Most traditional chocolate chip cookie recipes contain some form of dairy product like butter or milk, making them not vegan-friendly. However, there are dairy-free chocolate chip cookie recipes that substitute ingredients like vegetable oil and non-dairy milk for the butter and dairy milk. So whether chocolate chip cookies contain dairy depends on the specific recipe used.
Ingredients in Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes
The core ingredients in a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe are:
- Flour – Usually all-purpose flour or cake flour. Does not contain dairy.
- Butter or margarine – Butter contains dairy. Some margarines contain dairy as well.
- Sugar – Granulated white sugar does not contain dairy.
- Eggs – Eggs are a dairy product.
- Chocolate chips – Most chocolate chips do not contain dairy, but some brands add milk fat.
- Salt – Salt does not contain dairy.
- Vanilla extract – Pure vanilla extract does not contain dairy. Some imitation extracts contain dairy.
- Baking soda – Does not contain dairy.
- Milk or cream – Milk and cream are dairy products.
So traditional chocolate chip cookie dough contains at minimum two ingredients with dairy – butter and eggs. Most recipes also include milk or cream for enhanced flavor and texture. So traditionally, chocolate chip cookies are not vegan or dairy-free.
Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes
It is possible to make chocolate chip cookies without dairy for those who cannot or choose not to consume dairy products. Dairy-free chocolate chip cookies substitute the dairy ingredients with plant-based alternatives:
- Instead of butter – Vegetable oils like coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, or vegan margarine.
- Instead of milk – Non-dairy milks like almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, soy milk, rice milk.
- Instead of eggs – Vegan egg replacer powder, mashed banana, applesauce, or chia seeds.
- Instead of milk chocolate chips – Dark chocolate chips or non-dairy chocolate chips.
With these substitutions, you can make chocolate chip cookies without any dairy that are just as tasty. The texture may differ slightly from traditional cookies depending on the substitutions used. But dairy-free chocolate chip cookies can be soft and chewy or crisp depending on the ingredients and baking method.
Benefits of Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
There are several reasons one may choose to make dairy-free chocolate chip cookies:
- Vegan diet – Vegans exclude all animal products including dairy.
- Dairy allergy or intolerance – Some people have an allergy or intolerance to milk proteins.
- Paleo diet – The paleo diet avoids dairy products.
- Nutritional benefits – Dairy-free cookies can be made lower in saturated fat.
- Digestive issues – Some people find that dairy exacerbates digestive problems.
- Ethical reasons – Dairy cows and their calves may be mistreated on factory farms.
So regardless of your reason for avoiding dairy, you can still enjoy a chocolate chip cookie without feeling deprived.
Common Dairy Substitutes
Here is more detail on the most common substitutes for dairy products when making chocolate chip cookies:
Instead of butter, use:
- Coconut oil – Adds tropical flavour
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Vegetable oil
- Vegan margarine – Check ingredients to ensure dairy-free
Measure solid fats like coconut oil by weight instead of volume for best results. The substitution ratio is generally 1:1 butter to oil or margarine.
Instead of cow’s milk, use:
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk
- Oat milk
- Soy milk
- Rice milk
- Hemp milk
For every 1 cup of cow’s milk, substitute 1 cup of non-dairy milk. Be sure to shake or stir non-dairy milks well before measuring, as the consistency differs from dairy milk.
Instead of eggs, use:
- 1 tbsp ground flax or chia seeds whisked with 3 tbsp water – The mixture forms a gloopy egg-like texture when combined.
- 1 medium mashed banana
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- Commercial egg replacer powder – Follow package instructions.
In most cookie recipes, 1 egg can be replaced with 1 of the above options. You may need to experiment to get the texture right.
Instead of milk chocolate chips, use:
- Dark chocolate chips – Check ingredients to ensure dairy-free
- Carob chips
- Non-dairy chocolate chips – Some brands make them from vegan chocolate
Substitute 1:1 for regular chocolate chips. The carob chips will have a slightly different flavor than chocolate.
Example Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
To make dairy-free chocolate chip cookies at home, try this easy recipe:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 tbsp ground flaxseed whisked with 3 tbsp water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat together the coconut oil and sugars until creamy. Mix in the almond milk, flax egg and vanilla.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
- Drop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden brown on the edges.
- Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
This recipe results in chewy, chocolatey cookies with a nice crisp edge. The coconut oil gives them a subtle tropical vibe. Feel free to use your favorite dairy-free chocolate chips or carob chips instead.
Should You Refrigerate or Freeze Dough?
Since traditional chocolate chip cookie dough contains raw eggs and butter, it is recommended to refrigerate the dough before baking to prevent bacteria growth. But what about dairy-free dough?
Refrigerating dairy-free cookie dough for 20-30 minutes before baking can help:
- Allow ingredients to mingle – Gives time for the flavors to blend
- Prevent spread – Colder dough won’t spread as much during baking
- Easy shaping – The dough will be firmer and easier to scoop and roll
It is not strictly necessary since there are no egg safety concerns. But refrigerating even for a short time can improve the dough’s scoopability and the shapes of the cookies.
You can also freeze dairy-free cookie dough for weeks or months without safety concerns. First shape it into balls or a log, wrap well in plastic, and freeze solid. Thaw in the fridge before baking.
Freezing is great for:
- Freezer meals – Have cookies ready to bake anytime
- Make ahead – Prepare your cookies in advance for events
- Long-term storage – Keep dough fresh for months
Just be sure your butter or oil substitution maintains a solid consistency when frozen, like coconut oil. Frozen dairy-free dough may require a couple extra minutes of baking time.
Troubleshooting Dairy-Free Cookies
Switching up the ingredients from your usual chocolate chip cookie recipe can sometimes lead to changes in texture or flavor. Here are some tips if your dairy-free cookies don’t turn out quite right:
If they spread too much:
- Refrigerate the dough before baking
- Use less liquid in the recipe
- Add a bit more flour
- Take them out of the oven a little earlier
If they are cakey rather than chewy:
- Use brown sugar instead of granulated sugar
- Add an extra egg replacer like flax or banana
- Bake a minute or two less
If they are too hard/crisp:
- Use melted coconut oil instead of solid
- Substitute almond milk for a smaller amount of water
- Bake for a minute or two less
If they are greasy:
- Make sure not to over-melt your coconut oil
- Let them cool completely before eating
- Use brown sugar instead of granulated sugar
If the flavor is off:
- Check for old or expired ingredients
- Try a different brand of chocolate chips
- Try adding vanilla, almond, or coconut extract
- Substitute a different non-dairy milk
Don’t get discouraged if your first dairy-free cookies aren’t perfect. Making substitutions takes some experimentation to get the texture and flavor just right. The more you do it, the better you will get at vegan baking. Share some cookies with friends and ask for their honest (but kind) feedback.
Storing and Freezing Baked Cookies
Properly storing your baked cookies will keep them fresh and tasty for as long as possible:
At room temperature: Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
In the refrigerator: Keep in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks. Let come to room temp before eating for best texture.
In the freezer: Freeze baked cookies in an airtight freezer bag or container for 2-3 months. Thaw at room temp or warm briefly in oven or microwave.
Freezing is ideal if you baked a big batch and won’t eat them all right away. It also allows you to enjoy warm, fresh-baked cookies anytime by baking frozen cookies as needed.
Just avoid storing dairy-free cookies in the fridge or freezer for too long, as this can cause them to become hard and dry.
Traditional chocolate chip cookie recipes rely heavily on dairy products like butter, milk, and eggs to achieve the signature chewy texture and buttery, vanilla flavor. But by replacing the dairy ingredients with vegetable oils, non-dairy milks, egg replacers, and dairy-free chocolate chips, you can successfully create chocolate chip cookies without any dairy.
Dairy-free chocolate chip cookies offer a treat you can enjoy regardless of your dietary needs or preferences. With the right substitutions and some practice, you can make vegan chocolate chip cookies that are delicious, allergy-friendly, and don’t require any sacrifice of chocolatey cookie goodness.