New York City’s food scene quite literally has something for everyone, as the best chefs and bakers in the world come to this city to prove themselves. Not unlike the world’s best actors, singers, stylists, musicians, and artists, the city has something of a flair for attracting people with niche talents, and in the baking world, that is particularly true. The best cookies in America are made right here in New York City. Don’t believe me? Then you probably haven’t tried any of the best cookies in NYC.
The best cookies in NYC can be found all across the Burroughs– but deciding which is “best” is also a matter of perspective and what you like. Interested in a rich, decadent, gooey chocolate chip cookie? Head to Levain Bakery. Looking for a classic “Black and White” NYC cookie? Go to Russ & Daughters. Shopping for an elegant foodie souvenir? Take home a sleeve of Balthazar’s crispy chocolate shortbread. Swinging by a coffee shop and in need of something sweet? Look for Ovenly’s gluten-free salted peanut butter cookie; it’s divine.
Either way, no matter what you like, the below bakeries showcase something unique about both the NYC food scene and the art of cookie making. Now, will the real cookie monsters please stand up? This insider’s cookie guide is for you.
Enjoy our guide to New York City’s best cookies, below.
Levain’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies
The original chocolate chip walnut cookie from Levain Bakery is “the cookie that started it all.” Cookie dough-like in the center but just-the-right-amount-of-crispy on the outside, this perennial best-seller is one of Manhattan’s most famous cookies. This is the ideal place for people who love thick, rich, gooey-centered cookies.
The inside of each cookie is packed with semi-sweet chocolate chips and just the right amount of toasted walnuts chunks. It’s easily the best chocolate chip cookie in NYC. (The founders originally devised the recipe when they were training for triathlons and needed something to fuel their workouts.) Today, critics and tourists adore them. The bakery also just recently launched a Two Chip cookie (the same beloved chocolate chip cookie with double the amount of chocolate chips). Lovers of the decadent original can’t get enough of it. And FWIW, Levain’s oatmeal chocolate chip is also uniquely excellent, more scone-like than anything else, but still rich.
Levain Bakery has been a New York City staple for 25 years. They have 6 locations around the city and in the Hamptons, in addition to their original West 74th street bakery, which began selling bread from its tiny storefront in 1995. Today, moreover, Levain Bakery has earned their place as New York’s most decadent cookie haús. If you’re visiting the city only briefly, make sure to try one of their cookies. For the quintessential experience, get the chocolate chip walnut cookie. You can thank us later.
Russ & Daughters for Black & White Cookies + Rugelach
While more famous for their bagels and lox, Russ & Daughters has been an integral part of New York City’s food fabric for over 105 years. How fitting it is, then, that their classic Black & White Cookie– a New York City original!– is one of the best places to try this classic local cookie. And true to their Jewish-Polish roots, they also make New York City’s best rugelach.
Like all of their food, Russ & Daughters’ classic NYC cookies are available for pick up and delivery. Still, our favorite way to experience this cake-y cookie with its hints of lemon and almond is to share one after a meal of smoked salmon, eggs, bagels, or shakshouka at Russ & Daughters’ Cafe on Orchard Street. You can also get them at the nearby shop on East Houston– but eating at the restaurant is a bucket list experience. Go for lunch and save room for dessert.
Oh, and another insider’s sweet tooth tip? Their chocolate babka is also legendary. (It also makes a great souvenir you can keep in your freezer.)
Ovenly’s Iconic Peanut Butter Cookie (at Cafe Grumpy, Birch Cafe, and Elsewhere)
The key here is the perfect pinch of flake salt on top. Ovenly‘s mound-like salted peanut butter cookies are a staple across New York City’s neighborhood coffee shops and cafes, like Birch Cafe, Cafe Grumpy, and The Mill. This award-winning Brooklyn bakery makes several delicious cookies. But their salted peanut butter cookies are often cited as the best cookies in nyc. Plus, they’re gluten-free. (They’re made with heaps of peanut butter, brown sugar, and eggs, so you don’t even need the flour. See our spin-off recipe here.)
These artisanal domed cookies are easily the best “boutique” peanut butter cookies in the city. These are a far cry from any other peanut butter cookies you might have had before. They’re rustic in the best way.
And, given their allergy-friendly batter, they’re safe for people who are avoiding gluten, dairy, and/or grains, too. It’s a new American staple!
Balthazar Bakery for Chocolate Shortbread
This tiny bakery affixed to Balthazar’s SoHo restaurant makes excellent bread, pastries, and cookies. These are ideal for takeout while shopping and exploring SoHo. We particularly love Balthazar Bakery‘s cute disks of chocolate shortbread. They’re sort of the like the elegant cousin of Thin Mints(c)– at least aesthetically. (No, they are not mint chocolate chip– but they come stacked in a sheath and they have the same irresistible crunch. They’re both elevated and familiar.) As a result, this is a great cookie to pair with coffee– in which case you’re in luck, as Balthazar does a mean café au lait to go.
A stack of these chocolate shortbread also makes an excellent souvenir. Buy a bag to bring home whether you live in the city or are visiting from elsewhere. They’re usually on the wall rather than behind the counter. (Just make sure they don’t crumble in transit. These cookies are delicate!)
Other than that, Balthazar Bakery has pretty much mastered all things French Patisserie. Like many of the city’s best bakeries, they first got famous for bread, emblazoned with the now iconic “B”. Their Europhile pastry counter came later. If you’re eating inside, the chocolate-drenched profiterole dessert is no joke. Their sticky buns and petit fours are also great.
Still, regulars know that the chocolate shortbread cookies are an underrated gem. They are so thin, crisp, and flavorful that you might miss the daintiness of their picture-perfect execution. These bakers know what they’re doing. When it comes to making cookies, being trained in France and seasoned in NYC ensures textbook execution and delicious favors, every time.
Ladurée for Perfect French Macarons
Ladurée is every Francophile’s dream: a Parisian cafe in NYC, styled in the local fashion. This is easily the best place to get macarons in NYC. For a period of time when I first moved to the city, a mint green or pale pink box of Ladurée macarons was THE go-to housewarming gift whenever someone was hosting an event. Today, visitors line up outside the small Madison Avenue location, which is a perfect place to get macarons for a picnic in Central Park (which I recommend). Curate your own box, then walk to the park, find yourself a nice bench, and enjoy them while people watching. On a sunny day, it’s the best.
Ladurée’s main sit-down location, however, is in SoHo. This cafe is great for meetings with friends who are visiting the city– plus this location has a super beautiful terrace. (I used to interview famous people here in my early magazine days, because it was the right balance of fun, discerning, and private. Who knows! Maybe you’ll see a celebrity or two.)
Be sure to try a pistachio or rose Macaron, as these are staples. They also make giant stuffed macarons the size of whoopie pies! For example, their world-famous Rose Ispahan is made with rose macaron biscuit garnished with rose petal cream, fresh raspberries, and a lychee center. Either way, you can shop according to your favorite color. This place sells macarons in every flavor of the rainbow, and they’re textbook-perfect every time. Culinary aesthetes, rejoice!
If you’re sitting in the cafe, consider ordering a “white coffee”– an intriguing caffeine-free tea made from lemon, lime, and orange citrus rinds. It pairs beautifully with the macarons, which they’ll serve to you on a dainty, Instagram-friendly plate.
Cookie Do’s Cookie Dough Bomb
Cookie Do was one of the first viral “cookie dough bars” in the nation. NYC’s iconic cookie dough counter also serves ice cream, but no one really notices with all that edible, egg-free batter being scooped. Yes, this is cookie dough that you eat like ice cream (ideally from inside a cookie cone). No, it doesn’t contain raw eggs. And yes, there are gluten-free options.
At the pastry bar in front of the shop, Cookie Do also sells baked versions of their cookie dough. Aka, cookies. We like the rainbow sprinkle cookie and their notable cookie BOMB, a cupcake-like deep dish cookie stuffed with Nutella and covered in frosting with a cookie dough “cherry” on top. (^ That’s a picture of it, above. It’s probably the most gluttonous cookie in nyc, ha.)
So, as you can imagine, the line is crazy at peak hours. People mostly go for the gimmick, but if you love cookie dough and have never been to a cookie dough bar, this is bound to be a worthwhile experience. Even if you’re doing it for the gram, having cookie dough that you’re allowed to eat raw still feels naughty, in a good way.
Looking for more sweet treats in NYC? Read our guide to the Big Apple’s Weirdest, Coolest Ice Cream Shops. (<– This guide includes everything from rolled ice cream to globally-influenced sundaes and hip-hop themed frozen treats. New York City’s dessert game is wild. Enjoy!)