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Food & Recipes

Savory Cookies Are a Baking Trend Worth Trying — Start With These 3 Recipes

No chocolate chips here.

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Who doesn’t love cookies? Chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal — no matter the flavor, they make for a sweet treat. But what if cookies weren’t limited to dessert? In fact, this isn’t magical thinking. Savory cookies — that is, cookies made with savory ingredients instead of sweet ones — are the latest in a long line of baking trends that are turning the food-world-as-we-know-it on its head. Read on for three savory cookie recipes that are sure to impress your friends and family.

What is a savory cookie?

Savory cookies are not an oxymoron — although they may make you wonder what exactly makes a cookie a cookie. “It’s actually quite hard to define a cookie when you get down to it,” notes food writer Sara Dickerman in Slate. The most basic definition is “a small, flat, or slightly raised cake.” The word “cake” here may seem odd, but like cakes, cookies are also baked. Luckily, this vague definition allows plenty of room for experimentation.

Savory cookies have a long historical precedent. Savory biscuits have been around for hundreds of years, and the Folger Shakespeare Library even has a savory biscuit recipe dating back to the 17th century; while biscuits and cookies aren’t exactly the same, they’re certainly related. Lifehacker describes savory cookies as “thicker than a cracker, crumbly, and tender with flavorful and/or aromatic add-ins, ranging from nuts and seeds to herbs and aged cheeses,” pointing out that these baked goods have long existed in Italian and Indian cultures. In the US, some savory cookie recipes emerged as a result of the frugality or resourcefulness of home cooks, as seen in a tomato cookie recipe from 1926 (a cousin of tomato soup cake, perhaps?). 

Savory cookies allow for creativity in the kitchen. Not only can they pair beautifully with a glass of wine or make an elegant addition to a cheese board, they also present an opportunity to get your kids to try flavors they might otherwise avoid.

Try These 3 Savory Cookie Recipes

With people wanting healthier alternatives to sugary snacks, savory cookies are more popular than ever. Here are three surprising recipes that will allow you to get creative with your cookies. 

Ham and Gruyere Thumbprint Cookies

Martha Stewart knows a thing or two about entertaining with style, and her ham and gruyere cookies give a classic French flavor pairing a fun new format. Thumbprint cookies are a buttery classic typically filled with jam, but substituting that with ham and cheese brings a new level of decadence to the treat. These sandwich staples make for surprisingly delicious baked goods — think ham and cheese croissants or scones.

Ingredients (Yields 36 Cookies):

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped or ground Black Forest ham (2 ounces)
  • 1 cup finely shredded Gruyere cheese, plus 36 cubes (½ inch) for centers (8 ounces total)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring butter, salt, and water to boil in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally (butter will melt). Add flour; stir vigorously until incorporated. Continue to cook, stirring, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and thin film forms on bottom of pan, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool 2 minutes.
  2. Transfer dough to large bowl; add eggs one at a time, beating with wooden spoon to incorporate each before adding the next, about 2 minutes. Stir in pepper, ham, and shredded cheese.
  3. Spoon dough into pastry bag fitted with ½-inch star tip. On baking sheet lined with baking mat or parchment paper, pipe 1 ½-inch wide rosettes, 1 inch apart. Make a deep indentation at center of each with your thumb (dampen thumb to keep it from sticking to dough). Bake until crisp and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer thumbprints to wire rack to cool completely. Press cheese cube into indentation of each.
  4. Place on clean baking sheets; freeze (uncovered) until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer to airtight container; freeze until ready to use, up to 6 weeks.
  5. To serve, preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place thumbprints on ungreased baking sheets; bake until heated through and cheese is melted, 10 to 14 minutes. Serve warm.

Seaweed Sesame Cookies

Seaweed is a staple of Japanese snacking, and it’s filled with nutrients that are good for your thyroid, blood sugar, and heart health. While seawood is known for playing a starring role in sushi, it can also be enjoyed in cookie form. Try these savory seaweed cookies, adapted from the seaweed snack company Gimme.

Ingredients (Yields 12 Cookies):

For Cookies:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup tahini
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup finely chopped seaweed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

For Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped seaweed
  • ¼ cup tablespoons extra coarse sugar crystals 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine topping ingredients and set aside. Get small dish of water and set aside.
  3. In large bowl using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar 1 to 2 minutes until pale and creamy.
  4. Beat in tahini and egg until smooth.
  5. Add flour, seaweed, and baking powder, then stir until just combined. (Depending on your tahini your dough can vary in consistency; if too wet add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour and if too dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water.)
  6. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough and roll into ball; roll in water, roll in toppings, then place on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Repeat to make approximately 24 cookie balls.
  7. Before baking, gently smash dough balls then bake 13 to 15 minutes until slightly dry around edges. Let cool on baking sheets.

Savory Shortbread Cookies With Olives and Rosemary

These elegant, charcuterie board-ready cookies come from the experts at The New York Times. With their smattering of dark shapes, they may look like chocolate chip cookies, but don’t be fooled — these are olive cookies, and they’re a yummy way to reap the health benefits of Kalamatas and enjoy some Mediterranean flavor. 

Ingredients (Yields 24 Cookies):

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ½ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream

Instructions:

  1. In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and rosemary. Zest lemon into bowl, add butter and rub pieces into flour mixture using your fingers until small pebbles form. (Alternatively, use food processor to pulse dry ingredients with butter.)
  2. Add chopped olives, tossing to coat with flour mixture. Pour cream over mixture, stir just until combined and squeeze until dough comes together in a clump. Divide dough in two equal 9-inch logs. Wrap each log firmly in a strip of parchment paper and twist ends shut. Refrigerate until dough is firm enough to slice, about 30 minutes and up to 3 days.
  3. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line sheet pan with parchment paper. Slice each log into ½-inch rounds. Lay rounds on prepared baking sheet, spacing at least ½ inch apart.
  4. Bake until cookies are golden at bottom edges, about 22 minutes, rotating once halfway through baking. Move cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Store at room temperature in airtight container for up to 3 days. The baked cookies can also be stored frozen in airtight container for up to 5 days. Thaw at room temperature before serving.

Savory Satisfaction

All of these recipes would make an excellent introduction to savory cookies. Plus, with healthy ingredients like seaweed and olives, you won’t have to feel guilty about indulging in several of these small and charming snacks. They’re perfect for impressing dinner party guests, and offer a brilliant excuse to experiment in the kitchen.

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