13 Ways To Upgrade Your Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies

There aren't many things more inviting than the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafting through your kitchen. With their golden brown goodness and crisp yet chewy texture, this famous sweet treat is a familiar comfort that transcends generations, and a go-to option for many home bakers in need of a sugar fix.

When it comes to chocolate chip cookie recipes, there's plenty of variation in the ingredients and techniques used, with the slightest tweak sometimes resulting in an entirely different cookie experience. So, how do we decide which approach is best when it comes to whipping up a batch of these baked delights? With so many potential methods and add-ins to explore, we've done the hard work for you and put together the very best selection of tips and tricks to take your homemade cookies to the next level.

Joined by some of the top cookie and baking experts, we're exploring the magic behind achieving the ultimate cookie taste and texture. From how you store your ingredients to selecting the right sugars and raising agents, every factor can make a difference. We'll discuss why quality ingredients matter, and how experimenting with different mix-ins can take your cookies to new heights of indulgence. So, get ready to become a cookie connoisseur and impress your friends and family with your newfound baking skills. 

1. Make sure your ingredients are at room temp

Before diving into cookie-making, the best way to set the stage for success is to ensure your ingredients are at room temperature. Why does this matter? Firstly, chilled butter can be very hard to beat, especially if you're mixing by hand. Secondly, when ingredients like butter and eggs are at room temperature, they blend more smoothly, resulting in a more evenly mixed dough and ultimately, better cookies. If the ingredients are cold, they won't combine as seamlessly, which can result in an unwanted dense texture after baking. If your butter is at room temp but your eggs are chilled, the mixture is likely to curdle, so the temperature of both elements is key here. 

Thankfully, bringing your ingredients to room temperature is as simple as it sounds. Just remember to take them out of the refrigerator about one hour before you plan to start baking. If you're short on time, you can speed up the process by gently warming cold eggs in a bowl of warm water or microwaving diced butter in short bursts. Just be careful not to melt it.

2. Brown your butter

This simple yet game-changing step takes ordinary butter to new heights, and incorporating it into your cookie recipe can bring a unique depth of flavor. But what exactly is browned butter, and why does it make such a difference? When butter is heated over low to medium heat, its milk solids begin to toast and caramelize, turning it golden brown and releasing an amazing nutty fragrance.  Dr. Kyri Mosley, baking expert and founder at Kyri's Kookies, tells us that using this ingredient can transform the flavor profile of cookies — "Brown butter is awesome as it provides nutty-toffee notes. Simply YUMMY."

To brown butter for your chocolate chip cookies, start by cutting it into cubes and melting it in a pan over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally. As it begins to foam and crackle, keep a close eye on it and stir every now and again to help it brown evenly. After a few minutes, the butter should turn a deep amber color with noticeable brown bits in the bottom (and it will smell divine!). This means it's ready to remove from the heat, so simply transfer the browned butter to a heatproof bowl to cool slightly before using it in your cookie dough.

3. Use top quality ingredients

When it comes to baking, the quality of your ingredients can make all the difference between a mediocre cookie and one that's truly exceptional. Dr. Mosley emphasizes the importance of opting for the very best when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. "Start with high quality, fresh ingredients," she says. "You always want to start with fresh butter, grass-fed, organic is best." Grass-fed butter is known for having a richer, creamier flavor than its regular counterpart, which can only mean good things for your baked goods.

Highlighting what is arguably the most crucial ingredient in any chocolate chip cookie, Dr. Mosley advises, "Most importantly choose quality chocolate." Selecting the best chocolate you can find is going to give your cookies a serious upgrade. "Organic semi-sweet chocolate is the chocolate I use most often," she adds. Look for bars or chips made with real cocoa butter and a high percentage of cocoa solids for rich, intense flavor. Avoid chocolate products with added fillers or artificial flavors, as the taste is less likely to impress. 

Don't overlook the importance of pure vanilla extract in your cookies, too. While it may seem like a small detail, using high-quality vanilla can enhance the overall flavor of your cookies, adding a subtle sweetness and deeper flavor that artificial extracts simply can't replicate.

4. Add a pinch of espresso powder

You might have heard about coffee being added to chocolate cakes and brownies, but have you tried it in your homemade cookies? Espresso powder can be a subtle yet impactful addition to your cookies. This finely ground coffee is chocolate's best friend, helping to enhance its richness without overpowering the cookie's classic taste.

You'll need just a small amount, and the espresso powder will work its magic by adding a slight hint of bitterness. This works with the chocolate to intensify its flavor, balancing with the sweetness and creating a deeply flavorful cookie. To incorporate espresso powder into your cookie dough, simply dissolve a teaspoon or two in a little hot water before mixing it into your wet ingredients. Alternatively, you can add the powder directly to your dry ingredients for even distribution throughout the dough. It might sound simple, but try adding a pinch to your next batch of cookies and we guarantee you'll understand the hype.

5. Add a little honey

Sugar is most commonly used to add sweetness and texture to chocolate chip cookies, but there's another secret weapon in the sweetener world that can help you achieve cookie perfection — honey. For an irresistibly soft and chewy batch, just add a teaspoon of honey alongside the other sugars.

When it comes to texture, honey is a game-changer. Its natural humectant properties help the cookies retain moisture, ensuring they stay tender and chewy long after they come out of the oven. Honey also acts as an acid in the cookie dough, reacting with the baking soda to help the cookies spread and rise perfectly.

If you're after a deeper honey flavor in your cookies, you can always add more. Just remember to substitute a portion of the sugars called for in your recipe with an equal amount of honey. Using about a ¼ cup should mean its sweet and slightly floral taste will shine through. Keep in mind that honey can make the cookies brown more quickly in the oven, so you might want to reduce the temperature when baking.

6. Use bread flour

When it comes to achieving the perfect texture in your chocolate chip cookies, the type of flour you use can make a world of difference. While all-purpose flour is a typical choice, try switching things up by using bread flour instead. Alton Brown does this in his famous 'The Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie' recipe. If a thin and crispy cookie is more your style, this may not be the hack for you, as bread flour can yield some seriously chewy results.

Bread flour contains a higher protein content compared to all-purpose flour, which translates to more gluten formation during mixing. King Arthur Baking states, "The more that gluten develops, the stronger the dough. In addition, flours with higher protein content will absorb more liquid than those with less protein." This extra gluten, and therefore extra moisture, gives your cookies a chewier, denser texture, similar to what you would find in a classic bakery-style cookie. 

To incorporate bread flour into your chocolate chip cookies, you can simply substitute it for a portion (or all!) of the all-purpose flour called for in your recipe. You can always experiment with different ratios to find a desired level of chewiness that works for you.

7. Use just the right balance of white and brown sugar

Achieving the perfect amount of sweetness in your chocolate chip cookies is key, but your choice of sugars doesn't only impact flavor; it's crucial for the texture, too. White and brown sugars can each bring their own distinct characteristics to the final bake, so understanding how each will impact the results is vital in crafting the perfect cookie.

Sara Taylor, cookie expert and Founder of Taylor Chip, tells us it's all about balance. "A mixture of brown and white sugar works best for a chocolate chip cookie," she explains. "Brown sugar gives the cookie some moisture and chewiness/density. White sugar gives the cookie a golden brown outside. Using both completes the perfect cookie!" 

Using white sugar can cause the cookies to spread too much, but some baking experts prefer brown sugar entirely in their recipes. When we asked Kyri's Kookies founder, Dr. Kyri Mosley, she said, "I prefer the molasses flavors and these [brown] sugars contribute to the moist and chewy texture we have come to be recognized for."

By finding the ideal ratio of these two sugars, you can customize your cookies to suit your taste preferences. If you prefer a crisp, browned finish to your cookies, using more white sugar is the way to go. Or, for an extra chewy result, opt for more brown. Some also recommend using a combination of 30% white and 70% dark brown sugar for the ultimate flavor and texture.

8. Give them a nutty crunch

They're one of the most popular mix-ins to this much-loved treat, and for good reason! Adding nuts to your chocolate chip cookies gives them a wonderful crunch and delicious flavor. There are so many options to choose from, whether it's the subtle sweetness of pecans, the earthy depth of walnuts, or the buttery richness of macadamia nuts. 

As well as bringing an extra layer of texture to your cookies, nuts also offer a nutritional boost, adding protein, healthy fats, and fiber to your cookies to make them a bit more wholesome. To add nuts to your cookies, chop them finely to ensure even distribution throughout the mixture. You don't want any larger chunks of nuts to overwhelm the texture of your cookies. Each bite should have a nice balance of crunch and chewiness. Whether you sprinkle them on top of your cookies before baking or mix them directly into the dough, they will pair beautifully with the gooey, melty chocolate.

For an extra special upgrade, try toasting your nuts before adding them to the dough. This will enhance their flavor and bring out their natural sweetness to add even more nutty deliciousness to your cookies.

9. Add some pretzels

Another fun and delicious twist on classic chocolate chip cookies is tossing some pretzels into the mix. These salty, crunchy snacks add a unique texture and flavor that perfectly complements the sweetness of the chocolate and soft chewiness of the rest of the cookie.

The combination of sweet and salty has long been a favorite among dessert enthusiasts, and adding pretzels to your chocolate chip cookies is a delicious way to embrace this flavor pairing. Sara Taylor of Taylor Chip fully endorses pretzels as a cookie add-in, stating, "If I were to add anything to my chocolate chip cookie, it would be thick pretzels ... I am a sucker for anything salty & sweet." Pretzels can also bring a fun look to the cookies, with their irregular-shaped pieces scattered throughout the dough.

If adding pretzels to your cookie dough, simply break them into small pieces and mix them in with the chocolate chips or chunks. The result will be an extra special batch of cookies, where every bite is packed with the perfect balance of sweet and salty flavors. It's truly a match made in heaven!

10. Use both baking powder and baking soda

Leavening agents help to give your cookies the perfect rise and texture, but which is the best? Baking powder and baking soda aren't simply interchangeable, and each serves a unique role in cookie baking. Nicole Pomije, Founder & CEO of The Cookie Cups explains that using a mixture of the two is ideal. "Baking soda helps the cookies to spread more during baking and helps brown the cookies, while baking powder helps to leaven the cookies and add flavor!" she tells us.

Baking powder is a combination of an acid and a base, which react to produce carbon dioxide gas when mixed with liquid. This reaction helps your cookies rise and spread during baking, but using baking powder alone tends to contribute to a lighter, cakier texture, and paler color. 

On the other hand, baking soda is purely alkaline, and it must react with acidic ingredients like brown sugar to produce carbon dioxide gas. This reaction leads to the browning effect and tends to yield denser, chewier cookies. So, by using both baking powder and baking soda in your chocolate chip cookies, you can harness the strengths of each leavening agent to achieve optimal rise and texture. Before adding baking soda and powder to your cookies, be sure to check the expiry date. If no longer fresh, leavening agents can have a lower potency, leading to disappointing cookies!

11. Go all out with triple chocolate

What better way to indulge your chocolate cravings than by incorporating not one, not two, but three types of chocolate into your chocolate chip cookies? By going all out with a triple chocolate approach, you'll create cookies that are rich, decadent, and totally moreish.

Where you'd typically use just one type of chocolate chips or chunks in the recipe, instead mix in a combination of dark or semi-sweet, milk, and white chocolate. For the ultimate taste experience, high-quality chocolate is a must here. With its higher cocoa content, dark or semi-sweet chocolate will bring a more intense richness to the cookies. Milk chocolate adds an irresistible sweetness, while white chocolate brings its creamy deliciousness. The result is a wonderfully indulgent balance of flavors, with pockets of melty, gooey chocolate throughout.

Adding some cocoa powder to the batter can enhance the chocolatey goodness of the cookies even further. Simply substitute a portion of the flour for the cocoa — about 3 to 4 tablespoons is enough to add an appealing color and plenty of chocolate flavor to the dough. So, don't ever assume that you need to stick to one type of chocolate when it comes to these baked delights. Enjoyed warm from the oven, melty triple chocolate cookies are truly the epitome of indulgence.

12. Stuff them with Nutella

Staying on track in the quest for indulgence, another mouth-watering option to make your cookies extra special is stuffing them with Nutella. With its creamy, chocolatey, hazelnutty goodness, what's not to love?! With the help of a pretty nifty method, it's easy to add a delicious Nutella surprise to each cookie.

To stuff your chocolate chip cookies with Nutella, the first step is to dollop spoonfuls of the spread on a baking parchment-lined plate and freeze them for about 30 minutes. While they firm up, prepare your cookie dough as usual and scoop it out into balls. Once the Nutella is frozen, it'll be much easier to handle, and you can add a dollop to each cookie without things getting messy. Simply flatten the dough ball down a little between your palms, place the Nutella on top, then bring the dough back over it to encase the frozen spread and reform the ball shape. The Nutella should then be firmly sealed inside. 

Pop the cookie balls on a lined baking sheet, leaving enough space for spreading, and bake until golden. That combination of warm, melty Nutella and rich chocolate chip cookie dough is oh-so irresistible.

13. Add flaky sea salt after baking

To give your cookies the perfect finishing touch, flaky sea salt is your friend. This delicious savory touch is a wonderful way to add flavor contrast to the final bake. For Nicole Pomije of The Cookie Cups, it's her go-to addition. "Adding a sprinkling of sea salt on top of my chocolate chip cookies helps enhance the flavor! When combining the fresh salt with the sweeter chocolate, the two work wonders in amplifying the flavors of the cookies overall!" she explains. The contrast between the sweet, buttery cookie, rich chocolate, and subtle sea salt is a pretty wonderful flavor experience. The delicate flakes of sea salt can also bring a touch of elegance to your presentation while adding a slight crunch to each bite.

To add flaky sea salt to your chocolate chip cookies, simply sprinkle it over the cookies as soon as they come out of the oven. You should find that the heat from the cookies will help the salt to adhere to the surface. It's a delicious and incredibly simple way to add a touch of sophistication to any chocolate chip cookie recipe.