This gluten free butter cookie recipe turns out perfect icebox or spritz (cookie press) cookies every time. They hold their shape and can be as simple or as fancy as you like!
How to make gluten free butter cookie dough
I've always made this butter cookie dough by dumping all of the ingredients (dry first, then wet) in a food processor and processing it until it's smooth. Using a food processor ensures that the dough is completely uniform in color and texture.
If you don't have a food processor or simply don't want to use your food processor because you hate cleaning it like I do, you can make the cookie dough by hand (well, in a bowl). Just be sure that the butter is at soft room temperature.
If you press on the butter with your finger, it should leave an indentation but the butter should not be leaking liquid at all. Simply gather the dough together by squeezing it in your hand a bit, and then placing it in plastic and kneading it until it's smooth.
Tips and tricks for using a cookie press to make gf butter cookies
If you're making spritz cookies, use the dough immediately after making it, without chilling the dough at all. To use a cookie press of any kind, your dough must be at room temperature so that it is able to travel through the press and out of the disk at the end without crumbling. It must also stick to the baking sheet, which it will as long as your baking sheet itself is not warm or greasy, and is not nonstick.
I have a cookie press made by Kuhn Rikon, and it was well-priced and serviceable. But it doesn't seem to be available anymore without a more expensive set. If I were going to make a purchase today, I'd go with the OXO Good Grips Cookie Press (affiliate link; feel free to shop around!).
If your cookie dough is the right consistency (which it will be if you use this recipe, and follow the instructions carefully), the cookie press should work properly and without a problem. About 95% of the time, I have absolutely no problems making spritz cookies in my cookie press. So why do I dream of sneaking up on it, and choking it to death with my bare hands? Because of that 5% of the time when it just won't cooperate.
Open the chamber of your press by lifting on the plunger and placing your butter cookie dough inside. Choose a disk (I like the simple flower shape the best), place it in the end of the press, place them both on the end of the chamber, and turn it to seal.
Once the press is closed, press the lever until you're certain that the dough is all the way at the end of the chamber, right by the extrusion disk. Then, place the press upright onto an ungreased baking sheet. If the dough isn't sticky, or the baking sheet isn't clean, the dough will not stick to the sheet.
Click just once on the lever per cookie, wait a moment to ensure that the shape is sticking to the baking sheet, and lift the press straight up into the air. The dough will stick to the baking sheet, not fall from it like it would if you were using a piping bag.
How to make icebox butter cookies
If you're put off by the whole cookie press business, do not make yourself crazy. Just make this recipe as icebox cookies.
Make the dough, place it on a piece of unbleached parchment paper, shape it into a cylinder, square the edges, and chill the dough completely. Then simply slice into 1/4-inch thick cross-sections and bake.
The egg white wash and coarse sugar coating
Butter cookies aren't very sweet, and their buttery goodness just melts in your mouth. Since they're a bit plain, though, I like them best when they have a coating of coarse sugar on top.
What coarse sugar to use
I've found that the best way to get the sugar to adhere to the cookies is to brush them with an egg white before sprinkling the coarse sugar. My favorite gluten free coarse sugar is made by Chef's Select and I used to purchase it on Amazon.
I'm afraid it's no longer available, and I'm having some trouble finding it. This appears to be the same brand, but I'm afraid I don't know anything about the seller. I can't recommend Wilton or CK brands, because I don't feel comfortable that they're allergen-friendly enough.
When I run out of Chef's Select, I'm expecting that I'll be able to find it again somewhere. If not, I'll just use Sugar in the Raw. Its only sin is not being clear white in color. ?
Be careful brushing with egg wash
When you brush spritz cookies with egg wash, the cookies may stick to the unlined baking sheet after they've been baked. The egg white wash tends to act like a glue to keep the sugar in place, but also to adhere the cookie to the baking sheet.
You can skip the egg white wash on spritz cookies, and just use lukewarm water instead to help the coarse sugar crystals stick to the raw cookies. If you do use the egg white wash with the spritz cookies, just allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes (no more!) and run a edge of a small offset spatula or knife under the cookies to pry them from the baking sheet. Then, allow the cookies to finish cooling completely.
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy-free: Since these are butter cookies, it's tough to make them without butter, but I think it's worth a try. My favorite butter replacements in general are Melt brand or Miyoko's Kitchen brand vegan butter.
If you can't find either one of those, try using half (56 g) Earth Balance buttery sticks and half (56 g) Spectrum brand non hydrogenated vegetable shortening. That mix helps to approximate the flavor and moisture balance of real butter.
Eggs: There are 3 egg yolks in this recipe, and I'm honestly not sure how to replace them. You can try using coconut cream in their place, gram for gram. But I'm afraid I've never tried anything like that, so you'll have to experiment.
You can either leave off the egg white wash and coarse sugar coating, or try using water in to help the sugar crystals stick.
Flavorings: In place of vanilla extract, I really like using almond extract in its place (but use a little less, since almond extract is much stronger in flavor). You could also try another flavoring oil, but be careful not to add too much or you'll overpower that lovely buttery flavor.
Gluten Free Butter Cookies | Spritz or Icebox
1 1/2 cups (210 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (72 g) confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 egg yolks (75 g), at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Optional for topping
1 egg white, for brushing
Coarse sugar crystals, for sprinkling
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Set out large, very clean rimmed baking sheets, but don’t line any that you plan to use for spritz cookies. Line with unbleached parchment paper any baking sheets you plan to use for icebox cookies.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, place the flour, xanthan gum, sugar, salt, butter, egg yolks, and vanilla, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. It should be smooth and a bit wet, but you should be able to handle it lightly with your hands without its sticking. You can easily make these cookies without a food processor, although the dough will not be as uniform in color. Simply place the dough in a plastic bag and knead it with your hands until the color is as uniform as possible.
For spritz cookies, do not chill the dough. Fill your cookie press according to the manufacturer’s directions. Place the disk you like on the end of the chamber, and screw the end on securely. On a bare, ungreased baking sheet that is not nonstick, dispense the cookie dough, spacing it evenly. Remember to place the press firmly onto the baking sheet, use one “click” of the press per cookie, hold the press steady on the surface for a moment to allow the dough to adhere to the sheet, and then release quickly in a swift upward motion. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator or freezer to chill the dough until it’s firm to the touch.
For icebox cookies, shape the cookie dough into a cylinder about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and place on a sheet of unbleached parchment paper. Square each of the sides with a straight edge to form a rectangle, and place the log in the freezer until firm (about 15 minutes). Remove the log from the freezer, unwrap it, square the edges again if necessary, then slice it by cross-section into pieces about 1/4 inch wide. Place the cookies on a nonstick baking sheet, evenly spaced.
For both types of cookies, with a pastry brush, brush the tops of all of the cookies on the baking sheet with the (optional) egg white, and sprinkle with the (optional) coarse sugar. Place the baking sheets, one at a time, in the center of the preheated oven and bake until they’re lightly brown around the edges (8 to 10 minutes). For slightly crispier cookies, allow them to brown a bit longer (up to 12 minutes total). Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet. If making spritz cookies that have been coated with egg white before baking, allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes (no more!) and run a edge of a small offset spatula or knife under the cookies to pry them from the baking sheet. Then, allow the cookies to finish cooling completely on the baking sheet before moving them.
Originally published on the blog in 2011. Most photos, video, most text new; recipe unchanged.
Shirley m says
Hi, can I used almond flour instead of all purpose gluten free flour.
Nicole Hunn says
Hi, Shirley, I’m afraid not. Almond flour is a specialized flour, not an all purpose flour. Please see the Paleo recipes here on the blog for ways to use almond flour.
Hi Nicole! I am wondering about adding chopped walnut, shaping into small balls, and baking this into Russian teacakes. Have you ever tried this? Would the walnuts be a problem?
Nicole Hunn says
I have a recipe for snowball cookies, Debbie, which are basically Russian teacakes! Just put “snowball” into the search bar and hit enter and they’ll come right up!
Ginny O says
Hi, I find the old Mirro cookie presses that you use a turn handle instead of the click or shooter type works best for me. My grandma taught me with one of those and when it finally broke, I found one at the Goodwill store. I have since purchased two more “old” ones at thrift stores. They take some work to get it right but my cookies turn out great! I even have one for non gf spritz which I use for baking for friends and neighbors. I color my dough 1/3 pink and 1/3 green, leaving 1/3 plain. Then I form snake like clumps, lightly twist all three colors together and put in the press. Turns our very pretty multi-colored cookies!
Nicole Hunn says
Sounds like fun, Ginny!
Do you have a simple sugar/shortbread type cookie recipe that works well with cookie cutters, and can be decorated with icing?
Nicole Hunn says
I have lots of cutout cookie recipes, Shelley! Just use the search bar and you’ll find everything right there. ?
Millican Pecan says
My mother in law has a recipe like this one but not gluten free. I have a daughter with colitis and another that gets stomach aches when she eats anything with gluten, so this is perfect. Looking forward to making them this holiday season, which is coming up really fast!
Nicole Hunn says
It is coming up so fast, Millican! If you think of it in terms of weeks, you might get nervous, so let’s not do that! So glad this recipe will be useful to your family.
Do you think this dough would work to make Italian butter cookies? The kind you get at Italian bakeries, filled with jam and dipped in in chocolate and sprinkles?
Nicole Hunn says
I’d recommend my recipe for whipped shortbread cookies for that instead, Kim! I also have a recipe for brown sugar shortbread cookies, which you might like. Have a look around! ?
Why don’t you chill the dough for the spritz? (Is that an official spritz rule I didn’t know about?) Granted I’m just learning about GF, so this is my past Christmas’ regular recipe experience, but I fill my cookie press with dough, then chill the whole thing in the fridge for 10-15 minutes, and then they ‘spritz’ onto the cookie sheet just like they’re supposed to and stick there, coming off the press in happy little chunks just like I want. Less cursing. More blissful cookie perfection. I can’t believe the difference it made. I wonder if it’d work the same w/ gluten free dough?
If you chill the dough, it doesn’t stick. If your dough is actually warm, instead of room temperature, then it might benefit from a quick 10 minutes to bring it mostly to room temperature. If you find otherwise, that cold dough works, let me know!
I hate my cookie press. I’ve only had one time i feel it was a success but i think it was because i was making cookies and drinking wine. The wine might have blocked the pain of the press. I like the idea of icebox them instead since i love the taste of them.
I’ve never felt so close to you, Sarah. :) Yeah, I think wine-soaked cookie pressing is the only way to go. Toss the press. Icebox it for sure.
:wipes drool off her chin:
Hopelessly devoted, drool and all.
There has never been as much cursing in my house as there was when I recently tried a cookie press. Maximum failure achieved.