Chai Spice Snickerdoodles

November 29, 2019
10 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop stylist: Brooke Deonarine.
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Makes 12 to 16 cookies
Author Notes

When it comes to the holidays, everyone in my family seems to have an unofficial job. My mom does a lot of the cooking. My dad does the dishes and selects the magnums (yes, magnums) of wine that we’ll be consuming. My brother-in-law, David, handles cocktails. My sister, Meera, does the table settings. Me? I’ve never settled into a job—unless you count taste-testing my mom’s matar paneer. And whenever I’ve tried to insert myself into someone else’s task, I’ve been rebuffed. My dish-stacking skills weren’t good enough to help my dad, my chopping too subpar to assist my mom.

So one year, when I was home from college, I decided to take matters into my own hands, in the form of cookies. My family isn’t super well-versed in baking—but we love dessert, and I figured that cookies were doable for me. And who would say no to a platter of cookies innocently perched on the kitchen island?

The very first kitchen blog I read frequently was Post Punk Kitchen, which focused on vegan recipes. I was a vegetarian, and I loved reading about food; but a lot of the cooking blogs I found centered on big, meaty main courses. PPK was one of the first I encountered that leaned into lentil tacos, and wheatberry paella with chickpeas and leeks. There was a really straightforward recipe on the blog for chai snickerdoodles. A simple cookie seasoned exclusively with spices my family already knew and loved? An easy win.

The recipe was pretty basic—flour, oil, maple syrup, baking soda, vanilla, and a bunch of warming spices. I was skeptical of the lack of butter, and I used milk rather than soy milk because that’s what we had in the house. The steps were easy to follow and the dough came together quickly. I wanted to sprinkle that cardamom sugar topping on everything. Instead of using pre-ground spices, as the recipe called for, my mom taught me how to crush cardamom pods in the mortar and pestle, and grate cinnamon straight off the bark. I also upped the amount of each spice, because I do enjoy being smacked in the face with flavor. Soon, the smell of heady spices filled the kitchen, and my dad perked up as I opened the oven to take out the sheet tray (the guy cannot resist a cookie).

The cookies were gone in a day. I didn’t miss the butter. Actually, because there was no super prominent butter flavor, the spice taste was front and center. And the cookies managed to stay soft, chewy, and crumbly even after sitting out on the counter.

To be honest, I don’t make the cookies all that often anymore. We have since added new members to our family holiday gatherings who can make show-stopping pies and beautifully frosted cakes. There’s no need for me to make yet another dessert. Instead, I have settled into my role as a floater—running out to grab cups that my dad forgets, answering the door when the guests start to arrive, pinch-hitting for my mom when she needs someone to roast the vegetables for the aloo gobhi. But it’s nice to know that, should I need it, I have one foolproof, crowd-pleasing cookie recipe up my sleeve. One I have made over a dozen times, tweaked to make my own, and—most importantly—always ends with an empty platter. —Priya Krishna

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: Food52's Holiday Cookie Chronicles

This recipe is also featured in our video series One Host, Two Ways, brought to you by our friends at Basil Hayden®—we love to serve it with a Bourbon and Cream Sherry cocktail, made with Basil Hayden® Kentucky Straight Bourbon. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the topping:
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder, ground
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom, freshly ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
  • 1 pinch cloves, freshly ground
  • For the cookies:
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) canola oil
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (59ml) pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (250g) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the topping ingredients together on a dinner plate. Set aside.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork to vigorously mix together oil, sugar, syrup, and milk. Mix for at least a minute, until it resembles applesauce. Then mix in vanilla.
  4. Sift in remaining ingredients, stirring as you add them. Once all ingredients are added mix until you’ve got a pliable dough. Get in there with your hands to mix, it’s the easiest way to get the dough to come together.
  5. With clean, moist hands, roll dough into walnut sized balls. Pat into the sugar topping to flatten into roughly 2-inch (5cm) discs.
  6. Transfer to baking sheet, sugar side up, at least 2 inches (5cm) apart (they do spread a little). This should be easy as the bottom of the cookies should just stick to your fingers so you can just flip them over onto the baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, they should be a bit browned on the bottoms.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Mae
  • Monica Nicole
    Monica Nicole
  • amdame1
  • loosylou

11 Reviews

Mae December 20, 2021
These were unfortunately a complete waste of flour and time. They cooled within minutes to be hard as a rock and inedible. This definitely needs some tweaking and chai flavor does not come through
loosylou December 8, 2021
I liked these! They were nice and it's nice to have a Christmas cookie recipe you don't have to chill before baking. Grinding the spices fresh took a lot of time, but maybe that was just me as I've never shelled cardamom pods before.
Aditi April 10, 2021
Nice and easy recipe. I used coconut oil, and honey instead of maple syrup. I was impressed with the texture, chewy but substantial, considering these are almost vegan. I have not had snickerdoodles before, so I found these a little too sweet - next time, I might just add the spices to the dough as another reviewer suggested, and skip the sugar coating.
Aditi September 27, 2021
Update: I made them again, but skipped the sugar topping (which doesn't really make it a snickerdoodle, I guess) and added the spices to the dough. I also pressed the tops into crushed nuts (almonds and cashews) in place of the sugar topping. I really liked this version and will continue making it this way. I might try reducing the sugar to 150 g since I still found them quite sweet.
bocage February 24, 2021
I love this recipe! It comes together quickly with a just few pantry staples, so they are great for making on a whim. I often add more spice than recommend, including some freshly ground nutmeg.

hetalkaria December 23, 2020
used whole wheat flour and plant based milk and these came out great!! staple during the holiday season at home!
improbability December 22, 2020
I’m not sold on this recipe. I’m a diehard PPK fan, but this still needs some tweaking. I used plant butter instead of oil hopping to give the dough some body, but as another reviewer mentioned, the flour ratio seemed off. I ended up adding an extra half-cup of flour. This gave me a nice, manageable dough which I refrigerated for a few hours before baking. Unfortunately, the chai spices didn’t come through for me at all. Next time I think I’ll add them directly to the dough. Still questing for the perfect snickerdoodle ...
indykath December 17, 2020
One of 3 cookies I chose from this collection. I ended up having to refrigerate the dough for a couple days and it worked fine. Delicious, a keeper with a little twist! Thank you!
Monica N. December 16, 2020
Do not follow this recipe to the letter. The sugar to liquid ratio is wrong and they come out hard as bricks after they are cool. Use either 1 cup of oil or plant butter and add another cup of flour to the recipe. I had better results and had soft cookies with the modified recipe.
Talia January 5, 2020
I used a "plant butter" that was being given away at the grocery store. At room temp, it was very soft so I thought it would be a decent sub for oil since I don't have any neutral oils at home. The cookies are great! Very soft and with a good level of spice. I knew my fam wouldn't love the ginger and cloves so I stuck with cinnamon and cardomom and the result was really good but with less pep. Maybe next time, some orange or lemon zest will help deliver a little snap without going into the spice range that my household won't eat.
amdame1 December 15, 2019
What I liked about this particular snickerdoodle recipe was that you didn't need to refrigerate the dough! I also liked that it's got a little bit more flavor to it that your typical snickerdoodle. I baked mine 10 minutes which was the shorter end of the suggested time and feel like they are a bit over-baked - but they were the last item of an 8 hour marathon baking day so maybe the oven was just too hot by that point.