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New England Hermit Cookie Bars

    The best hermit cookies recipe you’ll find that is 100% authentic! Similar in taste to a gingerbread cookie, these hermit cookies are soft and chewy and made with ginger, molasses, and raisins.

    new england hermit cookie bars on a plate

    As a healthy food blogger, I don’t often share baking recipes. I’m more of a roasted veggie or orange smoothie kinda girl. So, credit must be given where credit is due: Hermit Cookie bars are my husband’s specialty.

    Easy Hermit Cookie Recipe

    A Boston Massachusetts native, when he was growing up he would find these cookies in a local bakery and purchase them by the bag for a couple of dollars.

    Mixing Hermit Cookies
    preparing hermit cookies by pouring in molasses
    Adding molasses to the batch

    History of the hermit cookie:

    Many people ask where these hermit cookies came from. As far as he could tell, they originated in New England back in the 1800s because of the molasses in the cookies they kept well on long voyages. I’ve read in other places that they became popular in the 1930’s and 50’s.

    Dense and moist, hermits age very well and were given to sailors in tins to last on long expeditions. Sweet, chewy, spicy (from the ginger), buttery and perfectly balanced with the right amount of salt, a chef friend of ours describes hermits as “sweet crack.”

    Why are these cookies called hermits?

    When you use the phrase ‘hermit cookies’ outside of New England people tend to not know what you’re talking about but at the end of the day they are just a cookie. I would consider hermits to be a type of baked good that offers a longer shelf life over traditional cookie.

    What do hermit cookies taste like?

    Hermits taste like a robust gingerbread cookie where you can actually taste and smell the spices.

    Liz Making Hermits

    How to make:

    I always start by using some Crisco and greasing the pan. Once greased I’ll take some flour to put a slight coating to the bottom of it.

    The hardest part of this recipe is getting all of the ingredients out. I’ll typically use two bowls. Once for all the dry ingredients and the other for all the wet ones.

    Once the dough is prepared, you spread it in a well-floured baking sheet using well-floured hands. Why do you need to flour your hands? Because this moist and soft dough is extra sticky!

    floured hands on raw hermit cookie dough


    The more flour on your hands, the easier it will be to spread out on the pan. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t reach each edge, just push it out about 1/2-inch thick. It doesn’t need to be a perfect rectangle.

    Liz Excited for Hermits

    Once baked, I liked to slice them into squares but you could also use cookie cutters to cut them into cute shapes. A fantastic edible holiday gift, these babies will stay moist and delicious for weeks – if you can avoid eating them all first! We’ve also made them for classroom parties as they are nut free.

    Liz Grabbing a Hermit Cookie

    Whip up a batch of these soft and chewy hermit bar cookies for your next cookie swap, classroom party, hostess gift or holiday open house!

    Liz and the Hermit Cookies

    What are your favorite holiday cookies? I’d love to hear from you.

    Frequently asked questions:

    How to store hermit cookies?

    Hermit cookies store well. Up to a week in an airtight container and they will still taste great!

    Can you overcook hermit cookies?

    These molasses cookies have a forgiveness factor. While the time states 17 minutes, they are hard to burn if you put them in for a little longer than that.

    Can hermit cookies be bought in a bakery?

    bag of hermits from bakery

    Your best bet is at a local bakery in the Northeast United States. On a recent trip to Peabody Massachusetts I found them sitting on a rack in a bag.

    What’s the easiest way to cut cookies?

    Use a pizza cutter or knife and cut them into squares (or any shape you prefer).

    Other adds to the hermit batter

    Raisins are popular but you could use other fruits like chopped up dried figs, currants and other dried fruits or nuts too.

    No forks required.

    new england hermit cookie bars on a plate

    New England Hermit Cookie Bars

    4.51 stars average
    The best hermit cookies recipe you'll find that is 100% authentic! Similar in taste to a gingerbread cookie, these hermit cookies are soft and chewy.
    PREP: 20 mins
    COOK: 17 mins
    TOTAL: 37 mins
    Save
    Servings: 64

    Ingredients
     

    • 4 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
    • 2 cups brown sugar (packed)
    • 1 cup butter (softened – preferably unsalted)
    • cup dark molasses
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 cups raisins

    Instructions
     

    • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Grease (I typically will use Crisco which is preferred or Pam Baking spray) and flour one standard jelly roll pan (standard cooking sheet) and set aside.
      floured pan
    • In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and cloves.
      dry ingredients in a bowl
    • With the mixer on medium, beat together brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add in molasses then egg and mix until well combined.
      Pouring Molasses
    • Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients until just combined.
    • Use a spoon to stir in raisins.
    • Scrape edges of the bowl with a plastic spatula to get the mixture together in a ball then scrape out onto a cookie sheet.
      raw hermit cookie dough
    • Flour hands then carefully press dough into even layer on the floured cookie sheet.
      Pushing Down Hermit Cookie Dough
    • Bake 17-19 minutes depending on oven. Typically I'll spend half the time on the top rack and the other half on the bottom. Remove from the oven when toothpick comes out clean.
    • Let cool completely before slicing into bars.

    Recipe Video

    Notes

    These cookies age well and can handle air exposure. They are very moist and last several days (if they last that long!)
    Slicing Tip: A pizza slicer is a great way to ensure even slicing.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 105kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 1gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 80mg
    SHOW AND TELL ON INSTAGRAM!Show me your creation and rate it below! Mention @thelemonbowl or tag #thelemonbowl! I would LOVE to see!
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    Liz DellaCroce

    Liz Della Croce is the creator and author of The Lemon Bowl, a healthy food blog. Since 2010, Liz has been sharing delicious recipes that just so happen to be healthy. By using real ingredients with an emphasis on seasonality, Liz has built a growing audience of loyal readers who crave good food for their families.

    105 Comments

    1. I have been looking for a recipe that is close to the carrot cookies the local grocery store has. They are very like hermit bars but taste like carrot cake. I think your recipe will get me really close.
      I will be using half molasses and half Lyle’s Golden Syrup and adding a cup of shredded carrots to the raisins.
      Wish me luck!

        1. Liz,
          It turned out beautifully. Not exactly like the stores, but still very tasty. I am looking forward to seeing how it tastes tomorrow! As I mentioned before I used half molasses and half Lyle’s Golden Syrup. I also added 1 c. of shredded carrots and 1 c. of coconut. This is definitely going into my repertoire.

        2. Hmmm…something isn’t right with final amount of this recipe. Let me first say that I like the final result after baking, this makes a very nice cookie. But, the recipe amount/instructions saying to use “one jelly roll pan” and the picture instructions don’t seem to line up. The pictures are showing a jelly roll (not sure which size jelly roll pan was used) with the pan about 1/2 to 2/3 full.

          I followed the x1 recipe the first time I made this and easily filled a half sheet pan (which is slightly larger than a jelly roll pan) with more than a 1/2 inch thickness of the dough. Since this was the first time making this recipe I barreled ahead with the bake and after 20 minutes it was very clear that the center was very wet. It took me almost a full 60 minutes to bake this through.

          I would suggest halving the recipe or divide the dough into two pans.

          I’m sure this is just a mistake in the recipe, I’ve certainly made them myself. Again, the cookies are really nice and I’ll make them again with some adjustments. I just want to help others have success using this recipe.

          1. I use a standard sized cookie sheet, same as you by what you mentioned. The only times I’ve been told people had trouble with this recipe and it taking too long to bake is when they use a cake pan or something smaller than a cookie sheet. I have no idea why it would’ve taken 60 minutes on a standard cookie sheet to bake!

        3. I am looking to make some of these for my 93 year old dad for Father’s Day. I remember my grandmother making these and they were everyone’s favorite. I’ve researched recipes, and this is the only one that calls for a “jelly roll” pan, which is what I remember my Gram using, so I think I’ll try this one, but I also remember that hers were much darker than the ones in these photos. Any thoughts on what would’ve made hers darker in color than these?

          1. Cindy,
            I just made these with dark brown sugar and blackstrap molasses. They were so dark, everyone thought they were brownies! They were gone in one sitting.
            Sheila

            1. Wow! These bars are wonderfully addictive! I added 1.5 cups of golden raisins and 1 cup of chopped walnuts.
              The bars baked beautifully. I will have to say for my oven I would use the bottom shelf only. I followed your directions to start with top shelf and change to the bottom one but it took an additional 7 minutes for it to be fully baked. But it ended well!

            2. when I was a kid (I’m 75 now) we bought bars just like this at Christmas. I have longed for a recipe that tasted like them, and found it here! Chewy, deep-flavored, ginger and molassesy. Absolutely delicious! Thank you for this gift! This recipe is huge, so I thought I would never eat them all (they freeze perfectly) and gave half to my house cleaner (she loves all the baked goods I give her and she has a toddler who loves them too)! The surviving batch of bars are dwindling fast.

            3. Thanks for posting. I’ve made hermit cookies years ago and lost the recipe. Wanted to give you my tip,. I melt butter, sugars and spices together on the stove, then add the golden raisins, simmer 5 minutes. Then I let cool a bit, then process about half. I don’t add nuts, but if I did would add them. After. Just a suggestion.

            4. These are amazing and fun to make. I switched out raisins for chopped walnuts. After placing dough on the baking sheet, I placed a piece of waxed paper stop and shaped the dough with the waxed paper. These are the perfect gingerbread. I froze half of the batch for after Christmas goodness. Easy to make and made the house smell like Christmas morning while baking. Thanks for sharing this recipe. Merry Christmas!

              1. Made these in a jelly roll pan but they came out delicious but quite thick. Could you let me know the size pan you are using for these? Thank you.

                1. Hmmm they are usually a bit thick. We use a normal jelly roll pan also. Were they not fully cooked in middle? Usually when we spread the dough it doesn’t even fully reach the edges.

              2. I LOVE Hermits. I lived in NH in 1975 and discovered them, quickly falling in love with the taste. Sadly I didn’t get a recipe. I keep searching and searching for what I remember and I came across your recipe today. Since I love molasses, I was excited to find this recipe. I followed your directions exactly except I greased and floured a new shiny 9 x 13 inch cake pan (because I didn’t have a large enough cookie sheet free). Because I used a shiny pan, I dropped the temp to 325 degrees. After 17 mins, the Hermits were still very jiggly so I left them in longer. And they rose probably 2 inches high. I kept checking them and after probably 30 mins, when a toothpick inserted came out clean, I took them out of the oven. I let them set for about 30 mins where they sank just a bit. I was dying to try them, so I cut into the center edge of the pan–and they weren’t done. The first bite was delicious but the second bite was very gooey. I was looking for a very moist, almost cake like texture. In the photo, yours do not look as though they rose at all. So, I put them back in the oven for another half an hour. I haven’t checked them again but I am so very disappointed that I couldn’t get them to work for me! I cannot understand how these could possibly cook in only 17 mins. What do you think I did wrong?

                1. Hi Patricia – These need to be baked in a baking / sheet / cookie pan, not a cake pan. A cake pan is too tall. These are a cookie bar more than a cake so you really need a cookie sheet. Try them again please? I promise you’ll be glad you did!

                  1. OMG! I have been looking for a hermit cookie recipe for years!! I’m from Mass and missed these cookies so much. I made a batch to the t and loved it, just not the mess. So next batch I put it in the fridge for an hour and was able to work them out easier. Tasted the same. Thanks for the wonderful trip back to my childhood!!

                    1. I love your recipe… It looks so yumm… Is there any possibility to replace eggs in this recipe ? Am looking for a eggless option

                    2. I have been away from New England a long time and had forgotten about these. Hermits used to be a favorite of mine as a kid. I made a test batch last week and this week I made two batches to give away.I am sure my Nashville friends have never had them, but I know they will love them. This recipe is easy and really delicious. The only change I made was that I added some candied ginger too. My husband is from MD and had never had one and he is hooked. Thank you!

                        1. Omgosh, amazing, chewy awesomeness. I used two wooden spoon fulls of fresh ground ginger instead of powder and oh my. Zingy festive yum. Thx for recipe.

                        2. As New Englanders we became hooked on hermits, these do not disappoint. It’s been my go to recipe for a while now. Just a note of interest, when I make a batch I add TWO cups of raisins and TWO cups of chopped walnuts. Considering chops dates as well in place of some raisins next time. WONDERFUL recipe, thank you.

                            1. Thank you for the great recipe. I made these when I was a teenager in a bakery in Wakefield. We made two long bars on a cookies sheet. Then, when you slice the, each cookie would have two baked edges. We also cut then diagonally and sometimes added a simple zigzag of a thin frosting.
                              Just a technical note: the intermittent sudden rise in volume prompted me to fast forward a few times.

                              1. Yes!that is how I remember them… they need two edges! Thank you for mentioning this. I am going to try making them using almond and gluten free flour and Splenda brown sugar… as we really try to watch our carbs. Will let you know how they come out!

                            2. Do you use a basic jelly roll pan? How many cookies does this make. It says 64 servings but does not say how many cookies in a serving or what size the cookies are. I’m baking for a cookie exchange and trying to determine if I need 1 batch or two.
                              Thanks!

                                1. These hermit cookies were delicious and I even shared the recipe with my Maine Farmer neighbor, she loved them. I baked them longer than 19 minutes, more like 25 minutes and left them to cool in the open oven as I like them a bit dryer. Will definitely keep this recipe and add chopped walnuts next time.

                                2. Delicious, although the pan required is much larger than the 9″ x 13″ written. (The photo shows something larger.)

                                    1. I haven’t had these in years. Made the recipe and all the memories came flooding back. These are spot on. Thank you for this great recipe.

                                    2. A solid five stars! I made the full recipe with only a few changes: added a pinch of mace, sifted dry ingredients instead of whisking them, and used a wooden spoon to mix (no electric mixer). Easy and fast! My husband, Ed, was born in VT in 1937. His mother made hermits, and of course they were his favorite. I was born in New Orleans and had never heard of a hermit cookie. Having tried several different recipes (resulting in several batches of “not-hermits”), I am thrilled to report: I just cut into this pan and gave two squares to my husband. And… success! Ed says I have captured the elusive HERMIT! Thank you so much.

                                        1. These are a winner in this household.Just took some out of oven.I slip on a pair of poly gloves like restaurants use,to mix in raisins and spread dough in pan.Its so much easier then working with floured hands.These make great gifts.

                                          1. Here’s FIVE STARS***** from someone who actually made these! These cookies are fantastic. I made 1/2 the recipe and it almost filled up the entire 9×13 sheet pan (so 1/2 the recipe is still a good amount!). The recipe was super easy to follow, very quick to make and baked perfectly in 17 mins in my oven. The dough wasn’t super sticky to work with so no trouble pushing it out on the pan. I haven’t cut them into bars yet, they’re still cooling, but I did tear off a corner to taste and wow, these are so good. The store nearby adds a vanilla glaze to their hermits, but these are delicious plain. Thank you for a great and quick/easy recipe!

                                          2. I grew up in the South end of Hartford, CT and hermits were always in the house…Dad always bought them at a local bakery on Franklin Ave. Later in life when my Mom and I lived close by (because Dad had passed on) Mom and I went grocery shopping together and we found hermits at a local Big “Y” and Mom scooped them up….when my son visited from Virginia he absolutely LOVED our hermits and just lately he said that he was not going to visit again without me making those “hermit cookies”(I since have moved to SC where hermits aren’t even heard of and Italian grinders with my homemade peppers)…so here I am searching for a hermit recipe…and VOILA!…i found you!…I will try your recipe and let you know….sounds so good and bring back so many wonderful childhood memories!
                                            Thanks!!!!!

                                          3. These were great! Best recipe for hermits. Have gone through many others. This’ one of my favorite cookies–from Em’s Bake Shop in Avon Connecticut when I was a kid. Now your recipe is the one I will always use.

                                          4. LOVE these bars! Flavor is PERFECT!!! Only problem I had was using wrong size pan (my idea of standard jelly roll pan is different) and had to bake way longer than stated. The correct size must be what I consider a large cookie sheet (12×17). Thanks for sharing this great recipe!

                                          5. Every autumn my grandfather would drive down from NY to FL for a month long visit with all sorts of goodies in his car. One of those goodies was Freihoffer’s Hermit cookies. I don’t think Freihoffer’s exists any more, and I haven’t seen any sort of hermit cookie in YEARS. But I had a hankerin’ and went looking on the internet…

                                            Made these and they brought back so many memories! Even my kid who doesn’t like raisins liked these – they were gone in about 4 days, which says a lot around here. Superb recipe! Thanks so much!

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