Fancy Gluten Free Drop Sugar Cookies

Fancy Gluten Free Drop Sugar Cookies

These gluten free drop sugar cookies are simple, sweet and buttery, plus they’re stable enough for mailing clear across the country if that’s your holiday thing! Dress them up in lots of different ways.

These gluten free drop sugar cookies are simple, sweet and buttery, plus they're stable enough for mailing clear across the country if that's your holiday thing! Dress them up in lots of different ways.

Start with a drop cookie

When someone is new to baking, or new to gluten free baking, or just plain new, they often ask me where they should begin. My answer is always the same: drop cookies.

Drop cookies are so-named because there’s nothing to roll out (unlike soft frosted sugar cookies), nothing to chance. Like chocolate chip cookies, you simply drop the dough on the baking sheet and let the oven do its job. 

These gluten free drop sugar cookies are your basic soft-inside vanilla cookies. They’re the kind that you would love to send to your friends and family 📦for the holidays because they’re simple enough to survive a trip by mail and special enough to show how much you care.

These gluten free drop sugar cookies are simple, sweet and buttery, plus they're stable enough for mailing clear across the country if that's your holiday thing! Dress them up in lots of different ways.

Make sure your decorations are GF

This cookie recipe isn’t naturally gluten free, so if you’re reading this post, you’re baking gluten free—even if it’s just this once. You’re using an all purpose gluten free flour blend, and a good GF blend doesn’t just happen to be in everyone’s pantry. 

So if you’re making these cookies, you want to get them right. That means using gluten free decorations. Of course, you can bake these cookies without any decorations at all, but they’re so much more fun dressed up. 

If you get distracted during baking and set the dough aside for a bit before you shape and/or decorate it, you may find that the decorations tend not to stick properly to the cookie dough. Simply wet the outside of the cookies generously with a finger bowl of lukewarm water.

Wetting the dough won’t change the way the cookies bake at all, and the decorations will stick beautifully. Now to make sure those decorations are all safely gluten free…

These gluten free drop sugar cookies are simple, sweet and buttery, plus they're stable enough for mailing clear across the country if that's your holiday thing! Dress them up in lots of different ways.

Gluten free sprinkles, nonpareils, and edible confetti

Signature Brands makes both Cake Mate and Betty Crocker brand sprinkles and nonpareils, and at least in the U.S. as of this writing, those products are gluten free. I can usually find their products in my regular grocery store.

If you can’t find them in a grocery store, you can certainly find them online. I really like ordering baking supplies like those from the online site GlobalSugarArt.com.

Global Sugar Art carries CK Brand sprinkles and nonpareils, and those tend to be gluten free. Always check the product label and manufacturer’s website for current information, though. 

For rainbow confetti, which I find impossibly adorable, I love Americolor brand since it’s reliably gluten free. It can be difficult to find, though. Sometimes I can find it on Amazon, sometimes not. When I do find it, I buy a few tubs of the stuff. 

These gluten free drop sugar cookies are simple, sweet and buttery, plus they're stable enough for mailing clear across the country if that's your holiday thing! Dress them up in lots of different ways.

Gluten free coarse sugar

I have had some serious difficulty finding coarse sugar crystals that are true white in color and reliably gluten free. It seems like such a simple thing, but it’s been difficult to find.

For years, I used Sugar in the Raw brand, which is readily available and tastes great. But the crystals aren’t white. They have a natural yellowish-brown color. Natural is great—but sometimes you just want artificially pretty! Extra festivity points if you use some white, some brightly colored coarse sugar, too!

The brand I’ve found online that I love is Chef’s Select Granulated Sugar Crystals (that’s an affiliate link, but shop around!). Chef’s Select also makes a similar container of gluten free rainbow sprinkles (or jimmies, if you’re from Philly 😬). 

UPDATE: I’m afraid these sugar crystals seem to be out of stock on Amazon. I believe that this is the same brand, though. So disappointing if they’re no longer readily available!

These gluten free drop sugar cookies are simple, sweet and buttery, plus they're stable enough for mailing clear across the country if that's your holiday thing! Dress them up in lots of different ways.

Ingredients and substitutions

Dairy-free: To replace the butter in this recipe, I’d try Melt brand or Miyoko’s Kitchen brand vegan butter alternative. If you use virgin coconut oil, the cookie dough will be too soft and the cookies won’t hold their shape properly.

Egg-free: Since there is only one egg in this recipe, I’d recommend trying one “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel) to make the recipe egg-free. 

Corn-free: At first glance, this recipe doesn’t have any corn, but confectioners’ sugar is typically made with cornstarch to keep it from clumping. Look for a corn-free confectioners’ sugar if you can’t have corn.

Shortening: You need a mix of butter and shortening (Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening is not the unhealthy mess that Crisco is) to get the texture and shape of these cookies just right. If you use all butter, the cookies will spread way too much.


Gluten Free Drop Sugar CookiesGluten Free Drop Sugar Cookies

These gluten free drop sugar cookies are simple, sweet and buttery, plus they're stable enough for mailing clear across the country if that's your holiday thing! Dress them up in lots of different ways. #glutenfree #gf #cookies #Christmas

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: About 18 cookies, depending upon size


1 3/4 cups (245 g) all-purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (58 g) confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar

5 tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

5 tablespoons (60 g) nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening (Spectrum brand), melted and cooled

1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Coarse sugar, nonpareils or sprinkles, for coating (optional)


  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside.

  • In a large bowl, place the flour blend, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, confectioners’ sugar and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the butter, shortening, egg, and vanilla, and mix well to combine. The dough will seem crumbly until it comes together. It will be soft but should hold together well when squeezed. Scoop the dough by about the heaping tablespoonful, roll each piece into a ball and press into a disk about 1/4 inch thick. The cookie dough should seem tacky to the touch on all sides. If it appears to have dried out at all, moisten the outside of each piece with lukewarm water. Press each disk carefully but firmly into coarse sugar, nonpareils or sprinkles until the decoration adheres to the dough all around. Place the disks of dough on the prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart from one another.

  • Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are very lightly golden brown on the edges and set in the center. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • Originally posted on the blog in 2013. Photos and video new; recipe unchanged except for some clarification in instructions.


Comments are closed.

  • Darlynn Everett
    December 16, 2018 at 3:40 PM

    I can’t wait to make these cookies. Just bought these little crystals! Brand Castle and gluten free.

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 17, 2018 at 10:15 AM

      Ooh good to know, Darlynn, thank you!

  • Alix
    December 12, 2018 at 5:43 PM

    Hello Nicole, I’m wondering if using the America’s Test Kitchen gluten free flour blend is appropriate for this and your other cookie recipes (particularly looking at the german chocolate cookies as well). The blend seems similar to your Basic Gum Free flour blend, except has milk powder and ~15% of the white rice flour is brown rice flour. I have had major problems in the past using Cup for Cup, which is why I have been sticking to their book for basic baking, but I would love to try your awesome recipes using the ATK blend unless there is a reason it will be a total disaster?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 12, 2018 at 6:28 PM

      I’m afraid in general I really don’t care for their formulations at all, Alix. I had been sent a review copy of their first gluten free cookbook before it came out, and declined to endorse it because I didn’t care for their recipes (and thought they really missed an opportunity to advance gluten free baking on their large stage). I haven’t tried using their blend in many of my recipes, but the little I did try I wasn’t pleased. I’m afraid I can’t really be more specific than that, since it was years ago. Hope that helps!

  • Joan Hukezalie
    December 12, 2018 at 3:18 PM

    Victorian Epicure a Canadian company that just entered the US Market have crystallized white or brown sugar every winter. I love it for gingerbread cookies. ( they are your recipe… yum and turned out beautifully ) They have many GF options also.

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 12, 2018 at 6:26 PM

      That’s great to know, Joan! Thank you so much for sharing that info. So glad your gingerbread cookies turned out so well!

  • Carol
    December 12, 2018 at 12:47 PM

    If you put the sprinkles on before you put them in the oven, won’t they melt?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 12, 2018 at 1:13 PM

      I did just that, and you can see that they’re in near-perfect shape, Carol! The sprinkles on the underside, if they’re clustered together, will melt a tiny bit but that’s all.

  • Glenna
    December 12, 2018 at 10:06 AM

    Hi Nicole,
    I am wondering if the dough is sturdy enough to make a thumb print cookie? There is a recipe I used prior to GF times that I would put an egg wash on the cookie and took it in walnuts then make the thumbprint and fill with jelly. Your advise is soo appreciated!!

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 12, 2018 at 12:00 PM

      Hi, Glenna, I’d recommend using my recipes for thumbprint cookies, actually! I have one for plain thumbprint cookies and one for chocolate.

  • Amy
    December 12, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    My daughter and I are excited to make these, but we don’t have vegetable shortening…do you think butter or vegetable oil could replace it? Thanks for sharing your amazing gf recipes! :)

    • Amy
      December 12, 2013 at 5:20 PM

      Lol, Guess I should have read the directions first as you already answered my question. We will get the shortening ;)

  • Lynn A. Decker
    December 8, 2013 at 10:41 PM

    These were FABULOUS! I have never been disappointed with your recipes, and this one certainly lives up to expectations!

  • Donia Robinson
    December 6, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    Reporting on the dairy-free-ifying of these cookies, sir! I used 8T shortening (Spectrum) and 2T margarine (Earth Balance), hoping to give it that moisture the butter would have provided. The dough was a dream to handle. I loved how easy it was to form in balls, flatten, and roll in sugar. I don’t think the margarine made it extra wet, and they did not spread outrageously in the oven. They look just like yours!

    (Bad picture, good cookie!)

    • Candice
      December 7, 2013 at 9:01 AM

      Thanks for the experiment and sharing your experience! My daughter can have cooked dairy, but I still try to only use that when something else won’t work. Like mac and cheese.

      • Donia Robinson
        December 7, 2013 at 9:46 AM

        You’re very welcome!

    • December 11, 2013 at 9:18 AM

      Looks perfect, Donia!! Thanks so much for reporting back. They do look … perfecto!

  • Wendy
    December 6, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Could you use coconut oil (melted and then cooled ) in place of the shortening?

  • […] Drop sugar cookies. […]

  • disqus_NkuKYF1fp4
    December 4, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    Any suggestions to make this vegan?

  • Mildred
    December 4, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    what about sugar? any suggestions for alternatives?

    • December 11, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      I’m afraid I don’t know how to make sugar cookies without sugar, Mildred! Sorry!

  • glutenfreegigi
    December 4, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    Call me simple, but this is one of the best recipes you’ve ever shared. Love the sugar in the raw, with that golden hue – perfect on those pale cookies. Lovely! xo Gigi

    • December 11, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      Hi, Gigi! Thanks so much for that. Hope you’re well!

  • Barb
    December 4, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Question….will the world end if I do use Crisco in these? Can’t wait to try them!

    • December 4, 2013 at 9:45 AM

      I am, without a doubt, absolutely positively 100% certain that the world will NOT end if you use Crisco in these, Barb! The only reason I make clear that I use nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening is to make readers aware that shortening can mean more than Crisco. Otherwise, I get a lot of upset comments and emails. :)

      • Barb
        December 4, 2013 at 10:21 AM

        Thank you! Crisco it is because that is currently what is in the cupboard. I did get your new cookbook this week, and I can’t wait to start using it. When my husband was diagnosed with Celiac a few years ago it felt like I had to relearn how to cook all over again, and spend crazy amounts of money to do it. Your cookbooks and blog made all the difference to me (and to him!). Thnks so much for all you share with us!

  • AllieBoBallie
    December 4, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Just in time for this weekend’s Festivus party! Sweet! These will perfectly accommodate my gluten intolerance, my friend’s chocolate allergy, and my other friend’s coconut allergy. We’re a hot a mess of fun, we are. Between these, my salted almond “lazy macaroons,” and maybe one other cookie, we should have just the right amount of sugar high + tipsy to = a delightful Airing of Grievances.

    • December 4, 2013 at 9:53 AM

      That sounds completely awesome Allie. I could use a good Airing of Grievances. ;)

  • John Lachett
    December 3, 2013 at 6:42 PM

    Yeah….so these are awesome. They remind me a little of Pepperidge Farms sugar cookies which i used to love. I baked them a touch longer because i like a crisp cookie, but jeeze Louise are they good. Must. Not. Have. Another. Many thanks!!

    Your GFF,
    John L

    PS- What type of wine goes with sugar cookies? White!

    • December 4, 2013 at 9:46 AM

      Oh my gosh JOHN! With all due respect to everyone else and you know I love you all, but honestly this is the BEST comment in the history of comments. I have a crush on you, clearly.

      • Donia Robinson
        December 5, 2013 at 12:41 PM

        Oh, way to go, John. Now comments are a competition? Well, then it’s on.

  • Jen Chambers
    December 3, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    Nicole, do you have to use parchment paper? Can you use Silpat inserts instead? Dumb question, but I know some recipes that call for parchment are not suitable for Silpat, though many are fine- thanks!

    • December 3, 2013 at 2:45 PM

      Hi, Jen! Good question. I no longer own silpats (they just didn’t age well, worse than me, in fact!) but I’m sure they’d be perfectly fine. ;)

      • Jen Chambers
        December 3, 2013 at 6:33 PM

        It worked very well! I had green sanding sugar, so I made them green… now I have to come up with a clever name for a green, round cookie… they taste amazing! I used a brown rice/white rice flour/teff blend and crisco shortening (not organic, not great for you, but it’s what I had on hand!) Thank you for the great recipe!

      • Donia Robinson
        December 5, 2013 at 12:36 PM

        Leprechaun coins? Wrong holiday.

  • Charlotte Moore
    December 3, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    I looked to see what your ratio for this flour was. How do I get the 31 and the 14 percent. That is not on the chart. These percentages are so hard for me to grasp. I can do grams on my scales.

    • December 3, 2013 at 2:38 PM

      I explain everything on the gluten free flours page, Charlotte, including the way to calculate percentages. If you don’t want to do that, though, please download the document from reader Ryan Hunt on that same page. It is a spreadsheet that will do the calculations for you.

  • JoanneB
    December 3, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Just took some out of the oven 15 minutes ago. These are really good.

    • December 3, 2013 at 2:39 PM

      Oh yay, Joanne! I love it when someone makes the recipe right and then reports back! Thank you so much for doing that. :)

  • Karlie
    December 3, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    Think these would survive being baked after being completely wrapped around a (drained) maraschino cherry? My favourite family cookie is called a “Cherry Peak” and uses an almost shortbread-like dough. You take a ball, flatten it with your thumb, then wrap it completely around the cherry and seal it. Bake and ice! I was planning on trying to use the Soft Frosted Sugar Cookie recipe but wondered if this one might be even more sturdy?

    • December 3, 2013 at 2:39 PM

      They’re pret-ty sturdy, Karlie. I’d give it a shot. I think it might just work. I’d say to work with the dough at room temperature, and then freeze it after you stuff it and before baking. Good luck!

    • Donia Robinson
      December 5, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      Those sound awesome. Please report back if they work!!!

  • Mare Masterson
    December 3, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    We have a resident sugar cookie baker here at work, so I will not bring these for our cookie exchange. I am thinking of the Cheesecake Cookies for that. I do not do holiday cookies. Truth be told, I am not much of a baker because I hate the mess. That is why I only do pies at Thanksgiving. It has to be a special occasion to get me to bake. However, since the GF stuff sold in the grocery stores is not that good and I do like to eat baked goods on occasion, I am finding that I am wanting to incorporate baking into my routine. So I guess will have to make that happen. I envision that Sundays will be bread baking days once I get up the nerve to do so and get all the supplies that are needed.

    • December 3, 2013 at 2:40 PM

      Cookies are pretty contained mess, Mare. My whole life is cookies so I have to overlook the mess during (and then always clean up well!) because I like things clean too. But as far as mess goes, cookies are pretty mild. And so is bread. :)

  • Kim Thomas
    December 3, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    These look amazing and I will be making them soon!

    I have a question about your latest cookbook. I’m so excited to get it, but noticed it’s not on digital yet. I will get the paper copy if need be, but just wondered if it was going to be on digital in the future. I have your other two cookbooks on my Nook and I bring it in the kitchen with me almost daily! Thank you so much for all you do to help those of us that can’t have gluten find normalcy (and beyond) in everyday cooking and eating :)

    • December 3, 2013 at 10:09 AM

      Hi, Kim,

      Yes, Bakes Bread will definitely be available for the Nook. I’m honestly not sure why, but it’s taking some time to get it up for preorder on Barnes & Noble’s site (but should be any day now). As of yesterday, it is available for the kindle (although the paperback edition and the kindle edition are not yet partnered on amazon.com for some reason). In case you’re interested, here is the kindle link. So sorry for the Nook delay, but it should be any time now!

      • Kim Thomas
        December 3, 2013 at 10:26 AM

        Thanks so much! I’m sure it is well worth the wait!!

      • Jennifer
        December 3, 2013 at 4:40 PM

        Thanks for pointing this out. I’d just checked the regular book page on Amazon this morning and it wasn’t showing up there.

        Mare, I’m not Kim obviously but I’ve converted all of my recipes to digital and would never want to have to go back to books. I scanned a lot of them and just took pics of some of the smaller ones. I have a dedicated kitchen tablet and it’s so nice to have everything in one place and to just be able to pull out one thing. I can make the print as large as I want / need it. And it’s really not as messy as you’d think it would be.

      • December 3, 2013 at 5:22 PM

        That’s great information about electronic recipe info, Jennifer. Thanks for chiming in! I am actually having the blog spruced up a bit in the early part of next year and part of the updating includes making it a ‘responsive’ site. So when you view it on a mobile device or another smaller screen, it will be exceptionally easy to view and navigate as responsive web design is very fluid and flexible. It will also help keep your screen from going dark in the middle of a recipe, among other innovations. I’m very excited about it!

      • Jennifer
        December 3, 2013 at 9:39 PM

        I love the idea of the screen not going dark. :)

        The screen going dark in the middle of a sentence is really my only minor complaint about digital.

      • Kim Thomas
        December 8, 2013 at 5:36 AM

        Thank you, Nicole! I can’t wait to start baking bread :)

    • Mare Masterson
      December 3, 2013 at 11:26 AM

      Kim I make such a mess baking. How do you not get your Nook all yucky in the kitchen?

      • Kim Thomas
        December 4, 2013 at 6:10 AM

        I have one of those screen protectors, so it just wipes clean :)

  • Linda
    December 3, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    Those look delicious! Would they be Snickerdoodle-like if I rolled them in cinnamon sugar?

    • December 3, 2013 at 9:22 AM

      Sort of, Linda. But I have a favorite recipe for gluten free snickerdoodles, and it’s slice and bake. I’d try those!

      • Linda
        December 3, 2013 at 2:02 PM

        Thanks, I wil!

  • Anneke
    December 3, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    I don’t enjoy cookie season, is that bad? I find it very stressful, so thanks for all the easy recipes, that should help! I have been training up my daughters to do the work (Tim eats the cookies, he doesn’t bake them, although he would want you to know that he could if he had to!), and this recipe should be no problem for them. Now, if only I can avoid EATING the cookies!

    • December 3, 2013 at 9:24 AM

      Really, Anneke? Believe it or not, cookie recipes are honestly among the hardest to develop. The simpler the recipe, the more important the balance of ingredients. But once I nail the recipe, the rest is usually smooth sailing! But if your girls are willing to bake them, then that’s best of all! I know my best friend Tim would make cookies if he had to. No worries there. ;)

      • Donia Robinson
        December 3, 2013 at 10:21 AM

        I’m fairly anti-cookie as well, Anneke. I prefer something that can all bake at once, not in and out of the oven several times for multiple batches. And I don’t think my kids need extra cookies at this time of year, even if it is Christmas! :P

      • Jennifer S.
        December 3, 2013 at 10:47 AM

        Ba-humbug to you both. I guess I’ll have to represent the group – I LOVE HOLIDAY COOKIES!! I used to host a cookie exchange for years before going GF, now we just make and bake tons for ourselves and to give away! Keep ’em coming because no matter what these ladies say, this is awesome!! I’m just making my holiday baking plan now, so I’ll squeeze these cuties in!!!

      • Donia Robinson
        December 3, 2013 at 10:58 AM

        Jennifer, please send some of your energy down here!! ;)

      • John Lachett
        December 3, 2013 at 11:27 AM

        I’m with you Jennifer S.!! I. HEART. COOKIES. Thanks to Nicole I’ll be making the “holy trinity” of cookies (in our house anyway). That would be Chocolate Chip, Snickerdoodles and Oatmeal Raisin! However, since tonight is my “night off” from the gym, I’m TOTALLY making these. I’ve been dying to make cookies!!

      • December 3, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        John you are just the best. The best!

      • Anneke
        December 3, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        I was going to ask which one of us actually likes baking cookies. Not surprised to find it is our Jennifer! :) Notice, Donia, it is Dec 3, and she is making a “holiday baking plan.” Maybe, on the off chance that none of wins a day of baking with Nicole, we should get a day of baking with Jennifer instead!

      • Jennifer S.
        December 4, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        Absolutely you all can come bake with me – I do have to say that even though I excel at planning, cleaning is not a high priority so be warned! :)

      • December 3, 2013 at 2:42 PM

        Hear hear, Jennifer! I’m not as good a planner as you are (clearly), but I’m always willing to get my hands dirty and always one to squeeze in just one more thing! Then again, you have a day job and I don’t … so hats off!

  • Jennica
    December 3, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    Hi Nicole! I am so excited for this recipe. I don’t have the patience to roll out dough…for anything! Question though, are they solid enough to be frosted?

    • December 3, 2013 at 8:56 AM

      Hi, Jennica! Nice to hear from you!
      Honestly, they’re definitely solid enough, but they’re really not big enough to be frosted. You might try making them twice the size, and still flattening them to 1/4 inch thick and increasing the baking time a bit. Just be sure they’re baked until set in the center or they’ll be fragile. Hope that helps!

  • Lee Ann Kaplan
    December 3, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    Will these work for cutout cookies if you chill the dough and roll it out?

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