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Lighter gingerbread cookies [refined sugar free]

I have been making gingerbread cookies since I was a little girl growing up in the Czech Republic. Christmas sweets (baking, eating and sharing) is a big part of the Czech culture and every year I would make at least half a dozen different cookies. And my Polish grandmother, who was a fabulous baker, would make half a dozen different ones (imagine at least two baking sheets of each kind, from each of us). There would be gingerbread cookies, of course, but also vanilla crescents, shortbreads, coconut macaroons, linzer cookies stuck together with sticky jam and drizzled with chocolate, chocolate bee hives with rum filling, rum balls – and more. All the good cookies. All up, we’d make boxes and boxes worth and plate up a beautiful looking selection for guests who’d come visit over the holiday season (and there would be many – that’s another Czech tradition). They would also be set out as dessert for pretty much every meal. We would only start running low sometime after the New Year.

For a while after moving to Australia I tried to carry on with this tradition (because as you know, most Europeans show love through their food) but it was never quite the same. For one, Christmases here in the southern hemisphere are hot. And baking while it’s hot outside is a special kind of hell, right? Plus, basically all the Czech cookies, as delicious as they are, are made with bleached flour and refined sugar. Sugar sugar and more sugar. You get the idea.

Lighter gingerbread cookies

For a while now, I have played around with the idea of making lighter Christmas cookies. I have made some here and there but have never made a concerted enough effort – the amount of sugar the kids consume has been easy to control until now, so a little extra over Christmas didn’t worry me. But now that they’re at school and they can buy snacks from the canteen and they receive snacks from family, I wanted to see if I can make festive delicious cookies and keep the tradition of Christmas baking alive, but cut the sugar content.

This is one of the recipes I have adjusted. The original was full of bleached white flour and caster sugar, but a few simple tweaks and it’s much lighter and healthier – I have used wholemeal flour, spelt flour and buckwheat flour (which are more nutritious than plain flour) and used unrefined coconut sugar and honey as white sugar alternatives. I’ve also replaced the sugar-laden icing with some melted sugar-free chocolate and they look pretty festive again, if I do say so myself.

Gingerbread cookies – traditional Christmas cookies

This recipe is based on my step-mum’s wonderful recipe, which has been in her family for many years (she’s also a fabulous baker). I have always loved it because the gingerbreads bake up beautifully soft, ready to be eaten – unlike some cookies which bake hard and you need to wait for them to soften.

These are spiced and lightly sweet, soft and fragrant, and when paired with some chocolate drizzle icing, these will look beautiful on your Christmas table, until they get devoured.. and as a parent, I know I rest easier knowing the kids can have a few of these and they won’t be riding the sugar high.

Do you have any special Christmas traditions in your family?


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5 from 8 votes

Lighter gingerbread cookies [refined sugar free]

Author Katerina | Once a Foodie


Dry ingredients

  • 150 g wholemeal flour
  • 50 g buckwheat flour
  • 50 g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 60 g unrefined coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground star anise
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder

Wet ingredients

  • 50 g melted butter
  • 75 g honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste

Chocolate drizzle

  • a handful of white sugar-free chocolate chips
  • a handful of dark sugar-free chocolate chips
  • drizzle of MCT oil


  • Pre-heat the oven to 160C. Line two cookie baking trays with baking paper.
  • Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl until combined.
  • Whisk wet ingredients together in a separate small bowl or a measuring jug.
  • Mix the dry and wet ingredients together until well blended. Use your hands to form a ball out of the dough.
  • If the dough is a little sticky, pop it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes while you prep your working space.
  • Dust your kitchen counter with some flour and roll the dough out with your rolling pin until it's evenly rolled out to about 1cm thickness. Dust the rolling pin with some flour if it keeps sticking.
  • Cut out cookie shapes with cookie cutters and place them on the baking sheet, a little way from each other (these don't spread much) until you are unable to cut out any more shapes.
  • Smush the remains of the dough back together into a ball, roll it out again and repeat the process until the dough is all used up.
  • Place the two baking sheets into the oven at the same time, for about 9 to 10 minutes, until golden around the edges.
  • Let the cookies cool.
  • When the cookies are completely cool, place them onto a cooling rack. Then melt the chocolate chips. I just pop them on a small plate each (white chips on one small plate and dark chips on another small plate) and heat in the microwave in 15 second intervals. Mix with a spoon after each interval until melted.
  • Once melted, drizzle a little bit of MCT oil onto each plate and mix together until gorgeous and shiny.
  • I then simply gather a little of the chocolate mixture on a spoon and go to town drizzling the cool cookies until my heart's content. Drizzle one type of chocolate first, then the other for best effect.
  • If you like, sprinkle a few festive sprinkles (sugar free if possible) while the chocolate drizzle is still wet.
  • Let the drizzle set before devouring.


This recipe makes about two baking trays worth of gingerbread cookies.
They keep well in a closed box in a cool place – they should be fine for up to a month.
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Recipe notes

This recipe makes about two baking trays worth of gingerbread cookies.

They keep well in a closed box in a cool place – they should be fine for up to a month.


  • Shannon

    5 stars
    Awww these are absolutely beautiful Katerina! What a great way to carry on the fun Christmas cookie tradition, but in a healthy way. I bet these beaitful gingerbread cookies don’t last long! ๐Ÿ˜‹

    • Katerina

      Thank you so much Shannon! We’re on another half now so fingers crossed they last till Christmas! Merry Christmas to you!

  • Healthy World Cuisine

    5 stars
    So delighted to hear that you have lived around the world too. Learning a little bit about the cultures along the way. So very intrigued by your delicious choices of flours. We are delighted to see the lightened up lower sugar version. I bet the kids are in second heaven with cookies for Santa. Wishing you and your family a very safe and happy holiday season.

  • Auggie

    5 stars
    Absolutely yes to gingerbread cookies! Love the different shapes and those sprinkles too, how fun! It’s so cold in the northern hemisphere here, but you’re right, it works for Christmas baking. Still, happy holidays to you and your family Katerina.

  • Carrie @ Curly Crafty Mom

    I just made traditional gingerbread cookies this weekend and they are def. full of butter, sugar, etc., etc.! I was thinking of looking for some healthier cookie recipes, just because we have been trying to eat a little cleaner and cut back on sugar, etc. Thank you for sharing these! They look delicious!


  • David @ Spiced

    5 stars
    Ah, I love the way you put a healthier spin on these traditional cookies, Katerina! I can’t imagine celebrating Christmas while it’s so hot outside. We love to bake during the holidays, and you’re right about baking being a special kind of hell on a hot summer day. In fact, right now when we finish baking, I actually turn the oven off but leave the door wide open to let the extra heat spill into the house. I’m staring at about 2.5 feet of snow outside! Either way, I love gingerbread, so this recipe sounds fantastic to me!!

    • Katerina

      Ohhhh, I’m jealous you have snow right now – my kids would love it so much! Hopefully we’ll beat this virus soon and we’ll be able you travel again and have white Christmas if we so choose! Thanks so much David!

  • David Gascoigne

    They really do look good! We don’t do a whole lot of baking, mainly wild blueberry muffins to have with mid morning coffee, so I doubt we will be giving this one a try. A few years ago we were in Panama at Christmas and in a hot climate lots of fruit was a great substitute for cakes and pastries. I keep an eye on Australian news and rejoice every day there are no dire reports of wildfires. Who can forget the last conflagrations? I had hoped to visit Australia in July of this year, then postponed it until July of next year, and now even that possibility seems like a long shot. COVID has wrecked thenplans of many, no doubt.

    • Katerina

      I’m sorry to hear that, David, maybe I can make a care package for you one of these days! And yes, we eat a lot of fruit through summer, not just at Christmas, but also cold cuts rather than hot roasts if it’s really hot? This year uber weather’s been mild so it’ll be easy to do both!

  • Renuka Walter

    Gingerbread cookies! Wow…good to know about your childhood ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d love to bake some cookies this Christmas. I was looking for some inspiration and here I get it!

    Thanks for this lovely recipe, Katerina!

    Merry Christmas ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ron

    5 stars
    Great gingerbread cookie recipe. I completed all of my Christmas cookies last week and will be dropping off bags (at a safe distance) to friends Wednesday. I love to hear of people’s Christmas traditions. Here, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th (I guess it’s because we’re closer to the North Pole) and Christmas day is not so festive, so we have an American-style Christmas dinner on the 25th for Swedish friends and relatives. But, as we can’t socialize for this Christmas we’ve rescheduled our traditional Christmas dinner to July 25th. Yep, we’re going to do a “Christmas in July” when things are under control. I’ll get to experience making Christmas cookies when it’s hot and I’ll be trying your recipe then…

    • Katerina

      Thanks so much Ron, that’s so interesting! I grew up celebrating Christmas on Dec 24 as well and so now, like you, we do a bit of both (24 and 25 Dec)! I love Christmas in July as well, for us that means cold Christmas (though usually not white). Fingers crossed for your July celebrations and merry Christmas!

  • Neil

    5 stars
    Gingerbread is a must at this festive time of year. I usually make a gingerbread loaf, but not cookies. So I’ll have to try these. Hope you and the family have an amazing Christmas Katerina! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Tasia ~ two sugar bugs

    These gingerbread cookies look amazing!! I always love how you put a healthy spin on treats and I know I will love this recipe!! I’m a lot like your family and bake a crazy amount of cookies for Christmas and mine are all very sugar laden. We have a lot of traditions, but two of my favorites are decorating gingerbread houses as a family and the annual cookie decorating party that my girls have with their friends, which we sadly didn’t get to do this year.

    • Katerina

      Such fantastic Christmas traditions, Tasia! We have just finished decorating our gingerbread house too and this year, we have done a gingerbread train as well – it’s a bit of a funny tradition as my icing is never quite right but it keeps us amused! ๐Ÿ™‚

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