The Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies Our Staff Is Obsessed With

September  6, 2018

Earlier this summer, I was chatting with Lisa Mendelson—one of the owners of Seed & Mill, a tiny tahini haven in Chelsea Market—when she said something shocking:

“I don’t use butter anymore.”

We were talking about tahini-obsessed desserts, a category we here at Food52 are verrrrry familiar with: We mix tahini into cake batter. We spread it inside tarts. We use it instead of peanut butter.

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But using it instead of butter, like a 1:1 substitution? Does that actually work?

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Top Comment:
“They just taste like choc chip cookies that badly need butter. I weighed the ingredients with my scale and tried to use the recommended mixing speeds, so the only thing I can think is that maybe my tahini wasn’t of the best quality? Not sure, but won’t make these again and will put them out as a free work treat on Monday haha. ”
— mckenzie

“Yes!” Mendelson told me. “That’s how I make chocolate chip cookies.”

If you’ve hung out in our Genius Recipes column before, you may be friendly with Danielle Oron’s salted tahini chocolate chip cookies, originally published in Modern Israeli Cooking.

Our Genius leader Kristen Miglore describes the recipe as such: “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.” But, “along with the softened butter and sugar, you’ll add a half cup of tahini.”

Mendelson’s approach skips the butter altogether. Which, between you and me, I was skeptical of (sorry, Lisa!). So I went home and tried it myself. At first, the dough was stiff to scoop and stubborn in the oven, not melting and spreading as much as the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies of my childhood.

A little water fixed all this: I added a splash to the dough and flattened the cookie scoops with damp fingers.

Like all crispy-chewy cookies, these notice every minute that they’re in the oven. Between 8 and 11 minutes, you go from an ultra-gooey center to something slightly cakier and more golden brown. Start by baking a few test cookies to find which one is right for you. If you’re like me, you’ll like them all, and feel totally conflicted.

Photo by Emma Laperruque

All these recipe tests turned into office snacks, which turned into I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-butter conversations with my coworkers.

“I ate 1,000,” our Senior Editor Eric Kim told me. (I can neither confirm nor deny this.)

“I was taught love and butter are the same thing,” Assistant Editor Katie Macdonald said. “But when I took these home for my friends, I ended up eating them all myself while binging Narcos on Netflix. And I’m not even sorry about it.”

Now, thanks to Mendelson, we’re all the sort of people who say, “I don’t use butter anymore.” At least when it comes to chocolate chip cookies.

more chocolate, please

What's your favorite way to update a classic chocolate chip cookie? Share in the comments!


Dianne G. March 12, 2019
These are my husband's favorite cookie now and after sharing with others our friend and doctor (!) loves them too. Tahini is a new staple in our house!
Author Comment
Emma L. March 12, 2019
Aw yay! So happy to hear that.
Jingjing T. December 6, 2018
What do you mean by flattened?
Author Comment
Emma L. December 6, 2018
Hi! After scooping the cookie dough, just gently press with your palm to flatten the dome.
Ellen N. November 15, 2018
First time I commented on a recipe.
The best cookie recipe ever!!!!!!!
I added a 1/2 cup of cocoa after reading Natalie’s comment. However,I cut the flour down to a cup and used only a 1/2
a cup of white sugar in addition to the 2/3 cup of brown sugar.
Author Comment
Emma L. November 16, 2018
Yay to first comment! So glad you enjoyed and thanks so much for reporting back on your awesome adaptation!
kathryn C. September 19, 2018
I made these yesterday as I had a cup of tahini in the frig to use up. My of my are they great. This is my new chocolate chip recipe to reach for. Wonderful with a light tahini taste.
Author Comment
Emma L. September 19, 2018
Thanks, Kathryn!
Natalie M. September 15, 2018
May favorite cookie!
I’ve done a recipe like this before. But with a twist
Using Black tahini instead of regular and then doing 1/2 cup cocoa powder and 1 1/2 cups flour. Coconut sugar can be used lowering the total amount of sugar by a third. Try it!!!!
Author Comment
Emma L. September 16, 2018
Wow! I bet the color looks so cool with black tahini—maybe as a "spooky" Halloween treat!
Ellen N. November 15, 2018
I too added the cocoa powder .
Very smart!!!😊
Stephanie September 14, 2018
I made this recipe today. The cookies are delicious!! Everyone in the family asked me to keep this recipe as our family's new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Thanks.
Author Comment
Emma L. September 16, 2018
Aw, that's so wonderful to hear—thanks, Stephanie!
Jennifer G. September 14, 2018
Just made these in preparation for the hurricane. They are so good!!! I need to make them a little flatter, though. I baked them for 12 minutes (I like crunchy) and they never got brown on top like your photo. They still taste great!
SaraQ September 14, 2018
The Tahini that I have in my pantry usually requires me to add water. For this recipe should I reconstitute my tahini or use the concentrated.
Author Comment
Emma L. September 14, 2018
Hi! I'm actually not familiar with concentrated tahini—is it like a powder? Would you please be able to share a link to the product?
Dora G. September 14, 2018
Use the concentrated. You use water only when you make tahini as a dip, lemon & water that is, or when you make hummus. Not in baking. I use tahini in baking, you only add water if the recipe asks for it.
CameronM5 September 14, 2018
I usually replace half the brown sugar with honey to make the cookies softer. I am 100% trying these this weeken!
Sophie September 10, 2018
Just made these and they are super tasty! I didn't miss the butter at all, and the tahini provided a nice nutty under-flavor. Only complaint: The dough is super hard to work with. Definitely need that cup of water on the side.
Author Comment
Emma L. September 11, 2018
So happy to hear you enjoyed them, Sophie!
mckenzie September 8, 2018
Made these Friday night and honestly feel disappointed. They just taste like choc chip cookies that badly need butter. I weighed the ingredients with my scale and tried to use the recommended mixing speeds, so the only thing I can think is that maybe my tahini wasn’t of the best quality? Not sure, but won’t make these again and will put them out as a free work treat on Monday haha.
Author Comment
Emma L. September 11, 2018
Hi Mckenzie—sorry to hear they weren't for you. We loved these as an update on an old favorite, but they're def different than what most people (including myself!) are used to. If you're interested in a more middle-ground tahini chocolate chip cookie, here's another version with butter:
Wyatt September 7, 2018
So I gave these a try last night and they turned out terribly. I'm not sure what I did wrong. They came out incredibly cake-y, poofy and tough -- a terrible texture. Regardless of how much I flattened them, they always came out thick and rounded on top, never flattening back down and getting creases like in your pictures. After re-reading the recipe, the only deviation that I spot is that I sifted the flour into the batter.
Any thoughts on what I might have done wrong?
Author Comment
Emma L. September 11, 2018
Hi Wyatt—I'm so sorry to hear that. How did you measure the flour? (Volume or weight?) Sifting alone shouldn't cause any issues, so I'm a bit stumped myself.
siri September 7, 2018
Totally going to try this! Been craving choc chip cookies, which for some reason appear to have disappeared from my local shops (I live in Cape Town). I wonder how this will work with a low carb or gluten free flour alternative? I'll have to experiment and see...
Author Comment
Emma L. September 7, 2018
Hi Siri, yay! Cookie cravings must be answered :) I haven't tried a gluten-free flour alternative here but if you do, def let us know how it goes!
Jessica J. September 6, 2018
I have a question about the amount of tahini -- it says 8 ounces/scant 2 cups. I did a little research and found that 227 grams works out to 8oz by weight (i.e., half a pound), but the rest of the recipe doesn't start with mass measurements and then convert them into volume. I also double checked and it looks like a cup of tahini is about 224 grams. Would you mind clarifying how much tahini should be used in this recipe? Thanks!!
Author Comment
Emma L. September 6, 2018
Hi Jessica, thanks for the catch. That was a typo, which I've corrected—it should be 1 scant cup—so sorry about that! (We standardize tahini here at 250g/cup.) We led with the weight on that particular ingredient because we found it's easier (and more accurate) to weigh the tahini directly into the mixing bowl versus using a measuring cup.
Eric K. September 6, 2018
I can't believe it's not ... !
Author Comment
Emma L. September 7, 2018