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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 Cake, 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

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5 from 3 reviews

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


  • 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)


  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

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Ginnifer Heard says:


  2. Amy says:

    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. Alex Overhiser says:

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

      1. Amy says:

        Thank you so much!

  3. MariB says:

    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

  4. Sue says:

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

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      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!

  5. Molly says:


  6. Molly says:

    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.

  7. David Norton says:

    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.

    1. Sonja says:

      Haha! Good question; no we just have this version! Have you tried it? It’s not quite the same but still delicious :)

      1. David Norton says:

        We did Sonja, thank you, it was very good! Just a little different than she remembered.

        1. Sonja says:

          Haha yes, it’s not too close! We’ll have to try to do a copycat recipe sometime!

  8. Whitney says:

    sonja these are divine, my darling. xoxo

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