The holidays are here and you know what that means: cookie season is in full swing! For this edition of our Bake-Off series, we’re finding the best of the best… of what I’d consider to be the best holiday cookie—we’re setting out to find the tastiest gingerbread man cookie recipe on the internet.
In conversations with friends, it seems like the gingerbread cookie recipe itself doesn’t get much thought. We make them once a year and throw a bunch of frosting and candies on top. Despite the creative, sometimes wild designs, making gingerbread men is all about the experience—not because they taste particularly good. Of course, I took this as a challenge and set out to find the perfect gingerbread man cookie that’s ideal for decorating and *bonus* is pretty tasty, too.
Rules of the Road
Per previous bake-off rules, the cookies were judged on their own as the actual cookie. We did taste these with the royal icing frosting on top as well, but judgments were based on the actual merits of the plain cookie without any additional add-ons or decorations.
Must Follow the Recipes EXACTLY
For the sake of the bake-off, I stuck to the exact directions as written. That meant that even if I disagreed with the method or measurements, I ignored my personal opinions to follow the recipe exactly.
We had a grand total of 15 taste testers participate in this bake-off. When ranking the best gingerbread man cookie recipe, we were looking for the classic, so that means a few things:
- Warming spices that add a lot of flavors. We want to just toe the line of spicy, warm, and savory.
- Not too sweet. Knowing that most gingerbread man cookies get frosted, the actual cookie shouldn’t be overwhelmingly sweet.
- Should be able to taste the molasses.
- Want a little bit of a snap to the biscuit, but don’t want them to be dry.
- A little chew is nice as well in the texture.
- We want a cookie that keeps us coming back for more than one.
So with our rules and ranking criteria in place, a grand total of almost 200 biscuits baked, and taste testers ready, we found the best gingerbread man cookie around—keep scrolling for the winner!
#6 Pioneer Woman: Gingerbread Cookies
Overall, this cookie wasn’t quite the fan favorite. While all the taste testers thought the flavor was mildly sweet and molasses-forward, there wasn’t enough spice for what we wanted from a gingerbread cookie. The texture also wasn’t a hit with our judges. It was chewier but not as moist as we would’ve liked. This would be a fine cookie to make for decorating, but it wasn’t one we went back to for another bite.
#5 Donna Hay: Gingerbread Men
This cookie caused the most conversation in our tasting. Without molasses in the dough, could we truly call this a gingerbread cookie? In the end though, this cookie got a lot of positive comments. Our judges liked that you can taste a bit of the floral golden syrup in it and thought the chewy texture was also really nice. Overall, our testers thought this was a really good biscuit, but we didn’t think it was a gingerbread cookie hence why it’s ranked fifth. We would make and eat this again, but not as a gingerbread cookie.
#4 King Arthur: Gingerbread Cookies
This cookie was my favorite dough to work with—it was nice and smooth and easy to cut and bake. I add that comment because after working with the dough for all of these recipes, the ones that aren’t sticky or hard to cut out definitely receive my applause. The flavor on this cookie was nice with a little spice and a mild sweetness that felt very classic gingerbread. The molasses was subtle but we liked that it played more in the background and let the spices be more upfront.
It was the texture that divided the group on this cookie. Some liked the little bit of chew but didn’t think it had enough of that biscuit snap. Others felt that this cookie was a bit on the dry side and would benefit from a little extra frosting. Overall, it’s a good cookie that fell somewhere in the middle.
#3 Food52: Gingerbread Cookies
This was one of my favorite cookies of the bunch. While it does require a bit of extra effort in terms of browning the butter, the flavor was well worth it. Multiple testers said this cookie tasted like besan burfi. If you’ve never had it before, that probably makes no sense, but if you have, you’ll know that the nutty flavor of the butter pairs nicely with the warming spices. The spices are bloomed in the warm brown butter for this recipe, so overall, we thought that the spice flavor was nice. We did miss a bit of the cinnamon flavor, as this cookie only uses cloves and ginger, but enjoyed it nonetheless. The texture is more buttery shortbread than a classic gingerbread with some chew, but again, we liked it. Overall, this is a good biscuit. It’s not the most classic, but a treat worth enjoying.
#2 Food Network: Gingerbread Cookies
This was a really good cookie. While there was some debate over the texture—this was the most puffy of them all, it didn’t have that snap we wanted—it was one of those cookies that people kept going back for seconds and thirds. The chew on this cookie is really nice, and when paired with the mild sweetness and spices, felt like a cookie we could eat on repeat. Overall, I would make this season after season to share with friends and in cookie boxes.
#1 Martha Stewart: Gingerbread Cookies
And the winner is… the one and only Martha Stewart, of course. When you want the best gingerbread man cookies, this is the classic recipe to follow. The flavor was very spice forward and even had some delicious chocolatey undertones despite there being zero cocoa in this recipe. In terms of sweetness, it was the mildest, but we could still catch a hint of the molasses in the cookie. The texture had a nice snap, a nice chew, and kept us coming back for more.
When paired with royal icing, it’s absolutely perfect and I would eat a whole tray of these. I would say use caution as it’s very easy to over-bake these cookies because of the dark color. But the end result is next to perfect when we’re looking for a gingerbread cookie. This will definitely be the recipe I rely on moving forward!
Do you have a go-to gingerbread cookie recipe? What else is in your cookie box this year?
This post was originally published on December 3, 2021, and has since been updated.