Healthy Gingerbread Cookie Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields: 16 cookie bars
 
These cookie bars are perfect for the holidays—or anytime you’re craving a festive wintertime treat! They have that classic gingerbread flavor, with lots of rich and cozy spice flavor, and the sweet cream cheese frosting pairs perfectly with those flavors. They’ll keep for at least three days (if not longer!) if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and coat an 8”-square pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. To prepare the cookie bars, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil or butter, egg, vanilla extract, and liquid stevia. Stir in the molasses. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated.
  3. Using a spatula, gently press the cookie dough into the prepared pan in a thin, even layer. Bake at 325°F for 10-12 minutes or until the center feels firm to the touch. Cool completely to room temperature in the pan.
  4. While the cookie bars bake, prepare the frosting. Beat the Greek yogurt, cream cheese, instant pudding mix, and liquid stevia together using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer for 2 minutes. Cover the bowl with foil, and chill for at least 2 hours.
  5. Once the cookie bars are completely cool, spread the frosting across the top. (I highly recommend an offset spatula like this to do so!) Slice them into 16 square bars.
Notes: Whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour may be substituted for the white whole wheat flour. Regular whole wheat flour may be substituted in a pinch, but the cookies will have detectable “wheat-y” taste.

Use store-bought gluten-free flour blends (like this one!) for the gluten-free option.

Remember to measure the flour correctly, using this method or a kitchen scale. (← That’s the one I own and love!) Too much flour will make your cookie bars dry and crumbly, instead of soft and chewy.

The molasses is essential to create the gingerbread flavor. It’s inexpensive, shelf-stable, and keeps for ages. I do not recommend substituting for it! In a pinch, you can substitute pure maple syrup, honey, or agave for it, but the cookies will no longer have that classic gingerbread taste.

I highly recommend using the liquid stevia! It's one of my favorite ingredients, and you'll use it in all of these recipes of mine, too. I buy it here because that's the best price I've found. You cannot substitute additional molasses, pure maple syrup, honey, or agave for the liquid stevia because cookies require a precise balance of wet and dry ingredients. However, you may substitute ½ cup + 2 tablespoons (120g) coconut sugar (or granulated sugar, if you aren’t concerned about keeping these cookies clean eating friendly) for both the molasses and stevia, but the cookies will appear “speckled” if using coconut sugar because it doesn’t dissolve as well. They won’t have quite the same classic “gingerbread” flavor as well.

Neufchâtel cream cheese, Greek yogurt cream cheese, and fat-free cream cheese will all work in the frosting. Just make sure they’re well softened first!

If you prefer not to use the liquid stevia in the frosting, then substitute 1 teaspoon of this powdered stevia OR 2-3 tablespoons of Truvia or granulated sugar.

You just need the dry instant pudding mix—don’t prepare it according to the package directions! You may omit it, but you’ll need to increase the liquid stevia (and just mix the ingredients together until incorporated—not for 2 full minutes!). Without the instant pudding mix, the frosting will be a bit runny and may slightly drip down the sides of your cookie bars.

{gluten-free, clean eating option, low fat, lower sugar}
Recipe by Amy's Healthy Baking at https://amyshealthybaking.com/blog/2018/11/18/healthy-gingerbread-cookie-bars-with-cream-cheese-frosting/