Chocolate chip cookies will always hold a special place in my heart–they were, after all, the topic of my first-ever bake off bake in 2017! I’ve also dabbled in vegan baking in the past and have experimented with many, many mediocre/disappointing recipes. So I was very excited to take a more methodical approach to finding an actually-good vegan chocolate chip cookie (and excited to see your enthusiasm for more plant-based, dairy-free baking). Let’s dive in!
- 27 total tasters
- All 12 recipes were baked fresh the day of and served at room temperature
- All tasters ranked each cookie on a scale from 0-10 for flavor, texture, and overall as a whole
- All cookies were baked on a parchment-lined baking sheet
The main ingredients in conventional cookies that need to be swapped out for vegan cookies are: butter, eggs, sugar/brown sugar and chocolate chips. Here are the ingredients I used during my testing:
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
- Simple Truth Organic refined coconut oil
- Enjoy Life dark chocolate morsels and semi-sweet mega chunks
- Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bars (72%)
- Big Tree Farms organic coconut sugar
- Simple Truth Organic light brown sugar
- Zulka Morena pure cane sugar
- Simple Truth almond butter
- Simple Truth Organic tahini
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and baking soda
- Adams Best vanilla flavor
- Diamond kosher salt
Why isn’t regular sugar vegan? Most commercial sugar is processed using bone char during the filtering process. If you want to stick to vegan ingredients, look for organic sugar (if its USDA-certified organic, it won’t use bone char) or brands like Zulka.
Why aren’t regular chocolate chips vegan? Many commercial chocolate chips include dairy ingredients like whey, milk fat or milk solids. However, there are a growing number of vegan or dairy-free chocolate chip brands as well as “accidentally” vegan (i.e. they’re not specifically branded vegan, but happen to be so) brands available. A few popular vegan chocolate chip brands include Enjoy Life, Trader Joe’s, Guittard, and Sunspire dairy-free chips. For a complete list, check this out.
What coconut oil should I use? Refined coconut oil is best for a neutral, non-coconutty flavor (I’ve found virgin/extra virgin doesn’t matter, the refined vs. unrefined makes the biggest difference). Use unrefined coconut oil if you don’t mind more coconut flavor.
What brand of vegan butter is best? I’ve only tried the Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks, which I used for this test given their consistency and wide availability. However, I’ve heard great reviews of Miyoko’s vegan butter and there are plenty of vegan butter round ups online. (Let me know if you’d want to see a vegan butter baking test from me!)
What should I use as an egg substitute? Many vegan cookie recipes actually don’t sub anything for the egg–oftentimes, dough can achieve a perfectly moist, emulsified texture without egg. But some recipe developers choose to incorporate “flax eggs” or “chia eggs” as a moisture adder/binder. Of the recipes I tested, two recipes used flax, but the majority didn’t use any explicit egg substitues.
First, my traditional disclaimer: I’m an amateur hobbyist baker, and baking 9-12 recipes in a single day is almost guaranteed to result in a few mistakes. In this particular test, I am fairly positive that I accidentally omitted the sugar from America’s Test Kitchen, which is why their score is so low, so please disregard those results! I will retest them and report back.
Although the numbers don’t really back this up, I felt that in this batch of recipes overall, the cookie textures were generally fantastic, stacking up well against conventional cookie textures. However, as a group I found the overall flavors a bit lacking–I found the majority to be a bit bland. But for those who love thick/puffy/soft cookies with gooey centers (i.e. me), we found quite a few winners.
Factors that affected the best vegan chocolate chip cookies
Fat: The three key fats used in all of the recipes were: coconut oil, vegetable/canola/olive oil, vegan butter (plus a couple added nut butter on top). Interestingly, there’s really no clear correlation between fat used and overall rating. The first place (Ovenly) and fifth place (Cake Over Steak) used oil, second place (Baker by Nature) and fourth place (Oh Ladycakes) used coconut oil, and the third place Well Vegan used a combination of vegan butter and coconut oil. If anything, the recipes using vegan butter seemed to fare less well (New York Times and Liv B), but not enough to draw a firm conclusion. My take is that there’s not enough flavor that can be drawn from any of these fats (regular coconut oil maybe, but refined coconut oil was surprisingly very subtle in these cookies!), so it was really more about how the fat interacted with the rest of the ingredients for the texture rather than flavor.
Sugar: Because plant-based fats tend to add less flavor than say, butter, I found that a mix of sugar (brown and white) was an important way to lend more flavor and depth in a recipe. A couple recipes used coconut sugar, which added another element of toasty, caramelized notes. However, taster comments indicate that coconut sugar may also increase the potential for gritty texture (perhaps if not incorporated thoroughly).
Chocolate: I’ve seen other bloggers talk about chocolate bars vs. chocolate chips in cookies, and I can’t sing enough praises of the Trader Joe’s pound plus bars!! They are SO CHEAP–you’ll get way more bang for your buck compared to a pack of vegan chocolate chips and the shards of chopped chocolate just make for such beautiful and delicious cookies compared to mediocre chocolate chips. We should all transition to using chopped chocolate instead of chocolate chips ASAP.
Size: Generally, bigger-sized cookies were ranked higher–which I think is related to the fact that bigger cookies can often achieve a more desirable texture in terms of a crisp edge and gooey/soft center. This is a minor factor that I think could have skewed some of the smaller-sized cookies towards the bottom of the scale even though they would be perfectly delightful as standalone cookies.
Tasty: a disaster of a cookie.
These cookies sounded SO promising–it calls for “browned butter,” i.e. pecan-infused coconut oil. However, they were a huge disappointment to the point where I didn’t bother having tasters rank these crackly, oily blobs. The recipe calls for infusing pecans in 3/4 cup of coconut oil for 8-10 minutes over a low simmer, ultimately ending up with 1/2 cup of infused coconut oil–which doesn’t add up (how is oil supposed to reduce by 1/4 cup over the course of 10 minutes at a low simmer?) After adding the entire 3/4 cup of oil I was left after simmering into the batter, I ended up with a soupy batter that baked up into these holey, burnt-looking puddles.
If you REALLY have your heart set on trying these (I mean pecan-infused coconut oil SOUNDS genius!) I would recommend only using 1/2 cup of coconut oil to start with. Otherwise, don’t waste your ingredients.
America’s Test Kitchen: disqualified due to baker error
As I noted earlier, I messed up this recipe so we won’t discuss it–except to say that I’ve made this recipe before and remember really enjoying it. It’s identical to the Hummingbird High recipe (discussed below) except that it uses almond butter instead of tahini–so in theory, it should have received a similar score, but just had a slightly different flavor profile.
New York Times: crunchy, salty, chocolatey cookies developed to imitate the famous Jacques Torres cookies
Developed by the brilliant cookbook author and recipe developer, Erin McDowell, this recipe aims to democratize the famous NYT cookies for all, vegans and gluten-free folk alike. Erin builds on a base of vegan butter with a flax egg and a mix of cane and coconut sugar. When baked in 3.5oz mounds, they looked startlingly like the original (which I just made a few weeks ago). Taste-wise, they’re so speckled with chocolate that it was hard to pick up the flavor of the dough itself, but it definitely has a good salt level to combat excessive sweetness. As a plus, these are easily made gluten-free if you use almond flour instead of regular flour!
These cookies look absolutely gorgeous (“chonky” according to one taster) and I was disappointed to see how low this cookie scored overall. A common taster sentiment was that it was a bit “gritty” with a “burnt sugar taste”–I wonder if the gritty comments come from the use of coconut sugar or the shards of chopped chocolate. There could be an element of baker’s error here, but our cookies turned out evenly baked throughout–that is, a bit drier in the center where I wished there was more goo factor in the center. One taster said they detected a “undesired healthy flavor” which I think may have come from the flax, which can be a bit of an acquired taste. As a standalone cookie, I think these would still be crowd-pleasers. I would definitely make these cookies again but perhaps try baking them for slightly less time.
Food52: a chunky, slightly drier-textured cookie with a slightly nutty flavor
I nearly omitted this recipe as it is a self-proclaimed tweaked version of Ovenly’s recipe for a healthier version, swapping out the sugars for maple syrup and coconut sugar, neutral oil for olive oil and chips for chunks. It lists an optional chilling stage, which I omitted. I’m glad I didn’t skip them as this recipe resulted in a completely different breed of cookie. Chunky and thick, these cookies are portioned smaller than Ovenly (which partially accounts for the very different appearance) but also with the lack of sugar, don’t spread nearly as much (though I expected them to actually spread more thanks to the maple syrup). Overall, they remind me of a tastier version of a lot of “healthy breakfast cookies” I used to make. Soft and chewyish texture with slight bitter notes, these cookies didn’t convey the maple or olive oil notes as strongly as I expected.
Tasters thought these were “very drying” and a bit “plain in flavor, mostly tasting salt and chocolate.” Some appreciated the “salty, nutty perfection” while another commented that it “tastes like it has the idea of pecan without having any nuts.” “Soft, floury, not too memorable,” seemed to sum up the overall taster sentiment. Compared to the other more “conventional-style” cookies, I think it was difficult for these cookies to stand out. But I might make these again if I was craving a “healthy breakfast-style” cookie!
Liv B: an extremely thin, flat and chewy cookie
These were my basic benchmark vegan butter cookies–no strange ingredients, just vegan butter, sugar, milk, vanilla, flour, leaveners and chocolate. It’s a simple, easy-to-make recipe for beginner bakers, and the resulting cookie is very thin and chewy and riddled with chocolate chips. The cookie will really take on the flavor of whatever vegan butter you use, so make sure you use one you like. To me, the effort to make these (low) pretty well matches the flavor–it’s an average but slightly unexciting chocolate chip cookie that reminds me of a typical bake sale cookie. These cookies turned out WAY flatter than the photos on Liv’s site, but I’ve tried making them twice with the same results. If you’d like a thicker cookie, I would try omitting the almond milk, which I don’t think is needed.
“Nothing to write home about,” agreed another taster. Overwhelmingly, tasters agreed that this cookie was perhaps “too thin and flat”. “Very limp without any texture difference. The flat Stanley of cookies,” said one taster. Some liked the “thin and gooey” texture, and several noted an “oaty” flavor (not sure what accounted for this, but perhaps it was the slight graininess of the crumb). I personally prefer a thicker cookie, so I would only try these again without the almond milk to see if I could get a more substantial texture.
Bravetart: beautifully puffed, chocolate-marbled cookie infused with a roasted, malty flavor
Most of these vegan recipes were fairly straightforward, but Stella’s managed to work in some sophisticated technique. Her recipe calls for freshly grated nutmeg, dry malt extract and an oat slurry to provide “water, protein and emulsification” (like an egg) that has to be blended and strained right before you mix the dough. Ultimately, we ended up with beautifully puffed centers and crisp, browned edges, with the chopped chocolate pooled through the cookie in layers, giving each bite a shattery, layered quality. Back in the day, I made some spent grain cookies and the malty flavor of Bravetart’s cookies was very reminiscent of those. (I couldn’t taste the nutmeg, but it probably helps round out the flavor).
“I kept coming back to this even though texture-wise it’s flatter than I prefer. Toasted, nutty smell and taste with a chewier bite,” noted one taster. Many tasters picked up on a “nutty undertone”and “strong flavors”–some thought it was a bit “gritty” and “crumbly.” I think the unique and rather strong malty flavor and almost smoky aftertaste contributed to some of the lower scores (it wasn’t my personal favorite flavor), but I thought the texture was near-perfect. And in a landscape where many cookies didn’t have much flavor at all, this cookie stood out with a very distinct flavor.
Isa Chandra: a simple, soft cookie with basic flavor
Between Liv B. and Isa’s recipe, they’re nearly tied for the easiest recipe–as long as you have tapioca flour on hand, I’d say Isa wins out as you can easily whip this recipe up with just one bowl and a fork or a whisk vs. pulling out the mixer to cream vegan butter for Liv B’s recipe. The only downside of this extremely simple recipe is that it’s a little greasy–as the mixture sat on the counter, the oil started to separate out of the dough. But the resulting cookies have a moist, looser, light and delicate crumb, kind of like a thicker Liv B. I really couldn’t detect much flavor, but they are satisfyingly crisp on the edges and soft in the center.
While some tasters thought it had “good texture,” and liked the “soft, melt-in-the-mouth” quality, others thought it was “a bit pasty” or “play doh esque.” “Lacking something,” mused one taster–to me, the missing factor was depth of flavor. The texture is fine and soft and it’s a perfectly serviceable cookie, but you may not blow anyone away with your culinary prowess here.
Hummingbird High: a fudgy-textured cookie with soft centers, crisp edges and nutty, smoky notes
Michelle’s take on America’s Test Kitchen’s perfect vegan cookies swap out the almond butter for tahini, and ups the chocolate to 10 oz. As with any recipe that uses tahini, it’s important to use one that you like the taste of in this recipe. She recommends the Al Arz or Seed + Mill brands, but I used the Simple Truth Organic brand that I had on hand. You can definitely taste the tahini in these (one taster referred to them as “hummus cookies”), so I can reinforce that your choice of tahini is key. The appearance and texture are perfect with crispy edges and chewy centers, but the tahini notes can be distracting.
Tasters thought this cookie “looked one of the best visually” and was a “crunchy/gooey masterpiece.” Those who like tahini loved the flavor of this cookie, though others looking for a more traditional cookie noted the “roasted, bitter sesame taste” and that “flavor doesn’t ring true to a chocolate chip cookie.” In my opinion, this flavor probably stood out as more odd in comparison to the more traditionally flavored cookies. As a standalone cookie, it would probably be a great crowd-pleaser, especially among those with a sophisticated, nut butter-loving palates.
Cake Over Steak: a thin and chewy, grainy cookie with subtle flax notes
Sarah’s long-slaved-over chocolate chip cookie recipe was one of the contenders in the last CCC bake off, so I wanted to include her vegan take! Hers stood out for its generous amount of flax, olive oil, and a combination of coconut and brown sugar. Although I was worried the abundance of flax would overpower the flavor, these cookies actually baked up into flat, thin, chewy brown discs with just faint flax notes, perhaps offset or complemented by the olive oil (and masked by stronger flavors of both brown and coconut sugar). They’re a bit tender and delicate where I prefer a more substantial, thicker bite in a cookie, but they give a nice depth of flavor that others didn’t quite achieve.
Some tasters loved the “nuttier flavor, tastes like a more sophisticated chocolate chip cookie” and “very chewy” texture. However, others interpreted the texture as a bit “gummy” and picked up on bitter, oily notes. If I made this recipe again, I might add a little more flour to mellow out the oily notes and give a thicker texture.
Oh Ladycakes: a mildly flavored, puffy and cake-like cookie with ribbons of chocolate
I’d been eyeing Ashley’s cookies for years, but they almost looked a little TOO perfect for me. I’m happy to report that they came out of the oven looking almost exactly like the photos and tasted great! The only finicky thing about Ash’s recipe is that she calls specifically for potato starch (you can sub cornstarch if needed). Other than that, it’s a very straightforward recipe. Like other recipes, these weren’t exploding in flavor (rather light vanilla notes surrounding the ribbons of chocolate), but the thick and soft texture yielded a satisfying bite.
Tasters loved “the mildness and lightness in both texture and flavor” and “unique, somewhat dense and doughy texture that gives me the butteriness I’ve been missing.” Though some liked the “vanilla-y, soft, melt in your mouth” textures, others noted that it “lacked depth, no crisp edge or change in texture.” More than one taster likened the texture to a “soft/chewy chips ahoy cookie” with its “soft and cake-like” texture and slightly “raw flavor.” Overall taster complaint was that it was a bit bland, but for the most part, tasters loved this soft cookie.
The Well Vegan: oversized, flattish cookies with a moist and chewy texture and crisp edges
This is another take on the famed NYT chocolate chip cookies, and while I have to say that Erin’s version looked much more similar to the real deal, I LOVED the flavor of these! These cookies use a mix of vegan butter and coconut oil, brown and white sugar, and adds applesauce for additional moisture–all of this makes for a cookie with one of the best flavors in my opinion. They do call for a 24 hour rest, and ultimately bake up into huge, flat cookies with a moist, chewy center that’s almost juicy.
Tasters praised this cookie for its chewy texture and crisp edges, but they were extremely split on the flavor. Some loved the “cookie dough”-esque flavor and nutty notes while others interpreted those notes as “fruity” or “Play-Doh”-esque. “Tastes almost buttery!!” said one taster, and I agree that the moistness of this cookie gives a squishy texture that almost imitates a truly buttery cookie. “All dark chocolate and salt and I’m here for it,” said another taster.
Baker by Nature: oversized cookies with doughy centers, bronzed edges, and loaded with chocolate chips
When you google “best vegan chocolate chip cookies,” these are almost bound to pop up on the first page of search results–and according to our results, with good reason! These cookies are on the slightly fussier side ingredients-wise (calls for coconut milk and applesauce) as well as technique-wise (why do you have to whisk solid coconut oil by hand??), but it’s worth it if you love thick and doughy cookies.
These giant cookies (3 tablespoon-sized dough mounds) bake up with bronzed edges and very thick centers, exactly like the photos (though I did bake them for an extra 4-5 minutes to prevent them from looking raw in the middle). It has an extra step to press chocolate chips into the top, which seems very finicky (I would skip this next time). Taste-wise, chocolate chips dominate–it was difficult to distinguish any flavor in the dough itself, but the doughy, gooey texture contrasted against the crispy edges is an absolute delight.
Some insist this phenomenon doesn’t exist, but comments don’t lie–the major complaint was this cookie was that it was too chocolatey! “A dough receptacle for the chocolate chips,” said one. “Like a chocolate bar with an aftertaste of cookie dough,” said another. For those who love a chocolate-heavy cookie, this is your dream cookie. Those who like the cookie dough flavor loved the soft center, though most agreed the dough was a bit bland.
Ovenly: a thick, doughy, picturesque cookie overloaded with chocolate chips
This recipe comes from a famed bakery in NYC and is one of the most popular and oft-copied vegan chocolate chip cookie recipes I found. I’ve actually made this recipe before, but didn’t find it that memorable (likely because I didn’t follow the recipe with the overnight rest/2-inch cookie mound guidance as I always tend to portion cookies around the 1-tablespoon mark).
Let me tell you–don’t overlook the size guidance, the 10 minutes of freezing, or the “do not overbake” warning and you’ll end up with thick and doughy, picture-perfect cookies that are pale-gold with a stick-to-your-mouth substance. The thick interior is slightly gooey, but the outside is crisp. My main quibbles with this cookie are two-fold: one, it’s loaded with TOO much chocolate for me personally–it’s really a mound of chocolate chips bound by a little bit of dough. And two, the overall effect is a bit bland–I wish there was a little more depth of flavor in the dough. Next time, I would decrease the chocolate by maybe 1/3-1/2 cup for my personal taste and perhaps try adding vanilla or almond extract.
A few other tasters agreed that this cookie was “almost too chocolatey,” and that “something is missing” in terms of flavor–but virtually everyone agreed that it was a “perfect execution traditional cookie” in terms of texture. The “cakey, chewy texture” and “nicely salty” notes were a hit with most. “Looks like a fake cookie but tastes amazing, perfect soft middle with the right amount of salt, firmer but not crispy edge,” said one. “Can’t even tell it’s vegan!” exclaimed another taster.
Best Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Recommendations
Best taste for least effort: Ovenly
Best bakery-style vegan chocolate chip cookie: New York Times, The Well Vegan, Bravetart, Hummingbird High
Easiest cookie: Isa Chandra, It’s Liv B.
Best doughy cookies: Ovenly, Baker by Nature, Oh Ladycakes
For a chewy cookie: Cake Over Steak
For a chunky cookie: New York Times, Food52
My ideal cookie: Although I think Ovenly deserves first place for a truly unparalleled thick and doughy (yet crispy exterior!) texture, it is a tiny bit bland to me–my ideal cookie would be a cross between Ovenly or Baker by Nature’s texture with the flavor from The Well Vegan’s cookie.
Happy baking! As always, tag #pancakeprincessbakeoff on Instagram if you try any of these recipes–would love to hear your thoughts!
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