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.
But using it instead of butter, like a 1:1 substitution? Does that actually work?
“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.
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.
Note: I started with Dorie Greenspan's Classic Best Chocolate Chip Cookies and adjusted from there. —Emma Laperruque
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 40 minutes
- Makes about 32 cookies
(227 grams) tahini (1 scant cup)
(200 grams) sugar
(142 grams) brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons
(256 grams) all-purpose flour
(340 grams) bittersweet chocolate chunks (about 2 cups)
- Heat the oven to 375° F. Line a couple sheet pans with parchment or silicone mats.
- Combine the tahini, sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium for a couple minutes, scraping down with a rubber spatula once or twice. It will be crumbly, not creamy.
- Add the eggs, water, and vanilla extract. Continue to mix on medium for another couple minutes, again scraping every so often. The mixture will look glossy and fudgy.
- Add the salt and baking soda. Mix on low just to combine. Add the flour and mix until almost combined. Now add the chocolate chips and mix again.
- Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough onto the prepared sheet pans. Fill a glass with water, dip your fingers in, then use them to flatten the cookie dough blobs—figure to a little over 1/2-inch thick. (Don’t worry if you leave the top of the cookie slightly wet!)
- Bake for 9 to 11 minutes until the edges are turning golden brown but the centers are still tender. (If you like slightly underbaked cookies—you aren’t alone!—lean toward the shorter time. If you like crispier, keep them in the oven slightly longer.)
- Let cool on the tray for a few minutes before using a spatula to transfer to a cooling rack. Repeat the above with the remaining dough.
- P.S. These freeze well!