5 spice cookies (21)-2

My kung fu school is having their first book club, and like any good martial arts school, everything is martial arts related. So for our first book, we’re reading American Shaolin by Matthew Perry which is an easy and entertaining read because our school is pretty much all ages (oh, those tiny kung fu martial artists that could kick my butt!). The school is providing tea and snacks and like any proper vegan, I won’t show up empty handed. Not only to ensure I have something to snack on but to lure people to the dark side of vegan life. Come! We have delicious cookies! Even though there are more and more vegans, and more and more places to eat vegan food, unless someone has direct exposure to vegansim within the last year, many folks are still pretty clueless about what we eat or that we even can eat cookies. So step one for making vegans: always have delicious food to share. Step 2: as they are happily chewing away on their milk-free, butter-free cookie, that’s when you drop the horrors of the dairy industry upon them like a million tiny shock bombs only softened by the fact they are mid-sugar rush of a completely vegan cookie.

vegan 5 spice cookies

Of course, I want to stay as culturally appropriate as possible. We’re reading a book on kung fu, in a kung fu school, with a bunch of kung fu martial artists, naturally I wanted something of the Chinese variety, which is actually pretty easy when it comes to vegan food. But I usually like to show up with something sweet and something savory and I needed something that could be easily eaten, we don’t have a kitchen and any kind of finger food would be best. I took to Facebook to see if anyone had unique suggestions and was lead to the idea of a 5-spice cookie.  If you’re not familiar, 5-spice powder is a mixture that contains 5 or more spices commonly used in Chinese cooking. A good blend is fragrant, spicy, but should also be a little sweet typically with cinnamon, star anise, pepper, fennel, cloves, or ginger. Often used in meat dishes, I loved the idea of incorporating it into a cookie.

chinese 5 spice

I searched online for a few variations of a Chinese 5-spice cookie and tried a few as a test run before subjecting others to them, the one that sounded most appealing to me went terribly wrong. It had entirely too much flour, which I actually suspected but when I am using someone’s recipe for a baked good for the first time I like to follow as it is written. Once I saw there was no way the “dough” could ever possibly form into balls or disks or anything other than a sandy mess, I started adding more of the liquids in a last ditch effort to not waste everything. What I got was a cookie that did have a nice flavor and came out of the oven okay but cemented over time. Great for dipping, but unless I was bringing along glasses of almond milk, this wasn’t going to work. I tried a couple more recipes I saw, one was too much like a straight molasses cookie, which was good but not what I was going for, another was also too dry. Now knee deep in cookies I didn’t want to be eating, I made a couple of my own tweaks, combining a few and landing on what I deemed the winner for Book Club and vegan conversion. Now I just need to nail down my Jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) recipe.

vegan molasses cookies

I was trying to post the recipe using my usual recipe card plug-in which suddenly stopped working and the company seems to be MIA according to the food bloggers freaking out on the forum. Annoying, for sure, but I’m sure there’s another plugin out there that will work just fine but until I have time to sift through them, or Yumprint starts working again, here’s the recipe in good ol’ fashion body copy format. Sorry about that, if you want to print it without all of my drivel and photos, just copy the text into a word doc and print. Work with what ya got, right?

Vegan 5-Spice Molasses Cookies by CaraSchrock.com


2 (8.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons five spice powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsulfured blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and get your baking sheets ready with parchment paper
  2. In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients – flour through baking soda.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, molasses, and maple syrup.
  4. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the liquids.
  5. Stir to combine but since this isn’t a very moist dough, it helps to mix with your hands to make sure everything is incorporated.
  6. Scoop out about a tablespoon of dough and roll into balls. Use the palm of your hand to flatten into disks, making sure to leave some room for the cookies to spread although they won’t spread that much. 
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden. 
  8. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them sit for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

The key with baking is always to make sure you’re weighing your ingredients, especially flour, so I really recommend using a digital kitchen scale because scooping flour can vary way more than you would ever expect, often times causing us to add up to an extra 3/4 cup. Ideally you’ll fluff your flour in the bag first, spoon it into a dry measuring cup so it’s overflowing, then take a level and level out the scoop. And then weigh it, if the recipe includes the weight, but if you don’t have a scale, at least do those steps to get the closest measurement.

Adapted from Vermilion Roots