These gluten free molasses cookies are the perfect Christmas treat: packed full of flavour thanks to the addition of dark brown sugar, molasses and an abundance of spices, perfectly chewy, and super easy to make. Rolling them in granulated sugar before baking gives them a wonderful sparkle, making them extra festive. And you couldn’t possibly guess they’re gluten free!
These are better than gingerbread. There, I said it.
I genuinely love every single thing about these gluten free molasses cookies. Their complex flavour, built in layers of molasses, dark brown sugar and an abundance of spices – from cinnamon and nutmeg to ginger and cloves.
Their wonderfully chewy texture, which only gets better with time. As with most cookies, these get better the longer you keep them in a closed container (so you better make a big batch because they disappear ridiculously quickly).
However, if you like your cookies on the crisp side, you could bake them a bit longer – they will be wonderfully crisp on the day of baking. Just note that they will get chewy in the days afterwards, as they take on some of the ambient moisture.
Also, importantly, they don’t need to be decorated. Listen, I know that gingerbread cookies, prettily decorated with royal icing and whatnot, are cuter than cute – but I freely admit that I have very little patience for piping neat little rows and squiggles of icing onto cookies.
And if you’re anything like me in that respect, then you’ll love these molasses cookies. Rolling them in granulated sugar just before baking gives them a nice sparkle (just enough for a proper festive cookie), and their crackly surface is more than enough decoration. They’re rustic and terribly tempting, and bound to be a Christmas favourite.
Before we get to the bits and bobs of making these wonderful cookies – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.
How do you make gluten free molasses cookies?
Making gluten free molasses cookies truly couldn’t be easier:
- Whisk together the melted butter, dark brown soft sugar and caster/superfine sugar.
- Add the molasses, egg and egg yolk, and whisk until combined.
- Sift together the gluten free flour blend, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices, and add them to the butter-sugar mixture.
- Mix it all together – you’ll get a VERY soft and sticky dough that almost looks more like batter. It’s likely to flow off your wooden spoon rather than coming together in a clump. (See the left photo below.)
- Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour. This gives the moisture in the dough time to redistribute (mainly, it’s absorbed by the gluten free flour blend) and the butter time to firm up. After 1 hour, the dough should be firm enough to roll into individual balls. (See the right photo below.)
Then, once your dough is chilled and easier to handle:
- Scoop an about 25g (1 1/2 tablespoon) portion of the cookie dough and roll it into a ball.
- Roll the cookie dough ball in granulated sugar to fully coat.
- Place it onto a lined baking sheet, and repeat with the rest of the cookie dough. Make sure to space out the cookie dough balls on the baking sheet – the cookies spread out quite a bit during baking. I typically bake no more than 6 cookies per baking sheet at a time.
- And then: bake!
Why didn’t your molasses cookies spread out in the oven?
The gluten free molasses cookies start out as balls and naturally spread out during baking – much like chocolate chip cookies. You definitely shouldn’t need to press down on them or anything like that in order to get their characteristic shape and appearance as seen in the photos in this post.
If your cookies didn’t spread out in the oven, here are the most likely culprits:
- You used volume measurements rather than weighing your ingredients and added too much flour to the cookie dough. It’s incredibly easy to measure out too much flour using measuring cups – just by packing it a bit more densely inside the cup, you could be adding 20 or 50 grams of extra flour, which will throw off the whole recipe. Make sure to “fluff up” your flour before spooning it into the cup (rather than using the cup to scoop it up). However, for best results: use a kitchen scale.
- You decreased the amount of sugar in the recipe. The role of sugar in baking isn’t just to make your baked goods sweet – it also greatly affects their texture and appearance. In this recipe, the dark brown soft sugar and caster/superfine sugar combine to (a) give the cookies their chewy texture and (b) ensure that the cookies spread out in the oven. Reducing the amount of sugar will therefore change their texture and prevent the cookies from properly spreading out in the oven.
- You decreased the amount of butter in the recipe. Much like with sugar, butter plays an important role in this recipe. The amount of butter was optimised to give deliciously chewy cookies that spread out in the oven just enough – so, don’t go changing the amount of butter you use.
- You’re using a fan oven and/or your oven is incorrectly calibrated. If you use a fan oven or an oven that runs hot, this can set and dry out the outer surface of the cookie dough balls, preventing them from spreading out. If you’re using a fan oven, make sure to decrease the oven temperature by 20ºC compared to the conventional oven temperature listed in the recipe – and if you suspect that your oven isn’t correctly calibrated, I suggest you get an oven thermometer, just to be on the safe side.
Why are your gluten free molasses cookies cakey?
These gluten free molasses cookies definitely shouldn’t be cakey – I’ve optimised the recipe to give chewy cookies: by tweaking the amounts of butter and sugar(s), and by adding an extra egg yolk. As a general rule, egg yolks in cookie recipes make cookies more chewy or fudgy/gooey. Egg whites, on the other hand, make cookies more cakey.
If your cookies are cakey, this is what might have gone wrong:
- You’ve added too much flour to the recipe. Either by measuring it incorrectly (see above) or because you were scared by how soft and/or almost runny the dough was before chilling. Don’t add too much flour. Seriously. Too much flour will give you cakey cookies that don’t spread out in the oven.
- You didn’t add the extra egg yolk and/or you used a whole egg instead. As I’ve mentioned above, egg yolks make cookies more fudgy or chewy, depending on the specific recipe. Don’t try and replace the extra egg yolk with egg whites or whole eggs.
- You reduced the amount of sugar and/or butter. Sugar and butter play an important role in preventing cookies from being cakey. Use the amount listed in the recipe is you want perfectly chewy cookies.
And… that’s all there is to it. I really hope you’ll add these gluten free molasses cookies to your Christmas cookie repertoire. In addition to being terribly delicious, they also make your kitchen smell simply divine. There’s just something extra special about the mingling scents of molasses, cinnamon and nutmeg, and it never fails to put me into a festive mood.
So, put on your Christmas playlist… and get baking.
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Chewy Gluten Free Molasses Cookies
- 100 g (¾ stick + 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 125 g (½ cup + 2 tbsp) dark brown soft sugar
- 40 g (3 tbsp) caster/superfine sugar
- 80 g (¼ cup) molasses
- 1 UK medium/US large egg, room temperature
- 1 UK medium/US large egg yolk, room temperature
- 240 g (2 cups) plain gluten free flour blend (I used Doves Farm Freee plain gluten free flour, which doesn't contain xanthan gum. You can also mix your own blend with 50% white rice flour, 30% potato starch and 20% maize flour by weight.)
- ½ tsp xanthan gum (Omit if your gluten free flour blend already contains xanthan gum.)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- granulated sugar (for rolling the cookie dough balls before baking)
- In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter and both sugars together until pale and fluffy.
- Add the molasses, egg and egg yolk, and whisk until combined.
- Sift together the dry ingredients (gluten free flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices), and add them to the butter-sugar mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix it all together until you get a smooth, very soft and sticky dough. (The dough might even resemble batter, in that it flows off your spoon, rather than clumping together – that's okay.)
- Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour.
- While the dough is chilling, adjust the oven rack to the middle position, pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and line a baking sheet with greaseproof/baking paper.Tip: You will bake cookies in several batches, so you can line 2-3 baking sheets if you have them on hand. Otherwise, just re-use the same baking sheet, but make sure to cool it completely before you place the next batch of unbaked cookies onto it.
- Roll about 25g (1 ½ tablespoon) worth of the chilled cookie dough into a ball, roll it in granulated sugar so that it's fully covered, and place onto the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the cookie dough, this recipe makes 24 cookies in total.Make sure to leave about 1 ½ inch (4 cm) space around each cookie dough ball on the baking sheet, as the cookie will spread during baking. I typically bake no more than 6 cookies per baking sheet at a time.
- Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for 10-15 minutes, depending on whether you want the cookies to be chewy (shorter baking time) or crispy (longer baking time).Tip: Immediately out of the oven, tap the baking sheet on the counter to flatten the cookies slightly and give them the characteristic cracks/ripples. At this point, you can "correct" the shape of any irregular cookies using a round cookie cutter slightly larger than the cookies – just use it to gently nudge the cookie edges to get the desired round shape.
- Once baked, allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet, as they are very soft right out of the oven.
- Storage: The chewy gluten free molasses cookies keep well in a closed container for about 1-2 weeks. Note that they will get softer and chewier the longer they're kept.