These beautiful vegan thumbprint cookies have a soft and chewy texture perfectly topped with homemade jam filling. Undetectably vegan with no fancy ingredients needed!
Last month (or was it the month before that?) I shared my vegan French onion soup with you. Today I’m posting another Christmas recipe that I’ve been procrastinating on for over a year – these amazing little vegan thumbprints.
These eggless thumbprint cookies were a bit of a thorn in my side. They come from Isa Moskowitz’s Superfun Times Holiday Cookbook. I love so many of Isa’s recipes, but I was having wildly inconsistent results with these cookies until I converted the volumetric measurements to weights and adjusted the ingredients and method slightly. I present the recipe to you with weight measurements today, so that they can come out perfect for you the first time.
Now. Thumbprint cookies are often simply filled with either peanut butter or chocolate, or jam. You can fill them with the jam after baking and make a huge mess, or you can fill them before baking and have the jam burn slightly and melt into the cookie a little bit. (Did I mention that I have opinions?)
This recipe circumvents the issue with a genius little agar-based filling that’s poured into the baked cookies and sets within minutes. Agar powder is a weird ingredient, so if you don’t do much experimental vegan dessert- or vegan cheese-making you may not want to bother buying it. It’s made from seaweed and it’s something akin to a gelatin substitute, although it sets up much softer. It does last forever in the pantry, though – I’ve had the same bottle for a very long time.
All you have to do for the filling is mix together a pinch of agar with some fruit juice of your choosing; cornstarch; and sugar, bring it to a boil, and then spoon it into the cookies. The result is perfectly even little circles that are neither burnt, nor disappearing into the cookie, nor all over the sides of the cookies. If you’re making a citrus version, use fresh juice and add some of the zest. Orange, lemon, lime, they’re all fabulous here.
As for the whole thumbprint thing, at this point I consider it fantasy lore. I tried using my actual thumb and the resulting geometry was predictably asymmetrical. The back of a measuring spoon works perfectly. These cookies don’t spread very much, so shape them before baking, and after baking, tap the “thumbprint” one more time with the measuring spoon to de-puff it if needed.
This is one of my baked goods that requires a digital kitchen scale so that I can ensure you get good results. OXO’s scale is great, but any of the cheaper ones on Amazon or at your local store will work just fine. You just need something that can measure in grams and that can be zeroed. They’re cheap and worth their weight in un-dirtied measuring spoons.
As for a gluten-free version, your favorite gluten-free flour blend may work, but I haven’t tried that out myself yet. It’s easy to make your jam cookies soy-free by choosing the right non-dairy milk.
These vegan thumbprint cookies are slightly life changing. Not only are they made with oil and other pantry ingredients – you don’t even need aquafaba – but they look a little bit special for the holidays, they keep well, and I watched the 4 omnivores in my pandemic quarantine bubble absolutely demolish them on multiple occasions. Nobody would know these are dairy-free and vegan.
Vegan Thumbprint Cookies
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
For the cookies:
For the cookies:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. If needed, melt your coconut oil and then allow it to cool for a few minutes (we don't want it to be hot when mixing the cookie dough).
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the coconut oil and sugar for about a minute until combined. Add the non-dairy milk, vanilla extract, and lemon zest, and mix for another minute or so, or until the texture looks like applesauce.
- Add half of the flour, the cornstarch, baking powder, and salt, and mix well until combined. Add the other half of the flour and mix until a smooth, soft dough forms.
- Use a cookie scoop if you have it, or a rounded 1tbsp measurement to measure the cookies and roll them into balls. Flatten each ball slightly on the baking sheet, and then use a measuring spoon or your thumb to press an indentation into the dough.
- Bake for about 11 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookies are golden. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing from the baking sheet to cool completely before filling.
For the lemon (or other fruit flavor) filling:
- When you're ready to fill the cookies, add all of the filling ingredients to a small saucepan and stir well to dissolve the cornstarch. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook for 1 more minute while continuously stirring, then immediately remove from the heat and spoon into the centers of the cookies. It will start to solidify within minutes.
Adapted from the Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook.