The Ingredient That Will Change Your Chocolate Chip Cookies Forever

Nothing beats a classic chocolate chip cookie, but mix-ins can take the flavor to another level. If you've ever tried them with chopped nuts or even branched out to potato chips, you know that the combo of sweet and salty works pretty well in a cookie. But what about sweet and spicy? Sure you can add cinnamon to make a snickerdoodle chocolate chip cookie hybrid, but there's another spice that'll create an even more interesting flavor combination. According to a 2017 issue of Martha Stewart Living, that spice is cayenne pepper. The cookie recipe is inspired by Mexican hot chocolate, which uses cayenne pepper to add a kick to the richness of the chocolate.

If you're afraid of ruining a perfectly good batch of cookies with such an intense flavor, Serious Eats explains that chili peppers, such as cayenne, actually make chocolate taste better. The reason for this is that chocolate naturally has nutty, earthy, citrusy, fruity, and floral notes. Chili peppers are able to bring out these different notes, so what you get when you add cayenne to chocolate chip cookies isn't heat, but more so complexity.

How much cayenne should you add to chocolate chip cookies?

Cayenne brings out the best in chocolate, but that doesn't mean more is better. As per Martha Stewart's recipe, which yields three dozen cookies, you'll only need ¼ teaspoon of the spice.'s recipe on the other hand calls for ½ teaspoon, and though it's slightly more cayenne for the same-sized batch, it's still a lot less than the amount of vanilla extract you'd normally add to cookies. Both recipes suggest adding 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (plus an additional ½ teaspoon of ginger, according to to balance out the cayenne.

It's important to not go overboard with cayenne because too much can make your cookie dough taste more like mole sauce than dessert. As MasterClass explains, mole similarly relies on the combination of chili peppers and chocolate for its unique flavor. With the right ratio, it results in a dish that is savory with a hint of sweetness. The same principle applies to chocolate chip cookies. To achieve the balance that's more appropriate for chocolate chip cookies, just make sure to add the cayenne in moderation.