Vegan Gingerbread Cookies (and Baking Tips)

December 13, 2012

Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw eats a mostly raw, vegan diet without losing time, money, or her sanity. Let her show you how to make "rabbit food" taste delicious and satisfying every other Thursday on Food52.

Every day till Christmas, we're bringing you 12 Days of Baking: 12 all-new baking recipes to lift holiday spirits -- from breakfast pastries to dinner rolls, and all the desserts you can handle.

Today: Gena shares a recipe for vegan gingerbread cookies, and some baking tips. 

Shop the Story

Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

You may have perfected soups and stews, veggie burgers and wraps, hummus and kale salad. You may even have tackled—and mastered—a perfect vegan pie crust. But cookies, quickbreads, and cake—without the butter, milk, or eggs? It may be possible, but surely it’s going to take a lot of work. 

That’s how I felt, anyway, when I first became vegan. Every attempt I made to explore vegan baking ended up with me reading an online list of egg substitutions that made my eyes gloss over. After a few failed experiments with flax seeds and water, I figured I’d just call baked goods a thing of the past. Fortunately, a few brilliant cookbooks showed me the error of my ways, and vegan baking was soon my favorite new project. For someone who had never relished baking in the first place—the precision, the rules—I was suddenly enchanted with my mixer and spatula. 

My friends and colleagues were pleased, too. There is nothing like watching the delight in a person’s face as he or she realizes that a gooey cookie or moist slice of cake is actually vegan. 

This holiday season, you may find yourself fielding questions or criticism from family members who aren’t quite sure why you’re interested in this whole vegan thing, anyway. Rather than formulating a wordy answer, you may want to simply share a crispy and delicious vegan cookie. Good food speaks for itself. 

Before you get down to baking, allow me to share some general vegan cookie-making tips:

Coconut oil. As I’ve mentioned before, you can use coconut oil (solid, at room temperature) to replace butter in most recipes. It even beats up nicely in a mixer!

Biscotti, anyone? Biscotti are traditionally made either without butter or without eggs. For this reason, it’s easy to veganize them because you’re only facing one animal product substitution, rather than two. Try making them with a combination of vegetable oil or coconut oil and soymilk. They’ll be crispy, crunchy, and delicious.

Flax eggs. Flax “egg” is a common substitution for eggs in vegan baking. Whisk one tablespoon of ground flaxmeal with 3 tablespoons warm water and let it “gel” for a few moments before adding it to your recipe. One of these is the equivalent of a single egg. It can take a little time to perfect this method, but once you get it, it works.

Icing on the cookie. Try mixing certified organic powdered cane sugar with almond or soy milk and a touch of vanilla for an easy sugar cookie glaze.

Chocolate craving? Have no fear. Many dark chocolates and dark chocolate chips on the market are vegan: typically those labeled 75% or higher. Be sure to look for labels that include no butter or milkfat, as well as certified organic ingredients to ensure that the sugar used is vegan-friendly. 

If you’re looking for a particularly traditional recipe this holiday season, then consider making these crispy, sturdy, and flavorful vegan gingerbread men. The nice thing about these cookies is that they require no egg replacer, and very little non-dairy milk, so they’re a gentle and forgiving way to begin your vegan baking adventures. They’re packed with molasses, which gives them a deep color and a rich, unmistakable taste. Perfect for icing and turning into a gingerbread house, or for putting under the tree, they are sure to make you fall in love with vegan baking. One crispy bite at a time.

Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

Stress Free Vegan Holiday Gingerbread Cookies

Makes 25-30 small cookies or one small gingerbread house. for a larger house, double the recipe.

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour (plus extra for rolling)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup demerara sugar, coconut sugar, or evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup almond milk, soy milk, or rice milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Order now

The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kitchen Butterfly
    Kitchen Butterfly
  • Suescan
  • ChristyBean
  • Newton Mom
    Newton Mom
  • GMA8.5
Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


Kitchen B. February 27, 2013
These look really wonderful - I didn't know you could whip coconut oil.

I wonder if chia seeds could work like flax seeds - they do have that gelatinous quality as flax seeds do? Have you ever tried them?
Suescan December 24, 2012
Thank you! I've been dreaming about Gingerbread cookies recently and decided at the last minute to make some for gifts. I stumbled across the recipe by accident - wasn't looking for vegan (since the cookies are for others), but really liked how they looked and all of the ingredients are things that I already had in the cupboard. I'm pleased to say they came out perfect - even better than how I remember non-vegan gingerbread cookies, and I can have some, too!
ChristyBean December 21, 2012
I made these last weekend, and apart from the dough drying out overnight (fixed easily by mixing in water until no longer crumbly), they came out like a dream. I rolled out some thicker than others, which meant that some puffed up, but those that were rolled out very thinly were more of a classic texture. I don't know how they hold up over the course of a few days, as they were all gobbled up by the next day. This recipe is definitely my new go-to for gingerbread cookies.
Newton M. December 19, 2012
Dough i chilling in fridge for rollling, cutting and baking after work. Is there a recipe for vegan icing out there?
ChristyBean December 21, 2012
I found one that was from IsaChandra at the Post Punk Kitchen that I used: "
Re: the icing question – If you just want to get enough to make eyes and mouths and maybe a few buttons, then use 1/2 a cup of confectioners sugar and mix in 1 tablespoon non-dairy milk. Don’t even both with vanilla because it’s such a scant amount it won’t matter. Mix really well with a fork until it’s pasty, then add 1/2 a teaspoon milk at a time until it’s a bit thicker than toothpaste, usually I need maybe 1 1/2 more teaspoons, but since confectioner sugars vary it’s best to start small."
GMA8.5 December 19, 2012
Thank you so much, Gena. I use the lovely biscotti recipe from "Biscotti" with (what else?) olive oil. So good. Will try these ASAP.
2nd S. December 19, 2012
THANK YOU!! My granddaughter, Lia, watches as others dig into cakes, pies, ice cream and other goodies. I just emailed this recipe to my daughter in law and soon Lia will be scarfing these down!
Steffanie December 19, 2012
I'm trying to make a cookie for my daughter in law: dairy, egg, gluten but also coconut-free (she is allergic to way too much). How could I replace the coconut oil ? Thanks
Matthew M. December 19, 2012
Try Vegan Butter (at Whole Foods) for the coconut oil. You can also use corn starch instead of flour and flax meal/water as an egg.
j_en December 17, 2012
My boyfriend is vegan, and I'm a lunatic baker (especially around the holidays), so I really appreciate this article! Coconut oil is a great tip. Would coconut oil also work for soft caramels and other candy?
jim.corcoran.7 December 16, 2012
Delicious vegan food, like these cookies, is one reason why the number of vegans has doubled in less than 3 years. Here are two uplifting videos that will help people understand just some of the implications of this lifestyle: Why Vegan? by EVOLVE! Campaigns and
stephanie W. December 13, 2012
This recipe is a treasure! The perfect holiday cookie! Thank you!
AntoniaJames December 13, 2012
I made these over the weekend and they plumped up while baking (like the ones in the photo above seem to have done). Each day since then, they've become softer and softer. I followed the recipe exactly, and yet they are not and have never been crispy. What do you think went wrong? Should I have cooked them much longer than I did? I cut out smallish reindeer shapes, and they darkened around the edges. ;o)
Gena H. December 14, 2012
Hi Antonia,

I'm not sure why they softened! They've always stayed firm for me. One thing you might do is be sure to keep them in a totally airtight container after letting them dry 100% (and cool). Sometimes egg-free baked goods can be a little more moist than others. If you try again, you might also reduce baking powder to 1/4 tsp; I am hesitant to suggest this, since 1/2 is the measurement that worked for me, but these things can be slightly variable (also depending on the environment you're in, temperature, climate, etc.), and they will plump less. Finally, you might add another 1/4 cup flour, and see if that changes things.

I'm sorry it didn't turn out perfectly! Let me know how another round goes.

Nozlee S. December 17, 2012
Thought you might both like to hear this update: I made the gingerbread cookies on Friday and reduced the baking soda to a 1/2 teaspoon. Out of the oven the cookies were VERY snappy, becoming just a little softer every day. We finished the last of them this morning, and they were soft but still not "bendy" or fragile. That said, we kept them on an uncovered platter -- I forgot to experiment with sealing some in an airtight container.

(We also made a gingerbread house with the same recipe and a vegan royal icing of powdered sugar, unsweetened soy milk, and a teaspoon or two of pastis:
Alexandra Z. December 19, 2012
An amazing thing I discovered to make baked goods crunchier is adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of potato flour to the recipe. Note that potato flour is NOT the same as potato starch. You can find it in health food stores. The most common brand is Bob's Red Mill. It's vegan (just ground dehydratated potatoes) and it works like magic!
Nozlee S. December 13, 2012
Jarrett and I have stars in our eyes dreaming up the gingerbread house we're going to build (and then, duh, eat) with this recipe. Stay tuned!!
Gena H. December 14, 2012
Oooh fun! Enjoy it :)