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If I understand the internet’s feedback at large, it seems that no one likes a cakey pumpkin cookie and 99% of us are looking for the elusive chewy pumpkin cookie. (Let it be noted that I sit in the 1% camp that still craves a cakey pumpkin cookie, but I’m open to both.) In this bake off, I tested 9 different pumpkin recipes in search of chewy, fudgy, crispy, tender and more. I’m happy to say that we found quite a diversity of techniques and resulting textures, so let’s dive in!
- 34 total tasters
- All 9 recipes were baked the day of tasting (certain doughs were rested overnight per the recipe)
- All cookies were baked on parchment-lined cookie sheet
- Tasters ranked each cookie on a scale from 0-10 for overall flavor, texture, and as a whole
- Ingredients were measured by weight according to the King Arthur website
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- Trader Joe’s unsalted butter
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and soda
- Diamond kosher salt
- Libby’s pumpkin puree
- Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips
- Imperial granulated and powdered sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
This was another bake off where I almost didn’t want to post the “data” (but I know some of you love to see it). The scores below basically reflect the preference of most tasters for a chewy cookie (hence the chewiest cookies at the top and the cakier/less chewy ones towards the bottom). As always, I think each of these recipes are AMAZING and I would happily (and I think most of you would happily) eat them again given the opportunity.
As a cakey cookie lover, I truly did love the muffin-y I Heart Naptime cookies and continued to gravitate towards them (and look forward to re-making them). So I encourage you to read through every cookie description and pick the one that’s right for you!
How I Chose the Recipes
You may be looking at these recipes thinking “I didn’t see this was a pumpkin CHOCOLATE CHIP cookie bake off!!” While I normally standardize the type of recipe (either all cookies have chocolate chips or none do!), pumpkin cookies are such a niche holiday treat that I decided to test a variety of styles. Those styles mainly encompass chocolate chip and snickerdoodle style. (You can see all the recipes I compared and considered on the Sheet1 tab here.)
You’ll notice in the commentary that a common observation is that a recipe didn’t taste strongly like pumpkin. Which brings me to the question: what IS a pumpkin cookie? Is the Libby recipe the only real pumpkin cookie out there and the truth is we simply don’t actually like pumpkin cookies, we want snickerdoodles? DM me with your thoughts anytime!
- Pumpkin reduction techniques: Reducing the water content in your pumpkin puree is a key technique that promises a chewier cookie. This group of recipes offered three different techniques–reducing the pumpkin on the stovetop, blotting pumpkin with a paper towel and squeezing the pumpkin with a paper towel. To my surprise, I found the squeezing method to be my favorite! It’s the fastest, less wasteful than blotting a blob of pumpkin with a million towels, and was the most effective in wringing out the most moisture. It does require a delicate touch (I would fold a paper towel in half and squeeze slowly to avoid ripping the towel), but it’s actually a pretty easy step that can reduce the moisture in any recipe.
- Pumpkin puree vs. pumpkin butter: While the grand majority of recipes use pumpkin puree, Half Baked Harvest was a rare recipe to use pumpkin butter. I was curious to see how it would change the flavor of the cookie–ultimately, it didn’t seem like the best solution. Similar to pumpkin pie filling, pumpkin butter includes added sweeteners and spices, so it somewhat dilutes the pumpkin flavor if you were to compare it to a recipe with the same amount of pumpkin puree. I thought this was an ingenious way to use up pumpkin butter, but I don’t think there’s any need to go buy it if you’re craving pumpkin cookies!
- Sugar: Sugar is a key ingredient that affects a cookie’s chewiness. While I’d love to fumble through an explanation of why, this article explains it masterfully. Serious Eats notes that in recipes with softened/melted butter: “white sugar…interferes with gluten development, allowing the dough to spread more before it sets. The result is cookies that are thin and tender/crisp. Acidic brown sugar, on the other hand, speeds gluten formation and egg protein coagulation, so the dough sets quickly, making cookies thick and tender/chewy.”
- Butter: The crowd favorite used a much higher ratio of butter to flour compared to most other recipes. This contributed to a rich flavor and a fudgy center. Interestingly, while some cookies called for browning butter (always a win) and refrigerating the dough for several hours, others called for browning butter, chilling that quickly, and then making the dough and baking right away. So if you don’t want to wait for dough to chill, chilling the butter on the front end of the recipe is a great hack!
- Egg: While I expected recipes without egg to tend to be more chewy (Sally’s Baking Addiction, Justine Snacks, I Will Not Eat Oysters), this didn’t necessarily prove to be true. Chewiness is essentially dictated by a delicate balance of fat, sugar, flour and moisture. Those without egg can easily use slightly more pumpkin to make up for the moisture loss, which can keep the cookie just as fluffy (see: I Will Not Eat Oysters).
Analysis of 9 Popular Pumpkin Cookie Recipes
I Heart Naptime: a cakey, fluffy, moist and slightly bland cookie
Originally, I had both Libby’s and I Heart Naptime included in the line up, knowing that both would be a cakey-style pumpkin cookie. (The main difference is Libby’s is butter-based while IHN is oil-based.) Ultimately, one cakey pumpkin cookie seemed like enough–and after making Libby’s recipe for years, I was curious to try this oil-based recipe. I Heart Naptime uses a relatively high amount of pumpkin compared to the rest of the recipes and uses the interesting step of dissolving baking soda in milk before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.
This cookie is one of those muffin tops masquerading as a cookie. It’s moist, uber fluffy, and extraordinarily cakey. It’s appealing orange color almost tricks you into thinking it’s very pumpkin-forward, but doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor besides the chocolate chips (the spices are quite mild). As someone who loves muffins and quickbreads, I kept returning to this cookie, but it’s definitely for cakey cookie lovers. Or consider it a short cut muffin recipe!
- Pumpkin bread in cookie form, nice cakey texture. Good flavor and liked the smaller chocolate chips. This was the what we pictured as the quintessential pumpkin cookie
- Nice texture, very fluffy but not very pumpkin forward
- Cakey cookie. Flavors are very light and I’m mostly tasting the chocolate chips. Not getting much pumpkin or spice flavor. Personally not as big a fan of really soft cookies.
- We liked the strong pumpkin flavor, and we didn’t like the chocolate chips as much in this. We didn’t like the fluffy texture as much.
- Too cakey, reminded me almost of a muffin. Also the contrast of chips to softened of cookie was jarring, bites without chocolate didn’t taste like much
Half Baked Harvest: a soft and thin, spiced cookie with hints of chocolate
Another last minute addition to the bake off line up, I ended up deciding to try Tieghan’s recipe for her interesting use of pumpkin butter instead of pumpkin puree (I found mine at Trader Joe’s but you can also check Williams Sonoma!). She browns half the butter while keeping the other half softened to cream into the cookies, uses a higher ratio of dark brown sugar to granulated sugar, and just a bit of extra spice. She also uses a mix of chocolate chips and chunks and rolls each dough ball in cinnamon sugar.
Take this review with a large grain of salt because these cookies were much thinner than the photos (very possible baker’s error played a role here). While they had a fudgy center, the whole cookie was so thin that it was all kind of a one-note texture–moist, soft and a little chewy, but lacking significant crisp at the edges. They tasted like pumpkin spiced chocolate chip cookies, no real pumpkin to speak of. Ultimately, I think the added sweetener in the pumpkin butter made these a bit too sweet (and spready) and didn’t contain my favorite spice mixture–so make sure to use a pumpkin butter you love if you try these! I don’t think pumpkin butter in cookies is the secret to incredible pumpkin cookies, though I do think this was a great way to use it up if you. have some!
- Really liked this cookie. Thin crispy but still chewy texture. It reminds me of the Tate’s cookies but fall flavors. Tasted a little like a brown butter cookie.
- Good chocolate chip cookie but where is the pumpkin??!
- I liked the thin, chewy texture of this cookie. The chocolate distribution was heavy on the chocolate so it tasted like a spiced chocolate chip cookies. I’d eat it again.
- Not bad at all, I just don’t love how thin/crispy it was. I prefer a softer pumpkin cookie. The chocolate also ended up dominating the flavor, which isn’t bad, but isn’t the ideal pumpkin cookie.
- Too sweet, too much chocolate overpowered the flavor of the cookie. Looked ok. Spices were very sugary. Veery sugary.
Sally’s Baking Addiction: a crisp-edged, slightly dry and subtly spiced cookie
Sally has a number of pumpkin recipes on her blog. Notably, her pumpkin snickerdoodle recipe uses the same base dough as her pumpkin chocolate chip recipe, so I tried the snickerdoodle version (rolled in cinnamon sugar). This recipe uses melted butter, slightly more brown than white sugar, both baking powder and baking soda. Sally’s recipe uses a similar blotting method to In Bloom Bakery, though Sally says she usually just squeezes out the moisture with a paper towel. (I found this method faster and less wasteful than blotting pumpkin a million times.) She notes that you should slightly flatten each cookie before baking as they won’t spread much.
Indeed, I found these hardly spread at all, though they did puff up slightly during baking. Compared to the rest of the cookies, these 1-tablespoon cookies were quite small and underwhelming in their flat, contained appearance. I was pleasantly surprised after biting into one that the crisp exterior gave way to a tender, lightly spiced interior. While these had a decent amount of mildly earthy pumpkin flavor, they weren’t heavily spiced or overly sweet, which made them feel a little bland. Still,an easy option for mildly fall-themed snickerdoodles!
- This one had one of the most pronounced pumpkin flavors of the bunch, which I very much enjoyed. The crust of the cookie was excellent
- Ooh loved how mildly sweet it is. Kinda creamy too!
- Tastes like [Ambitious Kitchen] but softer/more cakey. Kind of like a snickerdoodle but without much cinnamon.
- This was a hard one to rate. I think it had the strongest pumpkin flavor note of any of the cookies, but because it wasn’t as spicy, that doesn’t mean I liked the flavor more than some of the other ones that were less pumpkin-y. The texture was great though. Reminded me of a pumpkin ginger snap (but with less spice). If this had more spice to it, I think it would have been a winner. But I respect how pumpkiny it is.
- Spongey texture, very faint flavor. Felt like it was missing something on both texture and flavor scale. I wouldn’t eat this again.
- Could use more spice and pumpkin. It’s sweet and a bit too soft.
I Will Not Eat Oysters: a puffy, moist yet crisp-edged cookie with a tender center and strong pumpkin notes
This was a last minute addition to the bake off and I’m so glad someone reminded me of Danielle’s recipe! Besides the obvious standout ingredient (Valhrona feves), this recipe is also unique for its use of concentrated pumpkin puree. Danielle also calls for melted butter, a heavier ratio of brown to white sugar, a plethora of spices and a little cornstarch to soak up the pumpkin moisture.
After simmering the pumpkin for 12 minutes per the recipe, I wondered if that was enough because while the puree looked drier, it didn’t look much darker and wasn’t nearly as reduced as the puree that I make for Flour Bakery’s pumpkin pie. Still, I continued on–and when it came to baking, I baked them for the exact 14 minutes the recipe called for and while the tops looked totally done, the inside looked slightly too gooey when I broke them open later. Overall, these cookies were EXTREMELY moist the day of, revealing a moist, vibrantly orange interior chock-full of chocolate. (I found some a tiny bit chalky the day after.) They didn’t spread much, making for a puffier cookie that wasn’t as chewy as I imagined–it is admittedly a little cakey. But this is a pumpkin-forward cookie with crisp exteriors and a soft interior (think Levain but much smaller)!
- This was my overall fav! I was super impressed with how balanced the flavors were – it was the only one with chocolate that managed to still have a clear pumpkin taste as well. I also like my cookies soft/thick, so this was very enjoyable texture-wise. This is probably one of the recipes I’d definitely want to bake.
- Looks like if Levain made a pumpkin cookie. I liked the chocolate distribution and the cookie itself had good pumpkin flavor. The most pumpkin spice-forward cookie of all of them. Like a pumpkin pie in cookie form. I’d eat it again.
- Nutmeg is pronounced in a good way. Better cookie without the chocolate chips and maybe a different mix in with crunch like walnuts.
- Chocolate makes it. Otherwise it’s like the bottom of a pumpkin muffin. Which is not actually terrible but also not fantastic.
- Thick and chewy and doughy, which I appreciated. Again, I could’ve done without the chocolate. And this one tasted a bit too salty.
Justine Snacks: a hefty crisp-edged, chewy-centered chocolate chip cookie with a hint of pumpkin
I found Justine via a Smitten Kitchen newsletter and have been obsessed with her calming, story-driven videos ever since. Her posting of her pumpkin cookies may or may not have been the inspiration of this entire bake off (and a prime reason why I decided to include pumpkin cookies with chocolate). She references them as chewy, not cakey, omitting egg and using cornstarch to soak up excess moisture from the pumpkin. If made as written, this recipes makes 8 perfect, very generous cookies.
I don’t think anyone would be offended if I call these one of the most gorgeously aesthetic cookies of the bunch. They get blasted at 400 degrees for a set, golden exterior and a gooey interior that turns chewy once the cookies cool. These cookies are absolutely as chewy as promised with crisp edges. However, the generous amount of chocolate within made these feel more like a chocolate chip cookie with an afterthought/tinge of pumpkin. I’d be curious to try them without chocolate and with an increased amount of spice to bring out more pumpkin flavor. Overall, a gorgeously textured cookie!
- Good flavor, tastes like “toll house cookie meets a pumpkin”
- Tastes mass-produced / store-bought. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I leave it up to you. Unlike the other chocolate-based cookies, this one didn’t overwhelm the pumpkin flavor. I really liked the chewiness.
- If we were doing a chocolate chip cookie bake off I would love this. I get zero pumpkin flavor though it is over powered by chocolate chips
- Of the chocolate chip ones so far, this was the best. Could taste the pumpkin but it was very subtle at the end.
- The chocolate chips were distracting that it was hard to taste anything else. It was a little too sweet but I liked the texture. I probably would have rated higher if this was just a chocolate chip cookie but I dont taste much pumpkin. It’s like a nestle toll house chocolate chip with cinnamon in it.
Ambitious Kitchen: a fluffy, soft snickerdoodle bursting with caramelized notes and spices
With one of my favorite brown butter chocolate chip cookie recipes, Ambitious Kitchen caught my eye once again for its pumpkin snickerdoodle cookie. Monique uses browned butter for toasty flavor, cream of tartar for the signature snickerdoodle tanginess, and pumpkin pie spice to complement a small amount of pumpkin puree. While similar to a few other recipes, this recipe mainly stood out to me for its use of an egg white rather than an egg yolk. Egg whites typically add moisture and protein rather than the rich fat content of an egg yolk, so I was curious to see how these would turn out.
Just like her brown butter chocolate chip cookie, this cookie was absolutely delicious! The texture is thick with a fluffy, soft and melt-in-your-mouth crumb. Flavor-wise, I thought the caramelized notes from the brown butter gave this a flavor edge over the other snickerdoodle-style cookies. I suspect the egg white helped provide moisture and kept this cookie soft without making it a bit more dense and fudgy (as an egg yolk would’ve done). My only quibble (like most other recipes) is that this feels more like a snickerdoodle with a hint of pumpkin rather than a pumpkin-forward cookie. But it’s relatively easy to make (no mixer required), and this is a recipe I’d easily repeat!
- Ideal fall spice cookie, good crisp outside and still chewy inside. Light pumpkin flavor, good sweetness.
- This reminded me of a pumpkin sugar cookie and I loved the buttery, pumpkin flavor.
- Almost perfect ratio of doughy / crunchy. Great pumpkin flavor. This one was my favorite, though not a runaway favorite as there were several other great cookies.
- I liked this one, but it’s probably middle of the pack. It tasted good, but still not like a pumpkin cookie! Lacked spice notes, but the texture was very good. Not too spread out, soft, but still held shape.
- Spice is tasty. Ginger is really good. Texture is chewy and moist – really lovely. Love the sugar sparkles!
- The texture was good but it tasted like a regular snickerdoodle. Wouldn’t have known this was a pumpkin cookie.
In Bloom Bakery: a fluffy, airy snickerdoodle with a hint of pumpkin
Ginny’s recipe is similar but almost an inverse version of Ambitious Kitchen’s recipe. Instead of brown butter, it uses regular butter, all light brown sugar instead of half white/half brown, it uses egg yolks instead of egg whites and omits the cream of tartar. This recipe was one of the first that came up on Google when I was looking for pumpkin cookie recipes (before this bake off was even in motion!), but I didn’t make it because of its special blotting method to reduce the pumpkin puree moisture. And, to be honest, because I was too lazy to get my mixer out to cream the butter. Was it worth it?
These turned out beautifully crinkly and very similar looking to Ambitious Kitchen. Despite their differences, both had very similar textures that were fluffy, a tiny bit crispy at the edges, and melt-in-your-mouth soft–In Bloom was perhaps a hair denser. Ambitious Kitchen had a slight edge for me with its brown butter flavor, but had AK not been there to taste side by side, I would have been very happy with this cookie. Interestingly, despite the pumpkin blotting method for this recipe, it didn’t seem to affect the texture or flavor significantly compared to the non-blotted puree in AK’s cookie. Neither cookie screams PUMPKIN–both are very snickerdoodle-first–but a great option if you don’t feel like browning butter and are craving a fall snickerdoodle!
- My favorite so far. Reminiscent of a gingersnap. I liked the chewy texture and good fall flavor. Nutmeg-forward? I’d eat it again.
- Beautiful cookie, slightly cakey version of [Ambitious Kitchen]. Slightly more pumpkin and molasses favor.
- This one really grew on me. I think the flavor was quite good. Great pumpkin flavor. Texture was pretty good. If I had eaten this warm, I think I would have liked it even more. But definitely belongs in the upper half of the cookies.
- Very soft and chewy cookie with good pumpkin flavor. Just an overall solid cookie.
- Tastes like [Ambitious Kitchen] and [Sally’s Baking Addiction] but with more spices so I’m rating it higher. Still kind of just taste like a regular snickerdoodle cookie to me though. Couldn’t tell it was pumpkin.
- Good but not great, a little dry and a little too sweet
Bigger Bolder Baking: a fluffy, cloud-like, gingersnap-style cookie with mild chew
Gemma’s chewy maple pumpkin cookies looked set up for success in a number of ways. They use melted butter, all dark brown sugar, maple syrup and a relatively small amount of pumpkin puree. Rolled in cinnamon sugar snickerdoodle-style, these were the only cookies to be rolled in dark brown sugar and cinnamon (vs. the typical white sugar and cinnamon combination). Because this dough is so soft, it does require a significant chill (90 min up to 3 days).
These enormous cookies spread beautifully with crinkly tops just like the photos. Somehow these managed to be slightly airy and fluffy, giving the impression of cakiness without being overtly cakey. They are so soft that some tasters complained about them falling apart, but I love this texture! I also loved the light crackliness of cinnamon sugar around the exterior as well as the maple flavor that underlied a mild amount of spice. These reminded me of a fluffier version Butternut Bakery–similar in heft to the snickerdoodle-style cookies like In Bloom and Ambitious Kitchen, but with more spiced flair and chewiness. While the orange hue hints at a pumpkin cookie, the flavor profile reminds me more of a light molasses or snickerdoodle cookie that had a run-in with a pumpkin. Absolutely delicious; I’d easily make this one again.
- Light pumpkin flavor, soft and chewy, leaned more towards soft snickerdoodle. Nice sugar top.
- Loved the flavor on this one – it tasted like a pumpkin cookie, with clear spice notes. I just didn’t love how flat/spread out the cookie was, which is why it’s docked on texture.
- This cookie had a nice fluffy but chewy on the edges texture. I liked the spices, but it tasted more like a sugar cookie than a pumpkin cookie.
- The “classic” pumpkin cookie. Would like a bump up in spices.
- Very mild flavor. I liked the cinnamon sugar outside, kind of like a snickerdoodle. If I ate it with my eyes closed I would probably guess it was a Snickerdoodle. A little cakey for my taste.
- Very soft which I like, but a tad too crumbly. Very cinnamon-y without being overwhelming. Only found pumpkin flavor at the end.
Butternut Bakery: a chewy, moist, maple-infused triumph
I was debating between this or the similar Oh Sweet Basil recipe, but in the end, Jenna’s recipe was highly requested AND looked like it had more spread due to the higher sugar content. This looked like it was sure to deliver on a chewy texture with a high ratio of dark brown sugar, an egg yolk, maple syrup, and just a small amount of pumpkin puree. And also brown butter!
While I’m typically a fan of thicker cookies, this cookie was absolutely STUNNING! It’s soft and bendy, tearing apart in a way that reveals how meltingly chewy it is. The toasty brown butter flavor combined with the maple syrup and cinnamon-forward spice mix felt so warmly and delightfully fall-like. It feels quite rich and fudgy in the center given the high butter content, and there’s a lovely contrast against the crisp edges. Like most cookies, it didn’t quite scream pumpkin (more molasses cookie vibes), but it was undeniably delicious!
- I really like this cookie. I like texture of the middle & the crispy edges. It also has this caramel/butterscotch flavor which is delicious. Texture is gooey in a good way; this tasted most like a pumpkin cookie
- This was definitely my favorite cookie. It had a great chewy texture and brown butter flavor. I think the sugar coating was a nice touch. Even though there wasn’t a strong pumpkin flavor, it was really yummy.
- I’m a fan of the flat chewy/crinkle texture of this cookie. Comparing to [Bigger Bolder Baking] I like this one a lot better. The flavors are deeper and it kind of reminds me of a molasses cookie. I’m not sure any of the cookies really had a pumpkin flavor though.
- Flavor is great – perf spices. Good amount of vanilla. Moist but almost borderline undercooked(?) I would prefer a sturdier texture. Could use some salt (but all of the cookies on reflection could use some salt).
- I really liked this one. [Bigger Bolder Baking] and this one definitely had the best spice notes. I liked the texture just a little more here versus [Bigger Bolder Baking] – it felt a little less crumbly, even though the spread out/thin texture is not my ideal pumpkin cookie texture. I would definitely bake this one.
- Aesthetically this was my favorite cookie. I wanted to like it more, but it veered greasy in both texture and flavor. Very little pumpkin flavor. Felt like all I could taste was fat.
Best Pumpkin Cookie Recommendations
Erika’s picks: Butternut Bakery, I Heart Naptime, Justine Snacks
Best flat and chewy pumpkin cookie: Butternut Bakery, Justine Snacks, Bigger Bolder Baking
Best cakey pumpkin cookies: I Heart Naptime, I Will Not Eat Oysters
Best snickerdoodle-style cookie: Ambitious Kitchen, In Bloom Bakery, Sally’s Baking Addiction
Best pumpkin-forward cookies: I Will Not Eat Oysters, Bigger Bolder Baking, Butternut Bakery
Best easy, no-chill recipe: I Heart Naptime
- Other recipes that don’t require a chill include: Half Baked Harvest, Buttermilk Bakery, In Bloom Bakery)