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What does flaxseed do in cookies?

Flaxseed is a superfood that can provide many benefits when added to cookies. In this article, we will explore what flaxseed is, why it is used in baking, and the specific effects it has on cookies.

What is Flaxseed?

Flaxseed, also known as linseed, comes from the flax plant (Linum usitatissimum). It is an edible seed that is rich in nutrients like protein, dietary fiber, manganese, thiamine, magnesium, phosphorus, and selenium.

There are two main types of flaxseed:

  • Brown flaxseed – whole flaxseed that retains its hull
  • Golden flaxseed – flaxseed with the hull removed

Brown flaxseed is more common and has a slightly nuttier taste. It also contains more lignans, antioxidants that provide health benefits. However, the hull makes brown flaxseed harder to digest unless it is ground. Golden flaxseed has a milder flavor but lacks the crunchy texture of whole flaxseed.

When ground into a powder, flaxseed can be easily incorporated into baked goods like cookies. It is also available as flaxseed oil.

Why Add Flaxseed to Cookies?

There are several reasons why flaxseed is a great addition to cookies:

  • Nutrition – As mentioned, flaxseed is rich in many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This boosts the nutritional value of cookies.
  • Fiber – Flaxseed is an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber helps promote digestive health and makes you feel fuller for longer.
  • Heart health – The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed support heart health by reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure.
  • Cholesterol – The fiber and lignans in flaxseed can help reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels.
  • Blood sugar – Flaxseed may help regulate blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity due to its fiber and healthy fats.

Adding nutritious ingredients like flaxseed transforms cookies from an indulgent treat into a guilt-free, functional food.

Flaxseed Effects on Cookie Texture

When added to cookies, flaxseed can have the following effects on texture:

  • Chewiness – Flaxseed produces a pleasant, chewy texture in cookies. This is because the fibers absorb moisture and add density.
  • Crunch – Whole flaxseed provides an enjoyable crispy, crunchy mouthfeel with each bite of cookie.
  • Richness – The healthy fats in flaxseed create a more robust, rich cookie texture.
  • Moistness – The water-absorbing properties of flaxseed keep cookies moister for longer after baking.

The high fiber content is the main reason flaxseed alters the texture of cookies. Soluble fiber from flaxseed absorbs liquid and creates a thick, sticky dough. Meanwhile, insoluble fiber provides bulk that expands during baking for a chewier end result.

Using ground flaxseed instead of whole will produce a softer, more cake-like cookie texture. Whole flaxseed offers more crunch. Adjusting the quantity of flaxseed also impacts texture. More flaxseed means denser, heartier cookies.

Flaxseed Effects on Cookie Flavor

In addition to texture, flaxseed can influence the flavor of cookies in the following ways:

  • Nutty – Flaxseed has an inherently mild, nutty flavor that comes through in baked goods.
  • Earthy – Subtle earthy notes are imparted by the lignans in flaxseed.
  • Richness – The fat content of flaxseed leads to a richer mouthfeel and depth of flavor.

Brown flaxseed tends to have a heartier, nuttier taste compared to more mellow golden flaxseed. The flavor impact also depends on the quantity used. Just 1-3 tablespoons of flaxseed per cookie batch provides subtle enhancement. More will make the flax flavor more pronounced.

Flaxseed pairs well with ingredients like oats, chocolate chips, raisins, cinnamon and vanilla. It can hold its own in bold cookies as well as sweet, delicate ones. Toasting the flaxseed before using will intensify its nutty notes.

Ideal Cookie Types for Flaxseed

Certain cookies lend themselves well to the addition of flaxseed. Great options include:

  • Oatmeal cookies – The nutty flaxseed enhances the hearty oats. The chewiness works well here too.
  • Chocolate chip cookies – Flaxseed gives these classic cookies more nutrition without compromising on flavor.
  • Peanut butter cookies – Flaxseed complements the nutty peanut butter nicely in chewy cookies.
  • Thumbprint cookies – The flaxseed adds flavor and texture to contrast the sweet jelly filling.
  • Biscotti – Flaxseed enhances the dense, crunchy texture of these twice-baked Italian cookies.

You can also get creative and add flaxseed to snickerdoodles, gingerbread cookies, shortbread, macaroons and more. Just adjust your other ingredients and baking time accordingly.

How Much Flaxseed to Use

When baking cookies with flaxseed, how much you use will impact the nutrition, texture and taste. Here are some guidelines on quantity:

  • 1-3 Tbsp for a standard cookie recipe – Provides a nutritional boost without overpowering flavor
  • 1/4-1/2 cup for a big batch – Significantly increases nutrition and produces hearty texture
  • Equal parts flaxseed and flour – Maximizes benefits but results in a very dense, seed-heavy cookie

Start with 1 Tbsp of flaxseed per 1 cup of flour as a baseline. For softer cookies, use ground flaxseed instead of whole. You can increase to 1/4 cup or more in sturdy cookies like oatmeal varieties.

It is best to grind flaxseed right before baking to retain freshness. However, you can pulverize a large batch in a coffee grinder and store in an airtight container for a few weeks.

How to Add Flaxseed to Cookie Dough

Stirring flaxseed directly into the dry ingredients is the easiest way to incorporate it into cookies. Here are some tips for adding it to dough:

  • Grind whole flaxseed into a fine meal to distribute evenly.
  • Whisk the flaxseed together with the flour, baking soda, salt, etc.
  • For soft cookies, let the flaxseed hydrate in the wet ingredients first.
  • Reduce liquids slightly to account for moisture absorption by the flaxseed.
  • Allow chilled dough to come to room temperature before baking.

Cookies made with flaxseed tend to spread more than normal during baking. Chilling the scooped dough before baking can help maintain shape.

For cookies with a topping like sugar crystals, sprinkle on before baking so the flaxseed doesn’t interfere with adhesion. And remember to let cookies cool completely before storage so they reach optimal texture.

Flaxseed Cookie Nutrition Facts

Flaxseed significantly enhances the nutrition profile of cookies. Here is a nutrition comparison of chocolate chip cookies with and without flaxseed (per 1 cookie):

Nutrient Chocolate Chip Cookie Chocolate Chip Cookie with Flaxseed
Calories 138 137
Fat 7g 7g
Carbs 18g 17g
Fiber 0.5g 2.5g
Protein 1g 2g
Calcium 6mg 13mg
Iron 0.5mg 0.7mg

The addition of just 2 tablespoons of flaxseed per cookie batch significantly boosts the fiber and nutrient content. The calories and macronutrients remain similar.

Flaxseed provides an ample dose of thiamine, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and manganese. It is one of the richest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids as well as lignin phytonutrients with antioxidant effects.

Potential Drawbacks of Flaxseed in Cookies

While flaxseed can positively enhance cookies, there are a few potential drawbacks:

  • Can impart bitterness if using rancid flaxseed
  • May alter texture too much if overused
  • Strong flax taste if not combined with complementary flavors
  • Does not work well in crispy, delicate cookies
  • Allergies or sensitivities to flaxseed

As long as you use high quality, fresh flaxseed at moderate amounts, it can elevate just about any cookie recipe. Adjust other leavening and liquid ingredients to account for any textural changes.

Storage Tips for Flaxseed Cookies

Here are some guidelines for storing cookies made with flaxseed:

  • Allow cookies to cool completely before storing to set texture
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week
  • Cookies with flaxseed stay fresh longer in the refrigerator, up to 2-3 weeks
  • To freeze, place cooled cookies in an airtight freezer bag
  • Thaw frozen cookies in the refrigerator overnight before serving

The moisture-absorbing properties of flaxseed give cookies a longer shelf life compared to normal recipes. Just be sure to seal containers well so they do not dry out.


Flaxseed is a simple, nutritious addition to cookies. It provides fiber, protein, healthy fats and antioxidants. The flavor is mild and complements both savory and sweet cookies. Flaxseed gives a satisfying, chewy texture with a pleasant crunch when used whole.

To incorporate flaxseed, grind it fresh and whisk into the dry ingredients. Start with 1-3 Tbsp per cookie batch and adjust according to taste and texture preferences. Store flaxseed cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week, or 2-3 weeks refrigerated.

With its stellar nutritional profile and subtle nutty taste, flaxseed is a stellar ingredient to incorporate into your next homemade cookie recipe!