12 Cookie Chains, Ranked Worst To Best

While just about everybody loves ooey-gooey freshly baked cookies, we all make our own decisions about which cookie recipes to bake or where to buy our favorite treats. Fortunately, there are many potential cookie sources out there. Some say that only homemade cookies will do, while others swear by the convenience of store-bought cookie dough or actual cookies. There are even people who prefer to eat raw cookie dough. (Don't worry, we don't judge!)

One option that might offer the best of all worlds is a cookie chain, which provides high-quality, mouth-watering cookies with none of the baking hassle. The only catch is that, for the best cookies, you need to live near a store. With some cookie chains, you can order nationwide delivery or even find packaged products in grocery stores. While these options certainly can be tasty, keep in mind that they are unlikely to be as good as fresh cookies baked on-site.

Below, our cookie experts rank 12 cookie chains across the nation, based on overall quality, flavor variety, pricing, and product availability. From popular cookie kiosks at malls to trending regional bakeries, here's what we learned about how the cookie crumbles.

12. Cookies by Design

Cookies by Design is best known for making colorful cookie bouquets out of frosted sugar cookies. Many products, including cookie bouquets, cookie baskets, and cookie cakes, are appropriately themed for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other special occasions. Along with sugar cookies, Cookies by Design makes a variety of gourmet cookies in classic flavors, like chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, as well as party flavors, like red velvet and birthday sprinkles. But while Cookies by Design can certainly hold its own in the cute cookie gift department, the actual cookie quality is not quite up to the standards of some of our other cookie chains. With the business' delivery service, cookies can arrive tasting stale and hard. Sugar cookies also aren't our favorite, with overly-sweet icing and none of the gooey deliciousness offered by some other chains. 

If you want true sugar cookie delight, go ahead and make and decorate your own sugar cookies following our expert tips. For best results, we recommend using browned butter instead of regular butter, making sure butter and eggs are at room temperature, taking care not to overmix, and dipping cookie cutters into flour to avoid sticking.

11. Nestle Toll House Cafe

Who doesn't love good old-fashioned Nestle Toll House cookies? The brand's original (and classic) chocolate chip cookie recipe has been around since 1939 and is good enough to have lasted through the ages. For many, it's a go-to family recipe. And while some of us rely on the recipe to make our own cookies, sometimes it's nice just to  let somebody else do the baking for you.

Nestle Toll House Cafe would probably be higher on our list, if not for some bad business news. Unfortunately, this cookie chain is tough to find these days. Despite an initial expansion in the early 2000s, Nestle Toll House Cafe now offers only 15 locations, most of which are in the South. (As a point of reference, there were 200 stores across the country in 2008.) Even more doomsday-ish, word is that all Nestle Toll House Cafes will soon be replaced by Great American Cookies. The demise of this cookie chain and coffee shop combo has been attributed to failing mall locations, as well as legal issues over licensing. Unforeseen loyalty to other coffee shops and lunch stops may also play a role.

For now, the remaining locations continue to offer cookies, cookie cups, brownies, ice cream sandwiches, and specialty coffee, along with wraps and paninis. Of course, you can always choose to bake the brand's iconic cookies from scratch or from convenient (and delicious) store-bought cookie dough.

10. Great American Cookies

Similar to Mrs. Fields and Nestle Toll House Cafe, Great American Cookies stores are often located in malls. According to the company's website, Great American Cookies are only available in Eastern states at this time. The chain may soon expand, however, by purchasing and revamping Nestle Toll House Cafe locations, according to Bake Magazine

Great American Cookies stores are known for making flat, soft, chewy cookies. These come in a variety of flavors, including chocolate chip, sugar, and M&M. You can also purchase brownies, Double Doozies (two cookies with icing in between), and custom cookie cakes with lots of fun options, including a cute Elf on the Shelf-themed one for the holidays. 

While the chain's cookie cake stylings are fun, this franchise isn't our favorite. Its traditional cookies have a soft texture but a slightly chemical taste, since the cookies are made to be shelf-stable. The best part of Great American Cookies is its wide variety of decorated cookie cakes. They're perfect for special occasions but, like Cookies by Design, are often overly frosted, creating an overwhelming sugary flavor. Still, it's virtually impossible to walk by a Great American Cookies store without stopping to buy at least one cookie.

9. Tiff's Treats

Unlike many other cookie chains, Tiff's Treats prides itself on baking cookies fresh when you order, then delivering warm cookies right to your door –– even late at night. The only downside is that you need to live near one of its locations for this perk. (Residents of Southern states, especially Texas, are so lucky!) People in other regions can opt to have a limited number of products shipped. Expert tip: Pop older cookies in the microwave for 10-15 seconds for a seemingly fresh-baked experience.

As for the actual cookie flavors, Tiff's Treats offers all the classics, including chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, and sugar. (We are big fans of peanut butter chocolate chip, but you do you.) You can also find brownies, chocolate chip cookie truffles, and cookie ice cream sandwiches. Tiff's Treats also sells tubs of frosting with which to top your cookies. To avoid waiting too long while your cookies slow-bake, remember to order ahead.

The freshness of these cookies is a huge plus, as is the chain's avoidance of sprinkles and food coloring, but its limited locations keep it ninth on our list. Tiff's Treats also keeps it traditional, which means some of the chains with more creative recipes edge it out. Of possible interest to fans of Tiff's Treats, founders Tiffany and Leon Chen share the brand's cute origin story (along with some recipes) in their book, "It's Not Just Cookies: Stories and Recipes from the Tiff's Treats Kitchen."

8. Cookie Plug

Cookie Plug is known for its graffiti–like, hip-hop vibe and fresh, fat, thick cookies, also known as "fat stacks". These offer a more cake-like texture than many of our other cookie chains but, as a plus, have some incredibly creative flavors like Firecracker S'mores, Pixie Junkie Sugar Cookie, Purple Velvet, and Bam Bam Fruity Cereal. Those are just four of the 12 cookie flavors the chain offers on a daily basis. All of these can be "iced up"; that is, turned into cookie sandwiches. 

If you can't decide which cookie flavor to try, go ahead and order a Plug Popper. This gives you bite-sized cookies of all 12 flavors. You can also regularly find four keto-friendly flavors: Kitt Chocolate Chip, Bart Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Calvin Snickerdoodle, and Black Magic Chocolate. All cookie types are placed in colorful, artful boxes. The unique offerings and presentation of Cookie Plug earns it a solid rating as eighth on our list.

Note that although cannabis slang is used in product naming, there is no actual cannabis, THC, or CBD in Cookie Plug's products, according to a recent Cookie Plug press release. Based in Southern California, there are already dozens of store locations across the country, with many more markets planned for 2023. An additional 20 new stores are expected in the first quarter alone.

7. Chip City

Chip City, a chain of 15 cookie stores located in New York and New Jersey, offers over 40 flavors throughout the year, along with seasonal drinks and coffee creations. In 2023, Danny Meyer of Shake Shack invested $10 million to expand the cookie company's operations beyond the Northeast (via Forbes). In other words, if you don't have a Chip City near you yet, there may be one coming soon.

At this point, Chip City's cookie dough is prepared off-site in Queens, New York, and then shipped to each store location for a fresh-baked experience. The company plans to build another production cookie dough plant in Florida soon, along with opening stores in Boston, Connecticut, and Washington D.C.

On a weekly basis, Chip City customers can choose from a variety of classic and seasonal cookie options at store locations. The menu includes favorites like chocolate chip (standard and plant-based), triple chocolate, Cookies N' Cream, Funfetti, and S'mores. Depending on when you stop by, you may also find some unique flavors like Lemon Berry, Peanut Butter & Jelly, or Cannoli. The chain's seasonal flavors, policy of baking cookies fresh, and numerous locations give it a decent place on our list.  

6. Dirty Dough

These cookies aren't exactly fancy or even particularly pretty. Instead, the Dirty Dough cookie chain focuses on making "cookies with character" that are "proudly unique, inside and out." Dirty Dough cookie flavors are a marvelous mess of layers, mix-ins, and fillings –– so if you like that kind of thing, you should definitely give them a try. If you prefer a more basic type of cookie, you may find some of the stuffed flavors to be a bit much. The chain offers a rotating menu of signature cookies and weekly specials, with dozens of bakery locations in multiple states. It also provides nationwide shipping. Dirty Dough's "everything but the kitchen sink" approach makes it stand out from the crowd, especially from chains that provide substandard traditional flavors or have limited locations. 

While all of that sounds pretty good, it's not all paradise in cookie chain land. Let's just say that competitor Crumbl is not convinced that Dirty Dough's cookies are entirely unique. According to a recent article in Franchise Times, Crumbl sued Dirty Dough, claiming its cookies and packaging violate trademarked designs obtained through stolen documents from a former employee (none other than Dirty Dough CEO Bennett Maxwell's brother). However, Maxwell does not seem especially concerned. He has denied Crumbl's allegations and appears somewhat grateful for the resulting exposure, pointing out that Dirty Dough's franchise sales have now accelerated.

5. Milk Bar

With only a handful of locations across the country, Milk Bar is much loved for its absolutely to-die-for pies, cakes, truffles, and (of course) cookies. The company provides nationwide delivery, with some products available in regular grocery stores. We recently spoke with founder Christina Tosi in an exclusive interview about the company's holiday promotions (including a Fruit of the Loom collaboration), cookie gift exchanges, and her latest cookbook, "All About Cookies." (BTW, you cookie fans may want to check those recipes out!) Tosi also shared a number of Milk Bar baking tips with us, such as using clear vanilla extract to obtain a light and creamy result.

If you like classic cookie flavors best, Milk Bar may not be right for you. But if you enjoy mixing things up a little, Milk Bar cookies can be a lot of fun. The bakery tends to use unusual ingredients; for example, a Compost cookie involves chocolate chips, pretzels, potato chips, graham crackers, coffee, oats, and butterscotch. Other popular Milk Bar cookies include Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow, Chocolate Confetti Cookie, Confetti, Corn Cookie, and Blueberry & Cream. Overall, Milk Bar earns high points for cookie quality, originality, and packaged product availability. If only there were more fresh bakery locations nationwide.

4. Levain Bakery

Trust a New York bakery to get it right. Levain Bakery's slogan probably says it best: "Not just a cookie, but *the* cookie". These amazing cookies are big (6 ounces), with crispy outsides and gooey insides –– just like cookies have always been meant to be. Although the chain currently offers only 13 locations (all in the East and Midwest), West Coast residents will likely be thrilled to learn that the bakery is coming soon to Los Angeles. For those in other regions, we can offer these words of comfort: Levain bakes and ships cookie orders on the same day, nationwide. For people looking for an even fresher, just-out-of-the-oven taste, check out our Levain Chocolate Chip Cookies Copycat recipe. (Yum!)

Overall, Levain's cookies offer an elevated spin on some classic flavors: Two Chip Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Walnut, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip, Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip (this one even inspired a beer), and Oatmeal Raisin. But if you don't live near one of the bakery locations, you won't be able to enjoy the fullest, freshly baked, ooey-gooey cookie experience.

3. Mrs. Fields

Created back in 1977 by Debbi Fields (aka Mrs. Fields), these delicious cookies are still an absolute fan-favorite. In an exclusive Mashed survey, 41% of respondents agreed that Mrs. Fields is the best cookie chain. It is also one of the largest cookie chains in the United States, with prominent brand recognition. Mrs. Fields has 250 stores around the world, many of which are found within shopping malls. Along with these fresh cookie outlets, you can find many of the brand's products available online for shipping. There are also some packaged products to be found at grocery stores.

Although Mrs. Fields has expanded over time, it has always focused on using quality ingredients. Signature cookie flavors include semi-sweet chocolate, triple chocolate, white chocolate macadamia, oatmeal raisin walnut, and cinnamon suger. You can also enjoy the discovery of Nibblers, Frosted Cookies, and Brownie Bites, along with cookie cakes, chocolate-dipped fruit, and a variety of festive gift tins, boxes, and baskets. We love Mrs. Fields for its classic flavors, quality ingredients, widespread availability, and pure yumminess.

2. Insomnia Cookies

Conceptually developed in a dorm room after one-too-many late-night cravings for something warm and sweet, UPenn student Seth Berkowitz brought his dream of Insomnia Cookies to life in 2003. By 2018, JAB Holdings, the parent company of Krispy Kreme, acquired a major stake in this cookie business. Insomnia Cookies now has over 200 locations, offering a wide range of classic cookies, deluxe cookies, brownies, and blondies. Not only are Insomnia's cookies mouthwateringly delicious, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture, but the chain also offers ice cream cookie sandwiches that taste almost too good to be true as well as ice cream, cookie cakes, and even cookie butter). Best of all, Insomnia Cookies delivers as late as 3 a.m. (from some locations), making it the only cookie chain that can truly satisfy the urge for a midnight snack. 

Classic cookie flavors include chocolate chunk, oatmeal raisin, double chocolate chunk, peanut butter chip, and white chocolate macadamia, with vegan and gluten-free options. You can also order cookie indulgences like S'mores, Confetti Deluxe, and Salted Caramel from the deluxe menu. Oh –– and did we mention the seasonal cookie options? Come winter, spring, summer, or fall, they'll be there. Plus, if you don't live near an Insomnia Cookies store, you can have certain products shipped.

1. Crumbl Cookies

Known for warm, gooey, and elaborate cookies, Crumbl Cookies is probably the hottest cookie chain out there, and certainly the fastest growing. With the help of an aggressive social media campaign that features mouth-watering cookie videos on TikTok, Crumbl has quickly expanded to over 200 stores in 32 states.

Crumbl offers close to 200 gourmet flavors, although you'll only find six of these in stores at any given time. Since the menu rotates weekly, you'll want to visit regularly so you can try them all. Note that the cookies are quite large, with each (supposedly) consisting of 4 servings. That said, you're really not going to want to only eat ¼ of a cookie or share it with anyone else –– so be prepared for a serious caloric setback with each visit.

Crumbl's cookie flavors are truly inspired, often using elaborate frosting techniques and a whole lot of toppings. The Chocolate Cake flavor, for example, consists of a chocolate cookie with serious amounts of chocolate fudge frosting and chocolate shavings on top. Another option, Peanut Butter Banana, involves a chunky oatmeal cookie, along with banana frosting, a drizzle of peanut butter, and a dried banana chip. The mix of flavors always provides a balanced bite. Each precious cookie is individually boxed in signature pink for an upscale presentation, making them even more Instagram-worthy. While some may find certain flavors a bit over-the-top, we're more than happy to experience the ride.

Static Media owns and operates Mashed and Tasting Table.