I honestly can’t stand baking, and I really should just be eating/sharing big plates of summer tomatoes, peaches, corn, basil etc. at this point, but I got the idea of this wonder cookie in my head and I couldn’t shake it. I had a particularly good run a few mornings ago, and in my over-confident foolhardiness thought “How hard could it be to come up with a vegan, grain-free, and date-sweetened chocolate chunk cookie? Pffft easy!”
If you follow my Instagram stories, you may know the conclusion already: wasn’t easy! There’s a lot of paleo (and paleo-vegan) chocolate chip cookie recipes with coconut sugar/honey/maple syrup. I wanted to go TOTALLY unrefined though. Using dates as the sweetener for a cookie brings a whole host of challenges. Dates don’t caramelize like granulated/more refined sweeteners. They don’t contribute to the structure of the cookie because they’re naturally gummy. They aren’t as sweet as sugar and maple syrup (even though they’re pretty dang sweet), so you have to ensure that you’re bringing it flavour-wise with the other ingredients. Add to this equation: no dairy, no eggs, no grain-based flours, AND a built-in goal to make a nut-free option that didn’t suck.
Seven tries later and we have a very good cookie made with ten core ingredients that are common for the health food store-dwellers among us. I’m ridiculously proud of this one. I also don’t really want to see a chocolate chip cookie for a while. Well, maybe just for a week or so.
These cookies are slightly tender, gooey with chocolate, perfectly sweet, and they blissfully have a solid golden-brown bite on the edges. Refined sugars make for those toffee-like, crisp edges typical to chocolate chippers. Not gonna happen here, but we get really close! My earlier attempts were like muffin tops, honestly.
Along with the dates, a combination of almond flour, coconut flour, coconut oil, and almond butter make up the body of this cookie. I tried versions with cassava flour and it just wasn’t doing it for me. While I love cassava for pizza bases and tortillas, it lent a gummy and elastic quality to these, whether I used a full cup or a teeny 1/4 cup. I feel like coconut flour is a bit more common though, so probably for the best.
The nut-free version will have you making sunflower seed flour (or sun-flour yessss!) in your blender or food processor, and replacing the almond butter with sunflower seed butter. I actually liked these ones better. Because I made the flour fresh for them, I found the cookie to be a touch more moist. Also, just be aware that the dough/finished product for the nut-free version will have a green-ish tinge. Sunflower seeds contain chlorogenic acid, and when they’re combined with baking soda and heat, it makes for baked goods of varying green shades. See the last photo of this post for an idea of what I’m talking about. Still perfectly safe to eat!
While these cookies are “all the free’s” (as my bud Jess says), I wouldn’t recommend feasting on them or anything in the name of your health. As always, moderation is the name of the game. These are still a sweet treat with a good dose of natural fats. They just happen to have a brilliantly glowing health halo around them hehe. Anyway, let me know if you try these! I tried to be EXTRA thorough with the instructions in anticipation of questions. Love you guys.
WONDER COOKIES! VEGAN, GRAIN-FREE, DATE-SWEETENED CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE
(with a nut-free option)
Print the recipe here!
SERVES: Makes 20 cookies
NOTES: This cookie dough will seem impossibly sticky/too wet when you’re trying to shape it. I recommend lightly oiling your hands to roll and flatten the portions of dough.
-My dates were the dry, typically cheaper, ones that you can find in the baking aisle. If you’re using extra soft and fresh Medjool dates, I’d only soak them for about 1 minute or so (or forego soaking entirely).
-I know that regulation chocolate chips/chunks/bars always have sugar. If you want to keep these TRULY refined sugar-free, go with Lily’s Baking Chips, which are sweetened with stevia.
-I made the “sun-flour” (sunflower seed flour) in the dry blade container of my Vitamix. Just whole, raw sunflower seeds that I pulsed until they resembled almond flour. I tried to do this in the food processor, and the result was definitely more coarse. I think you can make it work if you keep scraping down the bowl and persevering, making sure that the mixture doesn’t overheat and clump up..
-I list coconut oil for these, but versions that I tried with grapeseed and avocado oil were just as good.
⅔ cup pitted dates, lightly packed
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons of water
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¼ cup + 1 teaspoon MELTED AND COOLED coconut oil (measured in its liquid state)
½ cup roasted, smooth almond butter (or sunflower seed butter for nut-free version)
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup almond flour (or sunflower seed flour–see headnote)
¼ cup coconut flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
scant cup vegan chocolate chunks/chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Place the dates in a bowl. Cover them with boiling water. Let them soak and soften for 5 whole minutes.
In a small bowl, vigorously stir together the ground flaxseed, water, and apple cider vinegar. Set mixture aside for 5 minutes to thicken/gel slightly.
Once the dates are softened, drain and transfer them to the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the “S” blade. Add the flaxseed mixture, coconut oil, almond butter, and vanilla. Run the food processor on high until you have a relatively smooth paste, stopping at one point to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the almond flour, coconut flour, salt, and baking soda to the food processor. Run the motor on high until you have a sticky and unified dough, stopping at one point to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Scrape the sticky cookie dough out into a medium bowl. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula until they are evenly mixed throughout the dough.
Drop heaped tablespoons cookie dough out onto the baking sheet. Once you’ve scooped all of the dough, lightly oil your hands. Roll and flatten each portion of dough and arrange on the baking sheet. These cookies will not spread as they bake, so they won’t need much space.
Bake cookies until deep golden on the undersides and lightly cracked on top, about 11 minutes. Cool cookies on the baking sheet. These cookies are optimally enjoyed the day that they are baked.