Healthy Whole Food Gingerbread Cookies
The sweet and spicy aroma of cinnamon and molasses filling the kitchen….ahhh the smells of the holiday season! Gingerbread cookies baking in the oven always makes me think of the special memories created with my family throughout the holiday season.
I’ve been on a search for a healthier replacement to our traditional gingerbread cookie recipe. My internet searches came up with a lot of options, but many calling for less healthful ingredients like coconut oil, brown sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup… so I finally put my own recipe idea to the test (Ha! My day job at NutritionFacts.org is rubbing off on me!).
These cookies are made with wholesome plant-based ingredients. Just fruit (dates) and molasses for the sweetness. No refined flours, just almonds and oats. They are naturally sweet, slightly crunchy– and of course, delicious!
A few notes before you get started!
- Spices: If you’d like the gingerbread cookies to have a bit more spice, I’d suggest start by adding a little more cinnamon. If you love ginger, feel free to add in another 1/2 teaspoon. Adjust the clove to your liking. Clove is a stronger spice, so start with less (1/8 teaspoon) for a more mild gingerbread cookie and work your way up to 1/4 teaspoon for a bit more flavor. If you’re not a fan of clove at all, feel free to omit from the recipe. If you are not sure about any of this, just follow the recipe as written and then next time– make adjustments.
- Molasses: Use blackstrap molasses for a dark, bold flavor or use mild molasses for a more traditional gingerbread cookie taste. Blackstrap molasses is a bit more nutritious, but has a more bitter/ sharp flavor.
- Oat and almond flour: I have not tried this recipe with store bough oat or almond flour. Feel free to try, but if you do have a high-speed blender it only takes a few minutes to make flour at home.
The dough may be stickier than other gingerbread recipes. Over the years, I have found these things to be helpful:
Use a non-porous cutting board or silicone mat to roll the dough on. This has been one of the most helpful steps for me. If you are using a silicon mat, be sure the transfer the dough to another surface before cutting out the cookies so you don’t ruin the mat.
If you do not have a silicon mat or non-porous cutting board follow these tips below:
- Blend 1 3/4 cup rolled oats until fine like flour and reserve 1/4 cup of oat flour for rolling out the dough. You will use the flour on the cutting boards and rolling pin, if needed. If you end up not needing all the oat flour– throw it in a smoothie or your oatmeal bowls.
- Continue following all other recipe steps, but chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling out the dough.
Cooking time: In 2020, I started playing around with the cook time on these. My older version of this recipe said to cook at 350F for 8-10 minutes, but I recently adjusted to a lower temperature with a bit longer cook time. Feel free to adjust to your liking.
Let me know how these turn out for you!
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup packed of chopped, pitted dates
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
3 tablespoons mild molasses or blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Blend the oats in a dry, high speed blender until fine like flour. Set the oat flour aside in a bowl.
- In a food processor or high speed blender, blend the almonds until fine like flour. Add the pitted dates, cinnamon, ginger, and clove. Blend and pulse the almond flour, dates, and spices together. Then add in the molasses, vanilla, and the oat flour. Blend the ingredients until the mixture rolls into a ball. The texture should be smooth and sticky. *If the dough is not sticking together (which has happened in my food processor), add 1-2 tablespoons of water and blend.
- Scrape the dough out of the food processor or blender and place it into a bowl or on the cutting board.
- Preheat the oven to 280F.
- Place a silicone mat on a cookie sheet, clean counter top, or cutting board or use a non-porous cutting board. Add small sections of dough to the mat or board, and roll out the dough with a rolling pin until uniform. If using a silicone mat, carefully transfer the dough to a hard surface, such as a plate or a cutting board (I would not cut on the silicone mat). Then cut the dough with cookie cutters.
- Transfer the cookies to a cookie sheet that is lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Repeat the rolling process until all the dough is used.
- Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the oven. Allow the cookies to cool before storing.
- Store cookies in an airtight container. After a few days, move them from the cupboard to either the fridge or freezer to extend the life of the cookies.
*Please see notes above if you do not have a non-porous cutting board or silicone mat. It may help to prepare extra oat flour and also to chill the dough prior to rolling out the cookies.
*The number of cookies this yields varies based on the size of your cookie cutters.
Recipe updated December 18, 2020