vegan tahini chocolate chip cookies

January 14, 2020 Portland, OR, USA

These vegan chocolate chip cookies taste EXACTLY like regular chocolate chip cookies with crisp edges, soft and chewy centers, and pools of molten dark chocolate throughout every bite of cookie. This is all thanks to a handful of "secret" ingredients like tahini, coconut oil, and vegan chocolate—jump to the recipe!

The Best Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hello friends! I am back from a two week vacation in which I spent the first week touring Seoul with Kiron, one of my best friends from college, and the second week crashing at my parents' place in Manila! I wish I had more exciting things to report, but I mostly spent my time in Asia drinking all the brown sugar boba at Tiger Sugar and The Alley and buying all the Fluffmatte lipsticks at Sunnies Face. Oh well.

I did have some downtime to think about my plans for 2020, including planning some recipes for Hummingbird High. As the years have gone on, I've become much more analytical about what recipes I share on this blog—I want to post stuff that you guys will actually make, ya know? That means doing a lot of fun research about what recipes are trending on Google, Instagram surveys, and even looking at my own historical Google Analytics and Pinterest data to see which recipes you guys consistently make and love.

One of the surprise hits from last year was the vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe in my cookbook, Weeknight Baking. Although I have a ton of drop cookie recipes made with butter and eggs, a surprising number of you opted to make the vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe instead. In my book, I made the promise that my recipe would be indistinguishable from my traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe. It's a pretty big promise, but I'm confident I delivered. So confident that I wanted to share it with folks who didn't buy the book too! All of this inspired me to post my vegan chocolate chip cookies as my first recipe in 2020!

Let's dive in.

What is a vegan diet?

In case you've been living under a rock for the last few years, you probably already know what a vegan diet is — it's a diet that eliminates all animal products and by-products, including but not limited to meat, dairy, eggs, and even honey (honey is made by bees, after all). For baking, vegan baking means skipping the use of key baking ingredients like butter, cream, eggs, milk, sour cream, and more. I'm not going to lie—vegan baking can be CHALLENGING. You're skipping a lot ingredients that are not only flavorful, but also provide key structures in baked goods. But when done right, vegan baking can result in the exact same flavors and textures as their conventional counterparts. Like these cookies!

What makes chocolate chip cookies vegan?

Like I said before, because these cookies don't use eggs and butter, they're 100% vegan! In my book, I use ingredients like almond butter, coconut oil, and water in their place. But in this particular recipe, I substituted the almond butter with tahini, a Middle Eastern condiment (or maybe more of a sauce?) made from sesame seeds. My friend Steph tried it in her blog post about my recipe and reported back rave results—I had to try it for myself!

Is tahini vegan?

Yes! "Legit" tahini is made from nothing but sesame seeds and water.

What does tahini taste like?

Hmm... I like to think of tahini as nut butter's fancy, more sophisticated cousin. You know, the one who speaks French and has a husky, sexy voice from all the cigarettes and wine, lol. It has a similar texture to an unsweetened, natural nut butter in that it's pretty oily and will separate when sitting in its jar (you'll need to give the tahini a good stir before using it in any recipe). Unlike nut butter though, its flavor is definitely more umami—in fact, it's frequently used in savory dishes like hummus and baba ghanoush. 

What do these vegan tahini chocolate chip cookies taste like?

When done right, tahini can add a nuanced and subtle toasted nutty flavor to sweets. These cookies taste like regular chocolate chip cookies with just a hint of smokiness and nuttiness from the tahini itself. My rule for using tahini in desserts is to think of it as a substitute for peanut butter—that means that tahini will work well in baked goods with ingredients like chocolate, nuts, bananas, and more. Simply put, a peanut butter anything recipe (like "peanut butter brownies" or "peanut butter banana bread") can easily be a tahini anything recipe ("tahini brownies" and "tahini banana bread").

Ingredients in Vegan Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Alright, now that I've convinced you to make these cookies (I think), here are the key ingredients in the recipe that's worth chatting about:

Tahini (obviously)

Where do I buy tahini?

The best places to buy tahini are fancy grocery stores like Whole Foods and organic food co-ops, or Middle Eastern markets (New Yorkers—I especially recommend Sahadi's in Brooklyn). I recommend these places specifically because they carry my favorite brands of tahini (more on that in a hot second). In a pinch, you can also find tahini in the "International" or "Middle Eastern" aisle of any standard grocery store—but it's likely they won't have the brands I recommend.

What are the best brands of tahini?

My absolute favorite brand of tahini—which I got hooked on when I was in Israel last year—is Al Arz Tahini. It's so incredibly creamy and rich; its texture and flavor is incomparable to most of the brands of tahini you can buy in the United States. Because yes, that's the kicker—aside from buying it online at Amazon (where you can buy it for a premium), I've never seen it sold here (at least, not in Portland, anyway). But Londoners, you're in luck—I know that Ottolenghi sells jars of the stuff at his restaurants.

If you want to stay local and buy American-based brands, I highly recommend my friend's tahini company, Seed + Mill. It's the best tahini I've had stateside. You can buy their jars online, or even in some Whole Foods stores (specifically in the New York and New Jersey area). I've also heard really good things about Soom, but I can't personally vouch for their tahini because I haven't had it myself.

Now I hear you wondering—does the brand of tahini really matter? Honestly, in a pinch, you can get away with using the stuff you can find at regular supermarkets and your cookies will turn out just fine. But it's sort of like opting for generic butter versus the super fancy European stuff with the high butterfat content—the good stuff is going to be infinitely more creamy and flavorful, hands down. It's worth sourcing these brands if you're planning on using the tahini in more "tahini-forward" recipes like salad dressing, hummus, and more.

What is whole tahini? Can I use it in this recipe?

If you've followed my advice and are now perusing the fancy tahini brands I recommended above, you'll notice that most of them sell jars of "whole" tahini. This has to do with the way regular tahini is made: sesame seeds that are soaked in water and then crushed to separate the bran from the kernels. The crushed seeds are soaked in salt water, causing the bran to sink. The floating kernels are skimmed off the surface, toasted, and ground to produce regular tahini.

Whole tahini skips this step of separating the bran from the kernels; as a result, whole tahini is thicker and has a much stronger, smokey umami taste. You can absolutely use whole tahini instead of regular tahini in this recipe; just note that your cookies will DEFINITELY taste more like tahini. 

Is there a substitute for tahini?

For these cookies, you can substitute the tahini in the recipe with the same amount of any kind of nut butter: almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter, and more. In my cookbook, I published this recipe with almond butter—that's the nut butter I recommend with this recipe!

Coconut Oil

Refined vs unrefined coconut oil 

Coconut oil is a common substitution for butter and other fats in vegan recipe. Note that you can usually buy two types of coconut oil: refined and unrefined. Unrefined coconut oil, also known as virgin coconut oil, is made with oil that has been extracted from coconuts with low-heat, minimal processes. Refined coconut oil, on the other hand, is made with harsher extracting processes that minimize the coconutty taste of the oil—as a result, it's much more neutral in flavor.

For these vegan chocolate chip cookies, you can use EITHER refined or unrefined coconut oil. Just note that if you go the unrefined route, your cookies will taste more coconutty—this might drown out the subtle tahini flavor. I personally recommend using refined coconut oil if you want the tahini flavor to stand out.

Is there a substitute for coconut oil?

For this recipe, you can substitute the coconut oil for any neutral flavored oil like canola, grapeseed, vegetable, and more. I recommend sticking with coconut oil though—whether you use refined or unrefined coconut oil, it complements the taste of the tahini really well.

Vegan Chocolate

What makes chocolate vegan?

Chocolate can be considered vegan if there are absolutely no milk products (like milk powders or milk solids, two ingredients commonly found in chocolate) listed in its ingredients. Typically, milk chocolate has more of these products; as a result, milk chocolate is rarely considered vegan (unless it's a milk chocolate vegan brand, which uses ingredients like rice milk as substitutes to these milk products). You'll have better luck by sourcing dark chocolate, which contains more cacao and less of these milk products.

Note that most dark chocolate will have "cocoa butter" listed in its ingredients. Cocoa butter is NOT an animal product and is actually just a specific part of the cacao bean; it is naturally vegan and dairy-free, so don't worry if you see it!

Is dark chocolate vegan?

It really, really depends. In general, most dark chocolate with 70% cacao or higher has no milk products and are technically vegan in ingredients. BUT that's not a nationally mandated rule! If it has even a little bit of milk product in it, the chocolate is NOT vegan—no matter what percentage cacao it is! If you're baking these cookies for a strict vegan, you'll need to read the ingredient labels of the chocolate you use.

Okay, so what chocolate is vegan?

For these cookies, I used Valrhona Guanaja 70% Feves. Although it is vegan in that it does not contain any milk products, Valrhona lacks the ability to officially label it as such since it's made in a facility that processes milk and white chocolate (neither of which are vegan, obviously). But there are a ton of other "unofficially vegan" chocolate bars too—Trader Joe's Pound Plus 72% Dark Chocolate Bar and Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bars are good examples of vegan chocolate bars that are available in most grocery stores.

But if you're looking for STRICT vegan chocolate (and is certified as such), check out Raaka Chocolate—all their chocolate is 100% vegan!

Best Vegan Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe Tips

  • For this recipe, it's especially important to WEIGH YOUR INGREDIENTS, especially the flour! This particular recipe is especially sensitive to variations in cup measurements—if you use too much flour (which can happen if you don't fill your measuring cups properly), the cookies will be too puffy and won't crack and fall like mine. If you don't have a kitchen scale, the best way to measure out flour with measuring cups is to do the following: 1) fluff up your flour by stirring it with a whisk or fork for a minimum of 30 seconds; 2) use a spoon to scoop the fluffed-up flour into the measuring cup until the flour forms a small mound on top of the cup; 3) use a bench scraper or a butter knife to level off the mound so that the flour is flush with the top edges of the measuring cup. 

  • Tahini tends to separate like natural nut butter—the oil floats to the top while the rest of the tahini stays at the bottom. For best results, you'll need to stir the tahini well before using it in this recipe. 

  • Like I mentioned above, I used Valrhona Guanaja 70% Feves (which is also available in smaller bags on Amazon). Feves are little 1-inch discs of chocolate; I love using them for baking because you get the same results as using a chopped chocolate bar, but without any of the work. I know they're on the pricey side, but they're definitely worth it, I promise. If you're still unconvinced and end up using a vegan chocolate bar, you'll need to chop up the chocolate into ½- to 1-inch pieces. I suggest avoiding chocolate chips for this recipe; it'll be hard to find vegan chocolate chips, but even if you do, chopped chocolate always makes for tastier (and prettier!) cookies anyway. 

  • Like my recipe for regular (that is, non-vegan!) chocolate chip cookies, you can freeze the cookie dough for these vegan chocolate chip cookies and save them for baking later. Make the dough and form it into balls as directed. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and freeze for 1 hour, or until the cookie dough balls are hard enough to be transferred to a zip-top bag without losing their shape. Seal the bag and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, bake as directed, but add 3 minutes to the total Bake Time for a total of 15 minutes.

More Tahini Dessert Recipes (For Your Leftover Tahini)

Yield: makes around 25 cookies
Author: Hummingbird High

Vegan Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe


For the Vegan Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 2 cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) coconut oil, melted
  • ⅓ cup (3.15 ounces) well-stirred tahini (see baker's notes)
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) water
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups tightly packed (9.35 ounces) dark brown sugar 
  • 10 ounces vegan chocolate (at least 70% cacao), from whole fĂ©ves or a high-quality chocolate bar, chopped into ½- to 1-inch pieces


How to bake Vegan Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

For the Vegan Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the coconut oil, tahini, water, and vanilla. Beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until combined, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Increase the mixer to medium-low, add the chocolate all at once, and beat until the chocolate is evenly distributed throughout, about 1 minute. 
  4. Use a 3-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the cookie dough into balls and place them at least 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. If the cookie dough seems too soft to scoop, refrigerate for 10 minutes. Bake one pan at a time for 12 minutes, until the edges have set but the centers are still gooey. The cookies will look puffed when you pull them out of the oven, but will fall and crack into the perfect cookies as they cool. Cool the cookies on the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms of the cookies feel firm to the touch. Repeat with remaining cookie dough balls. Serve warm or at room temperature. The cookies can be stored, in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days. 

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