Gingerbread Cookies, Allergy Friendly

We loved nibbling on this dough and decorating the baked gingerbread cookies in our PLAY! With Your Food, Holiday Edition 2017 event. This recipe, from the Dec/Jan 2014 issue of Living Without, whips up 2-3 dozen cookies and we used substitutions to keep them free of the top 8 allergens.  Everyone was able to enjoy a sweet treat!



1/2 cup palm shortening or Earth Balance dairy free/soy free
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 2 tablespoons hot water
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
1/2 cup arrowroot starch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt


  • In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until fluffy and light.  Add molasses and flax meal/water mixture and beat until thoroughly combined.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, arrowroot starch, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.
  • Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture to form a dough.
  • Divide dough in half.  Cover and chill in refrigerator about 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half of dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper into 1/8-1/4 inch thickness.  Using a cookie cutter, cut dough into gingerbread shapes.  Pick up cookies with a spatula and transfer them to prepared baking sheet.  If cut-outs are too sticky or soft to transfer, chill them for 5 minutes and try again.
  • Place cookies in preheated oven and bake 7-10 minutes or until edges are firm.  Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute before removing.
  • Decorate with icing (we used a simple combination of corn free confectioners sugar from Trader Joes, water, and all natural food coloring) and enjoy!

Developmental Notes:

Gingerbread Cookies.jpg

These gingerbread cookies are a great way all children can enjoy the fun of decorating cookies, without the need for a separate treat due of allergy restrictions.  Moving your body increases language, so as your child is stirring, rolling, cutting, and designing, this is a great time to get the conversation going!  Try to narrate what your child is doing, and share what you notice.  Remember there is no wrong way to decorate a gingerbread man, or woman! 

A few play examples:

  • Stirring the batter, rolling the dough, transferring the cookies to the baking sheet build motor skills.  Explore toppings of different sizes and textures, sharing observations with your child as you decorate. 
  • Take a moment to let your child smell a few of the spices individually.  Ask him which one he likes the best, comment on the differences in the smells between cinnamon and nutmeg for example.  Perhaps share a story of what these smells remind you of. 
  • Let your child know it's OK to get messy! Comment on what occurred without judgement. "Wow you squeezed so hard, ALL the icing came out at once! That gingerbread man is covered!  I bet a lot of toppings can stick to him now. Let's see!"
  • Build on your child's sense of "theory of mind" (ability to understand things from someone else's perspective).  Have your child decorate a cookie for each member of the family, a friend, or maybe even a book or TV character! "What do you think Daddy would like on his cookie?" Give your child a moment to create, and if he's stumped, lead with a few examples: "Well, I know I LOVE the color red, so I'm going to put red sprinkles on MY cookie...What is your Dad's favorite color?" or "I see you put candy canes on your gingerbread man. Do you think your friend Susan would want candy canes on her cookie?" or "If we could give a cookie to Bugs Bunny, he might want to see a carrot on it, because he loves carrots! What does your sister love? Let's draw that on the cookie!" 

More play notes can be found here, on our PLAY! Recipe page. 

Let us know if you try them!