March 5, 2012

almond butter thumbprint cookies

have i mentioned that i have a sweet tooth? you might have suspected it, since i post a fair amount of cakes and cookies and muffins around here. i like my greens, and i also like to get my sweet on.

the sweet tooth starts calling out for a little something right after lunch or dinner. it doesn't have to be a huge slice of cake; just a few bites will (usually) suffice. so i make a point of having some not-too-guilt-provoking sweets around - hello, dark chocolate. but in my experience the best way to satisfy a sweet craving is with a treat that also delivers a decent amount of protein and healthy fat. these are the nutrients that signal to the stomach and brain: okay, all good, we've had enough!

and that's where the flourless almond butter cookie comes in.

the dough for these little guys is built on 3 simple ingredients that i almost always have in the kitchen: almond buttercoconut palm sugar, and ground flax meal (plus a little water and salt).

no flour, no eggs, no butter. how can it be?

the flax egg - it's back!

remember the grain-free almond butter bread from a while back? well, this is sort of its cookie counterpart. the cookies get their structure from the almond butter's fiber, protein, and fat, along with the soluble fiber released from the ground flax once it's mixed with water (this mimics the binding properties of egg). and the low-glycemic coconut sugar (unrefined so it retains its natural mineral content) helps tie things together, too.

just for fun, i decided to make a batch of gooey-centered thumbprints with my almond butter dough. not surprisingly, the nutty cookie base and fruity jam top are a match made in heaven. but the jam isn't necessary. if you're interested in a more restrained cookie, the super-simple dough, baked naked, is quite the revelation.

rich, chewy, and nutty, these are more satisfying than the average cookie since they're chocked with protein, fiber, and healthy fatty acids -- monounsaturated (from the almonds) and omega-3 polyunsaturated (from the flax seeds). yay for almonds and flax!

what i really love about these cookies is that there are so many possibilities for playing around. try swapping in another nut or seed butter -- cashew, peanut (of course), hazelnut, even tahini (sesame) or pumpkin seed butter.

i added grated lemon zest to the dough this time, which gives the cookies a bright, fresh, and aromatic flavor. you can change up the add-ins with all manner of spices - cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and allspice would be a great combination -- and a dash of almond or vanilla extract.

i should also mention that these almond-butter-based cookies have a more tender and fragile texture than cookies built on a foundation of flour and eggs. you probably would not want to toss them into a backpack for a snack on a long hike, or fed-ex them across the country as a gift. but i think that's okay. there are plenty of baked goods that can travel a few thousand miles without losing a single morsel. these are cookies of the moment: rich and delicious and deeply sweet-tooth-satisfying, if a little crumbly.


almond butter thumbprint cookies
yield: 20 2-inch cookies

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (flax meal)
3 tablespoons water
1 cup natural almond butter (smooth or chunky)
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine grained sea salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
naturally sweetened jam or fruit spread (strawberry, raspberry, apricot are nice here -- about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup sliced almonds

preheat over to 350F

stir together the flax meal and water in a small bowl and set aside for about 5 minutes, allowing it to thicken.

in a medium bowl beat the almond butter, palm sugar, and salt until well combined (the dough will be quite stiff. I used a wooden spoon for this, and an electric beater or stand mixer would be handy, too). mix in the flax egg and lemon zest until they are evenly incorporated throughout the dough.

roll the dough into balls (about 1 rounded tablespoon for a 2-inch cookie) and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

press each cookie with your thumb and fill the indentations with jam (about 1/4 tsp). sprinkle a few sliced almonds on top of each cookie.

{alternatively, for naked cookies, skip the jam and instead press each ball of dough with tines of a fork to flatten slightly and create a lattice pattern.}

bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, turning sheet halfway through, until they are fragrant and take on a drier look (the raw dough is quite shiny from the almond butter's oil content).

the just-baked cookies are very fragile; let cool on baking sheet for 15 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. stored in an air-tight container, the cookies will keep for at least a week.


  1. those truly do look AMAZING! I love that these have a full cup of almond butter in them... YUM! I love the way you cook : )

  2. thanks for the sweet comment, lady grey! i can't get enough of almond butter...

  3. What a terrific recipe---I've got the almond butter on hand, must get the coconut palm sugar and flax meal, and I'm good to go. You always have such healthful takes on all foods!

  4. I just made these and although they taste good, they bled together and became one big flat sheet. What did I do wrong?

  5. Oh no, Halie! I'm sorry to hear that. I haven't had this experience but there are a couple of possible explanations --

    One is that the almond butter had a high oil content. I use Justin's brand which tends to be thicker/stiffer, while other brands like trader joe's can be sort of runny. The other possibility is that the oven temp might have been too high.

    Either of these (or maybe a little of both) could cause the dough to spread too much during baking. Using a "drier" almond butter and/or baking at a lower temp should help.