These cutout almond flour sugar cookies will hold any shape you like so you can celebrate any holiday and still eat grain free!
Why cutout cookies are so amazing
Cutout cookies are the kind of cookie that require you to roll out cookie dough, and then cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. They’re most often sugar cookies, which are a simple mix of flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, butter and egg. But they could be gingerbread cookies or even chocolate shortbread cookies.
A proper cutout cookie will hold its shape just as you cut it, even if that shape has twists, turns, bends, or corners. That means that it’s ready to celebrate any holiday, any day of the year. Whether it’s a birthday, and you want to surprise your 5-year old by spelling out his name in sugar cookies, it’s Easter and you want to make eggs and bunnies, or it’s Valentine’s Day and it’s all about the hearts, a good sugar cookie recipe has you covered.
Almond flour and tapioca starch/flour as a mostly all-purpose flour
I love baking with almond flour and rarely bake with it without adding some tapioca starch/flour to create a proper balance of ingredients. The best ratio of these flours is usually 40% almond flour, 60% tapioca starch.
That ratio is the best if you’re trying to create a recipe that closely resembles the type that you’d make with a rice-based flour blend (or conventional all-purpose flour). Since almond flour has a lot of fat, you’ll typically use about half the amount of fat that you might otherwise expect.
Most of the time I create a recipe with this amazing flour, it’s a Paleo recipe. That means no dairy (but it seems like maybe butter is now Paleo-legal?), no grains, and no refined sugars. For this recipe, I started with my soft frosted sugar cookies recipe and mostly just swapped out that almond/tapioca flour blend and reduced the fat by half.
I do understand that unrefined sugars like honey and maple syrup contain some nutrients, and they’re less likely to create a carb craving than refined sugars. But for the most part, sugar is sugar to your body. Plus, I’m really not interested in ever becoming dogmatic.
The only way I was going to be able to create an almond flour sugar cookie that was light in color was to use white sugar, and Paleo granulated sugar is brown (coconut palm sugar). Since I’m trying to make a “normal” looking and tasting sugar cookie, appearance mattered a whole lot to me.
If you’re looking for a more virtuous almond flour cookie, try my almond flour chocolate chip cookies. They’re very lightly sweet and quite virtuous.
How to make these almond flour sugar cookies
This recipe is a simple one-bowl-and-a-spoon recipe, which is great. But when you’re following along with the recipe, you’ll notice that the dry ingredients severely outnumber the wet ingredients. Don’t worry—I promise it works.
When you add the melted butter, egg, and vanilla, you may think the dough will never come together. It will, but it will likely need a bit of water to bring it together. It’s all described in the recipe, and the how-to video shows precisely what I mean.
You will certainly have to knead the dough with clean hands to integrate everything. You may be tempted to add water a tablespoon at a time, and keep going until the dough comes together easily with a spoon. Instead, add the water very, very slowly and let touch be your guide.
When the dough holds together after kneading, it will roll out cleanly and the cookies will keep their clean lines during baking. Too much water will cause the cookies to spread during baking. Remember, you can always add more water, but you can’t take any out.
Ingredients and substitutions
Since this recipe doesn’t fit neatly into any particular category, like Paleo or “regular” gluten free, there are a few ingredient subjects to cover. Let’s get right to it:
Almond flour: Since these are almond flour sugar cookies, we’re not really going to talk about replacing almond flour (are we?). But it’s worth mentioning that you must use finely ground, blanched almond flour. The “blanched” part just means that the skins of the almonds have been removed.
I always purchase almond flour from either Honeyville (the best price is often on Amazon) or Nuts.com. Bob’s Red Mill brand almond flour is not finely ground enough, and it makes an enormous difference in the success of the recipe. Never use almond meal, which is coarsely ground and still has almond skins.
Tapioca starch/flour: Tapioca starch has no substitute, I’m afraid. It’s a unique flour (sometimes called a starch, but there is no difference regardless of the name). Like almond flour, quality varies tremendously among brands of tapioca starch.
I almost always buy tapioca starch/flour from Nuts.com since it’s great quality at a great price. Authentic Foods also makes a great quality product, but it’s much more expensive and not at all easy to find.
Sugar: You can use granulated coconut palm sugar in place of refined granulated sugar, gram for gram. To make sure that the coconut sugar dissolves completely, though, grind it first in a blender or food processor. The cookies will turn brown, though, since coconut sugar is very dark brown in color. The coconut sugar will also add some flavor. The edges of the cookies will also likely not be as clean.
If you’d like to try making these cookies sugar free, I have a really good feeling about Lankato granulated monkfruit sweetener, gram for gram. It does tend to be drying, though, so expect to add more water to bring the dough together.
Butter/dairy: In place of melted butter in the cookie dough, try using butter-flavored Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. Virgin coconut oil (the kind that is solid at room temperature) should also work as a dairy-free substitute. If you’re making the glaze and want to make it dairy-free, be sure to use dairy-free chocolate.
Egg: In place of the egg in this recipe, you can try using a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel).
Xanthan gum: I do consider the xanthan gum in this recipe to be optional, but it is essential to a clean edge on your cutout cookies, and a smooth texture. I tried compensating for the omission of xanthan gum with more tapioca starch (which does sometimes work in a recipe like this), but it was a fail every single time.
Chocolate glaze: The chocolate glaze is not very sweet at all, and really balances the sweetness of the cookie itself. You can leave it out entirely, try using the Paleo 7-Minute frosting from these Paleo chocolate sandwich cookies, or really use whatever frosting, icing or glaze you like.
The light corn syrup in the glaze (which is not the same as high fructose corn syrup) helps thicken the glaze so that it tops the cookies, rather than simply coating them like a thin mint. In place of the corn syrup, you can try using honey, which will add some unwanted flavor but should still work.
Almond Flour Sugar Cookies
For the cookies
1 cup (120 g) finely ground blanched almond flour
1 1/2 cups (180 g) tapioca starch/flour, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (125 g) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Water by the half-teaspoonful as necessary
For the chocolate glaze
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons (42 g) virgin coconut oil
3 tablespoons (63 g) corn syrup
Coarse salt, for sprinkling (optional)
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line rimmed baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set them aside.
In a large bowl, place the almond flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and granulated sugar and whisk to combine well. Add the butter, egg, and vanilla, and mix to combine. If the dough has any spots that seem very dry, add water by the half-teaspoonful and mix to combine. Using clean hands, knead the dough together until it forms a ball. It will be thick and relatively stiff. Divide the dough in half and set one half aside, draped with a tea towel to prevent it from drying out.
Place the first half of the dough on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle the top lightly with more tapioca flour, and roll it out a bit less than 1/3-inch thick. Move the dough often to prevent it from sticking, sprinkling lightly with more tapioca flour as necessary. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds of dough and pull off the excess cookie dough around the rounds. Place the rounds of dough about 1-inch apart from one another on the prepared baking sheets. Gather and reroll the scraps, and repeat the process with all of the remaining dough until it’s all been used.
One at a time, place the baking sheets in the center of the preheated oven and bake until just set in the center (about 10 minutes). The edges of some of the cookies may brown slightly, but take them out before there is any significant browning. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool until set.
When the cookies are nearly cool, make the glaze. In a small, heat-safe bowl, place the chopped chocolate. Melt it in the microwave in 30-second bursts (stirring in between) or over a small simmering pot of water until melted and smooth. Add the coconut oil, and mix to combine. The mixture will be quite thin. Then, add the corn syrup and mix to combine. The mixture will thicken a bit after you add the corn syrup. Spoon the glaze on top of each cooled cookie and spread into an even layer, leaving a 1/4-inch border clean on the top of each cookie. Sprinkle the cookies lightly with coarse salt, if you like. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature or in the refrigerator before serving.