Nutty, oat-y, sweet with maple syrup and a touch of jam, these thumbprints will please vegan and non-vegan palates alike. It’s a hearty tasting cookie, and I personally feel that two or three with a cup of hot tea is a wonderful way to start your day. They’re quick to mix up, easy to form and fill, and will disappear off your cookie plate in a twinkle.
I first tasted vegan thumbprints at a Zen Buddhist monastery deep in the California wilderness. I’m boldly revealing my not-very-blissful ignorance when I admit to sighing in disappointment when I first saw vegan cookies on the menu. But one bite was all it took for my ignorance to drop away like a veil. These cookies are that amazing! Because the location was so remote, homemade cookies were one of our few treats; needless to say, we were very attached to the kitchen’s cookie offerings.
Since my vegan thumbprint awakening so many years ago, I have learned not to scoff at vegan baked goods; and my life is the better for it. I hope these cookies do the trick for you too.
It was a lot of fun to revisit this recipe three years after we first published it. I have very little to add to the original, except the following:
–We originally just listed almonds as the nut of choice, but you can also use walnuts, cashews, pecans or other nuts. Or try mixing a few of your favorites!
–This time around, I tested this recipe using coconut oil (thanks to reader comments!) and I am completely converted. Coconut oil has a superior nutritional profile to canola oil, but even better, it produces a crisper cookie.
–I happened to have a wee jar of apple butter in my cupboard, and on a whim I decided to give it a try as a filling in place of jam. It is perfect, and I highly recommend using it, especially if you are looking for a lower sugar option for jam.
Vegan Thumbprint Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen (2-inch) cookies
2 cups whole almonds or other nuts such as walnuts, pecans or pistachios
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup canola oil or melted coconut oil
1 cup maple syrup
Jam(s) of your choice (see note)
1. Arrange two racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
2. Place the nuts in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until they are chopped into small pieces. It’s OK if you have a variety of sizes, just don’t grind them to a flour. I tend to leave them chunkier than most people, because I like to bite into a decent piece of nut when eating these cookies. But you can grind them fine too. Transfer the chopped nuts to a large bowl.
3. Place the oats and salt in the food processor (no need to wash first), then process into a coarse meal. Again, I like to leave a little texture in the oats. Transfer the oats to the bowl with the nuts.
4. Add 1 1/4 cups of the flour, oil and maple syrup. (Doing it in this order, and using the same measuring cup, means that all the maple syrup will glide out effortlessly.) Mix with a wooden spoon until combined. If the dough seems runny, add the additional flour; but don’t worry if it is too soft, as it will stiffen up a bit as it sits. Set aside for 15 minutes.
5. Form the dough into rough balls about the size of a whole walnut. The dough will be slightly wet but surprisingly not too sticky. Place on the baking sheets, spacing them evenly apart. They can be fairly close together, since they don’t spread much (you may need to bake in batches).
6. Using the bottom of a round 1/2 teaspoon measure, make an indentation in the top of each cookie. Wipe the spoon clean and use it to fill the indentation with your jam of choice.
7. Bake until the cookies begin to brown slightly, about 15 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Let the baking sheets cool completely before baking the remaining batches.
Recipe notes: I like to use a variety of jams for taste and color on my cookie plate. My favorites are red raspberry, apricot and quince. If you make the dough ahead of time, it keeps well in the refrigerator for about two days if covered