gluten-free soft molasses cookies

Every Christmas, my mother made batches of soft molasses cookies with sweet vanilla frosting on top. Talk about sugarplum fairies — these were the cookies of my dreams.

You can make a chocolate chip cookie all year long and still love it. But there’s something to be said for pulling out a cookie recipe once a year, waiting 11 long months to taste the magic dance of molasses and ginger again. Those cookies my mother made were worth it.

That cookie you see? It’s not my mother’s cookie.

For years, I’ve been wanting to convert that cookie, which was my grandmother’s recipe. My grandmother wasn’t much of a baker — in fact, I don’t remember her making a single thing — but my mother used to pull out a 3x5 card every December and make her mother’s recipe written in spidery light blue ink. It must have been from a magazine. Or maybe my grandmother’s mother? I don’t know where that recipe came from but it made delicious cookies.

However, my mother can’t find the recipe. The other day she told me, “I know it’s in a recipe tin, somewhere in the studio.” Ironically for me, the tin was an advertisement for Shredded Wheat. (I remember it well.) Once again, I couldn’t make that cookie.

So I made up my own.

 

I probably didn’t need another Christmas cookie on this site. After all, we have plenty of holiday cookies for you already:

Black and White Cookies

Cannoli

Coconut Sugar Cookies

Date-Walnut Bars

Fig Cookies

Gingerbread Men

Ginger Lemon Bars

Graham Crackers

Jam Tart Cookies

Lemon-Pecan Biscotti

Madeleines

Mexican Wedding Cookies 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oreos

Pine Nut Cookies

Pistachio-Cranberry Cookies

Quinoa Cookies

Roll-Out Sugar Cookies

Rugelach

Shortbread (three ways)

Snickerdoodles

Spicy Ginger Cookies

Spritz Cookies 

World Peace Cookies

 

 

With all these cookies, no one could go hungry. We love all of those treats we made in the past. We’ll be making some again this December.

And here’s an interesting dilemma I’ve been facing lately: how to convert my own cookies.

You see, until this year, I made all my gluten-free baked goods with xanthan and guar gum. As I have written about before, I can only take those gums in small doses now. Most of the time, I turn them down. I’m certainly not going to buy bags of them just to make holiday cookies. However, I want my rolled-out sugar cookies too. What to do?

Luckily, it’s easy. I’ve been playing for the past few weeks, and I can give you a good answer.

If you see 1 tablespoon of gums in a recipe (2 teaspoons of xanthan + 1 teaspoon of guar gum, for example), simply replace that with 1 tablespoon of ground chia, ground flaxseed, or psyllium husk.

That’s it.

Xanthan and guar gum suck up water in a baked good. Since those recipes were created with xanthan and guar, if you simply take them out, the batter will be too wet. If you are a confident baker, you can throw in a little more flour until the cookie dough feels right. If not, then add chia, flaxseed, or psyllium. You don’t even have to make slurries out of them. Just toss in 1 tablespoon of chia as a dry ingredient.

As far as I can tell, they work almost interchangeably. Chia leaves dark flecks so  you might not like it in a sugar cookie. Golden flax and psyllium blend in. That might influence your decision. Or, you might just use whatever you have in the house.

(Lately, I’ve been grinding up a big batch of chia seeds in the spice grinder once a week then keeping the ground chia in the refrigerator for easy use throughout the week.)

Better news yet? Every baked good I have made without xanthan gum or guar gum is better for its absence.

So take a look at those old recipes and adapt. No need to lose them. Just play.

Still, even with all those good recipes for holiday cookies, I wanted my soft molasses cookies.

Luckily, it’s time again for the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally. If you haven’t joined our rally yet, you should know that the GF Ratio Rally is a band of bakers around the world who are fascinated with baking and the science of it all. Each month, we choose a shared baked good, figure out the ratio, and make our own variations, gluten-free. (This month, the rally was hosted by Caroline at the G-Spot Revolution.)

The classic ratio for simple cookies is this:

1 part sugar
2 parts fat
3 parts flours

Now, here is what you must understand: this does not work in cups. As I have written before, cups are miserably inaccurate. The ratios only work in ounces or grams, in weight.

If you think in ounces, this seems simpler:

2 ounces sugar
4 ounces fat
6 ounces flours

However, if you do this in grams, the baking will be even more precise:

60 grams sugar
120 grams fat
180 grams flours

A recipe created from this ratio makes 1 dozen cookies. If you want more, as we do during the holidays to give away, or make larger cookies, then you need to multiply. Luckily, because you have done this in grams, it’s easy to double or triple these cookies. In the case of these soft molasses cookies, we have multiplied by 2.5.

So, if you want to make up your own cookie, you have to create a backbone before you begin putting on flesh. For this cookie, I chose

150 grams sugar

300 grams butter

450 grams flour

 

Work with this ratio and you can make any cookie you want. Want a lemon sugar cookie? Add lemon zest, a touch of lemon juice, baking powder, salt, and eggs. You have a lemon cookie. Want a chocolate peppermint cookie? Add peppermint extract, cocoa powder, plus the baking powder, salt, and eggs. Do you see how it works? Make a structure that works and then finish it with your own flavors.

Suddenly, you’re no longer making your grandmother’s cookies. You’re making your own. But you know those cookies work because you are basing them on a ratio that has been used for centuries, by bakers around the world, whether or not they were using gluten.

And these molasses cookies? They are different than the ones my mother made. I think they might be better, at least for my taste. With three kinds of ginger, big dollops of molasses, and flours I can eat safely? These are the ones I’ll be eating this season.

Mostly, it makes me happy to think that someday Lu will remember these cookies fondly as the ones her mama made every December.

Want to check out the other cookies that came from the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally? Of course you do!

Amanda | Gluten Free Maui | Simple Shortbread
Amie Valpone | The Healthy Apple | Grapefruit Sugar Cookies
Brooke | B & the boy! | Candy Cane Shortbread
Caleigh | Gluten Free[k] | Mulled Spice Cookies
Caneel | Mama Me Gluten Free | Cardamom Date Cookies
charissa | zest bakery | Coconut Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Claire | Gluten Freedom | Chai Latte Cashew Cookies
Erin | The Sensitive Epicure | Spritz Cookies with Jam
gretchen | kumquat | Classic Sugar Cookies
Irvin | Eat the Love | Apple Brown Butter Bay Leaf Spice Cookies
Jean | Gluten Free Doctor Recipes | Reindeer Cookies
Jenn | Jenn Cuisine | Basler Brunsli
Jonathan| The Canary Files | Vegan Salted Oatmeal Cherry Cookies
Karen | Cooking Gluten Free! | Mexican Wedding Cakes
Lisa from Gluten Free Canteen | Molasses Rum Raisin Cookies
Mary Fran | frannycakes | Pinwheel Cookies
Meaghan | The Wicked Good Vegan | Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Meredith | Gluten Free Betty | Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
Morri | Meals With Morri| Stevia Sweetened & Grain-Free Thumbprint Cookies with Apricot Preserves
Pete & Kelli | No Gluten, No Problem| Belgian Speculaas Cookies
Rachel | The Crispy Cook | Melomakarona
Shauna | Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef | Soft Molasses Cookies
Silvana Nardone | Silvana’s Kitchen |Old-School Italian Jam-Filled Hazelnut Cookies
T.R. | No One Likes Crumbley Cookies | Cinnamon Lemon Cookies
Tara | A Baking Life | Walnut Shortbread

GINGERY SOFT MOLASSES COOKIES

These spicy, gingery soft molasses cookies will probably be the taste of this holiday season for me. Several friends tried them yesterday and declared them the best molasses cookie they have ever eaten. “And I don’t even like molasses cookies!” (One of them nearly fought the other one for a cookie!) There are several secrets to this cookie, apart from following the baking ratio for a good cookie. 

Molasses. People, this is a molasses cookie. Don’t shy away from the dark stuff. Too many molasses cookies have only the faintest hint of dark unsulphured molasses through the sheen of sweetness. This cookie is laden with molasses, made better by it. There’s no hiding it here. These cookies are only faintly sweet for all that darkness, so if you want more sweetness, think about icing them. 

Also, ginger. I’m a ginger fiend. Clearly, Lu is becoming one too because she chose these cookies over two other kinds offered. Here we used every kind of ginger in the kitchen: powdered, fresh grated, and crystallized. If you want a milder cookie, you could leave out the grated and crystallized ginger. But really, why? 

I’ve specified the grams of flour here, rather than the specific flours, because we know so many of you like to use your own mix of flours. It should work, no matter what kind of flours you have in your kitchen when you make these. However, if you want to know what we used? Sorghum, potato starch, sweet rice, and teff, in equal portions. Also, some of the cookies we baked collapsed just a bit in the center, as though a small child had touched each of them. If you are worried about that, add a teaspoon of psyllium or ground chia into the batter to add more structure. 

As hard as it is to wait, this dough is too soft and sticky to bake it immediately after the mixer turns off. Refrigerate it overnight. Trust us. 

Enjoy. 

450 grams gluten-free flours
2 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground chia or psyllium husk (optional)
300 grams butter, at room temperature
150 grams sugar
170 grams molasses
2 tablespoons fresh ginger
2 eggs
100 grams crystallized ginger, cut into small pieces
½ cup raw sugar

Combining the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. (If you are using chia or psyllium, throw it in here too.) Whisk all the ingredients together until they are one color. Set aside.

Creaming the butter and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the butter and sugar together until they are fluffy and creamy. With the mixer running, add the molasses, then the fresh ginger. Add one egg at a time, mixing between each egg, until both are fully incorporated into the batter.

Finishing the batter. Add the dry ingredients slowly, about ¼ of the volume at a time. When the flour has completely disappeared into the batter, fold the crystallized ginger into the batter with a rubber spatula.

Refrigerating the dough. Refrigerate the dough overnight.

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Scoop some dough — about 45 grams’ worth— out of the bowl and roll it into a smooth ball. Roll the ball of dough in the raw sugar to coat. Put the ball of dough onto the baking sheet. Gently, press the ball down with the palm of your hand until it’s a small chubby disk. Keeping the balls of dough at least 2 inches apart, continue with the dough until the baking sheet is filled.

Bake the cookies until the edges are crisp and the middle of the cookies is lightly firm without being crisp, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and let the cookies rest on the tray for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack. Refrain from eating them until they are cool to the touch.

Makes about 2 ½ dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookie you make.

59 comments on “gluten-free soft molasses cookies

  1. Jean Layton

    Did every woman of a certain age keep her recipes on 3x5 cards written in blue ink?
    I have a dozen from Christopher’s Grandmom exactly like that, true treasures all.
    These molasses cookies will be on my cookie sheets next. Ed is a ginger fiend as well.

  2. charissa (zest bakery)

    for the record, you can never have too many cookie recipes. :)

    good tips on avoiding the gums. Still need to monkey around with those ingredients myself.

    so glad we were able to get together over thanksgiving. hope all is well.

  3. AmandaonMaui

    Is there an exact ratio for the eggs and baking powder as well? So many eggs per Xgrams of flour, so much baking powder per Xgrams of flour? Knowing that ratio would make improvisational cookie creation even easier.

  4. CatN

    I love molasses cookies! I’m stuck though. You’ve been saying to do ratios… And any flours will do… But don’t different flours have different properties? E.g. some suck up more moisture, some bake up grittier, etc.?? I tried my first gf baking attempt (chocolate cake) over thanksgiving… And I almost the in the towel after 6 different mixes of flours all gave me gritty resuts. I used a mix of potato starch, tapioca starch and sorghum (allergic to rice). Egg, dairy and soy allergy, too, so used flax seed. Any idea why the weird gritty texture?

    1. shauna

      Oh absolutely, Cathy. I’m tinkering right now with all the flours and figuring out how they absorb water. It’s a real science. I wanted to give people the freedom to play, especially because I am hearing from so many people that they want to use mixes or pre-made flours for the holiday season. But for you, I’m betting you might have too much flax seed that is not finely ground enough. Start there.

  5. Beth R.

    so Shauna, if you use the cookie base, and then say, add the rest of your ingredients from your rolled sugar cookie recipe, would that make a better cookie???

    1. shauna

      our rolled sugar cookie is based on a Joy of Cooking recipe, which used the correct ratio. you’ll find that recipes that work are all based on that ratio!

  6. lauren@spicedplate

    Shauna, if I could hug you right now, I would! I’ve been trying to come up with a molasses cookie that looks like the one my mom and I made when I was younger — and yours look exactly like them, with the perfect texture. I’m also asking for a scale for Christmas — this is printed out and put in my “to make” folder as I type this…I can’t wait to try it! Especially since I’m a ginger-fanatic…oh I’m so excited!

  7. Gabby @ Gabby's Gluten-Free

    Oh, these look divine. I just made some molasses drop cookies last week but I may need to whip up a batch of these soon. Ginger and molasses together make me swoon!

    I’m working on converting my cookie recipes sans gums as well. So far, I have had good results with the flax or chia but it is a bit tricky getting the correct amount.

  8. Julie

    I remember that you became intolerant to eggs recently as well. How do you subsitutute for eggs? I frequently use flaxseed slurry and mashed bananas but I would be hesitant to put too much flax…?

  9. gluten free gift

    You’ve just solved a Christmas gift dilemma!! My g intolerant pal is also a fan of soft cookies — and we are both NUTS for ginger.… now I’m going to design some kind of fancy packaging to make them super festive.… grazie!! claudine

  10. Caneel

    These look delicious, Shauna! I’ve been wanting to try the ground chia. I use whole chia (Salba) all the time, but haven’t used it ground yet. I’ve been using the ground flax slurry for a lot of things, but I’m betting the chia would work even better holding things together. I’m going to try it now, thank you!

  11. Sandy Morris

    Shauna, if I need a go-to place to get foolproof information and recipes all I have to do is come here! Thank you once again for providing us with another recipe we can’t live without! I am making these today as well as perhaps your roll-out sugar cookies! Those other Ratio Rally recipes look good too! Good thing it’s the holidays!

  12. Kate

    YOU READ MY MIND!!! I’ve been SEARCHING allllllll week for a recipe for molasses cookies in GRAMS without crazy ingredients that I can’t find here in France! MERCI BEAUCOUP!!!!

      1. Cindy

        Hi Kate,
        Where are you getting your molasses in France? I get my American stuff from The Real McCoy in Paris 7th, a little far from my place and pricey! Also have you found psyllium husks or chia somewhere?
        Thanks,
        Cindy
        Ivry-sur-Seine

  13. Amy

    I love molasses and ginger. I can taste these cookies already. AWESOME. Before going GF, I used to love the Flying Biscuit molasses cookies and now will have a replacement. Thank you.

  14. Mary

    I used to make salt dough for my kids. Nice to see that it also works with GF flours. I also added a bit of oil to the dough to give it a nicer feel in the hands. I think today is a good day to make molasses cookies. Thank you

  15. janet traub

    Embarrassing question…if you were using regular flour (not GF) how might you change the proportions? Is there a recipe that you can point me to?

    I’m new to converting grams to cups. Does anyone have a favorite site? Using this one (http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/cup-to-gram-conversions/detail.aspx) does this look correct? The amounts of flour and crystalized ginger look a little bit high:

    450 grams gluten-free flours = 2 cups flour ???
    300 grams butter, at room temperature = 1 and 1/2 sticks of butter
    150 grams sugar = 3/4 cups sugar
    170 grams molasses = 1/2 cups molasses
    100 grams crystallized ginger, cut into small pieces = 1/2 cup crystal ginger ???

    thank you!

    1. shauna

      Janet, it doesn’t translate easily to cups, particularly the flours. Each of the flours weighs a different amount. The other amounts will work, and yes, you can use less crystallized ginger if you want! But the flours really only work with grams. See the post on this site called Why We Don’t Use Cups Anymore.

  16. Jonathan

    Soft, heartwarming, gingery goodness. Is there any way to go wrong when all those things come together? I am making these cookies tomorrow for my family’s visit. Apparently the love of ginger is hereditary. :)

  17. Carol

    I love baking by weight .… thanks to you. I understand using the ‘backbone’ ratios but how can I know how many eggs and how much baking soda and/or powder to add? Please take us the next step in creating recipes.

    ps You forgot to mention my favorite Christmas cookie in your list … Rosemary’s cookies.

  18. Molly Kay

    omgoodness, these are the kinds of cookies that always make me want to cheat. Now I don’t have to.

    I’ll be making these with my fiance’s family for Christmas. I can’t wait!

  19. Jen

    Thanks so much for this great post and being so open and helpful with your recipes and experiences. You are helping me keeping a family Christmas baking tradition alive for me and my son, who has an intenae dermatological response to gluten.

  20. Kat

    Shauna, thank you for sharing this recipe. I plan to give it a try! The December issue of Bon Appetit has a recipe for Chewy Ginger Cookies. It includes some freshly ground black pepper. Not sure if the recipe you remember had pepper, but a good friend of mine also makes ginger cookies from an old recipe in her family that includes black pepper.

  21. Steph

    Have you thought of getting hold of white chia seeds instead of black ones? We can get both pretty easily here in Australia. White don’t show up like the black ones do.

    Now I just have to decide which of these recipes to try first; or whether I should try getting creative :)

  22. Heather

    Shauna,
    how did you factor in the moisture from the molasses as you tinkered with the ratio? Most molasses cookies have such a dinky amount of molasses!
    I grew up with a wonderful gingerbread cookie that heats equal parts molasses & sugar with a few tablespoons of butter & milk, then gets mixed together with the dry ingredients. It’s a very different method and it makes a more savory cookie. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else. I’m curious as to how the chemistry works.

  23. Julia Sarver

    These look ah-mazing. I am not much of a baker anymore (too impatient to try and try again!) but I am definitely making these! I love ginger molasses cookies and have been missing them for years. Thanks, Shauna!

  24. laura

    i made these this weekend– wow! so good! i added 1/4 tsp of cayenne and sprinkled sea salt on top for even more punch.

    shauna– thank you so much for all your efforts, especially in finding a good substitute for the gums. i’ve been hesitant to try some of your earlier recipes, but now i know just what to do!

  25. Mattie

    I am making these right now and I can’t stop eating as soon as they cool — my new favorite! Thanks so much

  26. Robin Sturm

    Hi Shauna.

    I am SO excited to try these. Ginger molasses are probably my favorite, especially with coffee!
    I am brand new to GF and trying to learn… there is SO much info!
    I’ve been reading about the wonders of xanthan gum, but then see your comments about trying to avoid it. I don’t know if I just missed reading your reasons…
    can you explain why please?

    thanks! robin

  27. dorothy

    I’m actually all welled up, thinking that you took the time to share all that you have learned with us and that I can actually make gf Christmas cookies for my kids and I. Thank you.

    1. Cindy

      Ditto. My diet would be so dreary without you gf food bloggers! I’d be almost half-dreading holidays. I can hardly express my appreciation, just thank you so much.

  28. Rosie

    Hi Shauna

    How long will the cookies last in an air tight container? I would like to give as Christmas presents.

    Thanks Rosie

  29. Cindy

    I asked for scales for Xmas, but until then I kindof made my own tame and volume-measured version based on crossing your recipe with Irvin Lin’s snickerdoodles which I made and loved. It worked out great!! I adore the flour mix I used for both recipes: equal parts sorghum, brown rice and brown millet plus one half part tapioca (by volume, packing).
    Cindy

  30. heather

    I made these and they didn’t turn out. They spread out all over the pan and didn’t raise. What did I do wrong? Any tips?

    1. sunny

      I had the same problem. I followed the directions exactly and measured in grams–the only differences were that I made 1/2 the recipe, and I used a different flour mix. I refrigerated the dough overnight, and it was firm and easy to work with. I wanted a slightly smaller cookie, so I used 30-35g of dough per cookie. They spread to about 4 inches (!) and were very flat, and the raw sugar seemed to sink into the cookie, so they were missing that sparkle and crunch. They did taste great (which is most important!), but I’d love to figure out how to get them to not spread so much.

    2. Heather

      I didn’t change anything and did refrigerate them over night. Could mixing something too long make them not work out?

      1. Lisa

        Thanks! Off to make the batter to sit overnight. Can’t wait to bake them up tomorrow!! PS — you can ignore the Twitter I just sent you with the same question :) I was desperate.

  31. Lisa

    Baked up a batch of these tonight — yum (even the batter was tasty)! 20 grams of dough worked out to a perfect baked size. I also added tart dried cherries and chunks of dark, high quality chocolate. Even though I read the ginger paragraph I wimped out on the quantity of fresh — not next time!
    These will definitely be a staple!
    Thanks Shauna!

  32. Kelly

    Uh oh, I’m afraid I might have screwed these up. The dough is chilling in my refrigerator right now waiting to be baked when I get home from work. BUT, I see someone wrote above that 300 grams butter = 1 1/2 sticks. I used my kitchen scale to weigh the butter and it was a little more than 2 1/2 sticks! That seemed like a lot, but I went with the weight like you always encourage us to do :) Did I use WAY too much butter? I hope they come out OK!
    xoxo

  33. Claire Arpasi

    Hi Shauna, I’m interested in joining the Ratio Rally. When you have a moment, will you please send me information on how to join in? Thanks, Claire Arpsi (DCArpasi@gmail.com)

  34. Pamela

    what is the recipe for the gluten free flour mix
    thanks, can’t wait to get baking

  35. Erin Putnam

    Hi Shauna!

    This recipe is fab, I already love it, but I was wondering if you could help me. My oven is terrible. TERRIBLE. 350 is apparently more like 300, and everything cooks unevenly (my poor bacon ends up being raw at one end while crunchy and shriveled at the other). Our apartment has been giving up appliance trouble since day 1. I left the cookies in for 14 minutes, but they still looked nearly raw inside, and when I poked the top with a fork the area around the holes stayed compressed. I ended up overcooking the first sheet after I put them back in the oven. Not burned, just overcooked and hard. The others are better, but can you give me some cues to look for as to when the cookies are done? Internal texture, firmness, etc because I need to take them out a few at a time rather than just remove the whole sheet. Thanks!

    Your blog has made my life of gluten intolerance bearable.

    ~Erin

  36. easy cookie recipes

    Made this for my nieces and was almost disappointed when they found it too ‘dark’. One cookie was all it took for them to change their minds. Didn’t even have to mention it was gluten free. Very easy recipe to follow. Great job.

  37. Emily

    Hi there,

    I was recently diagnosed with IbS and cannot have molasses. Do you have any thought on if maple syrup or even light corn syrup could be substituted?

    Thanks!

    Emily

  38. SusanS

    Hi Shauna!
    Have recently switched to GF to see if it is the root of some goofy neurological stuff so I am so grateful for your site! Now it is a cold rainy Portland day and I want molasses cookies, but I am a low-sweetener person. Normal amounts are too much for me. In general how well do the recipes work if you halve the sugar? I am happy to add more flax or nuts, etc…
    Any ideas? Thanks!!

  39. Jessica

    Hello! I interpreted this recipe quite liberally to suite my own dietary/pantry constraints. First of all I halved the ingredient amounts and replaced the one egg with a flax egg. I used oat and almond meal instead of a flour blend with any real starch to it and I am thinking that is why my cookies were flat and crispy. Another cause for the flatness might be my substitution of two tablespoons of brown rice syrup for the sugar (a potential low sweetener fix for other readers). Finally, I was unable to track down crystallized ginger in southwest Wichita so I had to omit it. Although I did some freestyling on this recipe and they weren’t quite as pretty as the picture, they still received rave reviews from my family (and my tummy).