The holidays can be a really hard time for folks who have dietary restrictions or specific dietary preferences. Every holiday event you go to can feel like walking through a food minefield. Can I eat this? Will this make me feel sick? And that’s putting aside the total bummer that is having to avoid your favorite holiday treats. It sounds silly, but not getting to partake in all of the Christmas goodies can really put a damper on your holiday spirit—especially if you’re a food lover like I am!
The solution I’ve found here: embrace the restriction and get creative in the kitchen! No matter your food restrictions, you can head to the kitchen and craft your own version of your holiday favorites. It might not be exactly the same, but that doesn’t it mean it can’t be totally tasty and help add to your holiday cheer (good example: my grain-free stuffing). I actually find it fun and challenging to see if I can figure out how to game the dietary restriction system!
Last Christmas, when I was deep in the throes of the reintroduction phase of the AIP diet, I found myself supremely bummed out that I didn’t have a single holiday cookie that I could snack on. It just didn’t feel like Christmas without a frosted sugar cookie covered in sprinkles!
So I worked hard to make my own version. This version is gluten-free, grain-free, lactose-free (if you use ghee), refined-sugar free, and paleo– and it totally satisfies the sugar cookie craving!
Of course, eating AIP or paleo isn’t just about what you can’t eat. It’s also about making sure your diet is as nutrient-dense as possible. I’m not going to lie, there isn’t much nutrient density going on with these cookies. But I’m a big believer that food can nourish your body in more way than one—and for me, getting to eat these cookies during the holiday season is nourishing my soul. And isn’t that just as important?
These cookies are soft, tender, and just a tiny bit sweet. They use both coconut flour in the cookies themselves, and coconut butter in the frosting, so they have a touch of coconut flavor, which I find really nice!
Because they use honey to sweeten them instead of the traditional granulated sugar, they do tend to brown a little easier in the oven—so make sure to watch them like a hawk while they are baking. I’m not sure anyone out there actually likes crunchy cookies—soft, tender cookies are where it’s at! And you get that by watching these babies closely.
The frosting I use here is a wonderful healthified version of a buttercream frosting, using coconut butter and coconut oil to get that fluffy, creamy texture. Because coconut products do tend to melt at room temperature or above, it’s important to keep these paleo sugar cookies chilled (or at least, in a cool part of the house—don’t put them by the fireplace, k?) so the frosting stays intact.
If you’re looking for a frosting that works well at room temperature and above, the powdered sugar frosting I use on my traditional sugar cookies is a great one to have in your back pocket—but it is decidedly not on the healthy side of the food spectrum. You can also try the fluffy frosting from my Lofthouse Sugar Cookies recipe—again, not paleo. Not even a little.
I think these cookies look beautiful with just the plain, snow-white frosting as it is, but of course, you can also whip out your food coloring (natural or regular) and sprinkles and go to town! Just make sure to let the cookies cool completely before frosting or decorating—again, this frosting melts when warm, so it’s very important for your cookies to be cool before frosting. I would even recommend popping them in the fridge for a few hours to really make the frosting process go smoothly.
These cookies do use ghee or grass-fed butter to get that buttery, tender, sugar cookie flavor. But if you are completely avoiding dairy, you could also sub in pasture-raised lard or coconut oil (which would, obviously, give a more coconutty flavor). I tried all four versions, and the grass-fed butter was my favorite flavor-wise, with the ghee coming in a close second.
If you do end up swapping in the coconut oil, it’s best to just embrace the coconut flavor—maybe even add a touch of coconut extract. I tend to flavor my “normal” sugar cookies with peppermint around the holidays, but I didn’t love the combination of peppermint and coconut here. I’d recommend trying a batch without any extra flavorings before you go wild with the extracts.
Both the uncooked dough and the finished cookies freeze beautifully—so feel free to work ahead of time if you need to! To freeze the dough, just wrap the disc tightly in plastic wrap, and then place in a zip-top freezer bag. To freeze the cookies (frosted or unfrosted), let cool completely, then freeze between layers of parchment or wax paper in a zip-top freezer bag or freeze-safe glass container. Happy holidays!