I’m sure the last words most people want to see modifying their chocolate chip cookies are “healthy” and “vegan.” Let me reassure you– these are GOOD cookies. No lie.
I have quite the sweet tooth, and long ago I gave up on being an absolutist about desserts. We do have dessert after most dinners (strangely, the times we don’t have dessert are when we go out to dinner, which may be a little backward…), so I decided to start looking for healthy versions.
I found this recipe for Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Real Food Daily Cookbook by Ann Gentry. For those of you not in the LA area, Real Food Daily is a fantastic “organic, vegan” restaurant with three outposts here. I love their restaurant so much that I bought their cookbook. And hands down, these cookies are the number one recipe I make from it.
The reason I was looking for a vegan cookie was not because I’m a vegan (although I do approach vegetarian on most days, and was a stalwart vegetarian for many, many years). I really just wanted a cookie that didn’t have all that butter and refined sugar. Since I was feeding my kids a cookie almost every night, I wanted to limit that fat and sugar.
This recipe does the trick. It’s sweetened with brown rice syrup, date paste and maple syrup, instead of white sugar. And it has only canola oil– no butter or eggs. And my kids love it, and I think it’s pretty fantastic, too.
I realize that some of these ingredients seem exotic– and I suppose they are. But they are all things you can find at a Whole Foods. The craziest thing is probably the brown rice syrup, which, as I said, I get a Whole Foods. If you don’t want to invest in a carton of soymilk and you don’t need the cookies to be vegan, then by all means substitute regular cow’s milk. The date puree you will have to make on your own, but it’s super easy and once you’ve made a batch, you’ve got a ton. I get my dates at Trader Joe’s, but they have them at Whole Foods, too.
I’ve adapted the recipe slightly and made it a little simpler. I also almost always use MnMs instead of chocolate chips (although sometimes I use both!), and I use the dark chocolate MnMs. This change came about because my kids love MnMs, so it was a match made in chocolate heaven. Other than those few changes, these cookies are courtesy of Ann Gentry and Real Food Daily!
Healthy MnM Cookies
- 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (like King Arthur’s)
- 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup date puree (see recipe and note below)
- 3 tbsp brown rice syrup
- 2 tbsp plain soymilk
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 8 – 10 ounces dark chocolate MnMs
Preheat the oven to 375º. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, flaxmeal, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, mix all the remaining ingredients except the MnMs. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until it forms a dough. Stir in the MnMs. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop about a tablespoon of dough for each cookie onto a greased, silpated, or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the cookies puff a little and crack. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
The date paste is really simple. Essentially, you get a bunch of dates, pit them if they aren’t already, put them in a pot and cover them with water. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until they are soft. Put them in a food processor and grind until you have a paste. Add some of the cooking water as needed to thin out the mixture to “paste” consistency.
I have once or twice used applesauce instead of the date paste, but the dates add a sweetness that the applesauce doesn’t. If you don’t mind the cookies being a little less sweet, you can use applesauce and forgo the date paste production.
When I make this recipe, I usually cook about 10 – 12 cookies to start. I form all the other cookies to use up the dough, putting them on one baking sheet. Then I stick this baking sheet in the freezer for a few hours. Once the dough is frozen, I toss all the formed but uncooked cookies in a Ziplock bag. Then I put it back in the freezer. For the next week, any time we want fresh cookies, I pop a few in the oven. It’s a nice way to have fresh cookies that don’t go stale. My sister-in-law does a similar thing, but she cooks the cookies first. Then, when she wants fresh cookies, she heats them in the microwave for 20 seconds.
And then enjoy!