Baking these super easy gluten free sugar cookies in a low oven keeps the cookies pale and tender, without crisping the edges much at all. The result is perfect chewy sugar cookies, decorated or plain.
Cookies: to drop or to roll?
Whenever a reader who is new to baking, in general, asks where they should begin, I always suggest drop cookies. There’s nothing like rolling out dough and cutting it into shapes like you can with cutout sugar cookies, especially since they’re so easy to make festive for Easter or Christmas.
But these chewy sugar cookies are so easy to throw together and shouldn’t make anyone who finds rolling out dough to be difficult or intimidating. I mean, I would love the chance to demystify rolling out pie crust and cutout cookies, but if you want to bake, I want to make you feel comfortable.
Dress them up
And even though these are simple chewy sugar cookies that require no rolling or special equipment at all (not even a cookie cutter!), they can still be decorated for any holiday. Christmas is easiest since a “tree” shape is simple with mini candies.
Mini candy decoration would work for a red Valentine heart, too. The really deep colors (like red and brown) do bleed a bit more during baking.
But if you wanted to decorate them for Easter, let’s say, you could still do it! Just place a miniature Easter cookie cutter on top of the raw shaped dough and make a small indentation in the dough. Then, crush any hard candy and place the pieces in the mini cutter and carefully remove the cutter. When the dough bakes, the candy pieces will melt into the shape.
I really like to bake these chewy little numbers in a very, very low oven (300°F) because that way they stay very pale in color. You could increase the baking temp to 325°F and bake them for a few minutes less, and they’ll brown a bit more and have crisp edges.
Whatever you do, give them the proper amount of space to spread during baking. They’ll nearly double in size in the oven—unless you make them entirely dairy-free in the way I recommend below.
Ingredients and substitutions
I’ve tested some substitutions, but not others. Where appropriate, these are just my best-educated guesses!
Dairy-free: I have successfully made this recipe dairy-free! In place of the butter, I used Spectrum brand nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening gram for gram (so rather than 6 tablespoons of butter and 2 of shortening, I used 108 grams total shortening, melted and cooled).
Since shortening has very little moisture and butter has a fair amount, I added 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water to the cookie dough. The cookies didn’t spread quite as much as the ones made with butter, but the chewy texture was spot-on.
Egg-free: Since there’s only one egg in this recipe, a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel) should work.
Sugar: I do not recommend using a liquid sweetener like honey or maple syrup in place of refined granulated sugar. It just won’t work. Coconut palm sugar is also not a great idea since it doesn’t dissolve completely even when baked.
If you’d like to make these entirely sugar-free, I recommend trying Truvia granulated sugar substitute. I do find that Truvia absorbs a lot of moisture, so I recommend adding some water until the cookie dough is the proper consistency (watch the video!). I’m afraid you’ll just have to experiment.
Chewy Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 cups (210 g) all-purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter here)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
2 tablespoons (18 g) tapioca starch (arrowroot or cornstarch both work well, too) (if you used a high starch blend like Cup4Cup, just use 18 grams more of that flour in place of this extra starch)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (24 g) vegetable shortening, melted and cooled
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Miniature M&Ms, for decorating (optional) (gluten free in the United States)
Preheat your oven to 300°F (not a typo!). Line rimmed baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set them aside.
In a large bowl, place the flour blend, xanthan gum, starch, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the butter, shortening, egg, and vanilla, and mix to combine. The dough will be thick and smooth, but easy to shape and not greasy. If it’s greasy and very soft, and you didn’t make any ingredient substitutions, it’s because the shortening wasn’t cooled. Just chill the dough briefly in the refrigerator, covered, until it’s easier to handle.
Pull or scoop off pieces of dough about 1 1/2 tablespoons each, and roll into a ball (about 1-inch in diameter). Press each ball of dough into a disk about 3/8-inch thick, and place fully 2-inches apart from one another on the prepared baking sheets. The cookies will spread quite a lot during baking.
Place the baking sheets in the freezer to chill until firm (about 5 minutes). Remove from the freezer, and decorate if desired. If you’re creating a design with something like miniature M&Ms (again, GF in the U.S.!) close to one another in the design, in the desired pattern, as they will separate from one another as the cookie spreads during baking.
Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake until set in the center and starting to wrinkle a bit on top (about 14 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes, or until stable, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Originally published on the blog in 2013. Some photos original, most new, much of text and video all new.