This delicious Gingerbread Cookies Recipe Without Molasses is a favorite festive treat for our family to bake in December!
Whether you don’t usually keep it or you’ve run out of molasses, this is an excellent recipe that has all the traditional flavors of gingerbread. Make them soft and chewy or crispy and snappy - you choose.
Table of Contents
❤️ Why you will love this recipe
- Holiday Magic - Not only is this our family’s favorite gingerbread cookies recipe without molasses, but it’s Santa’s, too - and I hope it will soon be yours! I’m sure there’s some kind of holiday magic created by the winning combination of brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Make Ahead - You can make the cookie dough ahead of time; the flavor improves in the refrigerator, and it keeps well in the freezer. Why not keep a batch in the freezer so you can whip up some classic gingerbread cookies super-quickly?
- Easy to Find Ingredients - Just like my Orange Cranberry Biscotti, most of the ingredients for these easy gingerbread cookies are things you probably already have in the kitchen, or if not, they’re very easy to find at your local store.
- Fun - Gingerbread men (and women!) are fun to decorate and you can give them as cute gifts to colleagues, neighbors, teachers, and your nonna will love them too. Have a look in the ‘Tips’ section for suggestions about icing and decorating.
For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card bottom of the page.
- Flour - I use regular all purpose (ie, plain) flour. There are many different types of flour - including almond flour - but I have found that for this gingerbread cookie recipe without molasses, regular flour works best.
- Dark brown sugar - Dark brown sugar is simply white sugar with molasses added to give the dark color and a deeper depth of flavor so it’s perfect for this recipe.
- Honey - Try to use dark honey, if you have it. The lighter the honey you use, the lighter the dough for this gingerbread cookies recipe without molasses will be. Whether you use light or dark honey, your cookies will still be absolutely delicious - I promise.
- Butter - Unsalted, please! We will add a little salt later on - it helps to bring out the flavors of the other ingredients - but we don’t want too much, so no salt in the butter. If you are going to be making the cookies by hand (that is, not using an electric beater), you'll room temperature butter the butter. Of course, if you’re using an electric beater, cooler butter will be fine.
- Egg - Just one egg in this recipe. I always prefer to use a large, free range egg, but you should use whatever you have readily available in your pantry.
- Ginger - I often encourage you to use fresh ingredients, but in this case, dried and powdered ginger is exactly what’s needed.
- Cinnamon - Besides being delicious, did you know that cinnamon contains antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects? It’s also rumoured to be good at relieving stress. Certainly having a gingerbread cookie helps me to relax!
- Cloves - Cloves are an aromatic spice with a subtly sweet flavor - perfect in gingerbread without molasses. Cloves can be strong tasting, which is why we just use a little.
- Nutmeg - Another fragrant spice - dried and powdered - which combines beautifully with cinnamon and cloves. Your taste buds will thank you!
- Baking powder - Used here as a leavening agent to give our cookies a bit of ‘lift’. It will be activated when mixed with wet ingredients but gets a second activation in the heat of the oven.
- Baking soda - Although there is already some baking soda in baking powder, our recipe needs a little extra.
- Salt - Just a quarter of a teaspoon of salt, please! Salt is a flavor enhancer when used in correct quantities.
Whisk (or sieve) together the all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground spices (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg).
Beat together butter, brown sugar and egg until well combined and lightened in color. Scrape down the sides. Add honey and mix on medium speed until all ingredients are well combined.
Add the dry ingredients then mix on low speed until completely incorporated.
Scrape the dough out onto plastic wrap. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight or for up to 5 days. Or freeze for up to 3 months. Just remember to return the dough to cool room temperature before using.
Preheat your oven to 375ºF/ 190ºC and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough to a ¼ inch thick between two sheets of non stick parchment paper then cut out with your desired cutter - of course, gingerbread men are my favorite!
Transfer your cookies to the prepared baking sheet, spaced a little bit apart because they will spread somewhat. Bake for 8-11 minutes - 8 minutes for softer cookies, and closer to 11 minutes if you prefer your cookies to be a little more crispy.
Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool until they are firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Decorate as you like. Read all my decorating tips below together with variations.
Hint: Divide the dough in half to make rolling our a little easier. Dough scrapes can be pressed together and rolled out again to cut more shapes. This dough is very forgiving.
- Dark Brown Sugar - Use light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar. The flavor will be a little more delicate but still delicious
- Unsalted Butter - Substitute salted butter but be sure to leave out the added salt in the recipe.
- Ground Spices - Instead of adding separate spices substitute the ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg for the equivalent amount of your favorite gingerbread spice mix or lebkuchen spice.
If you don’t have the time to pipe icing and decorate the cookies, these variations are still tasty and festive!
- Plain - This gingerbread cookies recipe without molasses is so delicious that you can just enjoy them plain without any decorating. Our family loves dunking plain gingerbread cookies in hot chocolate or coffee.
- Powdered Sugar - Alternatively but still super easy, dust the gingerbread cookies with powdered sugar for a touch of sweetness without all the effort of decorating.
- Chocolate Dipped - Dip half or more of the cookies in melted chocolate. Put the chocolate dipped gingerbread cookies on a lined baking sheet until the chocolate has set.
- Glazed - As soon as the come out of the oven, brush the cookies with a simple glaze of 1 cup powdered sugar combined with 2 tablespoons of water. This creates a topping similar to German gingerbread cookies or lebkuchen cookies.
Be sure to try my panforte recipe. It’s an easy Italian holiday favorite.
You’ll need the usual baking equipment of bowls, measuring cups and spoons or a set of scales. I like to use an electric mixer to make it easy but you can use a wooden spoon and some muscle power to beat the mixture instead.
What you will need is something for rolling out the dough like a rolling pin. But if you don’t have one use an empty wine bottle or similar. My mother used to use an empty milk bottle.
Gingerbread people cookie cutters are handy and look cute. However use whatever cookie cutter you’ve got or even use a glass to cut out rounds.
This gingerbread cookies recipe without molasses is very versatile when it comes to storage and making in advance. Baked and decorated cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to a week at room temperature.
You can make the cookie dough and freeze it safely for up to three months. Just remember to thaw the dough back to cool room temperature before rolling, cutting, and baking.
These cookies can also be frozen for up to 45 days once baked and iced. Simply allow the decoration to set completely, then layer the cookies in an airtight container with waxed paper or non stick parchment paper between the layers. Defrost in the container.
Tips for Success
The dough for this gingerbread cookies recipe without molasses is best made ahead of time - it gives the spices in the dough a chance to develop and deepen. You can make the dough and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days before you need to bake the cookies. Alternatively, the dough will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
I use an electric beater, but if you don’t have one or if you prefer to beat by hand, you will need to soften the butter to room temperature.
If you prefer soft cookies, remove them from the oven at around 8 or 9 minutes - just when the cookies are dry on top and have only just begun to color. If you prefer crispy cookies, leave them in the oven for the full 11 minutes. Watch them closely, in case they start to burn.
When it comes time to decorate the cookies, you have a few different options. The first option is to make royal icing and use your cookie cutter to shape it the same way and size as your cookie. You can find the royal icing recipe in Snowflake Cookies recipe. You can use royal icing together with a #3 or #4 tube and disposable bag, if you prefer, or make a homemade icing bag using parchment paper. There are many videos on how to make a homemade icing bag on the internet.
The second icing option is to make your own icing. 1 cup icing sugar, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, 1-3 tablespoons water - mix all ingredients together until a smooth consistency is achieved. Then, when the cookies have cooled, spoon the icing into squeeze bottles to make the decorating process easier. This icing won’t set hard but is super delicious!
And lastly and probably my fav option, most supermarkets sell cookie icing or writing icing in ready to use tubes or pouches. I love using the store bought icing pens that set hard - I find it to be the easiest way.
Molasses does add a bold flavor, chewiness and a little hint of bitterness to most gingerbread cookie recipes. However, while it is important but can be substituted without too much difference in the cookie flavor and texture. Using dark honey in this gingerbread cookies recipe without molasses produces cookies that are very similar to a recipe that uses molasses.
Yes! Maple syrup can also be used instead of molasses or the honey in this gingerbread cookies recipe without molasses. Gingerbread cookies made with maple syrup will be milder in flavor than those made with dark honey or molasses.
The flavor of molasses is mimicked by using brown sugar in combination with a liquid sweetener. I prefer dark brown sugar and dark honey combinations. However, you could substitute these ingredients in this gingerbread cookies recipes without molasses with light brown sugar and light honey or maple syrup.
If you’re looking for some other festive treats, have a look at my delicious Italian butter cookies recipe - they taste as good as they look!
Alternatively, have you tried my chocolate chip cookies with pecans? They are delicious warm cookies with gooey chocolate and toasty pecans - yum!
I would love to hear how you go making my Gingerbread Cookies recipe without molasses - and especially which option you choose to decorate them. Please leave me a message below.
Made this recipe?
Let me know if you liked it by leaving a ★★★★★ star rating and a review below. Please share a photo of your creation by tagging me on Instagram @marcellina.in.cucina!
Gingerbread Cookies Without Molasses Recipe
- 3 ¼ cups (406 grams) all purpose (plain) flour plus extra for rolling
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoons baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoons cloves
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar or light brown sugar
- 1 egg
- ½ cup dark honey or regular honey
- Whisk (or sieve) all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg.
- In an electric mixer, beat together butter, brown sugar and egg until well combined and lightened in color. Scrape down the sides.
- Add honey and mix on medium speed until well combined.
- Add dry ingredients then mix on low speed until completely incorporated.
- Scrape the dough out onto plastic wrap. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight or for up to 5 days. Or freeze for 3 months.
- Return the dough to cool room temperature before using.
- Preheat oven to 375ºF/190ºC. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Divide the dough in half.
- Place one half of the dough on a lightly floured surface.
- Dust with a little flour over the dough and on the rolling pin. Alternatively roll out between two sheets of non-stick parchment paper that has been dusted with flour.
- Roll dough to a ¼ inch (or just under ½ cm) thick then cut out with your desired cutter - of course, gingerbread men are my fav!
- Press any scrapes of dough onto the remaining half and repeat rolling and cutting.
- Continue pressing scrapes of dough together, rolling and cutting until all the dough is used up.
- Transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet, spaced a little bit apart.
- Bake for 8-11 minutes - 8 minutes for softer cookies or longer for more crispy cookies.
- Remove cookies and allow to cool until they are firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Decorate as you like. Read my tips below and more thorough instructions in the post.
- Make the dough for this gingerbread cookies recipe without molasses ahead of time. This will give the spices time to develop and deepen plus firm up the dough so that it's easier to roll out.
- I prefer an electric mixer to make this gingerbread cookie recipe. However, you can also use just a wooden spoon and a bowl.
- The longer you bake the cookies the more crispy they will be. For soft cookies, bake for 8-9 minutes. For crispy cookies, bake for 10-11 minutes but watch carefully that they don't burn. Ovens vary so times may be different.
- To decorate -
- purchase cookie icing or writing icing in ready to use tubes or pouches from supermarkets.
- if you can't find icing pouches - make a simple icing of 1 cup icing sugar, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, 1-3 tablespoons water. Spoon this icing into small squeeze bottles to the decorating easier.
- alternatively use a #3 or #4 piping tube and disposable bag and royal icing which is made with powdered sugar and egg white (the recipe is in my Snowflake Cookies recipe.
Nutritional Information Per Serving
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.
This updated and improved recipe was first published on Marcellina in Cucina on 17 November, 2021.