Is it possible the best chocolate chip cookie recipe is vegan?

The chocolate chips are stirred into dry ingredients prior to adding the liquid ingredients.
The chocolate chips are stirred into dry ingredients prior to adding the liquid ingredients. Blair Anthony Robertson

If I were in the cookie business, I would make one chocolate cookie recipe and then divide the finished product each day into two stacks in the display case — one called “best-ever chocolate chip cookie,” the other labeled “vegan chocolate chip cookie.”

Which one do you think would fly off the shelves? Yes, there is a stigma about the word “vegan,” which is why more enlightened eating approaches these days tend to use the term “plant-based.” As healthy as that sounds, it doesn’t seem too appealing when it comes to cookies.

I happened upon this recipe while roaming the Food52 website. There, they were making claims that this recipe produced the very best version of the classic chocolate chip cookie, even though there were no eggs and butter. To quality as vegan, of course, you can’t use animal products. I was eager to put these bold claims to the test.

If you’ve spent any time making cookies, you’ll know that nearly every recipe you can think of calls for eggs, butter, sugar and flour. So how could this recipe come up with a credible cookie by leaving out two seemingly essential ingredients? The answer is time and technique — but mostly time. The butter, you’ll find, is replaced by oil. No big deal. It is arguably healthier and, if you’re into animal welfare, far more humane.

But the crucial step with these cookies, or even standard chocolate chip cookies, is the resting time of the raw dough. You need to mix the ingredients and then you need to wait. And wait.

Yes, you make the dough one day and eat the cookies on another — we’re talking 12 hours in the fridge. I know. It sounds excruciating. I mean, what normal person makes cookies (or at least cookie dough) but doesn’t feel like eating them within the hour?

Believe me, good things come to those who wait. Do not be tempted to skip this step.

I did a second batch in which I refrigerated the dough for a mere three hours, and they were nowhere near as good. Sure, they were good, but not great. The color wasn’t as brown, they took longer to bake and the overall character was lacking. They were a 7 out of 10, whereas the 12-hour version cookies are a 14!

Two things you’ll need to pull these off are parchment paper and a digital scale, though the cookies are doable if your kitchen is lacking. Another recommended ingredient is flake salt for sprinkling atop the dough prior to baking. This salt tends to taste milder and, given the surface area, coats your tongue and melds with the sweetness in a more agreeable way.

I’ve made all kinds of chocolate chip cookie recipes through the years —probably two dozen or more versions. Some are interesting, like one from the late Julia Child, because they use a supplemental ingredient like instant espresso powder. But all of them used butter — until now. In fact, the Julia Child recipe calls for two entire sticks of butter, which is very French and very fattening.

No one is claiming that this new version is healthy or will help you lose weight. But the flavor and the eating experience tend to be cleaner, sharper, more vibrant, and the texture strikes just the right balance between tender, moist and crumbly.

Pro tip: If you’re one of those bakers who cannot resist eating a bit of the raw dough along the way, this vegan recipe won’t make you feel absolutely horrible 30 minutes later, the way regular raw dough does.

Here is the recipe, which was published on Food52 and comes from Ovenly.

  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (we prefer chocolate with 60 percent cocoa content or higher—double-check the ingredients if you want to make sure they're vegan)
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (110 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola, grapeseed, or any other neutral oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
  • Coarse-grained sea salt or flaky sea salt like Maldon, for garnish

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips to the flour mixture and toss to coat.

2. In a separate large bowl, whisk the sugars briskly with the canola oil and water until smooth and incorporated, about 2 minutes. Note: Use fresh, soft light brown sugar. If there are clumps, break them up with the back of a spoon or your hand before whisking.

3. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, and then stir with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula until just combined and no flour is visible. Do not overmix.

4. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. Do not skip this step.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper. Remove dough from the refrigerator and use an ice cream scoop or a spoon to portion dough into 2-inch mounds. We recommend freezing the balls of dough for 10 minutes before baking as the cookies will retain their shape better while baking.

6. Sprinkle the balls of dough with coarse-grained sea salt (if freezing, remove balls of dough from the freezer first), and bake for 12 to 13 minutes, or until the edges are just golden. Do not overbake.

There you have it. Amazing cookies and no more stigma for “vegan cookies.” They are terrific. They just happen to qualify as vegan.

If you loved this recipe, there’s an Ovenly book with plenty more for you to try.

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob