chai gingerbread

This spicy chai (sourdough) gingerbread cookie recipe came about due to a fundraiser for The John Foundation.  This amazing charity in India educates children and gives women employable skills.  I've known about The John Foundation for over a decade and finally got to personally visit it with my daughter a few years ago.   It was a real eye opening experience and one charity that has a high return on investment!  If you are interested in learning more about this charity, I actually made a private video that I'd be happy to share with you.  Please let me know in the comment section.  My daughter and I decided to make these gingerbread cookies that had an added Chai twist.  We used royal icing and made our version of "henna" designs on the elephants.

gingerbread cookies with frosting
elephant shaped chai gingerbread cookie

The cookie was tasty and the texture actually got better with time!  It reminded me a little of the Biscoff cookies except not as sweet.  However, I thought that if it were a little more "spicy",  it would make it more flavorful.  So I decided to tweak the recipe.

In the original recipe, it called for adding the ingredients of a tablespoon of chai tea as the chai spice.  I decided that using the "raw" ingredients and blending it fresh would add to the spiciness.   So, I have 3 levels of spiciness in the recipe! I also added sourdough discards in one batch and incorporated the sourdough technique with a long resting period.  Based on the appearance of the baked sourdough cookie, I believe that this technique would make the cookie more nutritious, although I cannot prove that without taking it to a science lab. Adding the sourdough also made the cookies rise more. 

Gingerbread cookie without sourdough

Gingerbread cookie without sourdough.

Gingerbread cookie with sourdough

Gingerbread cookie with sourdough.



This recipe calls for 3 teaspoons of Chai.  If you don't have whole cloves, cardamom, black pepper or cinnamon in the pantry, you can either substitute it with the ingredients in a chai teabag or use ground spices.  When using the ingredients in a teabag and your teabag contains black tea, measure out 4 teaspoons of chai tea.  

If you have whole cloves, cardamom, black pepper or cinnamon, the best way to blend this into a fine powder is to use a coffee grinder.  Otherwise, you can substitute the whole spices with ground spices.

Whole chai spices in coffee grinder

Whole chai spices in coffee grinder

Finely ground chai spices

Finely ground chai spices

Hand or mixer?

You can make this recipe either by hand or mixer.  The dough is a lot softer when using a mixer.  However, after refrigeration, the dough can be rolled out and shaped with cookie cutters.  After making the dough, spoon the dough onto plastic wrap.  It may be too soft to shape into a flat square / rectangle.  If so, just wrap tightly with plastic wrap and then flatten to make it fairly uniform.

Spoon gingerbread dough onto plastic wrap.

Spoon gingerbread dough onto plastic wrap.

Wrap dough fairly tightly with plastic wrap.

Wrap dough fairly tightly with plastic wrap.

Press dough to make it uniform

Press dough to make it uniform

Getting consistent thickness

For thicker gingerbread cookies, the dough should be rolled to 1/4"  or 6 mm thickness.  For thinner, crispier cookies, the dough should be rolled to 1/8"  of 3 mm thickness.  I discovered that FREE paint sticks are excellent tools to get your dough thickness uniform.  One gallon paint sticks are 1/8" and five gallon paint sticks are 1/4" thick. Most hardware stores that sell paint will give these away for free!

Paint sticks for dough measuring
Rolling out the dough.
Prevent cookie dough from sticking.
It is a lot easier to roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper.  The parchment paper prevents the dough from sticking to the work surface and your rolling pin.  It also makes it easier to remove the cookie when transferring it onto the cookie sheet.
Use parchment paper when rolling cookies to prevent sticking

Use parchment paper when rolling cookies to prevent sticking.

Place the sticks on either side of the dough, place the parchment paper on the top and roll along the sticks until the rolling pin reaches the height of the sticks.  This will result in straight and uniform cookie dough.

Roll dough until rolling pin touches sticks.

Roll dough between parchment paper, using sticks as thickness guides.

Cut out shapes with cookie cutters

Cut out shapes with cookie cutters

The cookies do expand slightly, especially if you add sourdough discards.  Cool the cookie completely before frosting.

Royal icing.

When making royal icing, beat your egg white until they form soft peaks on medium low speed before adding your powdered sugar. Your icing should be fairly thick.

Pavlova Recipe. Beat egg white until frothy
Pavlova recipe whipped firm egg whites with sugar
Applying the icing.

Use royal icing to decorate your cookies.  I usually use it sparingly as it is very sweet and the entire cookie does not have to be lathered in icing!  See this helpful tip and trick on frosting cookies without a piping bag.

Baked gingerbread cookies

Baked gingerbread cookies

Decorate cookies with royal icing.

Decorate cookies with royal icing.

gingerbread cookies


gingerbread cookies


Michelle Sam
A twist on the regular, gingerbread cookie made with sourdough discards.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Firm up cookie dough in refrigerator 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 23 minutes
Course Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 48 cookies
Calories 81 kcal


  • 360 grams All purpose flour
  • 60 grams sourdough starter optional
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • tsp ground ginger
  • tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter Softened but not melted.
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓-½ cup molasses

Chai mixture made from ground spices

  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp finely ground black pepper

Chai mixture from whole spices

  • 1 tsp whole cardamom 12 whole cardamom
  • 1 tsp whole cloves 30 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns 50 whole black peppercorns

Chai mixture from herbal tea bags

  • 3 tsp contents of tea bags

Royal icing

  • 113 grams powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • ¼ tsp lemon juice


Chai mixture using whole spices. Spiciest taste

  • Using a coffee grinder or blender, combine cardamom, cloves and black peppercorns. Grind to a fine powder.
    1 tsp whole cardamom, 1 tsp whole cloves, 1 tsp whole black peppercorns

Chai mixture using ground spices. Spicy taste

  • Mix together ground cardamom, ground cloves and finely ground black pepper. If you black pepper is not fine, use a blender to grind these spices.
    1 tsp ground cardamom, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp finely ground black pepper

Chai mixture from herbal tea bags. Mild taste

  • Grind to a fine powder using a blender or coffee grinder.
    3 tsp contents of tea bags

Cookie dough

  • Sift flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt and chai spices together. Do not sift the brown sugar.
    360 grams All purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 2½ tsp ground ginger, 2½ tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp salt
  • In a stand mixer, whip the butter and sugar until fluffy.
    ½ cup unsalted butter, ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • Add the starter until combined.
    60 grams sourdough starter
  • Beat in eggs and ⅓ cup molasses until combined
    1 egg, ⅓-½ cup molasses
  • Add flour mixture until combined. If your dough is not soft and crumbly, add a little more molasses.
  • Split dough into 2 balls
  • Place in plastic wrap and flatten into a square patty
  • Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, better overnight when using sourdough. This cookie dough can last a week in this form so it can be made ahead of time.

Baking cookies

  • Preheat oven to 350° fahrenheit or 176° celcius.
  • Roll cookie dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper until 1/8" or 3 mm thickness
  • Cut cookie shapes with cookie cutters.
  • Transfer cookies from parchment paper to cookie tray. See video
  • Bake for 7 - 8 minutes.
  • Cool before icing.

Royal icing

  • Beat egg white at medium low speed until they hold soft peaks. I use a hand mixer.
    1 large egg white
  • Slowly add powdered sugar until well blended.
    113 grams powdered sugar
  • Add lemon juice at the end and beat for another 30 seconds.
    ¼ tsp lemon juice
  • Place frosting into a parchment paper cone or heavy duty freezer bag. See Frost cookies without a piping bag.
  • Cut the tip of parchment paper cone or corner of freezer bag.
  • Decorate your cookies.



You can omit the sourdough starter.  The cookies will be crispier and not as lofty but still delicious!
This recipe makes about 48 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutter.
If you are using sourdough, I suggest refrigerating the dough overnight to reap the benefits of the sourdough process!


Serving: 48cookiesCalories: 81kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 1gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 54mgPotassium: 54mgFiber: 1gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 67IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 12mgIron: 1mg
Keyword chai cookies, chai gingerbread cookies, gingerbread cookies, sourdough cookies, sourdough discards
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was or if you have any questions or suggestions!
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