Vegan maple pecan cookies on cooling tray reminiscent to a pecan sandie

Maple Pecan Cookies: Healthy Home-Baked Treat

By: Sara Tercero

Maple pecan cookies are a delicious fall treat. These vegan desserts are reminiscent of a classic “pecan sandie” and are just as crave-worthy and beautiful. We substitute vegan butter for regular butter and use a combo of brown sugar and maple syrup to give it a slightly sweet shortbread feel. As a result, these pecan maple delights are nutty and delicious, and they have a great texture.

The maple flavor is perfect for the season, making these cookies one of the best recipes I have ever made. And with the addition of heart-healthy, magnesium-rich pecans, they add some smart sweetness to a healthy diet.

Are maple pecan cookies healthy?

While these maple cookies are not “healthy food” per se, they are a healthier option than many other desserts. They contain less refined sugar than most cookie recipes and lots of health benefits, thanks to the pecans. These nuts contain healthy fats, protein and fiber, which are three things we don’t usually expect from a cookie dough. You might get similar benefits from an oatmeal cookie, but not the typical milk chocolate chip or snickerdoodle variety.

This recipe's maple syrup is also a healthier choice. Although it contains sugar, it also has small amounts of minerals that the body needs, such as manganese, zinc, copper, iron, magnesium and potassium. In addition, it has antioxidants.

Maple syrup vs. sugar: Which is better for baking?

Because maple syrup is less processed, I cook with it almost exclusively. The only exception to that rule is for baked goods. It is not great to use by itself because it is liquid and does not “cream” well with butter the way granulated sugar does. So instead of sacrificing the texture, in recipes for baked goods, I prefer to cut the sugar in half and use some maple syrup and some granulated organic brown sugar. The texture and flavor this combination produces is shockingly delicious.

After all, dessert is a special treat. Make it count!

How to make maple pecan cookies at home

Baking these treats at home is incredibly easy. This recipe has a prep time of about 10 minutes without any special equipment. I like to melt the unsalted vegan butter in the microwave to make this a really fast preparation. (To be honest, that is my preferred method when making baked goods because I love the spontaneity. I never remember to let butter sit out at room temperature before baking.)

This recipe is just a quick measure and mix in a bowl. You don’t even need any beaters; just use a fork!

Ingredients

The ingredients for this vegan recipe are pretty basic. I use chia seeds for the binder, but you can omit them and substitute an egg instead if you prefer. You can use regular unsalted butter instead of vegan butter, as well. (Of course, then the cookies won’t be vegan!)

  • 4 oz unsalted vegan butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 3 tbsp water
  • ½ cup organic granulated brown sugar
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup raw pecan pieces
  • 12 raw pecan halves for garnish
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt

Preparation

These cookies are so easy to make, with a total time of 25 minutes.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large bowl, add chia seeds and water and mix. Allow to gel for 5 minutes while you gather other ingredients
  • Microwave the butter in a micro-safe container for 40 seconds. Check and cook in 10-second increments until melted.
  • In the bowl with the chia seeds, add brown sugar, maple syrup and warm melted butter. Mix well with a fork.
  • Add pecan pieces, baking soda and salt, and mix well again.
  • Add the flour and mix well until combined.
  • On a nonstick cookie sheet or parchment paper-lined sheet pan, drop 12 rounded tablespoons of the cookie dough. Give them 2-3 inches of room to spread out. These do spread while cooking but remain fluffy. Press one of the pecan halves into the top middle for a garnish.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes. The cookies will be golden, fluffy and still soft and light in color. They will get crispier as they cool.

Nutritional Values

This recipe makes 12 large cookies, 1 serving each.

Calories: 242 kcal
Carbohydrates: 31 g
Protein: 3 g
Fat: 12 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 6 g
Trans Fat: 1 g
Sodium: 254 mg
Potassium: 80 mg
Fiber: 1 g
Sugar: 13 g

Tips for success

  • When making any desserts containing flour, always remember not to overmix them. Mix until combined and then stop, because overmixing flours can produce a tough texture that can be unpleasantly stretchy or hard.
  • Use raw pecans if you can find them. They work better than toasted pecans because they get toasted in the cooking process. This way you need not worry about burning the nuts. If toasted nuts are all you have available, just be sure to stay close while they are cooking and take them out before they overcook.
  • I love adding chia seeds as a binder. Many people use flax “eggs” but I recently decided I prefer a chia “egg” because flax seeds have a flavor that can overpower baked goods. Chia seeds are very mild in flavor and are barely detectable.
  • These maple cookies will spread slightly but keep some height in the cooking process. Be sure to take the pan out of the oven before they get too crispy. They are ready when they look slightly undercooked—golden around the edges yet still light in color. They should be fluffy and soft to the touch in the center when you take them out. They will continue to cook during the cooling process and get crispier.

How to store maple pecan cookies

Be sure to let the cookies cool thoroughly before storing. I like to transfer them to a cooling rack but that is not necessary, as long as they cool completely. They are hardy enough to stack inside of an airtight container. They do not need to be refrigerated and should be eaten in about five days. You can also freeze them for up to three months, but they will be more brittle upon defrosting.

Health benefits of pecans

These nuts have a healthy nutrition profile and are a good source of potassium, vitamin B6 and iron. They also contain brain-health-promoting omega-3 fats and bone-health-supporting calcium, and they rank among the highest nuts in antioxidant content. Pecans are also chock-full of magnesium, a mineral with cardiovascular and mood health benefits.

Do I get enough magnesium from maple pecan cookies?

While these desserts are a good source of magnesium, a magnesium supplement may be a better choice, as it delivers this vital nutrient without added sugars or fats. Plus, supplementing with magnesium can help fill any gaps left in your diet, even on days when you aren’t eating magnesium-rich foods.

Magnesium supplements

Magnesium helps over 300 enzymes perform critical functions throughout the body, so it’s important to get enough of this nutrient every day. Magnesium supplements have been shown to support heart health, brain function, already-healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels, strong bones, a healthy stress response, a healthy mood and restful sleep.

Magnesium supplements come in different forms to support different areas of health. For instance, magnesium acetyl taurate helps encourage calming feelings, while magnesium L-threonate supports cognitive health. Meanwhile, magnesium citrate is more often taken for whole-body health.

Some supplements combine magnesium forms to support optimal heart health and help inhibit oxidative stress.

Wondering which is for you? Life Extension has supplement guides to help you choose the best nutrients for supporting cardiovascular health, bone health and more.

About the Author: Sara Tercero is the chef behind the popular food blog BetterFoodGuru and the author of the cookbook Plant-Based Diet in 30 Days. Her specialties are veganized Indian-inspired curries, giant rainbow salads, and healthier Mediterranean and Mexican-inspired dishes. It is Sara's mission to prove that plants are delicious and to help others cook and eat their way to health and happiness.

Website: https://betterfoodguru.com

References

Scientifically Reviewed By: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N

By: Sara Tercero