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METHODOLOGY // RESULTS // FACTORS // ANALYSIS // RECOMMENDATIONS
- 35 total tasters
- All 9 recipes were baked the day of the tasting (some doughs were made and chilled ahead of time according to the recipe)
- All recipes were baked on parchment-lined cookie sheets
- Tasters ranked each cookie on a scale from 0-10 for overall flavor, texture, and as a whole
- Ingredients were measured by weight according to the King Arthur website if no gram measurements were given
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- King Arthur bread flour
- King Arthur cake flour
- Arrowhead Mills organic rye flour
- Grandma’s unsulphured molasses
- Wholesome organic molasses
- Trader Joe’s unsalted butter
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and soda
- Diamond kosher salt
- Imperial granulated and brown sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
As always, please take these results with a grain of salt since the data comes from a limited pool of tasters. Baker’s error can always occur and I try to point out when I know for sure that it did!
I truly do think all of these recipes would be amazing if eaten standalone, so I encourage you to read through each of these recipe descriptions to find the one that’s right for you! (If you’re wondering my favorites, I always list them at the end of the post.)
How did I select these 9 recipes? I always look at the recommendations you send in via Instagram as well as the first few pages of Google for the most popular recipes. I narrow down all the options (in this case, more than 50 recipes) to a handful with different factors–for example, a recipe that uses only egg yolks, different spice mixes or organic vs. non-organic molasses. In the end, I do my best to pick a wide variety of recipes that feels like an overall representation of the recipes available!
Factors that Influence Ginger Molasses Cookie Recipes
- Ginger flavor: As someone who doesn’t *love* ginger molasses cookies, I know spicy cookies are not for everyone. However, here are the levers you can pull if you want a more or less spicy cookie:
- Ginger sugar: This was by far the best way to pack a punch of ginger into a cookie–by rolling each cookie in a ginger sugar, Sohla (NYT) created a cookie that makes ginger the first thing to hit your tastebuds.
- Fresh ginger: While adding fresh ginger to the dough can help improve the ginger flavor, it seemed to be more effective if you bloom the ginger in butter (NYT and in Displaced Housewife’s burnt ginger sugar) to really bring out the flavor.
- Dried ginger: Of course adding the spice is the baseline of all ginger molasses cookies. If you really like ginger, look for a recipe or think about reducing the amount of cinnamon in the recipe so the cinnamon doesn’t overpower it.
- Pepper: An easy way to get a spicy kick to your cookies is to use freshly ground pepper! This can be quite a divisive flavor.
- Candied ginger: As seen in Cook Til Delicious’ recipe, this can be used as a gorgeous garnish and also adds great ginger flavor.
- Molasses type: Butternut Bakery has an interesting side by side photo showing what her cookies look like made with organic molasses (darker, richer) compared to non-organic molasses like Grandma’s molasses (lighter). I think that the organic molasses also lent a slightly earthier flavor to the cookies–something to keep in mind depending on what effect you want.
- Type of finishing sugar: Most people seemed to prefer the cookies that were rolled in a coarse finishing sugar (turbinado or demerera are popular). Meanwhile, the cookies rolled in granulated sugar had a slight sparkle but overall didn’t have nearly the same textural effect. Personally, I think we should be finishing all cookies in a coarse sugar!
Want to know how to safely grate fresh ginger? I put all my tips at the bottom of this post!
Analysis of the Best Ginger Molasses Cookie Recipe
King Arthur: a thick, chewy, slightly dry, oil-based cookie with plenty of spices
I had nearly settled on Ina’s recipe as the sole oil-based cookie recipe when someone sent me this recipe. With a base of all rye flour and a spice mix that includes ginger, pepper, cinnamon and cardamom, this recipe seemed like a more unique option. With no chilling or mixer required, these were by far the easiest cookie to assemble. (Note: I used the option of coating the cookies in granulated sugar since I didn’t have coarse sparkling sugar.)
While I was rooting for this cookie (so easy! so healthy from the rye flour!), it didn’t quite live up as my fav. Texturally, it’s very thick and extremely chewy. Spice-wise, the pepper really stood out, lending this cookie a spicy edge that I didn’t personally love. I think this cookie would be really excellent eaten alone if you like spicier cookies, but this unfortunately didn’t fare as well against some of the sweeter, milder cookies.
- These ones are gingery! I can also taste the butter and ample salt—flavor-wise, these are some of the best ones! I also taste…black pepper maybe? Whatever it is, these are spicy, and I appreciate it. Texture-wise, these are also really good! I expected them to be cakey, based on the domed top, but there’s a nice chew and crunch on the outside—though I wish they were just a little fudgier (like [Displaced Housewife]). Don’t judge a book by its cover—these are excellent.
- I liked the texture of this cookie since it was chewy and thick. The flavor was a little on the spicier side so I wish it was balanced a bit towards the sweeter side.
- The spiciest of the bunch, lingering after taste. However I’m not a fan of how stiff and crunchy it is especially with the proportion of its size. Maybe if it’s bigger then the crunch ratio would balance out.
- I got brown sugar, some black pepper, and an off-putting aftertaste. The texture was a bit dry.
- Didn’t like the peppercorn–very very spicy, made me cough
Cook Til Delicious: a cakey, molasses-forward cookie with a crunchy sugar exterior
Ruth’s recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit and came highly recommended on Instagram. She calls for a mix of all-purpose, bread and rye flour along with the addition of fresh ginger in the dough. There is an unusually high ratio of molasses in this recipe (a 1:1 with butter) and just a small amount of brown sugar. After a 30 min chill, the dough ball is finished with a dot of candied ginger before baking.
These large cookies were absolutely beautiful with a thick texture that had a simultaneously fluffy yet fudgy bite. I do think the use of rye flour may have put this cookie and King Arthur’s at a relative disadvantage because of the flavor difference. In comparison to the other cookies, this cookie wasn’t overly sweet with an emphasis on the earthy flavor of molasses with the spices in the background. If making these again, I might distribute the candied ginger throughout each cookie rather than just one piece on each cookie (though each piece does add quite a gingery punch, so adapt to your liking). As a standalone cookie, I think this would be really stunning!
- Love the presentation of this one, soft flaky feel of the cookie makes it almost decadent. Not a powerful taste which I like, favorite so far as I rank them.
- This one is definitely cake-y, and a bit dry—though the outside has a nice crunch. Though I don’t love the texture, the flavor is solid—you get a nice hit of ginger (though not so much that it’s spicy), and you can taste the molasses. I’d cut up the candied ginger and disperse rather than stick a chunk in the center—if not because it may add a bit more chew to an otherwise dry dough.
- It had a great crunchy exterior and spicy kick–I could taste the spices, but weirdly I didn’t get a ginger flavor beyond the kick. Loved the kick, but didn’t love how dry this cookie was.
- I didn’t love the candied ginger in the middle of this cookie and it was a little on the spicier side than the sweeter side, which wasn’t my favorite. The texture was a bit too airy for me.
- Needs more flavor throughout, the ginger in the middle can’t save it. Pleasant texture.
Sally’s Baking Addiction: a mild, tender, thin and chewy molasses cookie
Sally’s recipe is similar to many popular recipes on the internet (principally, Gimme Some Oven‘s recipe that often slides into the #1 slot on Google–however, Sally’s recipe was published first, which is why I’m including it). With a mix of brown and white sugar, creamed butter, and a mix of spices that’s heavy on the ginger and cinnamon, this recipe is what I consider the “benchmark” recipe.
Sally’s recipe reminded me a lot of Rose’s recipe in shape and size–similarly small and thin with a moderately bendy, soft texture. However, while Rose’s cookie emphasized the butter flavor, Sally’s has slightly more spice flavor and less emphasis on the butter. I can see how this would be a crowd-pleasing, mild molasses cookie–but it seemed a bit too mild in comparison to the other cookies in the mix.
- Perfect texture with the soft inside and crunchier exterior. Flavor isn’t too strong but you can taste the spice notes at the end, smells fragrant.
- Simple, sweet, flavorful cookie with a nice texture. Tastes like a soft gingerbread cookie, could use frosting.
- This one was okay—kind of one note. Not a super chewy texture, more a sweet flavor than a spiced/gingery one, not a ton of contrast between the center and the exterior. I do taste the butter, but overall, not terribly memorable.
- Super moist cookie, ideal texture – buttery soft insides with crispy/chewy edges. I thought the spice balance to ginger was really nice, but not ginger-y enough for me! I really want a ginger-forward cookie.
- I didn’t get a lot of ginger or molasses on this one — too subtle for me. The texture was almost crumbly, which is not my preference with this type of cookie.
- The most bland of all. The texture is nice and crispy on the outside but soft inside. But truly does not taste like anything.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: a tender, buttery, very mild molasses cookie
Rose’s recipe stood out for its use of brown butter. As with all of her recipes, this recipe is very precisely written, which helps reduce baker’s error. She uses modest amounts of most ingredients (just 3 tablespoons of molasses and less than half a teaspoon of ginger), yielding equally modest cookies.
Ultimately, this may not have been the best choice to test in a ginger molasses cookie bake off as Rose does call this a “molasses sugar butter cookie,” which actually sums up the description of the cookie quite well. The spice flavor is extremely mild while the brown butter flavor takes prominence. It’s such a sweet, PLEASANT cookie. There was less textural variation in this–crisp around the edges and just slightly more tender in the center. I imagine it’s an amazing cookie for tea, but perhaps not the spicy ginger molasses cookie of your dreams.
- This was a thicc cookie! Chewy insides with crunchy sides. Has a bit of a salty aftertaste and some nice spices and ginger, but not as ginger-y as I would have liked. Rich, buttery flavor
- Slightly sandy, almost short-bready texture (not a ton of contrast between center and outside)—which, as a chewy person, isn’t super ideal, but also isn’t unpleasant! I like the flavor, which is toasty and buttery and almost caramel-ly, though not super gingery or molasses-y. It’s a pretty cookie, sparkly with sugar and a nice crackle. All to say, a good cookie—just not one that screams ginger molasses.
- A cinnamon sugar cookie to me, too mild, confusing flavor and not what was expecting, wish it had darker/ richer flavor
- This cookie tasted sweet but the ginger and molasses didn’t come through. The texture was chewy but a bit on the dry side.
- This doesn’t really taste like a ginger molasses cookie to me – the predominant flavor is butter (maybe brown butter?), and the texture is crumbly and cakey. If you told me it was a soft shortbread, I’d believe you.
New York Times (Sohla): a soft and fudgy cookie packed with ginger for spicy cookie lovers
Sohla’s chewy gingerbread cookies in the New York Times caught my eye primarily for its use of ginger sugar. In the same way that you roll snickerdoodles in cinnamon sugar, her cookies are rolled in a finishing layer of sugar mixed with dried ginger for an extra punch of ginger–genius! But there’s many more layers–she also uses powdered sugar instead of granulated for a chewy/crisp texture and browns the butter before blooming fresh grated ginger, freshly ground black pepper and other spices in the butter.
While this recipe is a bit more work than average (grating 3 tablespoons of fresh ginger alone is quite the task if you’re doing it manually), it yields perhaps the spiciest ginger cookie I’ve ever had! The ginger sugar on the surface of the cookie immediately hits you with a wave of ginger, echoed by pops of pepper and ginger in the dough itself. The texture is also so satisfying with a perfectly fudgy center, a slightly chewy mid-ring and crisp edges. It was interesting to see this cookie score quite high on texture but lower on flavor. This was very divisive in that some really loved the spiciness and others found it way too spicy. I think this is a PERFECT, unparalleled cookie for a spicy ginger molasses cookie lover.
- Ooh! These ones are quite spicy, in a good way; the taste of ginger really lingers. If there’s a downside, it’s that the ginger slightly masks all the other flavors (butter, molasses, caramel), but what I do get is lovely. Texture is fudgy on the inside, crisp on the outside. These are also visually lovely—not cracked, but lots of ripples (almost like the pan-banging method). Overall, I’d tone down the ginger a little bit, so some of the other flavor could shine through, but any ginger fan would love these.
- Great texture, perfect amount of crunch and chewiness. The cookie is soft and if you chew a couple of times it almost reminds me of [Displaced Housewife] with caramel texture. I was wrong and this is now the spiciest of the bunch
- Very sharp ginger flavor. Least sweet (which I preferred). Could eat a lot of these.
- Chewy, chewy, chewy! When I broke it in half I was so delighted to see the chewy texture. The flavor also had a great spice. If it only had a sugary crust on top, I think it would be perfect.
- If you like ginger (like me), this is your cookie! Way too gingery for most, enjoyed initial taste but overpowered by ginger. Like texture, great crunch.
- Too spicy!! Tastes like straight up ginger. Didn’t love the kick
Butternut Bakery: a soft, tender, molasses-forward cookie
Similar to her brown butter cookie recipe, Jenna’s recipe stood out for its use of cake flour–in this case, in addition to all-purpose flour. She also uses all dark brown sugar and specifically recommends organic molasses as opposed to the typical unsulphured molasses brands like Grandma molasses. (Jenna recommends demerera or raw sugar for coating; I used turbinado.) This dough requires at least a 4 hour chill (I chilled it overnight) and because she doesn’t specify to cover the dough balls, I chilled them uncovered since she calls for this with her brown butter cookies (specifically to help dry out the butter-heavy dough).
Upon biting into this cookie, there was a distinct earthiness–this really leans on the molasses flavor, which makes sense as Jenna advertises these as soft molasses cookies. With just a little bit of ginger, cinnamon and clove, the spices almost dissolve into the background. I’ve loved the texture of every Butternut Bakery cookie recipe I’ve tried and this is no different–crisp edges and a slightly doughy texture that gives into a tender, fudgy chew in the center. I’m curious if the standard Grandma’s molasses would give this a less earthy flavor profile–but either way, a great cookie for molasses lovers!
- Soft and chewy, perfect amount of ginger and molasses
- Soft, almost cake-y texture, with a nice exterior crunch thanks to the turbinado sugar. Not getting a ton of ginger, but this one isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, which I appreciate. I also like the dark brown, sparkly look to the cookie—it looks molasses-y.
- This tastes like molasses with a capital M. The molasses flavor is very dark and almost chocolate-y (without being sweet). Very cakey, which is not my preference, and the molasses flavor definitely overpowers any spices.
- Pretty soft cookie but not chewy. Almost buttery/saltier taste but still really delicious. The sugar crystals on top gave it a nice texture. Nice flavor but not very ginger-y
- Ginger doesn’t through very strong, a bit salty. Texture is nice and light though
Cook’s Illustrated: a thin, soft and bendy cookie that feels “classic” but mild
Cook’s Illustrated is also quite similar to the benchmark recipe (Sally’s) with similar proportions of butter, sugar, molasses and flour–but this was the only recipe to use an egg yolk rather than a full egg. Spice-wise, CI is also fairly similar, but adds 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. This was a rare recipe that didn’t call for any chilling.
For such similar proportions of Sally’s Baking Addiction, this cookie somehow felt more classic. The cookies were slightly bigger, softer, and I think the addition of pepper made this stand out more in terms of the spice mix. While it’s a thinner cookie than I’d prefer, it has a pleasantly soft, bendy texture and a present but not overpowering spice mix to complement the mild molasses flavor. This felt like a classic ginger molasses cookie to me, and one I kept returning to (even though I feel it should be a little spicier to really live up to its namesake).
- Chewy with crispy edges, really full-bodied, deep flavor. Not too sweet or spicy but plenty of spices and ginger taste. This is my ideal cookie!
- Very classic ginger cookie taste. Ginger is not overwhelming. Good balance of sweetness.
- The main flavor I’m getting is sugar, with a bit of a gingery kick at the end. Not a ton of depth of flavor (could use more salt). Texture is decent—chewy interior, crunchy exterior, though could go for a slightly fudgier bite in the middle. Nothing wrong aesthetically, though I’m a sucker for that crinkly texture.
- I wish the cookie was thicker, it smelled fragrant and had nice spice notes which kept it tasting more traditional. Very cinnamon heavy
- Ginger fell flat; very molasses-heavy. Not enough spice. Edges were a little too crisp
Claire Saffitz: a classic, perfectly chewy and soft cookie with a great balance between ginger and molasses
Claire’s recipe stood out in contrast to the benchmark recipe (Sally’s) in that it uses the same amount of butter but far more sugar, egg and flour. It also called for the interesting addition of apple cider vinegar (not sure what purpose this served). This recipe calls for at least a one hour chill (I chilled it overnight) and wrapping two dough squares in plastic wrap for the chill. I found this method a bit wasteful when you can just as easily put the dough in a Tupperware to chill. Claire’s recipe also called for demerera sugar for coating but I used turbinado.
While my cookies didn’t turn out with the same picturesque cracks on the top, these cookies were delightful! Compared to CI, these felt like an even more elevated classic cookie with a good balance between the molasses and a spice mix that leans heavily on the ginger. It’s a tad thicker than CI with a soft, satisfyingly chewy bite and a tiny bit crunchy at the edges. I think these would be a real crowd pleaser–as one taster noted, “a really great pick if you don’t know how much spice people like.”
- Most of the soft ones I like, but perhaps this is my favorite because although it’s soft, the sugar crystals keeps the texture more interesting instead of just the crunch on the edge it’s scattered throughout. It’s my favorite thin soft one and maybe [Cook Til Delicious] is my favorite thick soft one.
- Perfect ginger balance, not too sweet. Like the sugar outside and the texture. Great balance of crunchiness and chewiness.
- A pretty inoffensive mildly spiced light molasses flavor, with some butter in the aftertaste. The texture had nice crisp edges and a lot of soft fudge-y center. This cookie would be good in an ice cream cookie sandwich.
- These ones are super buttery, even a bit caramel-y, though they’re not especially ginger-forward. Texturally, these are strong: the turbinado sugar lends a nice crunch, and there’s a fudgy interior, chewy ring just before the outside, and crunchy outer rim. I could use a bit more ginger/spice, but I’d say these are above-average cookies on all fronts.
- Too dark and molasses-y, not enough ginger. I did like the crunchy sugared edges though. Too crumbly in the middle, not enough chew or softness for me.
Displaced Housewife: a thin, chewy cookie with ripples of gingery candy streaks throughout
Rebecca’s recipe uses bread flour in addition to all-purpose, uses a higher ratio of granulated to brown sugar and calls for fresh ginger in the dough. Most uniquely, she makes a “burnt ginger sugar” that is basically a fresh ginger-infused caramel that gets poured onto a sheet pan to harden before the shards get mixed into the dough.
These cookies were absolutely beautiful with ripples of the burnt ginger sugar throughout! These cookies were quite large and thin with bendy centers. I found the flavor of these to be lighter on the spices and molasses than I expected (not nearly as spicy as NYT, for example), but the pops of flavor from the burnt sugar made up for this. Making the burnt sugar is quite a laborious extra step (grating 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger alone for the caramel is a process!), but definitely worth it if you’re ready for a project. I think adding the burnt ginger sugar to any of these cookies would be a genius extra step.
- Lovely and gingery! I’m trying to place the candied part, it was a really fun twist on this cookie.
- Very thin cookie, which led to more crunch and crispiness, and a chewier middle. Almost caramel-like in flavor and texture (sticky), but such a great ginger flavor. I know if it sat out for longer it would get really hard, because it’s already a bit too chewy and thin for my taste, but the flavor is great.
- Loved the variation in flavor and texture in each bite that came from the toffee swirl. The spices were well balanced with the toffee/caramel, and I really liked the chewy-crunchy parts. You’d have to like toffee to like this cookie though.
- First, this one is visually stunning—deeply crinkled and a perfect dark golden brown. Plenty gingery, thanks to the nuggets of candied ginger studded throughout the cookie. The texture is superb—chewy and moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside, with a shattering crust thanks to a roll in sugar. This one is my favorite so far, though it’s not for purists.
- Strong ginger taste is nice, but left a slight bitter aftertaste. Hard but sticky texture was not my favorite.
- This is a very good cookie. The ginger flavor is off the chain. The cookie is chewy, but a bit thin. This may have been my ideal cookie if it were thicker.
- Love the texture, but the flavor doesn’t really do it. Has kind of a weird edge on the flavor that I can’t place.
The Best Way to Grate Fresh Ginger
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I came away from this bake off with no fewer than 4 cuts on my fingers from trying to grate tablespoons of fresh ginger with a microplane. After crowd-sourcing dozens of recommendations on how to safely grate fresh ginger, here are my top tips:
- Freeze your ginger! This was the number one tip that apparently makes it much, much easier to grate fresh ginger. Some people peel ginger (try using the back of a spoon) and freeze before grating. Others simply wash ginger and freeze it before grating, leaving the skin on.
- Grate in the same direction as the fibers: While you can get a finer grate if you grate against the fibers, grating parallel to the fiber structure makes it easier.
- Use younger ginger: Young, fresh ginger will be much easier to grate than older, fibrous ginger pieces.
- Make sure your microplane is sharp: Microplanes tend to dull over time; getting a new, sharp microplane can make all the difference.
- Use a food processor with a grating attachment: One recommendation was to peel and cut ginger into chunks then freeze–then throw into a food processor with a grating attachment for a large batch of grated ginger!
- Buy a specific ginger grating appliance: If you tend to cook with a lot of fresh ginger, some people recommended a specific ginger grating appliance like this Moha ginger grater.
- Use a Japanese/ceramic grater: Some people recommended these as lifesavers; others said these aren’t that helpful and are a pain to clean.
- Just buy frozen ginger cubes: If all else fails and you don’t mind a slight flavor difference, just buy frozen ginger cubes for a speedy solution! (Examples at Target or Trader Joe’s.)
Erika’s picks: NYT, Displaced Housewife, Cook’s Illustrated
Most crowd-pleasing cookie: Displaced Housewife
Best spicy ginger molasses cookie: NYT, King Arthur
Best classic ginger molasses cookie: Cook’s Illustrated, Claire Saffitz
Best mild cookies: Rose Levy Beranbaum, Sally’s Baking Addiction
Best molasses-forward cookies: Butternut Bakery, Rushyama
Easiest to make: King Arthur
The very best Molasses cookie I ever had, my vote! The Displaced Housewife! Thank you for doing these comparisons. I have made a few of these and they were very good. The ginger brittle in this recipe gave it the over the top vote.
Too bad I can’t access the Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I love your bake-offs, but if you include a recipe, it should be freely available.
Was planning on making King Arthur version but the only cardamom at the store was $22! Ended up making Claire Saffitz and they were divine even though I only had light brown sugar. Makes a lot of cookies!
Thank you for another wonderful write-up, Erika, and for sacrificing your finger health to the microplane! I made Claire Saffitz’s recipe last year and loved it, even though I had to omit some of the ingredients I didn’t have. Might try Butternut Bakery’s this year but up the ginger amount a little.
I was going to try Rose Levy Beranbaum’s (and also increase the amount of ginger), but while the exactitude of her ingredients is definitely helpful, any recipe that calls for a fraction of an egg is a no-go haha.
Haha thanks so much Joanna!! Hope you enjoyed Butternut Bakery if you tried it! Ugh yes I also hate fractions of eggs, but I also tend to throw leftovers into a breakfast taco–hope you had a wonderful holiday season!
Aww, my favorites (King Arthur) were the bottom of this list. This is the first bake off where I’ve had a favorite recipe in the mix and it definitely made me more invested in reading the taster comments. I do like a really spicy cookie, but maybe I’ll use a more crowd pleasing recipe for a cookie tray.
High fives all around for delicious food!
Isn’t it funny how things work like that?? I think it’s such an interesting illustration of how people have wildly different tastes. Hope you ended up with a delicious cookie tray!!