FAQ: Dreena, how can I make oil-free vegan cookies?… “can I replace the oil with applesauce?”
Short answer: No.
You *can* substitute with applesauce if you don’t mind the texture changing to a softer, more muffin-like baked good.
However, if you want a classic cookie texture – that is, a chewy/crisp texture, applesauce is not the answer.
Applesauce, and other fruit purees like pumpkin and banana work beautifully in muffins, quick breads, and snack cookies that are soft. These purees lend moisture and also sweetness, flavor, and body. When you want a classic cookie texture, however, it’s quite difficult to do so without adding some fat.
That fat doesn’t have to be oil. It can be a whole-foods fat, such as peanut butter, nut butters, avocado puree, seed or soy nut butters, or coconut butter. When using nut and seed butters, you will generally have a nutty flavor. Somewhat obvious. When using coconut butter, however, the final product tastes buttery and rich.
Coconut butter is one of my favorite ingredients for plant-based desserts, and also for oil-free vegan cookies. I receive plenty of questions about coconut butter too. It’s a confusing ingredient, because labelling is not very standardized. Coconut butter is not the same as coconut oil. It’s the whole coconut pureed into a butter – much like peanuts to peanut butter or almonds to almond butter. Yes, it’s high in fat. However, in terms of working with whole foods ingredients, it is one. In fact, you can make it yourself at home with unsweetened shredded coconut and a blender! (I have the DIY in Plant-Powered Families, flip to page 253). It is still quite high in fat, so I’m not suggesting you consume coconut butter liberally in your daily diet. We’re talking cookies and desserts here, not lunch. 😉 So, if you want to bake cookies from whole vegan food ingredients, this is one of your go-to swaps, along with nut/seed/soy butters, and also avocado.
When using a nut butter or coconut butter, it’s not usually a straight substitution for oil either. That’s because nut butters (and coconut butter in particular) are denser and thicker than oil. You will have difficulty bringing the mixture together without some other fixes. As a rule, I recommend using established oil-free vegan cookie recipes, rather than experimenting with substitutions and finding the process frustrating or time consuming. I’m sharing a recipe for you today to help you!
However, if you do want to embark on that recipe testing, here are my tips…
5 tips for making oil-free vegan cookies:
1) Look at the amount of oil used in the recipe, and substitute nut/seed/coconut butter for about 3/4 (roughly) of that amount. This is a general rule, every recipe will be different. But, generally, you will want close to the measure, but not quite the full measure.
2) Now, add back some liquid moisture. Because oil is thinner than nut butter, you need to help liquefy the batter again. I wouldn’t advise water, but instead I’d reduce the dry sweetener slightly and then add back a little liquid sweetener. My choice is almost always pure maple syrup.
3) How much liquid you use (point 2) you use will depend on the recipe and also the thickness of your nut/seed/coconut butter. For instance, coconut butter is exceptionally dense and dry. It’s not smooth and liquid like tahini or macadamia nut butter. Macadamia butter is particularly buttery and liquid, more than say almond butter or cashew butter (which is often thicker than almond butter). Each seed and nut butter varies in its thickness, and also varies from when you open it (a fresh jar) to when you are almost finished it. Despite stirring, a jar of nut butter is always thicker and drier at the end of that jar!
4) If the batter is dry, try another touch of sweetener mixed with a touch more nut/seed/coconut butter… or, add a touch of non-dairy milk. Not too much milk though. For most cookie recipes yielding about 20 cookies, I wouldn’t add more than about 1-2 tablespoons for optimal texture.
5) On the other hand, if the batter is too loose/wet (which can happen especially if a nut or seed butter is thinner/oilier – see point 3), add back a little more flour or dry sweetener – other other dry ingredient like rolled oats, unsweetened shredded coconut, flax meal, etc.
Those are the steps I use when working out a recipe. Of course, you can instead just use a recipe that already works!
These oil-free vegan cookies from Plant-Powered Families have already received a lot of love, so I’m sharing it for you today. It uses coconut butter as the oil replacer. I do have others in the book and on my blog using nut/seed butters.
Enjoy! x Dreena
Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 1/2 cup coconut butter not tightly packed, see note
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp oat flour
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup nondairy chocolate chips mini or regular
- In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the coconut butter and maple syrup. Mix, slowly to start, then at a higher speed until smoothed out. Add the oat flour, coconut sugar, vanilla bean powder, and sea salt to the coconut butter mixture, and sift in the baking powder and baking soda. Mix at slow speed (so the dry ingredients don’t poof!), and then bring up to medium speed and mix until everything just comes together. Add the chocolate chips and mix to just incorporate. The mixture should be a little sticky, not dry, but not too wet either. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula, then transfer to the fridge to chill for 1/2 hour. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 1–1 1/2-tablespoon scoops of the batter on the prepared baking sheet. Slightly flatten each cookie with a spatula or your hand. Bake for 11 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool for 2–3 minutes on the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completel
Note: It can be tricky to measure coconut butter when it's very hard. Use a butter knife to work out small chunks/slivers when hard. It’s better to measure in small pieces than in larger chunks, so the actual measure is more accurate. If your coconut butter is very cold, try warming slightly by submerging full jar in a bowl/sink of warm water until it softens. Idea: Use this batter to make cookie dough ice cream! Save a little batter when making the cookies, maybe 1/3 cup. Roll into tiny balls and mix through a pint of softened vanilla or chocolate nondairy ice cream!
photo credit: Nicole Axworthy