Confession time, before testing this recipe I had to do a deep dive into what exactly sugar cookies are! Sugar cookies come up every time I’m researching what recipe to test next. Having grown up outside of the US I wasn’t privy to the phenomenon that is the iced sugar cookie. You’ll be pleased to know that I have now educated myself! I managed to conjure up some delicious, tender, pale blonde, gluten-free vegan sugar cookies of my own. What a delight they are!
To colour the icing I used freeze-dried fruit powders which gives them a gentle hue and a subtle fruity flavour.
Also FYI these gluten-free vegan sugar cookies come out of the oven very crispy but once they are cooled and ready to be iced they will be the soft cookies you know and love.
Questions about the recipe? Or did something go wrong with your sugar cookies? I’ve included all the recipe notes at the bottom of the page with the hope of improving your experience here at blue border. If you found this useful, I’d love your support on Instagram, click here to follow.
185g non-dairy margarine
150g caster sugar
2 Tbsp. non-dairy milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
350g gluten-free flour, all-purpose
¾ tsp. xanthan gum, leave out if your flour already contains xanthan
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
For the icing
250g icing sugar, sifted
60g non-dairy milk
1 Tbsp. non-dairy butter or margarine
Pinch fine salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract
20-30g your favourite freeze-dried fruit powders (strawberry, mango, orange, blueberry etc.)
Use an electric beater or a stand mixer to cream the sugar and butter together until fluffy and pale in colour. Add the vanilla and milk and beat briefly to combine.
Sift the flour, xanthan, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until well combined.
Bring the cookie dough together into a large ball, cover the bowl and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. The dough will seem very soft at first but will firm up as it rests.
Use this time to make your icing. Again using an electric beater or a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients for the icing, except for the freeze-dried fruit powder. Divide the icing between three small bowls. Colour each with one teaspoon from one of your freeze-dried fruit powders to make three colours. Mix well to combine and add more freeze-dried fruit powder if you want to intensify the colour (see the notes for exactly how I made my colours). Cover you icing and set aside.
When you’re ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 160C and line 2-3 baking trays with parchment paper. Divide the dough in two, keep one half in the fridge and roll the other half out to approx. 5mm thick. Cut the cookies out using your favourite cookie cutter or you can make drop cookies by rolling the dough into balls, this will also give the cookies a softer centre.
Transfer the cookies to a baking tray and bake one tray at a time for 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool before removing from the baking tray. Repeat with the second half of your dough.
Once all the cookies have cooled completely use a small off-set spatula to ice the top of the cookies, alternating between colours, and adding a sprinkle of freeze-dried fruit powder to each. Store the cookies in an airtight container.
What GF flour do you use?
I use Dove’s Farm all-purpose gluten-free flour and love the way it performs.
Do I have to use xanthan gum?
Yes – see ‘Why are my gluten-free cookies falling apart?’
How exactly did you make your icing colours?
I used freeze-dried strawberry to make the pink colour and freeze-dried mango to make the yellow colour. I divided the icing in half and add 1.5 teaspons of the freeze-dried fruit powder to each half of the icing. I made the yellow more intense by adding a touch (and only a touch) of turmeric powder (the colour in turmeric will intensify over a couple of hours). To make the peach colour I mixed 1/3 of the mango icing with 1/3 of the strawberry icing. You could also try freeze-dried orange for an orange/peach colour instead.
If you can only find whole freeze-dried fruit and you have a spice grinder or a small coffee grinder you can grind the whole fruits into powder yourself.
Can I use food colouring and sprinkles instead of freeze-dried fruit?
Yes of course! Freeze-dried fruit isn’t always easy to find and if you already have colouring and sprinkles in your cupboard, use them. At the end of the day, this recipe is for you!
Why are these baked at 160C?
In general gluten-free bakes are baked at a lower oven temperature. Low and slow baking helps with the development of structure in the absence of gluten, prevents crumbling and stops your bakes from drying out.
Do I really have to bake these cookies in batches?
Baking multiply trays of cookies at once means that one tray will cook faster than the other.
Baking in batches will keep all the cookies uniform. This is ideal with these gluten-free vegan sugar cookies where you don’t want any browning to occur.
Troubleshooting - did something go wrong with your bake?
Why are my gluten-free cookies falling apart?
You left out the xanthan gum. In this recipe (and many others) xanthan gum is standing in for gluten and eggs as a binder, without it, GF bakes tend to crumble. If you’re opposed to xanthan gum you can try a flax egg but note that I haven’t tried the recipe with a binder other than xanthan gum.
You didn’t let them cool completely before removing them from the tray. Gluten-free cookies are more fragile than their gluten-containing counterparts. Allowing them to cool on the tray, allows them to fully set. If you skip this step you may find they completely crumble when moved.
Why are my gluten-free cookies gritty?
Rice flour is to blame for a gritty texture. Try using a different all-purpose GF flour or make your own mix. I like this recipe for gluten-free flour by Minimalist Baker and even better make this recipe with superfine brown and white rice flour.
Why did my cookies spread so much in the oven?
You skipped the fridge step. Gluten-free cookie dough should always go in the fridge before baking as they tend to spread excessively in the oven.
In these small bakes, the butter/marg will melt quickly and without gluten to hold them back you can end up with one giant cookie instead of one dozen. The 30 minute rest in the fridge in this recipe helps to solidify the source of fat and temper spreading.
This time in the fridge will also soften the flour and help prevent grittiness in the cookies.