Wondering how to make vegan cookies that are perfectly chewy and crunchy? These 4 tips will guarantee perfect vegan cookie success!
When I first embarked on my journey through vegan baking, one of the things I knew I had to nail quickly was how to make vegan cookies. It’s the one thing my mom always requests when I ask what she wants me to bake and bring her (hi mom!) and it’s the one dessert I grew up on, day in and day out. One of the most vivid memories I have growing up is holding a fresh cookie in my hand, marking many significant times in my life. Growing up, my friends and I purchased warm chocolate chip cookies after high school, eating them as fast as we could before marching band practice. When I was in college I often made cookies for my roommates (or let’s be honest, boys) and spent the weekends dreaming about the full size kitchen back home where I could bake any and everything I could ever want. Cookies have even marked time up to my wedding, ending with myself semi-losing my mind the week before the wedding, thinking I needed to perfect my chocolate chip cookie recipe AND put finishing touches on our nuptials all in one week. Obviously, my stress baking treat of choice has been and always will be a good batch of cookies.
Along the way of making countless batches of cookies, from cutouts to chocolate chip to the kind where you have to press them down gently with a fork, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to make vegan cookies. I’m sharing this with you because, let me tell you, I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way and I think I’ve nailed down the four things that can make or break a vegan cookie. Let’s get down to business!
- Don’t be afraid of fat
When I first started out, I was on a mission to make a fat free/low sugar vegan cookie that would check all the boxes for me (delicious, comparable to regular butter based cookies) and for the pickiest of diets (too much sugar, too much fat, etc.). Turns out, it’s virtually impossible to please each and every person (baking lesson and life lesson), plus if you are going to eat a cookie, just eat a dang cookie, am I right? One of the things that made the biggest differences in my vegan cookie baking was to add in fat, not take it away. While I don’t usually use vegan butter substitutes, I’ve found the coconut oil and olive oil are two of the best fat components when it comes to vegan cookies and baking. It all depends on how sensitive you are to coconut, but I think coconut oil is nice and neutral, but if you don’t like the slight coconut taste, olive oil works pretty well too. Oil and butter don’t necessarily swap out weight for weight in a recipe, but it is important to take into account how the lack of water/moisture is going to affect the overall texture of the cookies. Cashew cream can also be a good alternative, although I haven’t played with this one much yet. I will warn that cookies made with oils tend to dry out faster, in my opinion, but if you have cookies hanging around your house for an extended period of time, it’s really time for you to up your cookie intake. If you really need the butter/sugar creaming action that usually takes place in cookie recipes, you can get the same affect with solid coconut oil in place of butter. Long story short, the best vegan cookies have fat, that is that.
2. Freeze your cookie dough
I am one of the most impatient people when it comes to baking, so when a recipe instructs you to ‘chill cookie dough for at least an hour or until firm’, I usually through a mild fit (but I want cookies NOW!) and bypass the step entirely. Passing up something that is so clearly stated in a recipe when my impatience kicks in usually results in a semi-ok cookie that could have been significantly improved with a little chill out time. You know that coveted crinkling along the edges of the absolute best chocolate chip cookies? That crunchy/chewy cookie texture is almost always achieved by chilling the cookie dough for a while before scooping out and baking. I’m not sure of the exact science behind it, but chilling out your vegan cookie dough will create a little bit of a barrier and moisture lock when you go to bake them. I know it also solidifies the fat in the cookie dough, so when they are finally baked, the fat melts at a slower rate and prevents the cookies from spreading out too much in the process. I think for regular cookies, you could get by without chilling the dough more often, but for learning how to make vegan cookies, the best ones are always chilled for at least an hour or so. Life lesson: the best cookies are those you wait for
3. Don’t overmix
I’ve always been somewhat of an over-doer in some areas. So, when a recipe says to mix until all flour streaks are gone, you better believe I used to mix the heck out of cookie batter until no flour streaks were even thinking about being seen. Now, I know the value of gently handling the dough and mixing just barely until no streaks remain. It’s not an overdoing it thing, it’s a ‘do it until it’s just barely done’ kind of thing when it comes to handling vegan cookie dough. When cookie dough is overmixed, gluten starts to form and bond together more than necessary, making all kind of happy friendships with each other, but not creating happy, tender cookies. Because of the delicate mix of gluten, fat, and rising agents, cookie dough batter needs to be handled as little as possible. Handle a cookie dough too much (aka beat the heck out of it) and you will end up with tough cookies that kind of have a paste undertone to them. My biggest recommendation when learning how to make vegan cookies, is to just mix the batter together enough until the flour mixture is gone and then gently fold any extras in for a few more strokes. No one ever complained about too tender a cookie.
4. Be careful of baking times
Going along the same vein as #3, for a long time I was a chronic over baker. If just baked is good enough, then a little more baked is better, right? Nope nope nope, WRONG. Especially when it comes to vegan cookies, where you aren’t worrying about raw egg in the cookie batter, over baking your cookies is a cardinal sin that you just can’t come back from. I’ve learned overall that slightly under baking vegan cookies is the best way to ensure that they are still tender, gooey and just slightly chewy on top. Plus, once you take a pan of cookies out of the oven, they are still sitting on a hot cookie sheet, so they go through a slight period of residual baking that firms them up a bit more and can quickly cross the line from perfect cookies to dried out hockey pucks (that bit of knowledge dropped on you courtesy of my many hours of watching Good Eats). If you think your cookies aren’t done, the proof is in the coloring. If they are browned on the edges and feel firm to the touch (the middles that is), they are in the sweet spot of being done, but not too done. When in doubt, take them out.
I hope these rules of thumb help you how to make vegan cookies they are perfect and delicious! I’ve linked up to the cookies that were pictured here in this post below, but if you are looking for more cookie inspiration, browse around the cookie section of the archives. Happy baking!
If you make any recipes, don’t forget to tag your photos with #heartofabaker! I love to see what you make!