Are these cookies gingersnaps or molasses? Is there a difference, or are the terms used interchangeably?
Chewy Molasses Cookies
Credit: Alison Miksch; Styling: Missie Neville Crawford

Spiced cookies are a classic holiday dessert--especially molasses cookies, gingersnaps, and gingerbread cookies--but what's the difference between the three? Is there one, or can the names be used interchangeably? At first glance, it can be pretty confusing because the ingredient lists are very similar between the three recipes. Let's break it down.

Molasses cookies, gingersnaps, and gingerbread cookies all contain the staple cookie dough ingredients like flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with the inclusion of two key additions: 1. molasses, and 2. a variety of holiday spices like nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and sometimes cloves.

So if they all use the same ingredients, what's the difference?

Mega-Ginger Cookies
Credit: Peden & Munk; Styling: Amy Wilson

Molasses VS. Gingersnap Cookies

1. The key difference between molasses cookies and gingersnap cookies is that molasses cookies are chewy, versus ginger cookies that are snappier and crisper in texture. The ideal gingersnap is crispy (but not tooth-breakingly so) on the outside and just chewy on the inside.

2. While they do have ginger in them, molasses cookies often contain anywhere from 1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons less ginger than gingersnap cookies.

3. Surprisingly, both cookie recipes call for about the same amount of molasses--usually around 1/4 cup.

4. So in this case, a recipe for a "Chewy Ginger Cookie" would essentially be synonymous for "Molasses Cookies," while the term gingersnap should always refer to a crispier cookie.

5. The image above is of a molasses (or chewy ginger cookie). This is what a gingersnap looks like.

Perfect for gift giving, this recipe makes enough for a crowd. If you're baking a batch for your family and have leftovers, try adding the crispy cookies to other dishes, such as Gingersnap Sweet Potatoes or Gingered Pumpkin Pie.

So what's the deal with gingerbread cookies?

Gingerbread Cookies
Credit: Romulo Yanes; Styling: Sarah Smart

Gingerbread is the traditional holiday spiced cookie that has been around for centuries, and gingersnaps are simply a variation of classic gingerbread cookies. The main differences between gingerbread and gingersnaps are that gingersnaps bake for longer to get their crispiness--and gingerbread cookies are a little chewier (and almost always rolled out into different shapes like gingerbread men and other holiday figures).