These chocolate hazelnut thumbprint cookies are unsurprisingly delicious yet surprisingly easy to assemble, and the work goes especially quickly if you’re making a batch of my chocolate-filled peanut butter blossoms at the same time. No handmade chocolate kisses required!

One afternoon each December, I sit down and make a list of all the cookies and candies that will appear on that year’s Christmas cookie plate. I have probably five tried-and-true recipes that I make every year — sometimes swapping nuts or extracts just for fun — and then I try a small selection of the most special-looking recipes I’ve absentmindedly bookmarked over the course of the previous year. This might sound like a simple task, but I …  have a bookmarking problem. As my last computer sludged toward its final days, I was convinced that every new bookmark I added to my browser was contributing to its molasses-slow state of inoperability.

While my curiosity is easily piqued, I just have terribly little time. Rare are the days that I see a good-looking recipe and can head straight to the kitchen to make it, so whenever I see something that looks delicious, or incorporates an interesting combination of flavors or cooking technique, I bookmark it. When I’m considering a new baking endeavor, I like to queue up 10 or so different versions of it to cross-compare ingredients, methods, and results so I can enter into it fully informed. And since I like making things from scratch, I might also look up 10 different versions of an ingredient in the recipe, and so on and so forth until I’m so buried in tabs and research and indecision that I have to put it aside for the night, bookmark all tabs, close my browser, and walk away.

Really, it’s a miracle that I get any cooking done at all.

All of that is just to say that this weekend, I got lucky. I glanced through my bookmarks, picked a cookie that sounded good, wrote out my ingredient and method alterations, and went to work … and a couple of hours later, I had a new favorite Christmas cookie. The cookie part is rich and kinda fudgy, with loads of hazelnut flavor, and then you sink your teeth into slightly soft chocolate centers. They’re legit.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprints
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2.5 dozen
  • ½ c + 2 Tbsp raw hazelnuts, separated (~2.5 ounces)
  • 2 c flour
  • 7 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder (or more regular cocoa powder)
  • 1 Tbsp corn, potato, or tapioca starch
  • 2¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 c vegan butter, softened
  • ¾ c granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla paste (or extract)
  • ½ c turbinado sugar, for rolling
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp refined coconut oil
  • a round teaspoon or small melon baller
  1. Pour turbinado into a small, shallow bowl and set aside.
  2. Spread hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment or aluminum foil.
  3. Bake hazelnuts just until fragrant and golden (about 10 minutes), tossing occasionally.
  4. Enclose nuts in a clean kitchen towel and rub them together vigorously for a few minutes to remove their bitter skins. Don't worry if some of the skins don't fall off. Cool fully.
  5. Once your nuts are cool, or the following day, preheat oven or toaster oven to 350°F.
  6. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. In a clean coffee grinder or small food processor, finely grind ½ cup cooled hazelnuts, reserving the rest for decoration. (Don't grind them long enough that they start turning into nut butter).
  8. Finely chop remaining 2 Tbsp hazelnuts, transfer to a small bowl, and set aside.
  9. In a medium bowl, whisk together ground nuts, flour, cocoa powders, starch, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  10. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and vegan butter.
  11. Add water and vanilla and beat until combined.
  12. Add dry mixture to wet and beat until a stiff dough is formed. It will be a little dry, but should ultimately come together.
  13. Form heaping tablespoons of dough into balls and roll each ball in turbinado.
  14. Arrange balls on prepared baking sheets about 2" apart.
  15. Bake cookies until puffy, but still moist, about 8-10 minutes.
  16. Remove baking sheets from oven and immediately make an indentation in the center of each cookie a round teaspoon or the small end of a melon baller.
  17. Transfer cookies on parchment to wire racks and cool completely. After a few minutes of cooling, their centers may puff back up a little; just press them back down gently with your tool of choice.
  18. While the cookies cool, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in a double-boiler over low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth.
  19. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  20. Using a spoon with a tapered tip, spoon chocolate into indented centers of cooled cookies.
  21. Lightly sprinkle each cookie with reserved chopped hazelnuts.
  22. Allow chocolate to set fully before serving (about half an hour at room temperature).