Vegan Thumbprint Cookies

[christine thumbprint photo]Yippee, it’s Sweet-Tooth Friday!  This is Christine with your weekly healthy dessert recipe.  Today I’ve got  a batch of incredibly addictive vegan thumbprint cookies!  These are yummy enough to satisfy the most discriminating of palates…like my dad’s!  Just don’t tell him the secret ingredient this week is CAULIFLOWER! The inspiration for these amazing little gems came from a comment last week about my Gluten-Free Carrot Macaroons.  The comment is from my stepmom, and she wrote:

“These look great to me but I don’t think your dear ‘ol dad will eat them (but I’m going to try anyway). I’d be grateful if you could come up with some recipes for cookies (or other easy treats) I can make (and freeze) for him so he’ll forever ditch the “Little Debbie” cakes! It would need to be close to a “regular” kind of cookie or dessert. He doesn’t like muffins, biscuits, coconut, almond flavor or nuts! I’ve not been able to come up with a healthy sweet treat he really liked and I’ve always considered myself a good baker. Any ideas you can pass to me are appreciated!”

As soon as I read this, the challenge was on!  I’ve met many dessert fans in my career and they always seem to fall into two groups: those that passionately love almond flavor, coconut and nuts, and those that passionately don’t.  My dad falls into the latter category so it was time to find a healthy dessert that didn’t lean on those elements as a flavor crutch.

The challenge doesn’t stop there — no, these healthy cookies don’t just have to be any regular kind of yummy — they have to hold their own next to the ultimate yumminess of my stepmom’s famous cookies. Let me tell you, when Christmas rolls around there is no better place to be than Margaret’s kitchen.  All season she pumps out every kind of cookie from jubilee bars to walnut swirls to lemon shortbread.  Her sugar cookies are so perfectly thin with just the right amount of sugar crunch that they are impossible to replicate.  (Believe me, I’ve tried!)

While she works, my dad sits perched by the counter eating the jam diagonals as fast as they come out of the oven.  Ahhh, the jam diagonals.  Rich buttery short bread, sweet raspberry jam, and a drizzle of lemon icing, all baked together in a sort of flat loaf, then elegantly cut on the diagonal like an Italian biscotti.  The combination of salty, sweet, and sour comes together in beautiful cookie harmony.  Could I really attempt to give the jam diagonal a NMA makeover?  I decided to give it a shot!

[thumbprint cookies close photo]

I started by shifting the jam diagonal into a more approachable shape — the thumbprint cookie.  Though humble, a thumbprint cookie has the same shortbread and jam elements without the rolling and slicing.  My next step was to imagine a healthier shortbread: canola oil for the butter, agave nectar for the sugar, and spelt and oats for the white flour!

It seemed way too good to be true, and I was right. As I stirred the ingredients together I realized I was lacking the structure that comes from whipping butter together with granulated sugar.  I had a “batter” on my hands instead of a “dough.”  I took a gamble and stirred in some cauliflower puree- ta da!  Not only did I get all the structure without added fat, but also got in some extra fiber and vitamins!  Plus cauliflower’s mild taste is undetectable.

For the jam, I used Welch’s Reduced Sugar Strawberry Spread.  It is reasonably priced and doesn’t use corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.  Instead of adding more sugar by drizzling the cookies with lemon icing, I stuck the lemon flavor into the cookie itself with lots of fresh zest.  Finally I added a tablespoon of flax seed just to sneak my dad some extra omega 3’s.

[thumbprint cookies photo]

Vegan Thumbprint Cookies

  • 1 ¼ cups spelt flour
  • 1 cup ground oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbs ground flaxseed
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup agave nectar
  • ½ cup cauliflower puree
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Low-sugar jam
  • Mix together the spelt, oats, baking powder, salt, and flaxseed.  Set aside. For the cauliflower puree, put 3/4 – 1 cup fresh or frozen cauliflower with 1 tbs of water into a microwave safe bowl.  Cover and microwave 3-5 minutes til soft.  Puree with an additional tablespoon of water.  It’s ok if it doesn’t get perfectly smooth.

    Stir together the cauliflower, canola oil, agave nectar, and lemon zest. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Shape the dough into half dollar-sized balls, then press onto greased pan with deep thumbprint.  Fill the thumbprints with jam.

    Bake 16-18 minutes, checking to make sure bottoms are brown but not overdone.  Makes about 30 cookies.

That’s it for this Sweet-Tooth Friday!  Good luck rationing these cookies- I devoured mine!  Oh if you noticed my cookies look a bit textured, it’s just because I didn’t do the greatest job grinding my steel cut oats.  Using rolled oats is easier in my dinky processor.

Dad, I hope these healthy vegan thumbprint cookies can hold you over until Christmas!

Until next time, Stay sweet and keep those requests rollin’ in!
xoxo, Christine



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  1. these look delicious, and they are so cute! i need to heed all your fabulous friday recipes and concoct one one of these days!

  2. Thanks for the compliments! You’re “sweet” (ha!ha!) to say such nice things about my Christmas cookies. I used to make thumbprint cookies as part of my regular repertoire. These look very much like them except the dough in my thumbprint recipe was rolled in ground nuts (and you-know-who won’t eat that) and they were full of fat and sugar. I’m eager to whip up a batch of this healthy version this weekend and let you know how it goes. Maybe Christine’s Cauliflower Christmas Cookies (sorry, I couldn’t resist) will become a regular! Thanks for the recipe!!

  3. Laura says:

    hmm. i might give these a try.

  4. bookmarked! thanks!
    .-= janetha´s last blog ..jarred. =-.

  5. Yum. My body can’t afford for me to be eating dessert every weekend, but your recipes are very tempting. I wonder if I can get my mom to eat these, she claims to not be able to eat any veggies.
    .-= Robin´s last blog ..Birthday Dinner =-.

  6. Yay, I have a huge jar of strawberry jam that I’ve been wanting to use up and these cookies look delicious 🙂 I love these baking posts, keep up the great work Christine!
    .-= Megan (The Runner’s Kitchen)´s last blog ..Running in the Dark =-.

  7. Okay Chrissy, you’ve challenged yourself here. If this cookie concoction of yours is even close, it will be GREAT! Margaret is going to make them tomorrow. I’ll get back to you about your success. Thanks much for the effort! Hopefully I won’t be the only beneficiary.

  8. WOW! Those look so beautiful and the recipe is so simple! I love quick, easy and delicious desserts, can’t wait to make these. Thanks!
    .-= The Voracious Vegan´s last blog ..Curried Cauliflower Soup =-.

  9. In the words of my grandfather- those look good enough to eat!;)
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Stuffed Acorn Squash =-.

  10. I am so excited to have found this website! I am recently vegan and training for my first half marathon in October. The vegan diet has allowed my training to go injury-free and I have more energy than I’ve had in years!

    Can’t wait to read more, and thanks for the recipes!

    Enjoy the runnning, the baking and the eating!

  11. Love the use of oats, spelt and flax in these! I usually make thumbprints around the holidays and this year I want to work on eliminating the processed ingredients. Now I know where to start! Thanks for the tip on the jam too. Glad to know it doesn’t use HFCS or the fake stuff.
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..Links to a Healthy Weekend =-.

  12. I just stumbled upon this site and I must say your recipes have me intrigued. This one especially. I can’t wait to make these! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  13. College_girl says:

    I just made these! I followed the directions exactly (but now I have leftover cauliflower puree– any ideas?) Overall the consistency is really chewy– more like the consistency of a nutrigrain bar than a cookie. If you use full sugar jam, as I did, it does not need powdered sugar. They were a tad bit messy, as the jam would bubble over onto the cookie sheet (but the cookie was still not done, so they had to stay in the oven). Not a big deal, just perhaps for easy clean up, you might want to line the tray with aluminum. I liked them, and I’m giving some to the bf tonight– hopefully he will too!

  14. Heather M. says:

    Delish! Ground my oats in a ‘coffee grinder’ I use for my flax – oh, and I didn’t have any cauliflower so I made it with frozen mango pureed with rice milk and I just used whole wheat flour – and they turned out super:) Thanks!

  15. the.G.list says:

    Just made these and they turned out great! I didn’t have jam on me so instead I added chopped crystalized ginger (~1/2 cup) and a splash of ginger syrup. A great cookie – crunchy on the outside, a bit softer on the inside. I’m definitely going to be subbing cauliflower puree into future recipes!

  16. Hiya
    Sorry to burst your bubble but no way is canola oil healthier than butter. Natural saturated fats such as butter, coconut oil and yes even lard are much healthier than vegetable oils which are highly processed and and very unstable, particularly when cooked. It is unfortunate that there is a misconception amongst many people that they are good for you.
    Congrats on you inventiveness though, just switch back to butter if you want them to be healthy. 🙂

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