Big Batch Gluten-Free Christmas/Sugar Cookie Recipe

UPDATE:  This post needs pictures!!  I wrote it in 2006, before the advent of Pinterest and its requirement of pictures for every recipe.  If you have pictures, please mail them to me!!  Post them to the Only Sometimes Clever Facebook page or e-mail me at  ~Karen 12.17.2013

I have used this recipe many times; it is so versatile.  It produces a wonderfully flavored, wonderfully textured cookie that NO one will guess is gluten free (it is also casein/dairy free, for those who need to eliminate those ingredients).

I got the recipe, basically, from Special Diets for Special Kids II, which is a really good gf/cf cookbook.  However, it simply calls for “GF Flour,” and I experimented to make my own flour mixture, as listed below.  The original recipe also calls for the cookies to be made small and flat, vanilla wafer-style.  However, I found that the recipe works wonderfully for thicker, chewy, soft cookies.

I always make it in a huge batch, often even bigger than I have written up here.  This is basically a 6X recipe of the original.

I have hot linked ingredients to my favorite supplier.  NOTE:  Make certain that you have sweet rice flour, as called for, not plain white rice flour.

(Instructions edited a wee bit on 12/02/06, as I am making a batch and had some clarifications to add to the mixing process.  Also edited on 12/10/10, and added PDF.)

Big Batch Gluten-Free Christmas/Sugar Cookies (GFCF) (click for printable pdf)
makes about 8 dozen cookies

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Mix together the flours, starch, xanthan gum and baking powder with a whisk until well-combined.  Set aside.

Cream together the sugars, shortening, eggs, vanilla and salt.

Add flour mixture to the creamed sugar 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, or just your smooth kitchen counter top), and knead it on there.  The mixture will have the consistency of Play-Doh, but not too soft.  If your dough has the right consistency, it will not stick to your hands, the bowl, or the counter top on which you’re kneading it.

  • If it is the dough is too dry, add a Tbsp of water at a time until it will gather into a ball.
  • If the dough is too moist, knead in sweet rice flour until it the dough is no longer sticky.

After the dough is well-mixed, several things can be done with the dough.  For all recipes, greasing the pan is not necessary.  Unless a crispy cookie is desired, bake (preferably on insulated pans*) at 325°F until the edges are just golden.  Depending on the thickness of your cookies, this will take from 17-20 minutes.

For “plain” sugar cookies:

  • For light, crispy cookies:  Roll dough into very small balls and flatten to a wafer with the bottom of a sugar-dipped glass or cookie stamp.  Bake until golden brown.
  • Roll into larger balls and flatten to about 1/4″ thick.  Bake until edges are just golden.
  • Divide the dough into about 4 parts, wrap each ball in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until fairly firm.  Roll out until dough is about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick.  Use cookie cutters for your desired shape(s).  The thinner the dough, the more crispy the cookie.

Or, divide the dough into 2 or more sections, and try these mix-ins.  Knead in the added ingredients, roll a bit, or drop by teaspoons, then press with a sugar-dipped cup.  These cookies puff well, but don’t spread at all, so don’t work a simple “drop” cookies.

  • crushed candy canes
  • chocolate chips of any size
  • chopped nuts and/or dried fruit — One very successful variation we tried were black walnut and dried cranberries

Or, use them as a base for chocolate Kiss cookies, or jam thumbprint cookies.

Or, chocolate swirl cookies:  Take 2 equal portions of dough, and roll one out about 1/8″ thick, keeping as close to a rectangular shape as possible.  Take the other portion, and mix in plain cocoa powder, until it is nice and dark.  Roll that section out to 1/8″, as well.  Place one layer on top of the other, with the smaller section (if one is smaller) on top.  Starting with the longer side of the rectangle, roll the layers together, until you have a log.  Smooth the end of the roll with your fingers, pressing it gently into the log.  Roll the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.  Then, slice the cookies about 1/4″ thick, taking care to keep the log as round as possible.  (These are my kids’ favorite cookies.)

The possibilites are nearly endless.  If anyone ends up using this recipe and tries a variation not mentioned here, do comment and share!!!

NOTE:  Unbaked dough does freeze very well.  Wrap well in plastic wrap, place inside of a ziploc bag, and freeze.  Thaw in fridge, and bring to nearly room temp before rolling.



*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 balled up, then mostly-smoothed out, retaining many of its wrinkles, creating an air gap between the two pans.

About Karen Joy

I'm a homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 18, 15 and 13 years old, and three girls: 9, 6, and 2. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I am a natural childbirth advocate and an erstwhile birthing class instructor. I'm a CSA coordinator for a local organic farm, Crooked Sky Farms, as well. 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 November 15, 2006, in Celiac Disease, Cooking/Baking/Food/Recipes, Dairy-free, GF Recipes, GFCF, GFCF Recipes, gluten-free. Bookmark the permalink. 186 Comments.

  1. I’ve just stumbled across this and am sooo excited. I’ve read through the entire comment section and have some fantastic ideas. I’m wondering if anyone has (or if you’ve heard back) tried substituting with agave… or stevia for that matter. Hubby can’t have sugar (Splenda is not an approp. substitute for him). My dtr will be so excited to have a tasty treat! Thanks so much!!

    • I have never tried agave or stevia. If your husband can’t have table sugar, but CAN have agave, you might want to try experimenting with pure crystalline fructose. Agave is about 90% fructose. Maybe a crystalline fructose/xylitol mixture?? That might work. However, I haven’t tried it.

  2. Oh wow, thank you for this recipe! It’s my first season with a GFCF diet in the house…
    I don’t have the exact flours (I’m an expat and the availability of non-wheat flours in Turkey is extremely limited) but I’m going to give it a go with what I’ve got.
    Thank you!!!

    • Kim, especially being in a different country, you will likely find — if you do find them at at all! — that non-wheat flours are perhaps hiding under non-English names. Any time you see ANY kind of flour in whatever market you’re at, go home and Google it to find out if it is, perhaps, a g.f. flour in disguise. For instance, I typically buy a flour labeled “chana dal” at an Asian market. No where on the bag does it say what it’s English translation is, but it is actually garbanzo/ceci bean flour! (No garbanzo/chana dal flour in this recipe; I just use it as an example.)

  3. Ahh, Turkey is really a backwater. I did find some GF flour, imported, and used it along with some other flours I’ve had shipped here. I couldn’t follow the recipe exactly as I had to do a lot of substitutions, but the cookies turned out well. I’ll do it again, for use (once I’ve used all the frozen dough!!!) I also look forward to trying it when I can gather together all the right ingredients!
    Thanks again, my little guy (2 years old) is just thrilled with his cookies!

  4. Hello, I have one question. If I refrigerate the dough can I roll it out and cut out shapes? Will it hold the form? Thanks!!


    • I just read your instructions closely and I see I can roll these out. Trying this today thanks! I have Celiacs and my son has allergy to butter so these should be great.

    • Rachel ~ The dough refrigerates GREAT. However, I always let it sit out on a cool countertop for an hour or so to bring it back to room temp (or close to it) before rolling.

  5. we have a gluten free mix which is probably waht the origonal recipe called fro, it is
    6 parts rice flour
    2 parts potato starch
    1 part tapioca flour

    we use it for everything. we grind our own rice flour. from personal experience brown rice works better than white rice, it isn’t as powdery. we mix it up and store it in a container ready-to-use

    I can’t WAIT until I try out this recipe it sounds SO good!

    • The original recipe did not state any particular flour mix. It just said “gluten-free flour.”

      As I’ve stated in other comments, you’re welcome to try any mix of flour you may favor, but I have tinkered with this a LOT and the best flavor and best texture comes from the flour mixture listed in the recipe.

      • Karen, can you tell me how much gluten free flour the recipe says you should use? Being very new to celiac and GFCF diet…taking baby steps here.
        Thanks for your help!

        • Kim, I don’t know how much, total. I always make this recipe with the amounts shown in the recipe, and often 1 cup + 1 cup + 1 cup + 1 cup of different flours does not always equal four cups. All of the flours in this recipe ARE gluten-free flour. Are you referring to a gluten-free flour mix? I almost never buy pre-made g.f. flour mixes; it’s so much cheaper to make my own.

  6. Any thoughts on replacing the amaranth flour with millet flour? Millet is pretty smooth, and it’s a lot more neutral flavored than amaranth.

    • Jenny, that is actually what I’m going to do today — try millet flour ILO amaranth. I used to be able to find amaranth locally… then I have had to order it… but I haven’t any on hand right now and no time to order. So, I hope millet works! (I’m using “black” bajri millet flour. I’m also going to put a little quinoa in there, too, maybe half millet, half quinoa.) I’ll let y’all know how it works!

  7. I just finished making the sugar cookie dough. I put it in the fridge and tomorrow I am going to roll it out and use cookie cutters to cut it. I am so anxious to see how they turn out!! The dough looks and smells so good, I can’t wait to taste the cookies! I’ll let ya know how they turn out tomorrow.

  8. Timothy (my 4 year old son) helped me cut out the cookies and bake them this morning. They are a big hit!! He got to decorate a cookie with the other students in his class this evening at their party. The cookies are yummy!! I used half vanilla and half almond flavoring in mine.

  9. Karen Joy, Thank you so much for all of your help with these recipes!! You are a bright spot in my days! You do mention that the dough freezes well, but can I freeze the cookies that are already made?

    • Yes, in fact I just stuck a dozen in the freezer for a friend!

      I have made a lot of g.f. stuff on my pizza stone, but not these cookies, though I think it would work well. It’s just that when I’m making DOZENS of cookies, and I only have one stone… I just tend not to use it.

  10. OH, also, have you ever tried baking them on a Pampered Chef Stone?

    • I have Joy, they turn out wonderfully chewy just don’t wait for them to change color at all! :) My first batch on the stone cooked so long as we waited for “browning” they were like hockey pucks. Yummy hockey pucks but very hard!

  11. Thanks Jess!! I’m going to try that next time!

  12. KJ, why is that every time i try to look up a recipe for gf cookies YOUR site comes up? lol it doesn’t matter what I search for – yours always come up!
    and i REALLY wanna try these, I do. but my boy can’t handle xantham gum or sugar. so I’m off to find something with our xantham and with honey, oh well.

    but seriously, you are getting quite popular for these cookies, my friend! I am in the (virtual) presence of a real celebrity baker! :)

  13. These cookies are so delicious! We didn’t have sweet rice flour, but used tapioca flour in its place. My girls were thrilled to have real Christmas cookies to take to a church party. And I was thrilled that they were gluten, dairy, & dye-free! (We used natural dyes to decorate them). THANK YOU!!!!!! I really can’t believe how tasty these are. I ate way too many of them!

    • Thanks for posting this, Jen! I am *shocked* that tapioca flour worked in lieu of sweet rice. I’ve found that tapioca way-too-often makes what I’m trying to make very gummy. But, I will keep your substitution in mind, and I’m thrilled that the recipe worked so well for you!

      • Hi .. I wanted to say thanks for the great recipe !!! I’m always looking for GF Flour combinations and this one really hit the spot for my first GFree Christmas. At the time I did not have and could not find sweet rice flour and had success with substituting a combo of 1/2 tapioca and 1/2 corn starch for the sweet flour. Although I did not do cutout cookies I simply made a roll ala pilsbury and refrigerated overnight. Slice and bake .. turned out great. This flour mix also worked great for a batch of choc. chip cookies using white and brown sugar instead of powdered.
        Have a great new year !!!

        • Kathryn, I’m so delighted that the recipe worked well for you, substitutions and all!!! You’re right — it works well for a refrigerated slice-and-bake cookie, too. I did that this Christmas, too — took a lump of dough, mixed about 1/3 of it with a lot of cinnamon (I’ve done it with cocoa powder, too), and rolled it up with plain dough to make pinwheels, just slice and bake! (hope that minimal description makes sense!!) And, another reader on here uses the flour combination as her standard g.f. flour mix, too!! (Have you tried the gingerbread cookie recipe here, too? You mentioning brown sugar reminded me, because it is very similar to this recipe, but uses brown sugar and a few other things to make it gingerbready.)

  14. Wow! we just made a 2x (instead of the 6x) batch of these cookies yesterday, and they turned out great! The only difference, was we used a local flour mix from our Co-op (sans gluten s’il vous plait, their web site is We split the dough in half, and made cutout cookies, and with the other half, made the spirals you mentioned. Can’t even tell they are gluten free. The first batch we kind of cooked too long waiting for them to turn color a little (15 min). next batches we cooked for 12 min, and they were just right.

    thanks for putting up this recipe. it is a really winner for christmas cookies.

  15. Confused Auntie -- New to GFCF

    Can this recipe be used to make traditional Christmas cookies or similar “cut out” type cookies using cookie cutters? If not, can you recommend a tasty and effective alternative? Thanks so much!

    • Don’t be confused! :) Yes, those are EXACTLY the kind of cookies that this recipe will produce. Use the recipe plain to produce cut-outs, or you can use the recipe as a base recipe, and try any of my suggestions (or other readers’) to add ingredients for endless variations.

  16. WHy are they bitter? I am somewhat upset, I spent $30 at Mrs. Greens and the cookies are so bitter they are inedible!
    Can you help me troubleshoot?

    • Wow, Christine! I have no idea, if you followed the recipe. I have been making this recipe for 4+ years, and it is most certainly not bitter. If you’d like, do leave a comment with the ingredients you used, and the brand name of each ingredient. Also, if you changed anything from the ingredients or amounts called for, do let me know that, too, and we’ll try to figure it out.

  17. THANK YOU so much for these recipes (sugar and gingerbread cookies), I used them last year and the cookies and gingerbread house were fantastic! Looking forward to baking them again this year!

  18. I made your recipe and liked it. I did think it needed more flavor as most sugar cookies do. I added lemon juice and lemon zest and that really helped with the flavor. Would recommend the addition!

    • Thanks, Lori! I have definitely added lemon zest and juice to the recipe on previous occasions. It’s a good suggestion. Also, I know it can be tedious to sift through all the comments, but many of them have fabulous suggestions for flavorful additions, too.

  19. has anyone been successful with flax/water as an egg replacer? I saw that someone used apricot puree successfully but…I don’t want a fruit cookie!! Also, I have sorghum and buckwheat in my pantry and would like to use those instead of Amaranth but IDK…

    • Cakes, a reader recently privately e-mailed me to say that he had used sorghum in lieu of amaranth. That wouldn’t have been my first suggestion as a replacement, but I’m happy to say that he reported that the sorghum worked great. So, go ahead and try it!

      However, I would not suggest water/flax for an egg replacer. I mean, of course you can try it, but I don’t think it would work well in this recipe. Plus, unless maybe you use golden flax, they’d be speckled, which is not really the right “look” for sugar cookies. But, hey, if you do try it, please let us know whether or not it worked!!

  20. Wow, thanks for these! I just made them and my 3 year old gobbled them up. It’s the first cookie recipe I’ve come across that didn’t taste gluten free.

  21. Made these and I can’t stop eating them! I did have to substitute 1/3 cup quinoa and 2/3 cup coconut flour for the amaranth because I am allergic to amaranth. Also substituted coconut oil for the shortening and it all worked great! It does have a little coconut flavor, but it isn’t bad and I am sure once I get some frosting on them you wouldn’t be able to tell at all (that is right they taste great without frosting!). Thank-you, thank-you for this recipe!

  22. Hi, what a great recipe. I am so excited as I have been craving sugar cookies and not having wheat is new to me. However, I do not have the sweet rice flour. I do have a grain grinder. I could grind some rice flour, but I don’t know what kind of rice to buy. Or what else could I sub? Thanks!!

    • Good question, Patricia! Sweet rice is the same as short-grain or glutinous or sushi or sticky rice, all different names for the same thing. It is ALSO known as mochi rice or mochi gome. If your grain grinder has different settings, make sure it is on the finest-available grind — you want the flour as fine and feathery-light as possible.

  23. What a wonderful recipe! I can’t stop eating these and I haven’t yet frosted them (much to my husband’s dismay – can’t deny that it might be a little intentional :) ). So good and I hardly had to make any substitutes for my other allergies (primarily corn). Thank you thank you thank you!!!

  24. Can this dough be used in a cookie press to make Spritz cookies?

    • I really don’t know. I don’t own a cookie press and I don’t recall any other commenter mentioning trying it. To my understanding, though, dough for a cookie press might need to be a bit softer/wetter than what this recipe produces.

  25. A little money saver hint: I find that I can often get my GF flours cheaper at the Oriental Foods store, especially flours like the glutinous rice flour, plain rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour. If we walk across the parking lot to the health food store the same thing is about 4X as expensive just because it has a Gluten Free label in English slapped across it.

    (FYI — You can also get rice noodles and rice ovalettes at the Oriental Food store for cheaper than GF noodles at the health food store or grocery store, which is helpful once you get used to the difference in how rice noodles cook!)

    I found you thanks to Jeanine of The Baking Beauties. I am working on converting a family recipe for Honey Cookies to GF, and I think I will use the flour mix you mention. Millet seems to play better with others than some flours!


    • Yes, I get most of my g.f. flours at the Asian market, too! Just went tonight, in fact! I get almost all my rice noodles there, too. I also get garbanzo bean flour, mung bean starch, millet flour, sorghum flour, and a host of other items, too. You often have to acquaint yourself with the various names of what you’re looking for.

  26. Fresh goat cheese is delicious; and tangy,
    and there are many varieties of real cheese that are safe
    (Again- check labels for additives, fillers or flavorings- these are possible culprits).
    It usually affects the small digestive tract
    and it causes the indigestion of food properly. If you visit your local grocery store, you will
    discover that a lot of products like cereals,
    baked goods, pastas and many more are now coming in a gluten free version.

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