These easy gluten free iced oatmeal cookies are soft and chewy in the center, and crisp around the edges. A light coating of icing on top makes them extra beautiful!
Iced oatmeal cookies are an old favorite
One of my favorite packaged cookies, reaching back, were always Archway iced oatmeal cookies. Soft and chewy, with a thin layer of white icing on top.
Since the Archway kind were so chewy, though, they had a tendency to fall apart and that always bothered me. These gluten free iced oatmeal cookies are even better than Archway, since they're smaller, crispy on the edges and bottom and just as chewy inside.
Just a bit of icing
The icing couldn't be simpler – it's little more than confectioners' sugar and water, with a bit of lemon juice to cut the sweetness a bit. It's not a true royal icing, since it is made without egg whites or meringue powder, but it is that much easier, and with the right icing consistency, it hardens reliably into a nice, matte layer. Cheers to no special ingredients!
The best method for a smooth icing is to create a thick paste with a minimum of moisture before thinning the paste into a pourable icing with more water. Add the water slowly, though, since it's much easier to thin it with a drop or two (really!) of water than the thicken it if you've thinned it too much.
The cookies are prettiest when the icing is spotty on top. Those lovely craggy bits of the oatmeal cookies should shine through the top!
How to make these classic iced oatmeal cookies
As much as I love a one-bowl recipe, these cookies are all about the texture. For that reason alone, it's really best if you can beat the butter, sugars, and egg together first in a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer until they're very well combined.
I've used a stand mixer in the recipe video that goes along with this recipe, but you can certainly use a hand mixer. We aren't trying to incorporate a lot of air into the wet ingredients, though, so we're not beating them until they're light and fluffy. Rather, we only want them very well-combined.
The all purpose gluten free flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon (just a touch), and quick-cooking oats are whisked together, then combined with the wet ingredients. The dough will be quite soft and sticky, and won't be easily handled…yet.
Baking the cookie dough from frozen
I've tried simplifying this recipe and baking it without chilling the dough thoroughly, and the cookies nearly melted into puddles in the oven. The dough works best when it's portioned with a spring-loaded ice cream scoop (or two spoons), then chilled just enough that you can handle it to roll the dough into balls. Then, it needs to be nearly frozen before it goes into the oven.
I've learned to think of this bake-from-frozen requirement as a happy inconvenience (hear me out). I rarely recommend freezing cookie dough in portions to bake whenever the mood strikes. You generally do not want cookie dough to frozen when it goes into the oven, since the cookies will be way too thin around the edges and likely burn. I always recommend baking and then freezing cookies.
This recipe for iced oatmeal cookies can be baked and then frozen without the icing (or with it, honestly, if you don't mind the thicker spots getting a bit banged up). But this is the rare recipe that needs to be baked from frozen, so I tend to bake the shaped dough raw.
That way, a fresh batch is really at your fingertips. You'll only need the 10 minutes to preheat the oven, and the 10 minutes for baking. You could probably even bake them in a really lovely full-sized toaster oven.
Baking gluten free with oats
Since this is an oatmeal cookie recipe, I'm baaaasically assuming that you are okay with certified gluten free oats in your diet. But it's still worth discussing a bit of baking gluten free with oats. I do recommend reading this complete discussion of oats' suitability on a gluten free diet.
I do love baking with oats, since they're an incredibly versatile whole grain. They add a soft, chewy texture and can even serve as the only flour in a recipe for breakfast cookies or breakfast muffins.
I never (ever) buy any form of oats other than certified gluten free old fashioned rolled oats. If I need quick oats, like in this recipe, I pulse them a few times in a food processor or blender in small batches (so the oats closest to the blade don't become flour).
If I need oat flour, I pulse for longer. Even oat flour in baking need not be finely ground since oats are much softer than rice and will never add grittiness to any recipe.
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy: The only dairy in these cookies is in the form of 4 tablespoons (56 g) of unsalted butter. In its place, I recommend my favorite butter substitute, Melt brand vegan butter (Miyoko's Kitchen brand is also great). Otherwise, try using butter flavored shortening. Speaking of shortening…
Shortening: The mix of half butter and half shortening in these cookies is truly essential to their texture. I only use non hydrogenated vegetable shortening from Spectrum brand.
I've had a terrible experience with Nutiva brand. I don't care for the taste at all, and it simply doesn't perform like shortening should in baking. If you can't find Spectrum brand shortening, I'd recommend trying Crisco brand. I promise just 4 tablespoons of the stuff won't kill you!
Egg: There's only one egg in this recipe, so you should be able to replace it with a “chia egg.” Just combine 1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds with 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, and allow it to sit until it gels.
Oats: If you can't have oats, you can try replacing the quick-cooking gluten free oats in this recipe with a combination of flattened (or beaten) rice and quinoa or buckwheat flakes. I do have a full discussion about replacing oats in gluten free baking, and I recommend having a look.
If you plan to use only quinoa or buckwheat flakes, the cookies will spread quite a lot, so try reducing their amount and increasing the rice-based all purpose gluten free flour. I can't promise results, though!