I absolutely love baking holiday treats with my kids, and even though we avoid grains, dairy, and artificial ingredients, we get creative to make some pretty fun treats, like these paleo gingerbread houses!
When I wrote my healthy holiday cookbook Nourishing Holiday a couple of years ago, I knew it had to include a gingerbread man cookie recipe. I started off by creating these fun gingerdoodles cookies, then adapted them to create gingerbread men, which is the finished recipe you’ll find in my cookbook.
I don’t know why I’ve never thought to make gingerbread houses out of the dough, but this year, we were determined to find a way to make paleo gingerbread houses. It worked perfectly, and I found some better/healthier choices for frosting and candy decorations. Basically, this is probably the most fun my kids have had with food since we overhauled our diet, so I’m feeling like a million bucks.
Paleo gingerbread houses: worth the mess!
I know I’m not the only mom who typically avoids messes and big projects. I don’t consider myself a super fun mom. But I want to be, and I want to be more joyful in general, so I’m ending this year with a bang by letting my kids get covered in frosting and put together these cute little houses. We might even make them again before Christmas.
After recently learning that laughter actually boosts your immune system, I’ve determined to laugh more this next year. It doesn’t come naturally, to be honest. Having a child with complex medical and behavioral problems, and just being stretched thin in general as a mom, I think it’s easy to move through the every day hustle and bustle, some days without even so much as smiling.
I really like what one of my favorite companies, The Crowning Jewels, has to say about laughter here: “Laughter unlocks the seeds of purpose. Laughter is good for us. The Bible tells us that a joyful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22).”
I want my kids to remember me being joyful, laughing, and not being too uptight.
I want to say yes more.
So when my kids started asking last week if we could make gingerbread houses, I said “Yes!” I quickly and easily found cookie cutters on Amazon, and you know I Prime-shipped those babies to get them here pronto. 😉
These Paleo Gingerbread Houses are not only paleo-friendly because they’re grain, gluten, dairy, and sugar-free, but they’re also GAPS diet-friendly if you omit the molasses. I actually prefer to make them with butter, but if you’re strictly dairy-free, you can make them with palm shortening. (Note: the cookie part is paleo and GAPS-friendly, read more about the frosting below.)
I’ve sweetened them with dates for optimal digestibility and to add health benefits like vitamins and minerals and fiber. They blend up easily in a high-powered blender like a Vitamix, or a food processor and give the dough some stickiness. You might be able to get away with an egg replacement in this recipe thanks to the stickiness of the dates, though I haven’t tried it yet.
A note on gingerbread house cookie cutters & more
I used this set of cookie cutters because they were very simple. After some trial and error, it seems the smaller pieces go on the sides and the bigger pieces are the roof. This recipe will make 2-3 houses with this set of cutters. There are also templates online that you can print out and trace onto the dough, but having the cutters sure made for tidy lines and quick, easy cutting.
We used organic frosting from the store. It has some powdered sugar in it, so it’s not 100% paleo-friendly, but I’m ok with that. You could also try making your own frosting with homemade coconut or maple powdered sugar, but I was all about keeping things easy this time.
Really, you could use anything to decorate them, like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or chocolate chips, but to be honest, getting a stiff enough frosting will be tricky unless you’re willing to keep it refrigerated. Either way, make these paleo gingerbread houses your own and have fun and laugh with your kids!
Paleo Gingerbread House Recipe
Yield 2-3 Houses
- Preheat oven to 350*.
- In the container of a high-powered blender or food processor, combine nuts, dates, molasses, eggs, butter, vanilla, ginger, and cinnamon. Blend on high until smooth, using the tamper or scraping the sides as you go.
- Pour the mixture into a large bowl and add almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt, and stir until a thick, sticky dough forms.
- Chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
- Turn dough out onto large piece of parchment paper or floured surface (tapioca/arrowroot starches are paleo-friendly choices). Place another piece of parchment paper on top, or lightly dust with starch before using a rolling pin to roll dough to 1/4" thickness. (You can divide dough in 2-3 balls to do this in order to have less dough to work with.)
- Use gingerbread house cutters like this to cut out two of each shape: two walls, two roof pieces, and two pointed front and back pieces.
- Transfer to a lined cookie sheet, then ball up remaining dough and repeat.
- Bake 15-18 minutes, until cookies begin to brown on edges.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before assembling and decorating.
To put houses together and decorate:
- Fill a piping bag, fixed with a small/medium tip or with a small hole cut in the tip, with frosting. We used this organic frosting and it worked well, though it will not get stiff like conventional frosting. It was thick enough to hold things together though. You could try a buttercream made with honey and keep it refrigerated in order to avoid sugar, but it will be hard to get a stiff enough frosting without starch or sugar.
- Use frosting to attach the smaller rectangle pieces on the sides of each of the tall, pointed front and back pieces. Place the larger rectangle pieces on either upper side as the roof. Fill in any gaps with frosting.
- Use the frosting to decorate the houses and affix dye-free candies to them. We used these and these. You could also use nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate chips to be more GAPS- or paleo-friendly, as candy still contains sugar, even if it's dye-free and organic!