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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Hermits taste like a robust gingerbread cookie where you can actually taste and smell the spices.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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?
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
- 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)
- ⅔ cup dark molasses
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups raisins
- 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.
- In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and cloves.
- 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.
- 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.
- Flour hands then carefully press dough into even layer on the floured cookie sheet.
- 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.