I don’t make a whole lot of vegan baked goods. Gluten-free treats come out of my kitchen a little more often, but not too frequently. Both vegan and gluten-free? That is a veritable unicorn in my house.

But when you’ve got friends or family who adhere to either diet, it’s worthwhile to have a trusty recipe in your pocket.

These delicate cookies fit the bill. They are almost like a shortbread but with an even more melt-in-your-mouth texture.

With no flour, they can cater to the gluten-free crowd. We chose to make them vegan-friendly as well by taking the original recipe’s suggestion that virgin coconut oil could be substituted for the butter.

Unlike refined coconut oil, the virgin stuff actually tastes like coconut, giving the cookies a lovely flavor reminiscent of a Mounds bar.

Coconut oil is all over the place these days, and if you haven’t baked with it, there are a few things you should know. First: It is soft at room temperature but rock hard when refrigerated. For this recipe, you want the oil at room temperature so it can be creamed with the sugar; cool room temperature is ideal so it’s not solid but also not super runny. Coconut oil is a pretty good substitute for butter or shortening in baking, though your results may not be exactly the same as if you had used butter.

Stella Parks at Serious Eats calls coconut oil “the secret workhorse of my kitchen.” One reason: Coconut oil helps extend the shelf life of baked goods. Parks shares additional useful info, including that coconut oil melts at a lower temperature in your mouth, so there is less of that greasy feeling on your tongue. She also points out that the lower melting point means you might want to refrigerate certain doughs before cutting so they can firm up.

Chocolate Almond Cookies

Pay close attention to the extended time needed when you are creating the cookie dough. If you don’t mix it long enough, the cookies might fall apart as you lift them off the baking sheet. (Not flattening the scooped dough too much will help prevent this, too.) You have to give the coconut oil plenty of time to incorporate into the mix.

The dough can be portioned and refrigerated overnight. The baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

Adapted from “Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing,” by Jerrelle Guy (Page Street Publishing, 2018).

20 servings

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil, at cool room temperature (may substitute unsalted butter)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups almond meal/flour (may substitute hazelnut meal)

1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the sugar, coconut oil and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer or use a handheld electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until fluffy. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Sift the almond meal/flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl.

Beat on low speed for 10 to 12 minutes, to form a thoroughly blended, dense dough that holds together when pressed. Do a quick knead with your hands, gather it into one mass and make sure it is sticking together well. Pinch off a bit of dough and compress it into a ball. If it holds its shape, you’re good to go. If it crumbles, keep mixing. You can also refrigerate the dough for 15 or 20 minutes, which will make it firmer.

Divide the dough into twenty 1-inch portions, rolling each one into a ball and spacing the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.

Flatten each ball into a disk that’s between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.

Bake (upper and lower racks) for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through.

The cookies will be tender and slightly puffed.

Cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then use a thin spatula to carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing.