New-Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies With All Tahini & No Butter

May 30, 2021
49 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Makes about 32 cookies
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
New-Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies With All Tahini & No Butter
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) tahini (1 scant cup)
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 2/3 cup (142 grams) brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups (256 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) bittersweet chocolate chunks (about 2 cups)
  1. Heat the oven to 375° F. Line a couple sheet pans with parchment or silicone mats.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!)
  6. 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.)
  7. 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.
  8. P.S. These freeze well!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • msjyu
  • Mariah Green
    Mariah Green
  • Naomi Grunzeweig
    Naomi Grunzeweig
  • Linda Zeigler
    Linda Zeigler
  • Jennifer Kaufman Gresham
    Jennifer Kaufman Gresham
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

92 Reviews

[email protected] November 7, 2023
Kid pleaser! Very subtle nuttiness. Next time I’ll sprinkle a teeny bit of flaky salt on them. If you want flatter cookies make sure you flatten the balls of dough.
ashleexry September 9, 2022
I made these exactly as written and they tasted amazing, although I could do with a bit more of the sesame flavor. Regardless, will definitely be making these again someday!
kongjie May 19, 2020
Made a vegan version using two flax-seed eggs. Used single-source Soomfoods tahini and it was great--I was concerned about too much of a nutty taste but it was only barely perceptible and a tasty addition at that. Also reduced sugar by 10 percent or so and same with the chips. Did all the steps by hand only using a fork and spoon. Required closer to 15 minutes cooking (for half-batch; I froze half the batter for another day).
LV April 15, 2020
I found the tahini to be very overpowering. I added butterscotch chips to the second batch and I found that that improved the overall taste. Love the idea of using tahini vs butter so this recipe really got me excited!
profnina January 1, 2020
Delicious! I used a rich-flavored tahini from a company called Ziyad, purchased at local Middle Eastern market. (Ziyad's in Illinois, purchased at Vine Ripe in San Diego.) Took an extra minute or two for these to turn golden brown, and then they were pretty hard when they cooled—more of a biscotti texture in a cookie shape. Next time I won't wait for golden brown. Also, I did all mixing by hand. Not a problem!
profnina January 6, 2020
P.S. Emma, I know your cousin Sean!
Nicde December 16, 2019
I made these for Christmas cookie gift bags and ultimately decided not to included these coolies in the mix. I had the same experience As other commenters here. They were really lackluster in flavor and were an unappealing grey color than never fully browned. Wouldn’t make again.
MKC October 20, 2019
My housemates and I made the recipe pretty much exactly as written, baked ~6 cookies right away and left the rest of the dough in the fridge for a day. The 6 cookies baked immediately were boldly sesame-flavored. The ones we baked the second day had mellowed out considerably on the tahini flavor, leaving just a nice indescribable complexity and lovely chewy texture.

I also baked the second-day batch at a lower temperature (325F) for a longer time (16 min), and pressed them gently with a greased spoon to flatten-- I preferred the shape of these. Thank you for a great recipe; I'll be making these again for sure! And will maybe try cutting the white sugar a bit like others suggested.

Flaky sea salt on top was a must.

We used Artisana Organic Raw Tahini very fastidiously stirred, and I imagine the results vary with the kind of tahini one uses. Our result was a pale cookie but with a nice, crackly matte patina.

I am also glad to hear that GF adaptations worked out well; I think my GF-DF friends will be pretty pleased with these :]
cmcinnyc May 29, 2019
These are the only cookies I've ever made that tasted better the next day. Last night I would have agreed with the "meh" crowd, but today? They're good! I've made soups and stews that have tasted better next day, but this is a first for a cookie. Also, I'm considering subbing part of the sugar for molasses if I make these again.
Burton January 28, 2019
These are absolutely delicious. The sesame flavor is much milder than I was expecting, given how much tahini goes into these. It's not so much like a peanut butter cookie with chocolate chips and sesame instead of peanut flavor, as it is like a regular, classic chocolate chip cookie, with a subtle sesame undertone. Like most other chocolate chip cookie recipes, these freeze well, and seem to benefit from a day or two in the freezer before baking. Be aware that they do not spread very much, and rise quite a bit when they bake – rather than freezing them in scoop shapes, I'd suggest flattening your scoops before freezing, so that they'll defrost into a better shape for baking.
Emma L. January 28, 2019
Thanks, so glad you enjoyed!
rosecedar January 11, 2019
Could folks who were pleased with their results share the brand of tahini they used? I find that tahini varies a lot in flavor and texture and I'd like to use a brand that's yielded a good result.
Jennifer K. January 11, 2019
The last batch I made, I used the entire 8 oz jar from Trader Joe's. The one before that, I think was from Costco. I had great results from both.
Eunice December 16, 2018
I just made these & the came out nice and golden brown. They have an interesting texture of crispness exterior and chewy inside. I like the tahini flavor of it but can't quite decide if I love them. While my cookies be beautifully golden, they didn't have the pretty crackling tops. The only thing I did differently was I made the dough a 2 days prior kept it in the fridge. The dough keeps well, scoops well, and spreads minimally.
msjyu November 9, 2018
I can't wait to give these a go. Thank you for the share! :)
Mariah G. November 4, 2018
WOW!! I think these just might be the best choc chip cookies I've ever had!! Amazing.
sarah P. October 13, 2018
Afraid I got in a bad mood right off the bat when I opened the tahini can and had to spend 10 messy minutes (should have spent longer) trying to integrate the oil and blend the lumps of tahini paste. The resulting dough, once I'd cleaned the oil off the counter and the floor and my hands was super stiff. So stiff that I had a very hard time mixing in the chocolate chips!
kstone November 4, 2018
I had the exact same experience plus it was on the floor too ;-/
Naomi G. October 12, 2018
These are amazing! Slightly cakey but still chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside. And the mild nutty tahini flavour is incredible! I'll never make chocolate chip cookies with butter again!
Linda Z. October 10, 2018
Heavy and somewhat caked. Flavor meh...rather taste tahini in hummus. Will not make again.
Emma L. October 10, 2018
Sorry they weren't for you, Linda! Speaking of hummus, here's a particularly tahini-forward (and particularly good!) version:
Jennifer K. October 9, 2018
So I just made these for the second time. Lowered the cane sugar to 2/3 cup, everything else the same. I swapped half the chocolate chips with peanut butter chips. I baked them for 11-12 minutes, 'cause I like mine a little on the crispy side. Oh.My.Goodness! I don't think I'm going back to butter in my chocolate chip cookies ever again!
Emma L. October 10, 2018
Thanks, Jennifer! And thanks for reporting back on how you adapted the recipe.
Jennifer K. October 10, 2018
By the way, Ms. Emma ... I also made your turmeric sugar cookies last week. Holy moly, woman! Those were the most amazing flavor, I just can't decide what the flavor is. My neighbor says it's "love" and will never eat any other sugar cookie ever again! Keep the amazing recipes coming!
Emma L. October 11, 2018
Aw, thank you so much! I love developing cookie recipes...because it means eating a lot of cookies!
breakbread October 6, 2018
These are outrageous. Salty and sweet. The tahini is an adulterated peanut butter - sophisticated and alluring. Out of curiosity, I did use 1/4 cup of almond flour in place of 1/4 c of the AP. Delicious. Also lowered the cane sugar to a 2/3C (142g) as others suggested. I could go even further down to about 240grams in total sugar (which someone did review).
I do not have grey-beige cookies. I have a theory...I spent a lot of time to be sure my tahini was fully mixed so there were no clumps of dry paste in my weight measurement. Since the oil in the tahini replaces the butter, I wonder if my cookies browned OK because I had a full ratio of oil from a solid stir of the tahini?
Baked for 12 minutes and have crisp edges and soft interior. These are just unbelievable.
Emma L. October 7, 2018
Thanks so much, breakbread! And thanks for reporting back on your adaptations, too.
Michelle P. September 27, 2018
I made these and had great success! I gave them to a few friends and they could only describe them as "different, but delicious". There's a hit of salt at the end that make them crazy addictive.

I do agree with some other reviewers that mine were not nearly as brown as the picture. Mine were almost beige, gray but I think that's due to the coloration of the tahini.
Emma L. September 30, 2018
So glad you and your friends liked 'em, Michelle!
mckenzie September 26, 2018
I'm not sure why my comment isn't showing up. Anyway, I'm so disappointed that these weren't a success for me. They were very "meh." I weighed each ingredient on a scale, so I'm wondering if it was the brand of tahini I used. It must be because clearly I'm in the minority! I'm determined to nail this one, so I'm going to try it again with a new jar.
Emma L. September 30, 2018
So sorry they didn't turn out as you hoped, Mckenzie! The no-butter element does yield a different flavor; in case that's what's creating the meh-ness to you, here's another recipe that uses both butter and tahini: