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. Flour a flat surface and a rolling pin, then roll out the dough ¼-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out gingerbread men, about 25-35 total. Place gingerbread men on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  5. Bake about 8 minutes, until puffed and slightly firmed. Let rest on the pan for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Store covered at room temperature for several days or freeze for several months.
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: soft gingerbread cookies

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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42 Comments

  1. Oh my word, love the photos, especially the last one! Too cute! Great tips for making “healthier” cookies! Thanks for asking me to collaborate on this with you. :) I’ve got to try making these gluten-free sometime.

  2. This is just what I’ve been looking for today – a healthier Christmas cookie recipe. I will try this over the weekend with my little boy. They look scrumptious. Thank you!

  3. I have been looking for the perfect soft gingerbread cookie for years . This is it. They have the perfect taste and texture; it is an incredible bonus that they are relatively low in fat and sugar. This is one for the family Christmas recipe box. Next time I make them will up the spice a bit. Thank you.

  4. These turned out amazingly delicious! Definitely going to make them yearly. The only thing that threw me off at first was their stickiness.. Had to flour countertops and rolling pin constantly and well, but once I figured that out, it went smoothly. Thank you for an amazing recipe!

  5. These cookies look so delicious! I will have to bake them soon. I love using coconut palm sugar. It tastes a little like brown sugar, but it’s completely unrefined and natural. Thanks for the recipe!

  6. Do you think it would be ok to still icing & decorate a soft gingerbread man? I thought it would be fun for the children at school and thought they would prefer them over the Hard break your teeth cookie. : )

    1. Lisa, I think this would be fantastic! Let us know if they work out — we’d love to see a photo of them decorated!

  7. I made these cookies tonight for a work party (and put them a little more in the “ish” category with some royal icing…), and they are delicious! You guys always come through with great recipes :) Thanks!

    1. Hi Rachel! I would not substitute for molasses here since molasses is an integral flavor in gingerbread! Thanks for asking!

    1. Hi Jess! We have not tried with a flax egg so can’t comment, but if you try it out and it works (or doesn’t!), let us know!

  8. hello, just wondering about substituting white flour with spelt flour. Also curious about the texture of the dough before refrigerating. Mine came out a bit runny. I used spelt flour with the same quantities you recommended. Thanks for the advice :)

    1. Maria — apologies for missing your comment here! We’ve never used spelt flour so unfortunately can’t speak to that. Our dough was pretty firm before refrigerating – did you make any substitutions (like spelt flour)?

  9. OH MY GOODNESS!!!! Sonja, I grew up and currently still live outside of Minneapolis and hold the tradition of visiting Dayton’s, now Macy’s, 8th floor and ate the same gingerbread cookies! Unfortunately this is it’s last year as I believe the store is closing. in 2017 :( But I’m so glad y’all created this recipe!

    1. No way!!! So glad to hear from a fellow Minnesotan! I think I will try to go this year when we’re home because I heard that too! :) Did you find this based on our latest podcast? I just talked about it, so I was thinking you were commenting on that but you may have found this online too. Either way, glad to connect!

  10. Hi, do you have a less-healthy version? My wife, a native Minnesotan, is trying in vain to recreate the Dayton’s/Macy’s recipe and nothing is as chewy.

  11. Looking forward to trying these today! Love your blog. Just FYI, the Pinterest link isn’t working – would love to browse that also when brainstorming some other kinds to try with my littles.

  12. Hi!
    Can I substitute regular butter for the almond butter? Also I don’t have applesauce on hand so what can I use instead?

    1. Good question! We think it would probably work to use butter for the almond butter, but we’ve never tried it. So do it at your own risk! For the 2 tablespoons applesauce, you could probably get away with mashed banana or canned pumpkin — it’s not a large amount. If you don’t have that, you could probably use Greek yogurt. Good luck!

  13. I just made them. 20 years later finally can make a gingerbread cookie that taste great. Delicious. Does not taste like healthier cookie. Thank you

  14. Hi, this recipe looks fantastic, but I’m not sure I can get almond butter here. Can I use all butter? And if so, should I adjust the amount? Thank you for your time and help😊. I’ve tried some of your other dessert recipes and everyone’s been a hit! Looking forward to making these gingerbread cookies 😊

    1. Hi! Any nut butter should work, also you we have recipes on the site if you want to make your own!

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