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I may have tackled vegan chocolate chip cookies in the past, but I'm not one to settle on a single approach to anything. Different ingredients and techniques suit different occasions and needs, so I recently set out to explore my options for a vegan chocolate chip cookie made from pantry staples alone, without any special-order ingredients, like refined coconut oil or dry malt extract.
Replacing the buttery backbone of a chocolate chip cookie is no small feat, but what serious food lover doesn't keep a nice bottle of extra-virgin olive oil on hand? It may not be an obvious choice for cookies, but hear me out. If you hit up Italian-American restaurants with any sort of frequency, you'll no doubt spot olive oil–themed desserts aplenty, from olive oil cake and scoops of olive oil gelato to chocolate truffles spiked with olive oil as mignardises.
These examples only go to show that a great olive oil has enough aroma and complexity to stand on its own in sweets, along with a grassy freshness that makes it an excellent supporting player as well.
Particularly for those of us on the lookout for a vegan or dairy-free approach to chocolate chip cookies, these traits make extra-virgin olive oil a strong contender—especially if you choose a brand that aims for a soft and mellow profile, with a buttery richness and an aroma that isn't too peppery or sharp.
If you don't have a favorite brand already, our guide to buying olive oil can help you find a bottle you'll love. I've been happy with a wide range of olive oils for this recipe, but find Cobram Estate to be a safe bet.
If olive oil isn’t your jam, regardless of how mild it may be, this recipe works equally well with hazelnut oil—which you might have left over from making our homemade Nutella.
Like my OG vegan chocolate chip cookies, this recipe relies on an oat slurry to act as a binder in lieu of an egg. Unlike many egg alternatives, oats don't bring any wonky flavors to the table, just a neutral cereal flavor that blends seamlessly into the dough. And this option makes use of things you likely already have in your kitchen right now: rolled oats and water.
These two ingredients are blitzed into an almost gelatinous slurry using the power of an immersion blender. Due to the small volume of the oat slurry, this technique is not likely to succeed with a food processor or countertop blender, or with some rickety plastic immersion blender from 1976. (See our review of the best immersion blenders if you're in the market for a new one.)
The mixture is then strained through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the oat solids, leaving behind an extremely thick but satiny-smooth slurry. It's important to achieve the right texture here; the technique can fail if you use the wrong equipment, or if the oats aren't puréed long enough.
But it's the only even remotely tricky step in the recipe. The rest is embarrassingly simple—so simple, you won't even need a stand mixer.
All it takes is a bowl and a whisk, and a bit of patience to thoroughly combine the light brown sugar, salt, leavening agents, and a pinch of cinnamon (to lend the dough a soft note of warm spice).
When the mixture is well combined, add your olive oil of choice, along with vanilla extract and the prepared oat slurry.
Whisk until smooth, then stir in the all-purpose flour.
Finally, finish by kneading in an assortment of chocolate chips by hand. Here, I prefer to use a blend of chunks, morsels, and commercial chips, in a few different cacao percentages to add a greater depth of flavor to the cookies. Use whatever sort of blend you like, or check out our guide to buying chocolate chips for some of my favorite brands and styles.
Chopped chocolate bars can also be used in place of commercial chips, a swap that gives the chocolate a more assertive presence in the dough; I recommend using a similar assortment of cacao percentages and styles. For more information, see our top picks for supermarket chocolate bars.
At this stage, the dough will seem oily and strange, and the chocolate will glisten weirdly under a sheen of olive oil. But that's okay! The flour will absorb the oil as it bakes, and that odd slickness will disappear.
Portion the cookies out using a two-tablespoon scoop, and arrange them on a parchment-lined half-sheet pan. If you find that any of the chips have ejected themselves from the dough, poke them back in wherever you spot a bare patch, or grab some extra chocolate chips to garnish the dough.
Bake at 350°F (180°C) until the cookies are nicely puffed, golden from edge to center, and firm to the touch around the edges. For me, this generally works out to be about 15 minutes, but (as with any recipe) this will vary from kitchen to kitchen depending on a host of factors, such as the specifics of the equipment involved, dough temperature, the exact size and evenness of the portions, and so on. Not to mention your own taste in cookie texture!
Any cookie can be made softer with less baking, and any cookie can be made crisper with more baking. It can take a little experimentation to find your personal sweet spot, so, with this or any recipe, it may help to bake off a few trial cookies before you commit to a bake time for the whole batch.
Let the cookies cool on the tray long enough to set, then enjoy them soft and warm, or continue cooling to room temperature so the cookies can crisp around the edges (or throughout, if they were baked longer).
The result is a delicious variation on chocolate chip cookies, with the fragrance and richness of olive oil and pops of gooey chocolate throughout. I like them best when they're crisp around the edges, yet soft and chewy in the middle. But with some adjustments to the bake time, they can be whatever your heart desires.
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