These dairy-free pumpkin cookies are a favorite from my book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. Each tender bite is infused with warm fall flavors, like maple, vanilla, and cinnamon. And unlike other recipes, you can really taste the pumpkin! Not to mention, this recipe uses only pantry ingredients. They are simple, delicious treats you can bake for holidays, cookie swaps, or any old day!
Dairy-Free Pumpkin Cookies with Warm Fall Flavor
The original inspiration for these dairy-free pumpkin cookies was the classic Libby’s recipe. But their version was a bit too cakey and lacked oomph, in my opinion. Over the years, I made several tweaks and finally landed on this thick, soft, and slightly chewy version. Along the way, I tested many different things, and thus have tips and answers to several FAQs.
Can I Make the Cookie Dough Ahead?
Yes! You can make the dough up to two days ahead, and store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It can also be frozen if you want to bake the cookies as cravings strike. I would portion the dough and flash freeze it. Then store the frozen cookie dough portions in an airtight freezer bag.
Do these Pumpkin Spice Cookies Freeze Well?
They freeze very well! Once baked, store them in an airtight bag in the freezer. If stored properly, they should keep well for a few months. You can enjoy them straight from the freezer, or let them warm at room temperature before eating.
Are there any Good Substitutes for the Maple Syrup?
For a richer, darker tasting cookie, you can use substitute molasses. Honey will make the dough a little stickier, and does influence the taste. I don’t personally recommend other syrup sweeteners, as they don’t offer the same warmth to these dairy-free pumpkin spice cookies. But in a pinch, most liquid sweeteners will work.
Can I Use Brown Sugar instead of White Sugar?
I use white sugar to emphasize the pumpkin and cinnamon flavors more. But brown sugar would be delicious, too. You can use part or all brown sugar. The dairy-free pumpkin cookies will be a touch more moist and chewy with brown sugar.
Can I Substitute Coconut Sugar for the White Sugar?
If you want refined sugar-free dairy-free pumpkin cookies, you can use coconut sugar or evaporated cane juice (Sucanat) in place of the white sugar. The taste will be slightly less sweet and a little more sultry, and the texture will be a little different. But if you are used to baking cookies with coconut sugar, it will probably be familiar.
Can I Substitute Sugar-Free Sweeteners?
I’m sorry, but I don’t have baking experience with sugar-free sweeteners! They might work, but will affect both the taste and texture. If you do try it, I would use a granulated sweetener for the white sugar and a liquid sweetener for the maple syrup.
Can I Use Vegan Butter instead of Shortening?
I use Spectrum shortening for a few key reasons. It prevents cookie spread, lends a slight chewy texture, and it doesn’t compete with the pumpkin flavor. If you do opt to substitute a dairy-free butter alternative, I would use buttery sticks specifically. And keep in mind that the cookies will spread more. If they spread too much, look oily, or burn around the edges, it’s due to the vegan butter. If you are at high altitude, I would definitely stick with shortening, since spread and oil separation is an even bigger issue in high and dry climates.
Can I Add Chocolate Chips or Raisins to the Recipe?
These dairy-free pumpkin spice cookies are great with add-ins! You can add dairy-free chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, chopped walnuts or pecans, or even diced crystalized ginger. They all pair nicely. I would start with 1/2 cup and add more if desired (start with just 1/4 cup if using diced crystalized ginger).
Why are there No Eggs in these Pumpkin Cookies?
This is an “accidentally” vegan pumpkin cookie recipe! I’ve tested these dairy-free pumpkin spice cookies with egg and without, and we prefer them without. Because they are filled with moist pumpkin puree already, eggs make the cookies a bit too cakey. We prefer them on the cookie side, but with as much pumpkin as possible.
Can I Eat this as Pumpkin Cookie Dough?
That is up to you! There are no eggs, so that isn’t an issue. In recent years, concern has developed over uncooked flour. You can heat treat the flour for safer cookie dough. Leaveners, like baking soda and baking powder can taste more prominent in raw cookie dough. If enjoying this purely as dough, you might want to reduce them.
Can I Make these as Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cookies?
I haven’t tested this recipe without gluten. If you do try it, I would try a grain-based gluten-free flour blend, like King Arthur Measure for Measure. Do not substitute coconut flour, almond flour, or another grain-free flour. More adjustments would need to be made to make these dairy-free pumpkin spice cookies work grain free. Please let us know what you use if you successfully make these as dairy-free gluten-free pumpkin cookies!
Do you have any Dairy-Free Frosting Recommendations?
Of course! If icing or frosting your dairy-free pumpkin cookies, I would omit the cinnamon-sugar topping, but sprinkle the frosted tops with cinnamon. You can make a simple icing by whisking 1 cup sifted powdered sugar with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon water. Whisk in more water, as needed, to get the consistency you desire. For more of a frosting, use my favorite Vanilla Cookie Frosting that’s with my sugar cookie recipe, or Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting.
My Cookies Look Thicker Than Yours. What Happened?
The height of the cookies can vary based on the fat you use (shortening vs coconut oil vs butter alternative) and based on the moisture of your pumpkin puree. When the puree is more moist, the cookies tend to come out a little thicker. You can see a thicker version of these dairy-free pumpkin cookies in the photo below. Whether thick or thin, they are tender and delicious!
Special Diet Notes: Dairy-Free Pumpkin Cookies
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (can sub allspice or more cinnamon)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup + 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
- ½ cup shortening (I use Spectrum Organic; you can substitute melted coconut oil for chewier cookies)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
- Add the pumpkin puree, 1 cup sugar, shortening, maple syrup, and vanilla to a large mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
- Gradually stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture. The dough will be rather sticky. If needed, chill the dough for 1 hour to make it a bit more manageable.
- Drop the dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Evenly sprinkle the mixture on the cookie dough tops.
- Bake the cookies for 10 to 14 minutes, or until the tops take on a golden hue.
- Let cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes before removing the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or put the cookies in plastic freezer bags and freeze to enjoy later.
High Altitude Note: I recommend using shortening, not coconut oil or butter alternative, if baking these pumpkin cookies at high altitude. You might also want to reduce the baking soda to ¾ teaspoon.