I’ve been on this wild ride exploring the world of sourdough, and guess what delicious detour I stumbled upon? Sourdough cookies!
Sourdough chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread cookies, molasses cookies, oatmeal cookies, thumbprint cookies… the options are endless.
I’m not here to tempt your taste buds (okay, maybe a little), but let’s dive in and answer the burning question: Are sourdough cookies actually better for you compared to regular cookies?
Active Starter vs Discard In Sourdough Cookies
Every sourdough cookie recipe I’ve ever made has been with sourdough discard, a term that means inactive starter.
When you feed a sourdough starter, it rises and becomes active. That’s when you would typically start making bread.
But after the starter reaches its peak rise, it starts falling again, and eventually, it’ll completely deflate. That’s when you pour off most of the starter and feed it again. The stuff you pour off is called discard.
When you hear about sourdough and its health benefits, it usually refers to recipes made with active starter. So, let’s unpack what the health benefits of sourdough cookies might be with the understanding that they include discard, not active starter.
Health Benefits of Sourdough Discard Cookies
You can get health benefits from recipes that use sourdough discard, but the magic is in the fermentation. And fermentation takes time.
If you whip up a batch of sourdough discard cookies and bake them up right away, I don’t believe you’re getting any kind of real health benefit.
But if you make the dough and let it rest in the fridge for 24-72 hours, that dough is starting to ferment. And that, my friend, is full of health benefits.
Fermented Cookie Health Benefits
As cookie dough sits in the fridge, it’s slowly fermenting.
The fermentation process pre-digests a lot of the gluten, which makes it a lot easier on your stomach. So plus one for better digestion.
The other amazing thing about sourdough discard is it’s full of probiotics, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. Those benefits will transfer over into your cookie dough, giving your cookies a nutritious punch they wouldn’t otherwise have.
There’s also reason to believe that sourdough cookies would not raise your blood sugar levels as high as non-sourdough cookies.
In other words, sourdough cookies have a lower glycemic index, which should make you feel fuller for longer.
So really, you might be capable of eating just one sourdough cookie and stopping!
I’m currently considering getting my hands on a blood sugar device to test out this theory – comment if you’d be interested in seeing that information. It’s expensive, but if enough people are interested, I’ll give it a go.
Read more about sourdough benefits: 27 Top Benefits of Sourdough Bread + Why It’s Good For You
What Does Sourdough Discard Do For Cookies Anyway?
Sourdough discard, though not active and bubbly, is acidic and still has a sour flavor. When you add discard to recipes, it imparts some of that sour tang.
That said, the flavor isn’t overpowering in cookies, and I dare say you may not even notice it at all. But if you have pretty sophisticated taste buds, it adds a complexity that’s hard to explain.
One Reddit user puts it like this: “[…] it adds a 3D complexity to cookies, kind of like how a filet mignon tastes more ‘beefy’ than a regular steak […].”
The longer you let the dough sit before baking, the stronger the flavor will be. A lot of recipes and sourdough bakers suggest 3 days, but if you can’t wait that long, 2 hours is the minimum.
If you want the health benefits of fermented cookie dough, I’d at least let it sit overnight.
Benefits of Using Sourdough Discard In Cookies
If you want to make sourdough cookies, these – in my opinion – are the benefits of doing so:
- More complex flavors: you might not notice it, but the discard will amp up the flavor of your cookies by imparting a slight, subtle tang.
- Enhance the rise: while discard isn’t active, it can still help baked goods rise a bit more. It gives it a little bit of a lift.
- Use up your discard: those of us who feed our starter daily are always looking for ways to use up our discard. If waste makes your blood boil, a sourdough discard cookie recipe is *chef’s kiss.*
- Explore new recipes you wouldn’t have otherwise: finding ways to make use of sourdough discard often has me experimenting with recipes I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. And that’s the spice of life!
And if you can let the dough sit in the fridge for 3 days, you’ll enjoy:
- Health benefits of fermentation: cookie dough that sits in the fridge for a few days will slowly ferment, which adds nutrition and makes the cookies easier to digest.
Healthy Cookies? Ehh…
While sourdough cookies pack a healthier punch than regular cookies, I wouldn’t really call them “healthy.”
They still contain sugar, flour, and fat (butter, oil, etc.), so the key is to eat them in moderation.
Good luck with that.
(Though, if you let the dough ferment in the fridge for a few days, it lowers its glycemic index and should make you feel fuller for longer, so it may be possible!)
Using sourdough discard in your cookies not only enhances the flavor but also unlocks a host of health benefits, including improved digestion and a lower glycemic index.
While you shouldn’t start pounding sourdough cookies at every meal, the potential of a more healthful cookie is certainly worth savoring!