Change One Thing, Get This Genius Chocolate Chip Cookie

December  7, 2016

Not that there was anything wrong with chocolate chip cookies. (I legally have to make that disclaimer.)

But—just as you don’t wear your favorite robe to an important meeting or a fancy party—there are times that call for something a little more refined, instead of simply sweet and familiar.

This is a cookie you can set out at a party that will give everyone something to talk about. It’s one that you can bundle up and give with intention—hey, you can say, I thought you’d like this. No one ever said hey, I thought you’d like this about regular chocolate chip cookies. Because that would be like pretending you’re introducing someone to ABBA. (Obviously everyone already loves ABBA.)

Yet for all of this newness and excitement, you’re still following the exact same process—and nearly the same ingredients—as the steps you grew up reading off the back of the bag of chocolate chips: Cream butter with sugar, plop in eggs, stir in dry floury stuff sloooowly, then chocolate bits, then bake. You can mix these on full autopilot (and, therefore, you can mix them fast).

The one thing that’s different? Along with the softened butter and sugar, you’ll add a half cup of tahini. The nutty, goopy sesame seed paste—star of hummus and baba ganoush—is one of those ingredients that can lean into sweet as easily as savory, like nutmeg or mint or, of course, all sorts of seeds and nuts.

“I wanted a way to introduce tahini in desserts to the American palate,” Danielle Oron, creator of this recipe for her cookbook Modern Israeli Cooking, told me. “I figured that the best way to do that is to make a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, but to replace the peanut butter with tahini.”

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More: See how Sarah Jampel went the other way with Peanut Butter (née Tahini) Brioche.

Because it tastes faintly like a chocolate chip cookie mashed up with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Oron considers this a gateway recipe. Tahini is essentially peanut butter’s slightly smokier, huskier-voiced cousin—you just have know how to use it.

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Top Comment:
“I have a recipe for 4 ingredient (5 really because I roll them in sparkle sugar) peanut butter cookies. Trying them with tahini too. Today!!”
— Susan W.

Oron also swirls it into brownies, whips it into this haunting mousse pie, and advises, “Usually you can switch out tahini in any peanut butter baked good, only use a tablespoon or two less because tahini is more oily and liquid than peanut butter. Otherwise, no rules!”

Here, the tahini gives you not only the savory, nutty notes, but a crystalline, halvah-like crunch that ordinary chocolate chip cookies won’t have.

Show it off at parties, as a gift for every host and anyone on your list who stumps you, or, as Oron recommends, “Store them in the freezer, baking them off one at a time for midnight snacks.” For that one, you can wear your favorite robe.

Photos by Mark Weinberg

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • George H
    George H
  • Heather
  • danielle
  • Susan W
    Susan W
  • Sara
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


George H. March 17, 2018
After some tries I came to the conclusion tahini is not good choice for cookies. The reason is that tahini is NOT pure fat.

Unlike butter or vegetable oil, the starch inside tahini hardens the cookie dough, even worse if you use unhulled, which has quite some fiber. At the end, the final step to spoon out individual cookies is not as easy, the texture of the cookies is off.

Eatable, enjoyable but not a good choice.
Heather December 16, 2016
When buying tahini I saw the option of hulled and unhulled. Which do you suggest?
Kristen M. December 17, 2016
I've always used hulled, and that's where I would start with this recipe. The unhulled sort might be too bitter for using in cookies, though I haven't tried it—if someone else has, I hope they'll pipe up!
danielle December 12, 2016
Is there any way you could substitute almond meal, or any other non-wheat "flour" for the white flour? Would this work? I am trying to stay away from white flour!
Kristen M. December 17, 2016
Hi Danielle, I haven't tried it, but I would probably try substituting no more than half the amount of non-wheat flour or nut meal the first time, unless you have a reliable non-wheat flour blend you really love. Alice Medrich has a wonderful book on baking with alternative flours in our shop called Flavor Flours—she's the real pro at this sort of thing!
Susan W. December 11, 2016
So excited to try these. What an awesome idea. I must make them today! I have a recipe for 4 ingredient (5 really because I roll them in sparkle sugar) peanut butter cookies. Trying them with tahini too. Today!!
Kristen M. December 11, 2016
Love your enthusiasm!
Sara December 9, 2016
These are so yummy! When I made them however, they were very pale. I'm assuming because of the lack of brown sugar. How did you get yours so golden? Could you swap half of the sugar for brown sugar and still keep the taste relatively the same?
Kristen M. December 11, 2016
Yes, I assume Danielle omitted brown sugar for a purer tahini flavor, but I've tried with half brown sugar, too—also good! I must have just left the cookies in the oven a minute or two longer than golden brown edges on photo shoot day—all work, just a matter of preference.
Christine M. December 8, 2016
These sound delicous. Please note that tahini (sesame) is a not so well known allergen for many kids. If serving these cookies please make sure everyone knows the "secret" ingredient as one would not normally expect sesame in a chocolate chip cookie. Thank you!
Kristen M. December 8, 2016
Thank you for pointing this out, Christine.
JoAnne L. December 11, 2016
You are right Christine, I can tolerate sesami seeds and light sesami oil in moderation but I'm allergic to tahini. VERY allergic to tahini! I have the same reaction as I do to walnuts but it's more severe.
Michele W. December 7, 2016
do the cookies taste like halvah?
Kristen M. December 8, 2016
A little yes! And my favorite part is that the texture is similar to halvah, too.
George H. December 7, 2016
Do you let the dough rest for a bit, like an hour to set? Does it make it better or is it totally unnecessary?
Kristen M. December 8, 2016
The recipe (linked above) calls for 12 hours resting in the freezer, but I even love them baked straightaway (note that they'll spread more if the dough isn't cold).
Joy H. December 7, 2016
What a great idea! I've been wanting to make a nut-free version of my puppy chow pie, and I think I'll try this out. Thanks!
Kristen M. December 8, 2016
Ohh, puppy chow pie...
Ali W. December 7, 2016
It feels good to say "hey I've made this recipe before and now it's in the Genius column!" Seriously, so good. I have a batch of dough in my freezer rn. Also, all the recipes I've made from Danielle Oron are magical. Simple but incredibly tasty and flavorful. Good call!
Kristen M. December 8, 2016
So happy that makes you feel proud, secondbasil :D (Makes me think you should be sending me more of your favorite recipes because they're I bet they're genius!)
Judy K. December 11, 2016
could you bake these cookies ahead of time and freeze them?
Kristen M. December 20, 2016
Hi Judy, sorry I missed your question—I believe you could, but the texture might not be as crisp (haven't tried it though). Better would be freezing the dough balls as Danielle recommends, and baking them off as needed. Pros: warm cookies, good-smelling house!