Healthy No-Guilt Cookie Recipes

Chocolate chip or peanut butter, chewy or crisp, Americans love cookies. But our enthusiasm for these convenient desserts has faded somewhat in recent years. Consumption of packaged pastries like cookies and donuts dropped by 24% between 2005 and 2012, as people started to shun extra sugar in their diets.

Our changing dietary habits might be bad news for cookie manufacturers, but you don’t have to give up your favorite sweets just because you’re trying to eat healthy. With a few clever substitutions, fatty and sugary cookies can be transformed into a guilt-free treat. Here are five recipes for healthy cookies that are perfect for snacking.

1. Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies

carrot cake oatmeal cookies

Carrot cake oatmeal cookies | iStock.com

Carrots deliver a dose of vitamin A and instant oats add fiber in this recipe for carrot cake oatmeal cookies from Amy’s Healthy Baking. You’ll also use pure maple syrup in this recipe rather than refined sugar. Eating maple syrup may help prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s, Health reported.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (100 grams) instant oats
  • ¾ cup (90 grams) whole-wheat or gluten-free flour
  • 1½ teaspoons (5 grams) baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons (3 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon (1 gram) salt
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120 milliliters) maple syrup (or substitute honey or agave syrup)
  • ¾ cup (68 grams) grated carrots (about 1 medium-small carrot)

Directions: Whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. (When measuring the oats and flour, spoon them into the measuring cup until overflowing and level off the contents with a knife; scooping directly from the container may yield too much oats or flour, resulting in a dry cookie.)

Whisk together the coconut oil, egg, and vanilla in a separate bowl. Stir in the maple syrup. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Fold in the carrots. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. (If chilling for longer than 30 minutes, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Drop rounded scoops of the chilled cookie dough onto the baking sheet. You should have 15 cookies. Flatten the cookies slightly if you chilled the dough for longer than 1½ hours. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  

2. Molasses Cookies

Homemade molasses Cookies on a white plate

Molasses cookies | iStock.com

Iron-rich molasses is the primary sweetener in this healthy cookie recipe from Shape. Plus, there’s no added fat in these snacks, which are made with whole-wheat flour, ground flax, and banana.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons ground flax
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats (not instant)
  • ½ cup blackstrap molasses
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine flax and egg white in a bowl. Set aside. Using a fork, mash banana in a bowl. Add flour and oats. Mix well. Add flax mixture and molasses, mixing until everything is combined. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well. Scoop out rounded spoonfuls of batter onto a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.

3. Peanut Butter Protein Cookies

peanut butter cookies

Peanut butter cookies | iStock.com

When you need some filling protein after a workout, reach for one or two of these flour-free peanut butter cookies. The muscle-building protein comes from a combination of all-natural peanut butter and protein powder, while coconut sugar provides a touch of sweetness. Recipe from A Sweet Pea Chef.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup creamy, natural peanut butter
  • ⅔ cup coconut sugar
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 2 eggs

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add the peanut butter, coconut sugar, eggs, and vanilla protein powder to a large bowl. Mix to combine until the mixture has the consistency of cookie dough. (Peanut butters vary in their consistency, so you may need to add a little more protein powder if the dough is too wet, or a little more peanut butter if it’s too dry.)

Roll dough into 2-inch balls (you’ll need about 2 tablespoons of dough for each). If necessary, wet your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Flatten each ball with your hands and place on the baking sheet. Use a fork to press a criss-cross pattern into each cookie.

Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges of each cookie are just starting to brown. Remove cookies from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

4. Pumpkin Cookies

pumpkin cookies

Pumpkin cookies | iStock.com

Healthy pumpkin, which is rich in vitamins A and C, is the star ingredient in these simple but tasty four-ingredient pumpkin cookies. This recipe is also flour-free and can be prepared with whatever sweetener you prefer. Recipe from The Big Man’s World.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups gluten-free quick oats
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • ¼ cup granulated sweetener of choice, such as stevia or coconut palm sugar (increase slightly if you prefer a sweeter cookie)
  • ¼ to ½ cup peanut, almond, or other nut butter
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • Chocolate chips or nuts (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the oats, pumpkin, and sweetener in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the nut butter and cinnamon, if using.

Form the dough into small balls using your hands. Place on the baking sheet and flatten slightly. If you like, top each cookie with a few chocolate chips or chopped nuts.

Bake cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Cookies will keep for a week in a covered container, or you can freeze them to eat later. 

5. Almond Cranberry Quinoa Cookies

pile of cookies

Almond cranberry quinoa cookies | iStock.com

Quinoa in a cookie might sound a bit weird, but you’ll be a believer after you try this wholesome recipe from Bon Appétit. Made with whole-wheat flour, cranberries, and almonds, these tasty treats are the perfect healthy snack. This recipe yields about 2 dozen cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups white whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup slivered unsalted almonds

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, both sugars, and honey in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and extracts; beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour mixture, ½ cup at a time. Stir in quinoa, oats, cranberries, and almonds. Spoon dough in 2-tablespoon portions onto prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Store cooled cookies airtight at room temperature for 1 day, or freeze for up to 1 month.

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