Are gingerbread houses edible?

Gingerbread houses are a popular holiday tradition, especially around Christmas. They are fun to decorate and make a great centerpiece for holiday parties. But one question many people have is – can you actually eat a gingerbread house? The short answer is yes, gingerbread houses are edible. However, there are some things to consider before taking a bite.

The gingerbread

Gingerbread used to construct houses is slightly different than regular gingerbread baked for eating. The gingerbread is often harder and sturdier, so it can withstand the process of gluing the house together and decorating it. It may also be made with more flour and less sugar and molasses. This can make it drier and not as tasty if you try to eat it plain. The gingerbread can also harden and become even less appetizing after being exposed to air for days or weeks while the gingerbread house is on display.

The decorations

Most decorations on gingerbread houses are edible, including:

  • Icing – made from confectioner’s sugar and egg whites or water
  • Candy – gumdrops, jelly beans, mints, etc.
  • Pretzels
  • Cookie pieces
  • Candy canes
  • Coconut

However, some structural elements like glue or the base the house sits on may not be. So you need to be careful about which parts you nibble on.

Food safety

Like with any food that’s left out for an extended period, gingerbread houses can develop mold and bacteria over time. If your house will be on display for days or weeks, it’s best not to eat it after that. The icing and candy decorations also attract bugs, rodents, and pets, so you don’t want to eat a house that they’ve been crawling over.

Taste and texture

Assuming the gingerbread and decorations are still relatively fresh, the taste is probably the biggest issue. After being exposed to air, the unwrapped candy and icing can dry out and become hard. Old gingerbread takes on a cardboard-like texture. While still technically edible, a gingerbread house might not provide the best eating experience.

Safety tips

If you do want to sample your gingerbread house creation, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Eat it as soon as possible after decorating
  • Avoid any parts that were glued or may have been handled a lot during construction
  • Check for bugs or signs of bugs before eating
  • Remove and throw away any pieces that are excessively hard, dried out, or moldy
  • Consider detaching parts of the house and microwaving them briefly to freshen up the texture

Edible gingerbread houses

There are some ways to make your gingerbread house more edible from the start:

  • Use a sturdy cookie base rather than cardboard or wood
  • Construct sections that can be detached from each other to access the interior
  • Use royal icing that will stay soft rather than harden
  • Choose candy and decorations that have high quality ingredients
  • Display for a shorter period of time before eating

Gingerbread house alternatives

If you want a decorative house-shaped dessert without the hassle of real gingerbread, here are some edible ideas:

  • Graham cracker house – Assemble walls and roof from graham crackers using icing as glue
  • Chocolate or candy houses – Mold sections from chocolate, sugar, or hard candy
  • Ice cream house – Construct house frame, then fill with scoops of ice cream and top with candy decorations
  • Cake house – Decorate a cake to resemble a house instead of baking a gingerbread one

Non-edible alternatives

If you want a decorative gingerbread-style house that guests can’t nibble on, some non-food options include:

  • Paper or cardboard house
  • Felt house
  • Miniature ceramic house
  • House made from popsicle sticks
  • House constructed from modeling clay

These can be just as fun to make and decorate without having to worry about someone eating pieces before the holidays are over.


Gingerbread houses are technically edible, but they may not always taste great or be safe to eat after sitting out for display. For the best flavor and experience, it’s better to construct your house so it can be partly dismantled and consumed fresh. Or you can consider non-gingerbread designs if you just want a decorative treat. Whatever you choose, get creative and enjoy the process of crafting a festive holiday centerpiece.

Leave a Comment