As a child, every year at Christmas time, my mom, sisters, and I baked Christmas cookies. There was lots of spoon-licking involved, back before we knew not to eat raw cookie dough.
The Christmas cookie lineup in my home always included candy cane cookies made with a hint of sweet almond extract. When looking for a gluten-free version of this recipe, nothing was quite the same.
Thankfully, my sister has a hand-written copy of our family’s recipe (which I think was originally in a Betty Crocker cookbook). I have reworked that gluten-filled recipe that called for regular all-purpose flour. These gluten-free candy cane sugar cookies taste just like the cookies of my childhood.
I hope your family enjoys them as much as mine does!
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Most of these ingredients are gluten-free kitchen staples, especially around the holiday baking season.
Gluten-Free Flour: Use a gluten-free replacement flour blend that contains xanthan gum, such as King Arthur Gluten-Free Measure-for Measure Flour, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour, or Cup4Cup Gluten Free Multipurpose Flour. I use King Arthur, as it is my personal go-to replacement flour for baking cakes and cookies and is always in my pantry.
Butter (softened): I have only tested this recipe with butter. However, some bakers are firmly in the “never use butter for cookies” camp. If that’s you, please note that the original recipe allows for margarine in place of butter.
Shortening: I use Crisco shortening sticks for easy measurement.
Almond Extract and Vanilla Extract: Almond extract tastes nothing like almonds. It is a simply sweet almond essence that pairs beautifully with vanilla creating subtle hints of sweetness in this traditional Christmas cookie.
Baking Powder: Essential to give these cookies a nice rise.
Red Gel Food Color: I used Betty Crocker’s Gel Food Colors. It carries a gluten-free claim on the label, although, most food coloring is unlikely to contain gluten ingredients.
Crushed Candy canes: I crushed YumEarth Candy Canes in my Blendec blender for a few seconds. You can also crush candy canes by placing them in a plastic bag and smashing them with the back of a spoon. It takes approximately 3 full-size candy canes to make ¼ cup of crushed candy canes.
More Kitchen Staples: powdered sugar, milk, salt, granulated sugar
Use a hand mixer or a stand mixer to mix butter, shortening, confectionary sugar, egg, milk, and flavorings in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix for 1-2 minutes on medium speed until the mixture has the creamy consistency of frosting. As you’re mixing, you’ll quickly notice the sweet aroma of almond and vanilla extracts.
Blend in flour, baking powder and salt. At this point the dough is sticky, but it will become workable after it chills.
Divide dough in half. Place half of the dough in a small bowl with a lid or cover with plastic wrap. Blend red gel food color into the other half still in the mixing bowl.
Chill dough for 2 hours. The chill time is essential, both for being able to shape the candy canes and to keep the butter cold, which will prevent flat cookies.
Preheat oven to 375℉. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Stir together crushed candy cane pieces and sugar. Have the mixture ready to sprinkle on the cookies as soon as they come out of the oven.
Work with a small amount of dough at a time, keeping the rest of the dough chilling in the fridge. I like to scoop out enough dough to shape four or five cookies fairly quickly.
I recommend working with the dough on wax paper or parchment paper and using a light dusting of flour to prevent sticking.
Shape each candy cane cookie:
- Scoop or pinch approximately 1-inch round from each of the red and white dough bowls.
- Roll one white piece and one red piece into two 4-inch ropes.
- Gently press the edges of 1 white rope and 1 red rope together and twist.
- Place on prepared baking sheet.
- Curve the top of the twisted cookie dough down to form a candy cane shape.
Bake for approximately 9 minutes, until the edges are a light golden brown. Do not overbake.
Immediately sprinkle the candy cane sugar mix on top of the cookies while they are still on the baking sheet. Wait 2 minutes before carefully transferring the cookies to a wire rack.
Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
Baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. These cookies are delicate, so make sure they have cooled completely and handle them gently when transferring to a storage container. For best results, do not store gluten-free cookies in the refrigerator, as they will dry out.
Store unbaked dough in the fridge for up to 2-3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
You can even pre-shape these festive candy cane cookies and store them unbaked in the freezer, ready to bake throughout the season:
- Form the candy cane cookies.
- Freeze on a baking sheet for one hour, or until solid.
- Store in a bag or airtight container for up to 2 months.
- When ready to bake, place frozen cookies on a baking sheet and bake at 375℉ for approximately 11 minutes.
Valentine’s Day Peppermint Heart Cookies
This gluten-free recipe can be used to make adorable red/pink and white peppermint hearts for Valentine’s Day. Make the dough as directed with or without food coloring, then roll it out, as you would sugar cookie dough. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make Valentine’s hearts.
Adjust your baking times for the size of the cookies. The mini hearts pictured were made with an approximately 1 ½ inch cookie cutter from this heart-shaped set. They take only 5 minutes to bake. Immediately sprinkle with crushed candy canes.
More Candy Cane Recipes
If you can’t get enough candy canes this holiday season, try these delicious recipes also starring your favorite Christmas candy:
More Gluten-Free Christmas Cookie & Dessert Recipes
- Soft! Gluten-Free Christmas Sugar Cookies
- The Best, Chewy, Gluten-Free Gingersnaps Recipe
- Sweet Festive Round-Ups:
Here’s a list of Gluten-Free Christmas Candy, perfect for stocking stuffers and cookie decorating!
Gluten-Free Candy Cane Cookies
- ½ cup butter softened
- ½ cup shortening
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 ½ tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups gluten-free flour containing xanthan gum (I use King Arthur Gluten-Free Measure-for Measure Flour)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ½-1 tsp red gel food color
- ¼ cup crushed candy canes (approximately 3 full-size candy canes)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- Use a hand or stand mixer to mix butter, shortening, confectionary sugar, egg, milk, and flavorings in a large bowl for 1-2 minutes on medium speed until creamy.
- Blend in flour, baking powder and salt.
- Divide in half. Blend red food color into half of the dough.
- Chill for 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 375℉. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Stir together crushed candy canes and sugar. Set aside.
- Work with a small amount of dough at a time, keeping the rest of the dough chilling in the fridge. For each candy cane cookie, scoop or pinch approximately 1-inch round from each of the red and white dough bowls. Roll each color into a 4-inch rope. Gently press the edges of 1 white rope and 1 red rope together and twist. Place on prepared baking sheet and curve the top of the twisted cookie dough down to form a candy cane shape.
- Bake for approximately 9 minutes, until the edges are a light golden brown. Immediately sprinkle cookies with candy cane sugar mix. Wait 2 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack. Cool completely before serving.