The addition of Mexican-inspired spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne add a tiny bit of savory warmth to these spiced chocolate chunk cookies, which are thin and flat with crispy edges and chewy centers.
This recipe is a riff on Mark Bittman's Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe from How to Bake Everything, the baking-centric companion to How to Cook Everything. Bittman doesn't just provide basic recipes for everything from pie dough to cookies to cakes, sauces, scones, breads, and more; the real hidden gems come at the end of almost every recipe, where Bittman includes some suggested variations.
It was in those notes that I found my favorite tiny-but-mighty additions to an otherwise standard chocolate chunk cookie recipe: cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, and yes, a little bit of cayenne. I've adjusted Bittman's ratios a bit, and I've converted the volume measurements to weight measurements so you get the perfect crispy edges and chewy centers every time.
The first time I made these spiced chocolate chunk cookies was for party I decided to attend at the almost-last-minute where I really only knew one other person attending. I wanted something quick and easy, with a little bit of flair. Something that said I want to impress you but don't want to look like I'm trying too hard to impress you.
As for whether or not my cookie plan worked, there were none left at the end of the night and I definitely formed at least one new friendship on the power of those cookies alone. (Also my personality is awesome and I'm a great friend, if I do say so myself, but I really don't want to undersell how great these cookies are).
If you're a longtime reader of The Practical Kitchen, you're not seeing things — this isn't the first time this recipe has appeared on my site. It used to be at the end of my ask the practical kitchen post about how many cookies are in a batch.
I was a wee baby blogger back then and didn't realize what an SEO nightmare that would be. So I've moved the spiced chocolate chunk cookies into their own post, gave them a makeover with all new photos, even more troubleshooting tips, and a streamlined, easier to follow recipe.
These cookies are great for making ice cream sandwiches; try pairing them with my orange cardamom chocolate chip ice cream to really lean into those warm spicy cookie notes.
Here's what you'll need to make these spiced chocolate chunk cookies. Nothing too fancy or hard to find; just your standard cookie ingredients plus a few spices.
- Butter - Unsalted, at room temperature. You should be able to easily make an indentation in it, but it shouldn't be melty or greasy.
- Sugar - Granulated sugar.
- Brown sugar - Use dark sugar for a more intense flavor, and light brown sugar for less intense flavor.
- Eggs - Large eggs, at room temperature. Submerge in hot water for 5-10 minutes prior to using.
- Vanilla - Vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, whichever you prefer!
- Flour - All purpose flour is just fine here.
- Salt - I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt in all my baking. You'll want to use half as much if you're using a different brand.
- Baking soda - This leavens the cookies. Don't skip this or they'll be very flat and sad.
- Cinnamon - I like a Vietnamese Cinnamon (aka Saigon Cinnamon) for its more intense flavor. But any ground cinnamon is fine.
- Cayenne - You don't need much! Different brands of cayenne have different heat levels, so adjust accordingly. If you don't want a spicy cookie, cut the amount in half for less heat, or for a really spicy cookie you can add an extra ⅛ teaspoon of cayenne.
- Whole Nutmeg - Nutmeg is always best when freshly grated on a microplane or zester. I get mine from Spicewalla — the small tin will easily last you for a year or more.
- Chocolate - Bittersweet or dark chocolate, whichever you prefer. You'll want to hand chop a bar of chocolate for these spiced chocolate chunk cookies. Not only do the chunks create more unusual and interesting chocolate shapes in your cookies, the chocolate also melts differently. If you use chocolate chips, your cookies will bake up differently because the stabilizers in the chocolate chips prevent them from melting in the oven. I like using Ghirardelli's 60% Dark Chocolate for these; you'll need two whole bars.
- Flaky salt - For finishing! I use Maldon Flaky Sea Salt which has gorgeous large crystal pyramids. Add this while the cookies are still soft so they melt into the dough and stick.
🔪 Mise en place (aka prep work)
Mise en place is a French culinary term which literally translates to "putting in place."
It basically means: Measuring your ingredients and making sure you have all the right tools ready to go before you start working. This can make a huge difference in a) how enjoyable you find the baking and cooking process and b) the success of your recipe!
Here's the mise en place you'll need for these spiced chocolate chunk cookies:
- Bring the eggs and butter to room temperature. Take the butter out of the fridge a few hours (or the night before) before you plan to bake. It should be soft but not greasy. Submerge the eggs in hot water for 5-10 minutes before use.
- Mix the flour, baking soda, and spices together in a bowl. This helps everything incorporate evenly.
- Make sure you have vanilla ready. I can't tell you the number of times I've started baking only to realize I've misplaced or run out of vanilla. Make sure you have it before you start!
- Hand chop the chocolate. It's tempting to wait and do this at the last minute, but you'll be glad you did it at the beginning. This also makes it more likely you'll remember to set aside ⅓ cup chopped chocolate to use for topping the cookies.
Start by cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer. Most people don't cream their butter and sugar long enough — give it at least 2-3 minutes at medium-high speed, and pause to scrape down the bowl at least once, maybe twice. It should be lighter in color, fairly smooth, and look a little airy.
Scrape the bowl down again at the end, before you add the eggs.
Add the eggs one at a time, giving each one at least 60 seconds to incorporate at medium-high speed. Add the vanilla along with the second egg, and scrape the bowl down before and after adding each egg.
Then, reduce the mixer speed to the lowest possible setting and add half the flour mixture. We're adding it in two parts to prevent it from flying up in your face in a cloud, and to reduce the amount of gluten development that's occurring. Over mixing = gluten development = tough cookies that don't spread!
When there are just a few streaks of flour, scrape it down and add the rest of the flour mixture. Keep the mixture on low and let it stir until the flour is almost all the way incorporated. Again, stop mixing when there is still some flour visible in the mix.
Scrape down the bowl, then add in the chocolate chunks and stir by hand with a spatula or on the lowest speed of the mixer just until they're evenly distributed. Do not over mix!
The flour will finish mixing in as you stir in the chocolate, and make it less likely that you'll accidentally over mix.
Scoop the cookies using a 2 tablespoon scoop. Scrape the scoop flat on the edge of the bowl so you get an exact 2 tablespoon measure. Arrange the dough balls on a lined sheet pan. I like using a quarter sheet pan for this — you can fit exactly 35 cookies on it!
To finish, press the remaining chocolate chunks into the top of the soft dough. This is a tip I picked up from my friend Erin over on her blog Cloudy Kitchen, and is how you get gorgeous chocolate puddles on top of your cookies. Chill the cookies in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
If you don't chill the cookies before baking, they will spread out into truly giant cookie puddles on your sheet pan and you will be very sad.
Because these are such thin cookies, they bake quickly. Just 9-10 minutes at 375F.
They'll look underdone — slightly domed, slightly pale centers — when you pull them out. But they will settle and firm up as they cool. Because they're so soft and delicate, let them cool for 5 mins on the sheet pan before transferring them to a cooling rack.
If getting perfectly circular cookies matters to you, use a large round ring cutter to scoot the cookies on the pan while they're still warm. This is optional, and will give you slightly less crispy edges, but is very aesthetically pleasing!
Depending on the placement of your oven racks and the accuracy of your oven temperature you may need 9 minutes or you may need up to 10 minutes.
The nice thing about this recipe is you can only bake about 6 cookies at a time, so you can use the first batch to figure out just how long they need. The last batch I made was perfect at 9 and a half minutes.
Hint: These cookies spread out a lot in the oven, so you want to give plenty of room between each one on the sheet pan. I usually fit 6 cookies per pan and bake off two pans at once.
- Cookie scoop - I use this 2 tablespoon cookie scoop to get uniform cookie sizes. Press the dough all the way into the scoop and scrape it flat on the edge of the bowl so you're sure all the cookies are the same size. No heaping scoops here!
- Silicone baking mat - A silicone baking mat will help the cookies spread more than parchment paper does. If you don't have a silicone mat, parchment is better than a greased cookie sheet. These cookies are thin enough that the grease will change their texture, and you don't want that.
- Cooling rack - Because you can only fit about 6 cookies per sheet pan, you'll want to have a cooling rack on hand to transfer the cookies shortly after they come out of the oven.
Store in an airtight container (I usually use a large gallon bag) for up to 3 weeks.
To freeze: Scooped dough onto a lined sheet pan, then transfer frozen cookie dough balls to a large freezer bag. Remove as much air from the bag as possible. To bake from frozen, add 2-3 minutes to the bake time to account for the colder starting temperature.
Chocolate Chips vs. Chocolate Chunks vs. Hand Chopped Chocolate
There's a reason I called this a spiced chocolate chunk cookie recipe and not a spiced chocolate chip cookie recipe. Hand chopped chocolate melts differently than chocolate chips and from store-bought bagged chocolate chunks. This can change the shape and texture of your cookies!
Chocolate chips and bagged chocolate chunks have stabilizers in them. Those stabilizers are harmless, but are designed to help them keep their shape in the oven. These cookies get so flat in the oven that if you use chocolate chips or store bought chunks, the cookies will end up lumpy. The chocolate also won't be well distributed throughout the cookies.
If you use chocolate chips or store bought chocolate chunks on top of the cookie dough balls to get the chocolate puddles you will be very disappointed! The cookies will flatten and spread out and the chocolate chips and chunks will hold their shape on top instead of melting into gorgeous chocolate pools.
👩🏻🍳 Expert notes and tips
- There's a reason I took the time to write "scrape down the bowl" as often as I did — this isn't a suggestion! It can really change the way your ingredients incorporate. I know it can be tedious, but it's worth taking the time.
- You won't hurt the cookie dough by creaming the butter and sugar and eggs on medium-high speeds. Be patient and take the time to do those steps right. Set a timer if you have to — it can be hard to judge how long 60 seconds is when you're not looking at a clock!
- Once you add the flour, you want to stick to a very low speed so that you don't develop gluten, which toughens up the cookie dough and prevents spreading.
- The shape and temperature of your dough balls changes the way the cookies will bake. You want nice domed cookie balls with flat bottoms and round tops. Don't roll the dough into round balls or flatten them into discs before baking. Leave the dough balls in the fridge until ready to bake.
💭 Recipe FAQ
I really do recommend getting a good 2 tablespoon cookie scoop — they're useful for so much more than cookies. But if you don't have one, use a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon and do two flat scoops per cookie. To get the domed shape with the flat bottom, you'll need to use your hands. Since the dough is quite soft and sticky right after mixing, I recommend chilling it in the fridge for 30-60 minutes first.
A bit of an underdone look is normal for these cookies. When you take them out of the oven they'll be slightly domed and pale and puffy in the center. They'll settle down as they cool. Use the first batch as a test — see how they look after resting for 5 minutes. If the center still looks underdone, add 30-60 seconds to the bake time for the next batch.
If you're baking cookies from frozen, you'll need to add 2-3 minutes to the bake time to account for the colder starting temperature.
The original version of this recipe was written with volume measurements, which are wildly inaccurate. I've written more about that in my post about why a kitchen scale is worth it. They're inexpensive and will make a huge difference in how your baking projects turn out.
The tl;dr is that when you scoop a cup of flour, depending on how you scoop it, you could end up with as little as 120 grams of flour or as much as 150 grams of flour! That can make a BIG difference in how these cookies spread. I use 120 grams as 1 cup of flour.
If your 1 cup scoops weigh 150 grams, you could end up with 60 grams (half a cup!) more flour than the recipe calls for. Your cookies will be thick and chewy instead of thin with crispy edges. To reliably get crispy edges and chewy centers, you need to weigh the ingredients.
Spiced Chocolate Chunk Cookies
- 226 grams unsalted butter, room temperature (1 cup)
- 200 grams dark brown sugar
- 100 grams granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs (large)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (the good stuff)
- 240 grams all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon diamond crystal kosher salt (use half of another brand)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- ⅛ teaspoon whole nutmeg (freshly grated, always)
- 8 oz semi sweet or dark chocolate bar (hand chopped)
- 3 tablespoons flaky salt (for finishing)
- Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cayenne, and nutmeg together in a bowl and set aside.
- Chop the chocolate into roughly ¼" pieces. Reserve ⅓ cup in a separate bowl for topping cookies. Set aside.
- Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer, approximately 2-3 minutes, scraping down the bowl at least once in the middle and again at the end.
- Add the eggs one at a time, allowing the first one to incorporate (60 seconds at medium-high speed) and scraping down the bowl before adding the second along with the vanilla. Beat well for 60 seconds, then scrape down the bowl.
- Add the dry ingredients in two batches, stirring on low speed. When just a few streaks of flour remain, stir in the chocolate chunks. Stop mixing as soon as the flour is incorporated and the chunks are evenly distributed. DO NOT OVER MIX.
- Use a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop to drop rounds of cookie dough on to a lined quarter sheet pan in tight rows. Scrape the scoop flat against the rim of the bowl to get dough balls with domed tops and flat bottoms.
- For chocolate puddles, press reserved chocolate chunks into the tops of the soft cookie dough balls. Then cover and chill at least 2 hours or overnight before baking.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Arrange 6 cookie dough balls on a sheet pan with plenty of room to spread out. (To test how much the cookie dough will spread in the oven, you can bake just one or two cookies on a sheet before doing the rest of the batch.)
- Bake for 9-10 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. The centers of the cookies may seem bubbly or not fully set. That’s okay! They’ll set up when they cool.Sprinkle immediately with flaky salt and (optional) use a large circle cutter to scoot the cookies into perfectly round shapes. Let cool 5 minutes on the sheet pan before transferring to a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.
- Adding the dry ingredients in two stages prevents you from getting a cloud of flour to the face when you start the mixer again and prevents over mixing. You're welcome.
- Recipe makes 35-38 cookies, depending on how precisely you scoop them.
- Loosely adapted from Mark Bittman's TK from How to Bake Everything.