Chocolate Chip Cookies with Unrefined Sugar

These chocolate chip cookies are made with an unrefined sugar called sucanat. They’re BIG on taste and are loaded with chunks of bittersweet chocolate. No one can ever tell that the cookies are made with natural sugar!

stack of chocolate chip cookies

This recipe comes from the cookbook Naturally Sweet, which was developed by the brilliant team over at America’s Test Kitchen. Packed with 100 desserts, breakfasts, and baked treats, the cookbook features recipes all made with 30% – 50% less sugar. By reading this cookbook, you’ll learn details about the science of sugar and how, why, and when unrefined sugars like coconut sugar, date sugar, maple syrup, and sucanat are appropriate for substitution. I found it fascinating!

We love cookies around here, so I decided to share their chocolate chip cookies with unrefined sugar. According to Naturally Sweet – typical chocolate chip cookies have 25 grams sugar each and these have 15 grams sugar each.

Natually Sweet cookbook by America's Test Kitchen

Tell Me About these Chocolate Chip Cookies with Unrefined Sugar

  • Texture: Just like with our regular chewy chocolate chip cookies, you’ll enjoy wonderfully soft and chewy centers with slightly crisp edges.
  • Flavor: In addition to their texture, today’s unrefined sugar chocolate chip cookies have a flavor worth writing home about. You’ll love the buttery base because it includes a lovely molasses flavor (from sucanat) that’s typical with oatmeal cookies. Plus, the pure bittersweet chocolate is a step above regular chocolate chips. 
  • Ease: Baking cookies with less sugar is just as easy as making regular chocolate chip cookies– just make sure you have sucanat in your cabinet before you get started. See What is Sucanat? below.
  • Time: Set aside enough time to chill the cookie dough in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.

What is Sucanat?

This ingredient is frequently used in the Naturally Sweet cookbook. Here are a few things we learned about this unique sweetener:

  • Sucanat is dehydrated cane juice made from natural cane sugar.
  • It has a deep molasses flavor, so a small amount goes a long way. 
  • As you can see from the photos, sucanat granules are large, brown, and irregular in both size and shape. This creates a dough that is gold in color. 
  • It’s less processed than granulated sugar, which is why it’s great when you’re looking to reduce the refined sugar in desserts. 

Where can you buy it? You can find it online or in most major grocery store’s baking aisle or natural food section.

2 images of sucanat in a teal bowl and in a measuring cup and zoomed into the teal bowl of sucanat

creamed butter and sucanat in a glass stand mixer bowl

Recipe Testing: What Works & What Doesn’t

Here’s what my team and I learned when testing this recipe for chocolate chip cookies with unrefined sugar.

  1. Cream the butter and sucanat for 3 full minutes. Stop the mixer a few times, mix it all up with a rubber spatula, and start creaming again. The photo above shows the creamed butter and sucanat.
  2. Baking powder works. I don’t typically make chocolate chip cookies with baking powder – only baking soda. But America’s Test Kitchen added it so the cookies rise super high in the oven, then slightly fall as they cool. We loved its addition in this cookie recipe because it makes for a very chewy and dense center.
  3. Don’t let the dough surprise you. Because of the sucanat, the cookie dough is a bright gold color and not your typical cookie dough beige. It will also be very sticky, very thick, and a little grainy, so don’t be alarmed if that’s what you see.
  4. This is the most important step. In 1 of our test batches, we tried to let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking, but the cookies overspread. Letting the cookie dough chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator produced an even better tasting (and looking!) cookie. Chilling is always the way to combat cookie spreading issues.
  5. Another sugar. If you can’t get sucanat or simply prefer a different sweetener, you can also use coconut sugar or dark brown sugar in this recipe.

chocolate chip cookie dough in a glass bowl

2 images of cookie dough in a glass bowl and cookie dough balls on a silpat baking mat on a baking sheet

Are These Healthy Cookies?

“Healthy” is a relative term. In my eyes, these are a (very slightly) healthier choice than traditional chocolate chip cookies made with oodles of refined sugar. However, they still may be too sugary for someone who needs to watch their sugar intake. When it comes to labeling dessert recipes as healthy, use the best judgement for YOU.

We’re unsure of the nutritional information for these cookies, but feel free to calculate it yourself using an online calculator and the exact products/brands you use.

chocolate chip cookies

stack of 4 chocolate chip cookies

More Recipes Made with Unrefined Sugar

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stack of chocolate chip cookies

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Less Sugar

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 14 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Yield: 20 cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


These chocolate chip cookies with unrefined sugar taste as indulgent and rich as the full sugar version. Sucanat adds lovely molasses flavor.


  • 1 and 3/4 cups (219g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 Tablespoons (145g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2/3 cup + 1/2 cup (216g or 1 cup2.6 Tbsp) sucanat*
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  • 5 ounces (140g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped


  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until combined. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sucanat and beat on medium high speed for 3 full minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides as needed. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract on high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  3. On low speed, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. The cookie dough will be gold in color, sticky, and thick. Fold in the chopped chocolate. Cover tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
  4. Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator. If the cookie dough chilled longer than 3-4 hours, let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. This makes the cookie dough easier to scoop and roll.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (Always recommended for cookies.) Set aside.
  6. Roll cookie dough into balls, about 2 Tablespoons of dough each.
  7. Bake the cookies for 11-14 minutes, or until very lightly browned and crisp looking on the edges. My oven has hot spots and yours may too- so be sure to rotate the pan once during bake time. The baked cookies will look soft in the centers when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely. I find their flavor is even better the next day.


  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. You can make the cookie dough and chill it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Allow to come to room temperature then continue with step 5. Baked cookies freeze well for up to 3 months. Unbaked cookie dough balls freeze well for up to 3 months. Bake frozen cookie dough balls for an extra minute, no need to thaw. Click here for my tips and tricks on freezing cookie dough.
  2. Special Tools: Naturally Sweet Cookbook | Sucanat | KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Flex Edge Beater | 5-qt Tilt Head Measuring Bowl | Silpat Baking Mat | Mini Bowls | Measuring Cups
  3. Sweetener Substitutions: Instead of sucanat, use 1 and 1/4 cups coconut sugar. Cookies will spread more and have crispier edges. Or use packed 2/3 cup + packed 1/4 cup dark brown sugar. Cookies will have a milder molasses flavor and spread more.
  4. Sugar Content: 15g sugar per cookie if using Wholesome! brand sucanat and Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate bar.
  5. Check out my top 5 cookie tips before beginning. It includes how to prevent cookies from over-spreading and why room temperature makes a difference.
  6. Excerpted from Naturally Sweet: Bake All Your Favorites With 30% to 50% Less Sugar by America’s Test Kitchen. Reprinted with permission from author and publishing company.

Keywords: chocolate chip cookies with less sugar, chewy chocolate chip cookies


  1. Amazing recipe! I used coconut sugar and they were perfect- thank you!

  2. My cousin wanted me to make her cookies and all we had was cane sugar. I’m glad I came across this recipe because the cookies came out great and everyone asked for more

  3. Hello! I used coconut sugar in this recipe. My cookies although yummy, is very cakey (cake-like) in texture. Is it because of the baking powder? Or the coconut sugar itself? I did not want to omit the baking powder because i thnk it caused the cracks on my cookies and i love how it looked! Haha

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