Easy vegan gluten-free thumbprint cookies made with a simple shortbread cookie dough and then indented and filled with any jam you like, such as raspberry, strawberry, apricot, and more...use your favourite!
This recipe is made without eggs and is dairy-free, but it’s just like the classic version you know and once loved. Make them for sharing at Christmas or any time during the year!
Even though these vegan gluten-free thumbprint cookies (also known as thimble cookies!) are considered to be Christmas cookies, I think they can be made any time of year.
They do contain jam or preserves which are a bit summery because jam and preserves are made with fresh fruits and berries, right?
My point is, this recipe is perfect to make during the holidays, BUT if you happen to get a craving in say, July, don't hesitate, make them!
If you're looking for more vegan gluten-free Christmas cookie recipes, check these out (and if a craving hits in the summer for any of these, too, you already know my advice!):
- Sugar Cookies
- Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies
- Soft Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
- Molasses Cookies
- Thin Mint Cookies
- Linzer Cookies
- Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
- Coconut Macaroons
- Chewy Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies
Now let's get into how to make these amazing, but very simple, gluten-free thumbprint cookies!
Ingredients You'll Need
Just SIX ingredients are all you need to make this recipe.
Ingredient and Substitution Notes
As always, I recommend making this recipe exactly as it’s written for the best and intended results, but you’ll find some ingredient notes below so you know what can and can’t be changed.
Gluten-Free Flour Blend – This recipe is made using gluten-free flour, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour in the BLUE bag with xanthan gum, to be specific.
I have not tested with any other gluten-free flour other than this one, so I’m not sure how others would work. With gluten-free baking, it’s always important to use the same flour the recipe calls for to get the expected results.
This recipe will not work with any single gluten-free flour, such as coconut, rice, oat etc. It must be the blend mentioned above, so for the best and intended results, use the flour the recipe calls for.
Make sure to measure your flour correctly or your cookies will not have the correct texture.
Powdered Sugar – The powdered sugar in this recipe cannot be replaced with liquid sweeteners or any granulated sugars and I have not tried any alternative sugars. As you may already know, not all sugar is vegan, some are processed using animal bone char, so to be sure, buy an organic brand (organic sugar is not processed using bone char) or one that is labelled as vegan.
Note that “powdered sugar,” “confectioner’s sugar,” and “icing sugar” are all the same thing.
Vegan Butter – I have not made this recipe with any other type of fat, so I cannot comment on what the results would be like if you were to use something different. I have not tried making this recipe oil-free.
Vanilla – Vanilla is added for flavour. You can experiment with different extracts if you’d like. If you want to experiment with the flavour, you can try replacing a half teaspoon (or more) of the vanilla with a half teaspoon of almond extract or lemon extract.
Jam/Preserves/Jelly - You can use any type you like, just make sure that it's a good quality one. I usually use strawberry, raspberry, and apricot, exactly what you see in the pictures, but use your favourite! Peach, blueberry, passion fruit, fig, guava (and more!) will all work. You can even use leftover cranberry sauce.
Store-bought or homemade jam can be used, just make sure that it isn't too runny, the extra liquid will cause the cookies to be soggy. I also prefer to use seedless jam, but if you like the type with seeds, feel free to use it.
How to Make Them
(Note: I’ve outlined the step-by-step on how to make this recipe here, but find the full recipe, ingredients, and directions at the end of this post.)
While reading the simplified steps, follow along with the numbered images below!
1. Whisk the flour and salt together and set them aside.
2. Next, using an electric hand mixer (or a stand mixer), cream the butter and powdered sugar together until it’s light and fluffy, this will take about 2-3 minutes. Add the vanilla and blend again until everything has combined.
3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix. If you are using an electric hand mixer, you can switch over to mixing with a wooden spoon at this point if you'd like.
4. Continue mixing until everything has combined and a soft, sticky dough has formed.
5. (NOT PICTURED) Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the dough and place it in the refrigerator for at least three hours and up to three days. Chilling allows the dough to firm up so it can be rolled into balls easily and so the cookies don't spread too much while baking.
6. Using a tablespoon (or a medium-sized cookie scoop), scoop up the dough and roll it into a smooth ball that has no lines or cracks.
7. Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet.
8. Using a measuring spoon (I use a ½ teaspoon), gently press the back of it into each dough ball. Don't go too deep or the indent will be too wide and /or the spoon can break through the bottom of the cookie. If the dough cracks while you are adding the indents, you can leave them if it doesn't bother you or you can gently press the cracks back together.
9. Repeat until all of the dough balls have been indented.
TIP: If the measuring spoon starts sticking to the dough, you can dip the bottom of the spoon in a little gluten-free flour to help with that.
Next, add the jam/preserves of your choice to each cookie. You don't want to overfill or underfill them, fill just until the jam reaches the rim of the indent.
I use about ¾ of a teaspoon for each cookie but you may need a little more or a little less depending on how big your indents are.
The final step is to bake them. Bake for the time stated in the recipe or until the bottom edges are golden brown.
When they've finished baking, remove them from the oven and let them sit on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing and placing the cookies on a cooling rack.
Allow the cookies to fully cool before serving (the jam is going to be VERY hot!).
- Any type of jam can be used, just make sure it's a thick one and that it's not runny.
- Add a little lemon zest or orange zest to the cookie dough. Mix the zest in with the butter/sugar/vanilla mixture before adding the flour.
- Different extracts can be used. Try replacing a half teaspoon (or more) of the vanilla with a half teaspoon of almond extract or lemon extract.
- Roll the cookie dough balls in granulated sugar before making the indents to give them a little holiday sparkle.
- Make them a little more festive by sifting a little powdered sugar over the tops of the fully cooled cookies.
- You can make a simple icing to be drizzled on top. Drizzling with icing makes them look extra fancy! (Use the simple icing recipe found in my recipe for sugar cookies).
Fillings That Aren't Jam
Yes, these are jam thumbprint cookies, but you can use something other than jam, such as melted chocolate, chocolate ganache, apple butter, pumpkin butter, lemon curd, hazelnut spread, or even caramel.
However, anything outside of jam cannot be baked with the cookies, you will have to use the double indent method if using one of these fillings.
To double indent, make the indents and then bake the cookies without a filling. As they bake, the indents will puff up. When they've finished baking, remove them from the oven and then gently indent them again while they're still hot.
Fully cool the cookies and then fill them with your non-jelly filling.
To Refrigerate the Cookie Dough for Baking Later
The dough can be made and kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If you do this, make sure that it's covered with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly on the dough so it doesn't dry out.
To Freeze the Cookie Dough for Baking Later
If you want to make the cookie dough and freeze it for baking later, scoop and roll the dough into balls, then make the indents but don't add the jam.
Put the unfilled cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or a plate and place them in the freezer.
Once completely frozen, place the cookies in an airtight, freezer-safe bag or container, with parchment paper separating each layer, and freeze for up to 2 months.
When you're ready to bake them, thaw, fill with jam, and bake. Full details can be found in the recipe notes below.
Storing and Freezing
Store fully cooled leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. After 3 days, place the container in the refrigerator for up to another 3 days.
These cookies are at their best the day they were made, they soften slightly after the first day due to the moisture from the jam.
Freezing Baked Cookies
Freeze them in single layers in a freezer bag or airtight container, with parchment paper separating each layer, for up to 2 months.
Thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter and when you’re ready to serve, just place them on a plate, bring them to room temperature, and enjoy.
What's the Texture Like
The texture is pretty much a shortbread cookie, it's soft, pillowy, tender, and melt-in-your-mouth.
The actual cookie part is not overly sweet since there isn't a lot of sugar in the cookie dough, most of the sweetness (and flavour) comes from the jam. So make sure to use a jam flavour that you love.
Tips for Success
- Use the same flour I use. Baking vegan gluten-free can be tricky because different flours produce different results. I know this particular flour works perfectly for this recipe, so to duplicate that perfection, please use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour (in the BLUE bag!).
- Measure your flour correctly. Too much flour will make your dough too dry. Please read my article about how to measure flour correctly.
- Measure and have all your ingredients ready to go before starting. This will make the process run smooth, quick, and easy.
- Give yourself enough time. The cookie dough needs to chill for at least 3 hours, so take that into account when planning to make this recipe.
- Make sure that your butter is slightly softened before starting, NOT melted or TOO soft. To make sure your butter is at the ideal softness, lightly press your finger into it. If it leaves a shallow indent, your butter is at the perfect temperature. If your finger sinks into the butter with barely any effort, your butter is too soft. Refrigerate it until it has firmed up and then test it again.
- Don’t skip chilling the cookie dough. This step is VERY important for the cookies to hold their shape while baking. If the dough is not chilled, the cookie dough will be hard to roll into balls and the cookies will spread too much.
Are you new to vegan gluten-free baking? If so, be sure to read all of my vegan gluten-free baking tips!
Tips for Success (Continued)
- Don't use a jam or preserve that is runny. Use a good quality jam, if it's runny, the extra liquid will seep into the cookies as they bake making them soggy.
- If your jam is stiff, give it a good stir or you can microwave the jam being used to loosen it up to make adding it to the cookies easier. Microwave for just a few seconds, you don't want the jam to be hot.
- Use the back of a measuring spoon to make the indents. Yes, they're called thumbprint cookies, but using your thumbs won't make perfectly round and uniform indents. Make the indents slowly and carefully so the dough doesn't crack.
- If the dough cracks while you are adding the indents, you can leave them if it doesn't bother you or you can gently press and smooth the cracks back together.
- Don't overbake. If overbaked, they will not be the tender, melt-in-your-mouth cookies they are intended to be and the bottoms will become too brown and hard.
- Read this post from top to bottom before you start. I’ve included a lot of tips and tricks so you get things right. Also read through the actual recipe before getting started.
- Follow the recipe exactly as it’s written for the very best results.
Yes, you can. Freeze fully cooled cookies in single layers in a freezer bag or airtight container with parchment paper separating each layer, for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter and when you’re ready to serve, just place them on a plate, bring them to room temperature, and enjoy.
This can be caused by a few things: 1) Working with dough that is too dry due to measuring flour incorrectly (too much) will cause cracking. 2) The dough balls may have been sitting for too long before pressing in the indents, this can cause the outside of the balls to get dry. To avoid this, make the indents as soon as you roll the dough into a ball. 3) Not being gentle when pressing in the indents. If you rush, your cookie dough will crack under quick pressure, so make the indents carefully and slowly. If you do get cracks, you can easily repair them by gently pressing them back together.
This can be caused by a few things: 1) Incorrectly measuring the flour (too little) or the butter (too much). 2) The dough was too warm before baking the cookies. If you find that the dough has warmed up during the rolling and indenting process, simply place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before baking so the dough cools back down. 3) The cookie sheet was warm or hot when you placed the cookie dough on it. Make sure your cookie sheet is cool before placing cookie dough on it.
Store your baked thumbprint cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, after that, if you still have leftovers, you can place them in the refrigerator for another 3 days or you can freeze them.
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If You Make This Recipe...
Please let me know how your cookies turned out! Leave me a comment and star rating below or you can post a picture on Instagram and tag me so I can see it. (I'm @delightfuladventures on Instagram!)
And If You Like This Recipe...
Check out these other vegan gluten-free cookie recipes:
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
- Almond Butter Cookies
Vegan Gluten-Free Thumbprint Cookies
- In a small bowl, add the gluten-free flour and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and powdered sugar until blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stop to scrape down the sides of your bowl when needed. Add vanilla extract, blend again.
- Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed with your electric mixer or with a wooden spoon until a soft, sticky dough has formed.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the dough and place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.
- When the dough has finished chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper.
- Using a tablespoon (or a medium-sized cookie scoop), scoop up a small amount of the dough and using your hands, roll it into a smooth ball until there are no lines or cracks.
- Place each ball on the cookie sheet, and using a measuring spoon, gently press the back of the spoon into the top of each ball to create an indent.
- Fill the indents with jam, don't overfill. You want to jam to be level with the rim of the indent.
- Bake for 14 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cookies cool on the cookie sheet for two minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Fully cool before serving.
- Please read all of the information and FAQ info above, as well as the notes below before making this recipe.
- This recipe makes 24 cookies, which is the amount you’ll get if you scoop them with a medium-sized cookie scoop (medium scoops are usually 1.5 tablespoons). You'll get a few more if you use a tablespoon. The recipe can be cut in half if needed.
- It’s important to know that different gluten-free flour blends use different ingredients and ratios, so results may vary if you substitute. I have never used any other brand of gf flour to make this recipe other than Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour (Amazon link) in the blue package, NOT the red package, so please know that your results may not be the same as mine if you substitute with another gluten-free flour blend. The weight listed above is for this specific brand of flour.
- This recipe will NOT work with coconut flour or any other single gluten-free flour, it must be a blend, the one mentioned above for the very best results.
- Make sure to measure your flour correctly.
- Salted butter can be used instead of unsalted, just omit the salt from the recipe.
- The recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of jam but you may need slightly more or a little less depending on how large the indents in your cookies are.
- Store fully cooled leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Cookies will soften slightly after the first day. After 3 days, place the container in the refrigerator for up to another 3 days.
- Freezing baked cookies: Freeze the cookies in single layers in a freezer bag or airtight container, with parchment paper separating each layer, for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter and when you’re ready to serve, just place them on a plate, bring them to room temperature, and enjoy.
- To freeze the cookie dough for baking later: Scoop and roll the dough into balls, and make the indents but don't add the jam. Place the unfilled cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or plate and place them in the freezer. Once completely frozen, place the cookies in an airtight, freezer-safe bag or container, with parchment paper separating each layer, and freeze for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to bake them, remove from the freezer and place them on a cookie sheet. Allow them to sit at room temperature for 30-minutes. Preheat the oven. After the 30-minutes have passed, add the jam to each cookie and bake as directed.
- Nutrition info is based on 1 of 24 cookies with the recipe made as written and is only to be used as a rough guide. Click to learn how nutrition info is calculated on this website.