Gingerbread for Cookies & Houses (GFCF)

This is a sturdy, versatile dough that is just right for gingerbread cookies — either crispy or chewy — and for the walls and roof of your allergen-free, gluten-free, casein-free gingerbread house.  The cookies are not super-sweet, so they work well for icing.  (I used royal icing for the gingerbread house;  many recipes can be found online.)

Unless you’re making a gingerbread cottage, you’ll need at least half of the dough to make a house.  Use the rest to make an assortment of rolled out, decorated cookies.  (I used Bob Vila’s Colonial House template and instructions, and it took just over half of the dough.  Well, technically, since I doubled the below recipe, and the house took just over one quarter of the dough.)

If the recipe looks slightly familiar, that is because I altered it from another recipe I posted on this blog, the always-popular Big Batch Gluten-Free Christmas/Sugar Cookies.

This recipe does freeze very well.  Thaw in the fridge, then bring to room temp before rolling.

Click here for pics of the house my kids and I made with this recipe.

(12/13/09 Note:  It’s getting harder to find amaranth flour.  Today, I made the cookies, substituting ½ cup quinoa flour and ½ cup millet flour for the amaranth, and they turned out great.  I also altered the amounts of sweet rice flour and brown rice flour.  ALSO — Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice flour seems to be milled more finely than Arrowhead Mill’s.  If you use Arrowhead Mill’s, expect your cookies to be a tad grittier.)

GFCF Gingerbread Cookies

Makes about 8 dozen medium-sized cutout cookies

  • 1 cup amaranth flour
  • 2 cups potato starch
  • 3 cups sweet rice flour
  • 3 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 Tbsp xanthan gum
  • 3 Tbsp baking powder
  • 3 Tbsp potato flour (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp ground ginger (or more, if you like ‘em really gingery)
  • 1 Tbsp ground allspice
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups shortening
  • 1 cup eggs (depending on size, 4-5 eggs.  Measure into a glass measuring cup.)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp dark molasses (OR 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, with a whisk, mix together the flours, starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, and spices until well-combined.  Set aside.
  3. In another large bowl, cream together the powdered and brown sugars, shortening, eggs, molasses and salt.
  4. To the sugar mixture, add flour mixture, about 2 cups at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon.  Once the flour mixture is mostly incorporated, knead the dough in the bowl, slowly punching the dough down in the middle and folding the sides of the dough into the middle.  Or, put the dough on a non-stick surface (like a silicone mat or a marble slab), and knead it on there.  Incorporate all the flour mixture until you have a stiff dough.
  5. If the dough is too dry, and will not hold all of the flour, add a Tbsp of water at a time until it will gather into a ball.  Resist adding water if at all possible.  The dough works best if it is not very moist.
  6. If you refrigerate or freeze the dough, bring to room temp before rolling.  For the most uniform cookies, and definitely for the large sections required for gingerbread houses, roll the dough right onto a large piece of foil or parchment, then pick up the sheet and transfer to the cookie sheet.  Working with about 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll the dough 1/4″ thick.  (Bob Vila’s gingerbread site had a great suggestion:  Use 1/4″ round dowels as a guide for uniform thickness, as illustrated on the right.)  From this dough, either cut sections for your gingerbread house from a template, or use cookie cutters.
  7. Greasing the pan is not necessary, but I favor using nonstick foil.  For best results, use insulated pans.  (Hint:  for your own insulated pans, take two regular jelly roll pans, and between them, add a layer of heavy duty aluminum foil that has been wrinkled, then partially smoothed out.  This will create an air gap between the two pans.)
  8. If you roll your cookies to 1/4″ thickness and bake on insulated pans as suggested, baking time is 19 minutes.  If your cookies are thinner, and/or you’re using thinner pans, bake time will be shorter.  When done, the corners of your cookies will just start to brown, and the middles will no longer feel spongy.  Also, you can bake for 16-17 minutes to produce a softer, chewier cookie (this is not recommended for gingerbread houses, though).
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About Karen Joy

I'm a homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 16, 14 and 12 years old, and three girls: 7 and 5 years old, and our newest, born in June 2013. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I am a natural childbirth advocate and fledgling birthing class instructor. I'm a CSA coordinator for a local organic farm, Crooked Sky Farms. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on December 3, 2007, in Celiac Disease, Christmas, Cooking/Baking/Food/Recipes, Dairy-free, GF Recipes, GFCF, GFCF Recipes, gluten-free, Gluten-Free and Food Allergy Resources, Holidays. Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.

  1. Oo, fab – thank you. We did a gluten free gingerbread nativity scene a few years ago, and the children are asking if we can do it again this year. I was wondering where the recipe was, so this is very timely!

  2. I have been wanting to bake GF/CF gingerbread men!!!! THANKS!!! Yeah!!!

  3. Oh wow, this recipe will surely be a hit this holiday season! I don’t think I have seen a GFCF gingerbread recipe anywhere.

  4. I am really excited about this recipe since my daughter is on a gfcf diet and needs to take all of her own things to make gingerbread men in school. Not sure what to do for icing though????

  5. I just blogged how we used your recipe! The cookies were fun to make and taste delicious. My daughter went cookie cutter crazy, trying out all kinds of shapes! Thanks for sharing!!!

  6. Karen, this is a great recipe! I am using this as part of my blog series on the GFCF diet in school, and I think we will make these this Christmas!

    Thomas

  7. I am so excited to try this recipe as it gets closer to the holidays, we always have guests on christmas eve and I like to give the kids a fun project to do. Last year I made gfcf cup cakes and let them decorate w/ gfcf frosting & candies. They never know the difference and my little girl doesn’t feel left out. It’ll be great for them to be able to decorate gingerbread men or make little cottages. I also have the feeling they will prob taste pretty “normal” as the ginger flavor is so strong. I recently made a gfcf pumpkin bread in the crock pot and it was excellent. E-M me if you have any questions or ideas to share about holiday recipes for our special little ones. Thanks!

  8. For frosting Pillsbury creamy supreme vanilla frosting is the only manufactured GFCF that I know of

  9. Charissa ~ Glad you’re excited about the recipe!! I think you’ll be pleased with it. Duncan Hines also has several GFCF frostings, but none of them will work as “glue” needed to construct a gingerbread house — you have to use royal icing. But, of course, you could make cookies with the dough and simply frost them.

  10. I don’t suppose you have any advice for making this recipe eggless? That’s kind of a lot of eggs to go without, but I’m going to try it. Thank you for this recipe! My daughter was just asking me if we could build a gingerbread house this year and I told her I don’t know how…now I do! BTW if anyone else here is avoiding eggs I have an eggless royal icing recipe, but DON”T EAT IT, it is only for building and tastes disgusting.

    1 cup powdered sugar
    1 Tbsp shortening
    3 Tbsp cream of tartar
    1 1/2 Tbsp xanthan gum
    water (add slowly!)

    Mix all in the food processor until desired thickness
    is reached.

    Thank you again, I’m excited to have found your blog!

  11. You ROCK! Last year my dd and I tried to make a gf version of gingerbread men. Complete flop. They were hideous. This year I was looking for a recipe on celiac.com and found your recipe. I had everything in the house so me and my 2 year old got to work on the dough. Then my 4 year old and I rolled and cut out assorted cookies. This was so easy to do that my 4 year old was able to roll out and cut out all her own cookies. Best yet – they taste great. I only added a bit of cardamom and some grated ginger. Thank you thank you thank you. These will be a holiday tradition for us now. Next year I may even try doing a gingerbread house. Yours looked incredible. Again, thank you!

    kim

  12. Kim ~ Your comment about made me cry! I know how good it feels to find a “safe” recipe that everyone likes. It’s funny — I was going to post a comment about making the cookies, because we made a house & cookies this week, and I don’t know what happened, but it just didn’t seem as good this year! I’m thinking maybe my brown rice flour wasn’t ground as fine or something, because they turned out a tad gritty/grainy, which they didn’t, last year. I noticed when it was at the dough stage, before I even rolled them out. Bummer. My hubby, who is not g.f., says they still taste great, but I was a little disappointed. However, that has not kept me from enjoying tea and cookies at night!! :) Anyways, I am so very glad the recipe worked for you and your kids. Your additions sound great! I don’t have any fresh ginger, but I do have cardamom. I’m going to make another batch next week, and I’ll try it!! And…. DO A HOUSE!! They’re so fun. We’re bringing ours down to city hall today for this year’s contest. :)

  13. Hi Karen,
    I find the Bob’s Red Mill Rice Flour to be super grainy. I use Energe or Authentic Foods rice flour. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS RECIPE!!! I posted an alternate version of it on my site with many links to your wonderful blog and I put you on the top of “Blogs I Love!” Thanks for the great recipe.

  14. Thank you so much for [posting this. My mother and brother are Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free and my mother almost completely nut-free so this recipe was such a blessing! They turned out fantastic (I'm not gluten-free, although there's considerable less gluten in my house than others because of the family members who are) and I was totally stunned how tasty they were -- addicting!

    I didn't use the amaranth (?) flour since we haven't tried that before [used some of Red Mill's baking flour] and I wasn’t sure what constituted ‘sweet’ rice flour so I just used white but it turned out quite well. Crispier than expected even with just seventeen minutes in the oven but very, very good. Oh! And we didn’t have allspice so I put in some nutmeg and omitted the cloves since I’m allergic and I wanted a taste. Again, turned out perfect. <3

  15. Linda Lawrence

    I found the recipe tooo dry to make the gingerbread house. Not sure what the problem is.

    • When you’re mixing the dough, there is a point where you may think, “There’s no way all these flours will become incorporated into the shortening and eggs and molasses to become DOUGH.” But, it does happen; it does mix in. I have made this recipe too many times to count, and made two very large houses with it… Wish I could have watched you make the dough to give you some tips!! (Did you substitute anything?) I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you!

  16. I am so excited to find this recipe. We just went gf/cf and we’ve had to alter so many of our traditions. I was dreading telling the kids that we couldn’t do gingerbread houses – and now I don’t have to!

  17. I am so excited! I’ve been trying to make GF gingerbread for a house and all have failed. Can’t wait to try this :)

  18. Thanks so much for posting this – it’s a great recipe. In OZ we don’t have powdered sugar – we have pure icing sugar or icing mixture. Icing mixture contains tapioca starch 4%…
    I only made half the recipe thinking it would be enough and it wasn’t so I ended making two, one with icing sugar and one with icing mixture. I used Nutalex instead of shortening in the first and half Nutalex with half shortening I had left over in the second batch. For any other Aussies – sweet rice flour is glutinous rice flour here….
    Anyway, both batches turned out brilliantly taste wise but the first bent a little (I think I needed to cook it just a little longer) and the second was really crumbly (but the gingerbread men we also made with it were strong and I cooked those for a couple of mins extra)..

    So right now i have a house with no roof coz I’m too scared to put it on…… But it tastes soooo yummy. I’ll improve every year I’m sure as it’s going to be a tradition in our house ; )
    Thanks again.

    • Thanks, Anne, for your comment! I appreciate the suggestions for non-US bakers.

      I looked up Nutalex — is it perhaps Nuttelex? Ingredient-wise, it looks very similar to something I use, called Earth Balance. My only concern is that it has water — not much, but that might have been what made the results softer/bendy.

      And, yes, sweet rice = glutinous rice. Depending on where I purchase it here in the States, the names are interchangeably used. I think, since rice flour is used in gluten-free baking, that the term “glutinous” is scary! But, it’s RICE gluten, sticky rice, short-grain rice.

      It sounds like icing mixture is similar to our powdered sugar. American powdered sugar is very finely ground sugar (10X), with a small percentage of corn starch, usually 3%.

      You must be an experienced gluten-free baker, because your substitutions were great choices!!!

      • This recipe worked better than great. Made for my son’s class at school as he is GFCF and can’t have all the usual goodies. Folks are asking me for the recipe and had no idea it was GFCF.

        I made 1/2 the recipe and expected to have 48 cookies, but with my cookie cutter (a size large enough for Kindergartners to be able to decorate) I only got 30. No worries though I only needed 18.

        I did make substitutions based on what flours I could find. No sweet rice so used plain white rice flour; no brown rice flour so used sweet sorghum; didn’t use potato flour; used palm oil shortening and the blackstrap molasses.

        I saw many other recipes online with unfavorable comments about the dough being sticky. I did not have that problem and didn’t have to put in fridge.
        Baked on parchment paper for 19 minutes and wonderful looking and tasting cookies.

        Thanks so much!

        • Thank you so much for the feedback, Jean! I’m so pleased it worked well for you. And, I’m ALWAYS interested in which substitutions worked (or didn’t).

          I, too, use palm oil shortening. Do you use a different brand than Spectrum? That’s the only one I know of.

          Thanks again!

  19. Karen, these are wonderful! We made gingerbread houses using a slightly modified version of your recipe; I was trying to use up flours I had on hand. Both the houses and the yummy cookies were a hit! I blogged about our experience – being sure to link back to your site. Just wanted to say thank-you for sharing your recipe!

    http://mcquill-land.blogspot.com/2011/01/gluten-free-casein-free-gingerbread.html

  20. This recipe is very inspiring for me. I am looking for recipes ginger bread, turned out to find it here. I’ll try at home. Thank’s

  21. I know this blog is over a year old. Can I substitute butter or coconut oil for the shortening?

    • Kim, I’ve never used either butter or coconut oil in this recipe. However, I think butter would probably work better — coconut oil has a really low melt temp, and that might work well. Have you ever used Spectrum organic shortening? It’s 100% expeller pressed palm oil, not hydrogenated at all. It is fabulous to bake with, and has none of the negatives that you’re probably associating with Crisco and other hydrogenated, preservative-filled shortenings.

  22. My son is baking gingerbread at school so I’m taking in my toaster oven to bake him one using this recipe. I’m making the dough this weekend and he’ll bring in a small amount for the class cooking project.

    Does anyone have any tips on temperature and baking time in a toaster oven?

    • Rebecca, that is a great idea! I don’t know the times & temp for a toaster oven — I don’t own one. However, the recipe is VERY forgiving on times & temps in a regular oven. A little underdone makes it soft but tasty, a little overdone makes it taste… darker (of course) and it becomes harder, but not ever rock-hard (unless it’s really, really overdone. It doesn’t burn easily. :) A lot depends on how thickly you roll the dough. I’d love to know how it turns out, and if you come up with suggestions for time & temp and even thickness in a toaster oven.

  23. Great recipe. I have been baking GF for 3 years now and this was the first recipe that my kids could actually roll and cut out the cookies themselves, past recipes made super sticky dough that I have to make cookies myself. I will say you do have to add water VERY slowly, just as author mentions, to get dough to stay just together. A little too much water and dough gets sticky. We made cookies but I can see that it will be great for making house, which I will do next year! It was a great tasting mildly spiced cookie, perfect for kids.

  24. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! It made delicious cookies for us – mountains and mountains of gingerbread cookies, and gingerbread stars, and gingerbread tipis, and solar power plants made out of gingerbread. Next time I will remember that you have six children, and there are only two of us in my house!

    • Ha! I’m glad that it worked so excessively well for you. And, yes, the amount of dough you need really depends on the size of your gingerbread house… I first made this recipe when I “only” had four children, but the house was big. And we also give away a LOT of cooked and baked treats at Christmas.

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