Joe Froggers

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Joe Froggers

Joe Froggers cookies are a classic New England treat!

Molasses-spice cookies date back to the Colonial era, but this variation with rum in the batter comes from Marblehead, Massachusetts. Locals say Joe Froggers cookies are named after Joseph Brown, a free African American man who served in the Revolutionary War and opened a tavern in town. Brown’s wife, Lucretia Brown, did the cooking, and these cookies, made in an iron skillet, were her specialty. According to Marblehead Myths, Legends, and Lore by Pam Matthias Peterson, “when the batter hit the pan, it ran in all directions and formed shapes that looked like a frog’s body and legs.” Given their shape and the fact that the tavern was next to a frog pond, the name stuck.

Read more about Joe Froggers cookies.

Total Time: 40
Yield: 4 dozen


  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1 cup unsulphured dark molasses
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons dark rum, such as Gosling's
  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened, plus more for baking sheets
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling


In a medium bowl, whisk together hot water, molasses and rum. In a large second bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour with the baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In another large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and stir until evenly mixed. Add half the molasses mixture and beat to combine (stop occasionally to scrape down the sides). Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the remaining molasses mixture. Add the remaining third of the flour mixture and beat to combine.

Divide the dough into two balls, cover with plastic wrap, and chill at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 375° and grease two baking sheets or line with parchment.

You have two options for shaping the cookies: On a floured surface, you can roll the dough out to a 1/2-inch thickness and use a floured 2-inch cookie cutter or drinking glass to cut the dough into rounds. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Alternately, you can skip the rolling and instead break walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll them into balls between your palms. Roll the balls in granulated sugar, then arrange 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Press the bottom of a drinking glass onto each ball of dough, gently flattening it before baking.

Bake the cookies until they have set but still seem soft in the middle, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Additional Notes:

Don't want to use rum? Substitute 3 1/2 to 4 teaspoons of rum extract instead.
  • re the “Marblehead myths’ comment above, the first edition of Betty Crocker’s cookbook tells a different story re “Fried Men”, also called “Frogs”, made from raised donut dough pinched off in irregular pieces and fried. “They bubble and puff up into all sorts of interesting shapes and often look like little brown men or like frogs.” Cookie dough wouldn’t do that- not a deep fried yeast dough.

  • How do you make them in a cast iron skillet as they were made originally (according to the text)?

    • Hi Julie. We’re not entirely sure. It’s rumored the original cookies were enormous, so perhaps they were baked one at a time in the skillet, similar to the “cookie cakes” we sometimes see today? If you try making one big cookie in a skillet, be sure to let us know. Thanks!

  • I’ve never had a Joe Froggers/jiefraggras. Can’t wait to introduce them to my family.

  • Hi Bill Antonowicz,
    The recipe originates from the Vikings. Since there is never a shortage of ice in Iceland, it was easy to “refrigerate” the cookies–actually more than 200 years ago.

  • Yes, Mary Geglia–“Joe Froggers” (truly Jiefraggras) can be frozen just fine. Also, not sure if this tip is in your recipe, but the cookies turn out best if you refrigerate the dough for 24 hours before baking.

  • I wanted to tell you that “Joe Froggers” is inaccurate! The cookies were actually Jiefraggras and originally passed down from the Vikings. The Vikings carried these large cookies on their ships in barrels, preserved by the rum. I have a copy of the recipe passed down to me from a great grandmother who came from Iceland.

    • Where did the Vikings get molasses? Or sugar? Or ginger? Either the recipe has changed *substantially*, or they aren’t the same cookie.

  • Hi GK! Of course you can substitute rum extract for rum in Joe Froggers! We wouldn’t dream of hurting you! :) To equal 2 1/2 tablespoons of dark rum you’ll need between 3 1/2 to 4 teaspoons of rum extract. We’ll update the recipe so future bakers won’t have to ask! Happy baking!

  • I know this is sacrilege to ask….but in our non drinking household I really don’t want to buy a bottle of rum for 2 Tablespoons….although I sure tge taste would be not the same , could I get away with rum flavoring?.Please don’t hurt me…just answer year or nay

  • Its a great cookie, but one question. How did they make them 200 yrs ago with no refrigeration?
    Also, like ginger snaps, they may be good for seasickness, but I haven’t had anyone try them yet at sea yet.
    Mine came out perfect the first time @ 350 degrees for 13 minutes with 4″ dia cookies. I did it fast but glad I kept notes.

  • I made these cookies years ago, when we lived in California. Everybody loved them. We now live in Santa Fe nm. My daughter asked me to make them again(yrs later). I have been trying, but they turn out horribly wrong. They taste bitter, leaving a bad taste that lingers. I have tried to adjust the recipe for high altitude(7000 ft)-but nothing works. I don’t know what I am doing wrong. The strong taste could be the Rum-the molasses-or baking soda-or cloves. I am using the same original recipe from yrs ago. Does anyone have any ideas why the same recipe doesn’t work now? Does anyone out there live at high altitude, and successfully make them? I would appreciate any input. Thanks, Roberta

  • These marvelous Joe Froggers were made in the ships long ago by sailors They would last for a long time while out to sea.

  • Hi Nicole! What great memories! It won’t matter what kind of rum you use, but if you’re going for a shape other than a circle, they might not have quite the same texture. I’d try to still “stamp” it down with the bottom of a drinking glass before baking, but gently! Good luck!

  • I grew up with grandparents that brought these to me each time they visited, i believe they picked them up somewhere in Sturbridge while en route from Cape Cod. I’m so excited to make them! Although the ones I ate as a child had an iced smiley face with yellow or blue background, so I plan to ice them as well- but I’m cutting them out in large labrador retriever shapes ;). Question: Will it matter if I use Capt Morgan’s Spiced Rum instead of Goslings?

  • Anonymous

    This Joe Frogger recipe is the one I always made for my kids and their friends. I often made up plenty of extras because no one has ever been able to eat just one and say no to “seconds” again and again. It’s the absolute BEST molasses cookie recipe ever created. I’ve always loved the Joe Frogger Legend. An extension of the version of the legend that I heard is that Joe, the creator of this recipe, often baked up barrels of these cookies for sailors to take to sea with them because they keep very well for a very long period of time w/o using preservatives and additives. I can’t validate that part of the legend because no matter how many dozens I’d bake up I NEVER had any last longer than a week or two (everyone would be asking me to make up more), but the last cookie was always just as moist and chewy as the first.

  • My friend wants me to search her favorite cooking site (which she concluded to be the best), on the web when I suddenly came across this page. It seems that the recipe is good to try so I made it and it turned out very very nice. The taste is great!

  • My family visited Sturbridge Village over 25 years ago and fell in love with these cookies. They gave us a copy of the recipe and I had it for about 15 years then lost it. It took me another 15 years to discover how great is the WEB!! Lots of Froggers in our home this year!! Have tried other molasses cookies … none compare!

  • Here in Maine, we love cold milk and warm cookies and a good story … so it’s no wonder we love “Joe Froggers”. But in our house they’re called “Joel Frogger” … since our son’s name is Joel. Growing up, he and his friends would hop to the table to eat them up while I was still making them. At Christmas … we used a ‘tree’ cookie cutter and the boys dip the cookies in warm white frosting to give the look of snow on the tree. This past week I found a mitten cookie cutter and plan to do the same thing … even though Joel is 26 now and doesn’t live home to help … I will be saving some for him.

  • My mother used this recipe when I was a child in the ’50s. I was so glad to find it again now. It had been lost from her recipies. This is a great recipe! They keep well and they send through the mail well, too! I love it! Thank you, Yankee .

  • My college kids “new favorite” recipe! I get requests to send these specific cookies to their schools and all the kids just love them! I buy rum just to make this recipe! You have to give it a try! They will be your “new favorite” as well.

  • monica

    I was raised in Lynn, MA, and these were a favorite summer fare. I have made them twice and my family loves them. Now I can share some New England memories with my kids (who are Virginians)

  • How great is Google?!…This was a recipe from our 92 year old grandmother who recopied it with 3 cups of water instead of 3/4 cup… our first batch failed miserably but thanks to YANKEE we happily made her the cookies we loved to make with her when we were children. They were wonderful!

  • Dr.Margaret

    My husband and I raised our sons in Bloomfield, Ct. They found this recipe in the Hartford Courant newspaper and begged me to bake it for them. Joe Froggers turned out to be a real favorite of the boys during their childhood. Over the years I had lost the recipes. These two boys, both now in their late forties, were transported back in time and reduced to their pre-teen years this last week–fighting over the “last Joe Frogger.” Thank you so much for allowing me, and them, to journey back to their childhood.


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