Recipe Review

Everything You Need to Know About “Healthy” Cookie Dough

updated May 29, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

“Healthy” cookie dough falls into the same category as zucchini noodles and cauliflower crusts: lightened-up alternatives to classic (albeit carb-heavy) favorites. If you’re hopeful you won’t notice a difference in taste, you’re mistaken; try as they might, none come close to the real deal. But personally, I’ve taken a liking to spiralized veggies and cauliflower alternatives, mostly because I think of them as fun sides, not as replacements for some of my favorite foods. I was hoping if I approached healthy cookie dough with the same mindset, I might be on board with it, too.

What Exactly Is “Healthy” Cookie Dough?

A few years ago, you couldn’t scroll through Pinterest or even walk past the refrigerator section of the grocery store without seeing edible raw cookie dough, a spoonable snack made with toasted flour to kill bacteria and either no eggs at all or a pasteurized egg product. The stuff was everywhere: shared on blogs, mass-produced and packaged into tubs, even sold scooped into ice cream cones at brick-and-mortar stores.

Healthy eaters wanted in on the fun, so more recently the trend has taken a twist: recipes for “high-protein,” and “gluten-free” doughs have replaced the sprinkle and chocolate-laden varieties. After some digging, I discovered there are three primary varieties of healthy cookie dough.

1. Chickpea Cookie Dough: These recipes feature protein-packed chickpeas as the primary ingredient. When blitzed in the food processor, they become smooth and creamy. (If you’re not convinced, think of hummus.)

2. Cashew Cookie Dough: Out of any nut, cashews arguably become the creamiest when blended, which is why soaked cashews form the base of a number of healthy cookie doughs.

3. Alternative Flour Cookie Dough: In attempt to mimic traditional cookie dough as closely as possible, these use a gluten-free blend or almond flour in place of all-purpose flour.

To be honest, I wouldn’t make any of these (as written) again. I went in with an open mind, but left, quite literally, with an unpleasant taste in my mouth. If I want a healthy dessert, I’d rather eat a bowl of fresh fruit, a cup of chia pudding, a square of dark chocolate — the list goes on.

But if the idea of edible cookie dough intrigues you, I do think that with a few tweaks, one of the recipes could be right for you. Here’s what you should know before you get started.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Which Healthy Cookie Dough Is Right for You?

The chickpea cookie dough (above) was the most dip-like of the three — instead of eating it with a spoon, you could spread it onto a banana or apple slices, or use it as a dip for graham crackers. It was easy to make: You process chickpeas, vanilla, almond butter, maple syrup, oats, salt, and baking soda in the food processor until smooth, then stir in the chocolate. I like all those ingredients, so I had high hopes, but I felt it was lacking flavor; it either needed to be nuttier, sweeter, or saltier.

The baking soda was supposed to give it that signature “cookie dough flavor,” but I didn’t find that to be true. If you’re looking for a healthy dessert dip (or if you enjoy other bean-based desserts, such as chickpea blondies), this could be right for you, with a few tweaks. I recommend substituting white beans for chickpeas (they’re milder, and won’t overwhelm the dip like the chickpeas did), using dark roasted almond butter (I like this one), toasting the oats before adding them in, opting for date syrup instead of maple, and adding a few more pinches of salt.

The cashew cookie dough was the most labor-intensive: You have to soak the cashews for an hour before processing them with vanilla, almond meal, almond butter, salt, and honey, then stirring in chocolate. I also found this dough to be pretty plain-tasting. If you’re a fan of cashew butter, this might be right for you, but I suggest adding more vanilla, salt, and almond butter, and using a flavorful honey variety, such as buckwheat. If you have a Vitamix, try making it in there — soak the cashews directly in the blender and then add everything else in and give it a whir. This might help give it a creamier consistency. Also, opt for high-quality chopped dark chocolate as the mix-in.

The cookie dough made with gluten-free flour was the easiest to make: You simply stir together nut butter, applesauce, salt, vanilla, agave nectar or honey, gluten-free flour, and chocolate chips. While it was the closest in flavor and texture to traditional cookie dough, the flour gave it a gummy, almost chewy consistency. If I were to make this again, I would stir together all the other ingredients first, then slowly add the flour until it reached a more desirable consistency. I would use the nut butter and chocolate suggestions I mentioned above.

Have you ever made healthy cookie dough? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below!