Making delicious, nutritious Kwanzaa cookies can be a guilt-free and fun family tradition. I chose this recipe for its simplicity (just five main ingredients) and because a whole bunch of healthy buzz words come with them too: all natural, higher in fiber and protein than most cookies, lower-glycemic, grain-free, paleo, vegan … naturally gluten-free. And they’re satisfyingly delicious!
Luckily these days we have many more options beyond bleached, white cake or pastry flour, with choices made from things like corn, rice, beans (like garbanzos), nuts (like almond or walnut) and tubers (like cassava, manioc, yucca, tapioca), as well as flours made from African “superfood” grains like sorghum, millet or fonio—which all just happen to be gluten-free without even trying.
RELATED: Philly boasts one of the longest-running celebrations of the African-inspired holiday that runs from December 26 to January 1. This episode of our food history podcast explores what it means.
These more nutrient dense and higher-fiber flours common in food cultures throughout the African diaspora help support a reclamation of African-heritage ingredients. Swapping out sugar (and high fructose corn syrup in many store bought cookies) for lower glycemic and more nutritious options (like date sugar, coconut sugar crystals, raw honey, molasses, maple syrup, xylitol) is something to seriously consider (and implement) within and for a community plagued with diabetes… especially during the holiday season when sugary sweets seem to surround us all.
Kwanzaa is the perfect time to empower yourself and your loved ones with better food choices—without feeling deprived.
HOW TO MAKE KWANZAA COOKIES
- 2 cups almond flour (or almond meal for more texture)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup real maple syrup (amber or dark style)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- A “dash” (1/4 teaspoon or less) of sea salt
- Place your oven rack in the center position, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Lightly grease a baking sheet with vegetable oil (you can also line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper if you like—or use a nonstick cookie tray or a nonstick, shallow baking pan if you have one).
- In a medium mixing bowl, blend the almond flour or meal, baking powder and sea salt together with a large fork or a whisk.
- Slowly stir in the maple syrup and vanilla using a wooden or metal spoon.
- Keep stirring until it forms into a paste-like dough that holds together well.
- Place rounded spoonfuls of the dough onto the baking sheet about one inch apart. If you like softer, cake-like cookies, don’t press down too hard on the dough. If you prefer crisper cookies, flatten each spoonful of dough lightly with the back of the spoon or the bottom of a clean measuring cup.
- Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake the cookies until the edges are golden brown (about 12 to 15 minutes).
- Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the pan (on top of an unheated stove) for at least 3 minutes, then you can transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Optional batter stir-ins (before baking):
- Your favorite dried fruit (e.g., pineapple, mango, coconut flakes, apricot) — 1/2 cup
- Nuts (pecans, almonds) — 1/2 cup
- Chopped dark chocolate pieces (1/2 cup)
- Holiday spices sprinkled in: allspice, cinnamon, clove, ginger…