Get the Recipe
When I was growing up, the band kids would regularly set up a makeshift bakery by the back doors to the elementary school. From their toaster oven perched on a card table, they'd crank out endless trays of Otis Spunkmeyer cookies to sell as an after-school snack. The fake-butter aroma seemed to permeate the walls, driving us to distraction some 20 minutes before the bell.
Those bake sales were my introduction to white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, sold for two bucks a pop and dangerously hot, streaked with lumps of molten white chocolate. It was all an eight-year-old could ask for, really—a warm mess of salty-sweet bliss.
Homemade versions have never really cut it for me. More often than not, they start with a basic chocolate chip cookie dough and swap the standard chips for white chocolate and macadamia nuts.
The results inevitably taste too buttery, with a tangy brown sugar note that overwhelms the creamy vanilla flavor of white chocolate and the toffee-like aroma of macadamia nuts.
For my version, I wanted more of a sugar cookie base, but one that would put white chocolate center stage. To that end, I replaced half the butter of a normal sugar cookie recipe with melted white chocolate, and switched from plain to toasted sugar.
The first adjustment reduces the cookie's butteriness, instead amplifying the already delicate flavor of white chocolate. Meanwhile, the lightly caramelized sugar emphasizes the toasted nuts, while tempering the sweetness overall (a crucial move, given the high sugar content and lack of bitterness in white chocolate).
It's otherwise a pretty straightforward cookie dough, with the butter, white chocolate, and sugar creamed together until fluffy and light.
I beat a whole egg into the soft mixture, followed by a splash of vanilla, and then add all the dry ingredients one by one: flour, loads of dry-roasted macadamia nuts, and white chocolate bars chopped into chips. (Beware bags of "white"-flavored morsels, which are entirely devoid of cocoa butter.)
Instead, look for white chocolate in bars from Green & Black's or blocks from Callebaut (both readily available at supermarkets like Whole Foods). Or peruse this article on our favorite white chocolates and shop online.
For the macadamia nuts, I prefer to buy in bulk to drive down the cost in comparison with what you'll pay for skimpy little bags from the grocery store. Look for brands like MacFarms online, or check out the bulk bins at your nearest supermarket.
After scooping, if you want to stash it away to bake up one or two or 15 at a time, the portioned cookie dough can be stored in a zipper-lock bag and refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for up to three months. Let the dough warm up to about 68°F (20°C) before it goes in the oven.
When I'm ready to bake, I smash each ball into a disk and top it with extra white chocolate and macadamia nuts, plus a sprinkling of salt to finish. It's a bit of eye candy that makes each cookie all the more alluring, but it also ensures at least one bite of caramelized white chocolate in every cookie, and a hit of salt in every bite.
They may not be the greasy, sugar-sweet cookies of my childhood, but they're everything I want in a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie now—a treat that's equal parts creamy and crunchy, nutty and caramelized, soft and chewy, with a huge note of vanilla running through it all.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.