Soft and chewy molasses crinkle cookies are a holiday baking staple, though they're delicious any time of year. Molasses, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves give these quick and easy spice cookies their incredible flavor before they're rolled in sugar and baked to chewy perfection. This old-fashioned recipe was passed down by my grandma, and it's a family favorite at Christmas!
Old-fashioned molasses crinkle cookies just might be my all-time favorite Christmas cookie! Their soft and chewy texture simply can't be beat, and their ginger and spice flavor is truly delightful. Like gingerbread cookies, molasses cookies are full of delicious spices, but they're a bit sweeter since they're rolled in sugar before baking. And I simply can't get enough of their beautiful crinkle tops.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
Molasses - Molasses is of course the key ingredient in molasses crinkle cookies. It gives these cookies their distinctive flavor, and it pairs beautifully with warming spices of ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. It also adds moisture to the cookie dough and activates the baking soda. I recommend dark molasses for this recipe (check out the FAQ section below for more information).
Granulated Sugar - Sugar adds both sweetness and structure to the cookie dough. Plus these cookies are rolled in sugar before baking, which helps to create sweet, crackly tops (see FAQs below for more information).
Vegetable Shortening - This recipe uses vegetable shortening instead of butter, and while I'm a huge fan of butter, hear me out. Shortening and butter are both fats, and fat is a necessary ingredient in cookies because it adds moisture and tenderness to the dough. Because of their different make up (vegetable shortening is 100% fat while butter is 80% to 86% fat plus water), shortening will yield a cookie that is more tender and chewy, though butter provides delicious flavor to cookies. Since the molasses and spices in these cookies provide such a rich flavor and these cookies don't rely on butter for flavor, I use shortening instead of butter to create a flavorful molasses cookie that is supremely chewy. It's the way Grandma made them, and I'm not messing with perfection!
See recipe card at the bottom of this post for full ingredient list and measurements.
In addition to essential baking equipment (like a mixing bowl and whisk), I recommend some special tools for making this recipe.
- A stand mixer or electric hand mixer for mixing the cookie dough.
Step 1: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
Step 2: Beat shortening, sugar, and molasses until combined.
Step 3: Add egg and beat on high speed until blended.
Step 4: Slowly add flour mixture to wet ingredients, blending just until incorporated.
Step 5: Pour extra sugar onto a small plate. Roll dough into balls and roll each ball in sugar.
Step 6: Chill the dough balls in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.
Step 7: Bake cookies at 350°F for 8-10 minutes, until cookies spread and flatten. Edges should appear slightly crisped and centers should still be slightly puffed.
Step 8: Cool cookies on tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will firm up a bit and tops will crackle as they cool.
Be careful not to over mix the cookie dough, which can lead to an overly dense and less chewy cookie.
Do not over bake the cookies. As noted in the recipe instructions, the cookies should be puffed up and just beginning to crack when they're removed from the oven. The crinkle tops will develop as the cookies cool. If the cookies are baked until the tops are heavily cracked, they are over baked and will be crispy.
For perfectly round cookies, place a large, round cookie cutter over the cookies on the tray immediately after baking them, swirling the cookie cutter around each cookies' edges to help shape the still-hot cookies.
Molasses cookies and gingersnaps have a similar flavor profile and crackled appearance, but they are not the same. Molasses cookies are chewy and soft (and a little bit sweeter), while gingersnaps have a crispy texture.
There are three types of molasses: light (often called "mild"), dark (often called "robust" or "full flavor"), and blackstrap. I recommend dark molasses, such as Grandma's Molasses Robust and Brer Rabbit Full Flavor Molasses, for baking molasses cookies because of its deep molasses flavor. If you prefer, you can also use light molasses (such as Grandma's Molasses Original and Brer Rabbit Mild Molasses), which has a more mild flavor and is sweeter than dark molasses, for this recipe. Avoid blackstrap molasses when baking molasses cookies, as it has a bitter flavor and should only be used for baking when the recipe specifically calls for it. You can read more about the different types of molasses in my gingerbread snowflake cookies recipe post.
Rolling cookies in sugar before baking helps to create a crackly top, which is why crinkle cookies are almost always sugar-coated. Sugar is hygroscopic, which means that it attracts and soaks up water. By adding sugar to the outside of the cookie, water in the dough is drawn out as it bakes, so the tops of the cookies dry and crack while the center remains soft. But don't worry - even with these crinkles on top, these cookies are chewy throughout!
Molasses crinkle cookies keep very well, so they're an excellent make-ahead Christmas cookie. These cookies will become even more soft as time goes on, and they won't become dry or crumbly like so many other cookies do when stale.
Room Temperature: Seal completely cooled cookies in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Freezing: Molasses cookies freeze and defrost beautifully when sealed in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Check out my post with everything you need to know about freezing cookie dough and baked cookies for more information!
More Spice Cookie Recipes
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- Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¾ cup vegetable shortening
- 1 cup granulated sugar (plus more for rolling cookies)
- ¼ cup molasses
- 1 large egg
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer), beat shortening, sugar, and molasses on medium speed until combined.
- Add egg and beat on high speed until blended.
- Slowly add flour mixture, blending just until incorporated.
- Pour extra sugar onto a small plate. Roll dough into balls and roll each ball in sugar.
- Chill the dough balls in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and place cookie dough balls 3 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, until cookies spread and flatten. Edges should appear slightly crisped and centers should still be slightly puffed. Cool cookies on tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will firm up a bit and tops will crackle as they cool.