The best cookies from 25 Philadelphia bakeries
Whether you're craving chocolate chip, sugar, alfajores, pignoli or something else, these Philly bakeries have cookies for every taste and tradition.
I’m making a bold statement here: Cookies are the perfect treat. They’re not as fussy as cake. They don’t need to be kept at the perfect temperature like ice cream. You don’t even need utensils to eat them. Yes, cookies are probably the most convenient of baked goods, and there are so many different varieties that it’s hard to find someone who claims they don’t like cookies.
Cookies feel like home. No matter where you grew up, cookies can transport you back to childhood. “I grew up making alfajores de maizena with my mom for birthdays and family celebrations, from lining up the cookies like little soldiers, to adding the dulce de leche or rolling the coconut — this was a sweet tradition when growing up,” says Jezabel Careaga of Jezabel’s Café and Bakery.
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For some, the perennial favorite is chocolate chip. “When someone says they want a cookie, they usually mean chocolate chip,” says Keshia Davis from Denise’s Delicacies. “For many — us included — a chocolate chip cookie is one of the first we ever love; that kind of connection is what puts it on the menu,” says Nima Etemadi of Cake Life Bake Shop.
But don’t be confused by their simplicity. “We put a lot of thought, time, and research into how it can reach its full potential,” says Etemadi. “[Our] cookies are inspired by our dreams as much as our traditions. … Everyone who shapes the menu has meaningful, foundational food memories that are the basis from which we think about what a cookie has the potential to be.”
And Philly bakeries aren’t a go-to for just locals, but also for people who have moved away and still order a box when there’s a big holiday coming up. “It’s almost like every Christmas, they come home,” says Joe Termini of Termini Bros. “The reason why it’s so special here is because it’s authentic. Philly doesn’t try to be anyone else.”
For those moments that you want to enjoy the nostalgic goodness of a cookie without the effort, Philadelphia bakeries come through. “I love to bake with my daughter, but there are two cookies we always buy instead of making,” says Irene Levy Baker, author of Unique Eats and Eateries of Philadelphia. “My favorite cookies are the tehina chocolate chip cookies at K’Far, Michael Solomonov’s cafe on 19th in Rittenhouse. I’ve tried to make them myself and even bought the Soom tahini that he recommends, but they are just never as good. My other favorite cookie is Metropolitan Bakery’s chocolate chip and dried cherry cookies. Philadelphia magazine printed the recipe in October 2008. I still have it but I typically just go to Metropolitan Bakery to buy them because the dough has to be refrigerated overnight and that’s just too long for me to wait for them.”
Whether you’re craving chocolate chip or anise, dulce de leche, pine nuts, sesame, or something else, this city has a world of techniques and traditions, and modern twists on classics. There truly is a cookie for every taste. Here are the best places to go for cookies in the city.
Bredenbeck’s in Chestnut Hill has been a family-run Philadelphia tradition since 1889. Now run by the fourth generation of Boyds, the bakery has kept most of the recipes the same all of these years. They’re best known for traditional German cookies that are hard to find elsewhere in the area: pfeffernusse, springerle, filbert bars, and cinnamon stars. The springerle is a family favorite that’s made using their great-grandmother’s cookie press from the early 1900s. They require a lot of patience because they take two days to make and the flavor doesn’t fully develop for two weeks. The anise flavor along with the crunchy outside and chewy inside makes them worth the wait. You can visit the bakery in person, call, or place orders through the website. During the holiday season, Bredenbeck’s offers make-at-home gingerbread house kits with premade gingerbread and all the fixings.
Longtime friends and pastry chefs Lily Fischer and Nima Etemadi founded Cake Life Bake Shop in 2013 and opened a brick-and-mortar shop on the main drag in Fishtown in 2016. The most popular cookie is the chocolate chip-walnut, topped with flakes of sea salt and baked to crispy/chewy perfection. Their signature cookie is the petal-pistachio, decorated with violet petals, raspberry dust, and rose sugar. Seasonal cookies are added throughout the year, so check Cake Life’s Instagram to see what’s in the mix. Committed to diversity, Cake Life Bake Shop is proudly woman/trans-owned.
Crust is a Manayunk spot that describes itself as a vegan bakery with an emphasis on social justice. Owners Meagan Benz and Juli Van Brown make it a point to purchase locally whenever possible to support other small businesses and give back to the community by donating food and funds to causes they’re passionate about. (Philly Bail Out, Abortion Liberation Fund of PA, and Seeding Sovereignty are just a few.) Their most popular year-round cookie is the tahini chocolate chip, outselling their standard classic chocolate chip every week. It’s a twist on the classic with a nuttiness that gives it a depth of flavor that makes it extra decadent. Popular winter cookies are the peanut butter blossoms (think peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss) and frosted sugar cookies, but the menu contains almost two dozen cookies so there is something for everyone. Benz’s favorite is the chocolate crinkle, a small two-bite cookie that tastes like a gooey decadent brownie on the inside with a slight crisp to the outside, rolled in powdered sugar. Visit the store in person to pick from the many cookies available, or preorder cookie boxes during the holidays on their website.
Denise’s is a second-generation Black family-owned business in North Philadelphia. Denise Gause was a home baker who opened the bakery in 1991, close to where she grew up. It quickly gained a following because of the homestyle taste made with all-natural, high-quality ingredients. Gause retired in 2018, and now the bakery is owned and run by her nieces, Keshia Davis and Cynthia Benton. Davis’ personal favorite is the butter cookie (actually her mom’s recipe) piped out of pastry bags. (They’re so rich in butter that they can only make them during cold weather.) Another popular favorite: the Oreo chunk. It’s a brown sugar dough with big chunks of chopped Oreo. Can’t forget the good ol’ classic chocolate chip cookie either. While Davis and Benton have kept the recipes the same as their Aunt Denise, they’ve updated the technology: You can now get your cookies through Uber Eats, GrubHub, or their new app, in addition to ordering in person.
Tova du Plessis opened Essen Bakery in South Philly in 2016 after having her daughter and quitting her job as a pastry chef at the Rittenhouse Hotel. With Essen, she decided to re-create the pastries she remembered from growing up in a Jewish household. “I was determined to make the best babka, challah, bagels, and other Jewish pastries in Philadelphia,” she said. Her take on the black and white cookie is true to its New York origins, elevated with a bit of citrus in the cakey batter, real vanilla bean in the royal icing, and Valrhona dark chocolate ganache. They’re baked fresh daily. Pick up a cookie at the window or place an order the day before on the website. During the holidays, you can order a variety box with flavors that are only available then, like a tehina and jam thumbprint cookie, a pistachio shortbread, and a mini biscotti loaded with fruit and nuts.
Chef Lila Jai Colello graduated from New York’s French Culinary Institute before going on to work for Wolfgang Puck and the Food Network. Then she was diagnosed with celiac disease. So she made it her dual mission to make baked goods that are undetectable as gluten-free and create items that are hard to find in the gluten-free world. At Flakely, Colello uses her own proprietary flour mixes and everything has both eggs and butter. “I feel that still creates the best texture and mouthfeel in a baked good.” Flakely’s cookie selection includes black and white cookies, brown butter chocolate chip, ginger molasses, and pecan tea cakes (which are actually cookies.) Beyond cookies, homemade Pop Tarts and croissants are best-selling items. To try the gluten-free goodness for yourself, simply walk up to the pink take-out window in Manayunk every Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. Flakely also offers local Philly area delivery and shipping across the U.S. Flakely donates 3% of every single sale to organizations that help feed our community or fight for racial and social justice, including The Color of Autism, Black Votes Matter, Philabundance, and Project HOME.
Haegele’s is a fourth-generation, family-owned, old-fashioned bakery in Mayfair specializing in German treats, hand made the same way they were 90 years ago. Each cookie is hand-cranked using an original “Kook-E King” cookie press dating back to 1950, purchased by August Haegele, the original first-generation owner. The best-selling Christmas items are the holiday mix of butter cookies with jimmies, nonpareils, or sugar. The jelly sticks made out of French pastry dough and Vienna walnut cookies are simply beautiful. And the holidays are their real-time to shine with springerle, pfeffernusse, and lebkuchen (a soft and nutty German gingerbread.) The smell alone is worth a visit to the bakery. During the week of Christmas, Tues.-Sun., check the website for special holiday hours.
Hang Tran of HB Cuppycakes is known for her cupcakes with beautiful buttercream flowers, but everyone loves her chocolate chip cookies, too. Tran attributes her signature cookie to weeks of trial and error after deciding in December 2019 that she wanted to develop the perfect chocolate chip cookie. It’s crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside, topped with a dark chocolate chunk sprinkled with Maldon sea salt. If you’re a matcha lover, ask for the matcha black sesame cookie. Tran doesn’t have a storefront, but you can place orders through Instagram or email. Her cookies are so delicious that they were included in the Philly edition of Bakers Box, which spotlighted Asian American bakers and pastry chefs.
High Street Bakery
High Street Bakery, a bakery rooted in locally sourced whole grain methodologies, is part of High Street Hospitality Group (Fork and a.kitchen + bar). High Street Bakery serves High Street’s bread, pastries, pizzas, pastas, and sandwiches. Now that High Street’s restaurant is reopened, expanded bread and pastry offerings will be available. Head Baker Delilah Pergola created pink peppercorn-black sesame cookies as an elevated spin on the classic shortbread, with bright pops of pink peppercorn, a tender buttery crumb, and savory notes of sesame. Enjoy them yourself at the bakery or share them with loved ones this holiday season in High Street’s holiday cookie box.
Isgro is a family-owned bakery that’s been making traditional Italian cookies by hand since 1904. Here, you’ll find Italian favorites like butter cookies made with butter sourced from J & L Poultry, and pignoli, an almond paste cookie covered in pine nuts. But don’t miss their award-winning and best-selling ricotta cookies. Gus Isgro came up with the recipe 20 years ago: The cookies are light with an almost sponge-like texture, and come in two flavors: plain with lemon glaze or chocolate chip with a chocolate drizzle. The torrone, which is only available at the holidays, is another standout. It’s a honey-based soft nougat with almonds and pistachios. The three main staples — ricotta, butter, and their assortment of Italian cookies, which are hand-cut, fruit-filled cookies — ship nationwide online through their website.
Despite its growth as a formidable chain of cookie purveyors across the country, it still deserves a place on Philly’s best cookie list because it’s a hometown operation. Created in 2003 by former UPenn students, Jared Barnett and Seth Berkowitz, during a late-night “study sesh,” these grand and gooey cookies were some of the early movers into the cookie delivery game. Now, you can get these monster-sized cookies with ice cream, as cookie cakes, and so much more — all able to be delivered to your house until midnight or 1 a.m each night.
Jezabel Careaga opened her business in 2010 as a coffee shop. Over the years, it has grown into a full-blown Argentine bakery-restaurant and market, known for alfajores. The traditional alfajores de maizena are made with cornstarch and have a sandy texture, are filled with dulce de leche and rolled in coconut. (They’re also available with chocolate). To taste them yourself, you can stop into the bakery (indoor dining is now available), or the cafe ships nationwide. You can also catch Jezabel’s at the Fairmount, Fitler Square, Clark Park, and Headhouse Farmers Market, or Riverwards in Fishtown. Call ahead for big orders.
K’Far is Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook’s all-day Israeli cafe and restaurant. You really can’t talk about cookies in Philadelphia without mentioning their brown butter chocolate chip cookie, with honey, dark chocolate, and Maldon salt. While that gets the most love, pastry chef Katreena Kanney is excited about the Pistachio Toffee Cookie, an off-the-menu specialty cookie made from the Pistachio Sticky Bun (a guest favorite) that joins the main menu in December. Order the cookies online or stop by the cafe. The brown butter chocolate chip cookie can be ordered online or purchased in-store, and is also available through their catering packages.
Madison Kaplan is a self-taught baker who started making intricately decorated cookies as a hobby before turning it into a business. She opened her own storefront in Northern Liberties in 2019, where she sells homemade cookies, cupcakes, cakes, chocolate, candy, and toys. And just a few short years later, Madison K. Cookies won Best of Philly in 2022. In addition to decorated cookies, you can find classics like chocolate chip, birthday cake, and snickerdoodle. During the holiday season, enjoy chocolate peppermint and M&M cookies. Each month, Kaplan changes her menu of big cookies (such as apple pie with a caramel drizzle during Thanksgiving), so be on the lookout for December’s special offering. On Dec. 16, the bakery will transform into a Disney Christmas, filled with Disney-themed baked goods. And while Kaplan created most of her recipes on her own, she credits her mom for the store’s fan favorite: the giant chocolate chip cookie with sea salt. “I’ll be passing that recipe down to my kids one day for sure,” she says. Walk into the bakery or order online; give two weeks’ notice for custom orders.
Manakeesh gets its name from the traditional Lebanese sandwich — a flatbread made with crispy dough topped with spices and a variety of vegetarian or halal meat options. Manakeesh Cafe is famous for their award winning baklava; however, they also specialize in a traditional Lebanese shortbread cookie called maamoul. Made with a semolina cookie batter sweetened with rose water for a hint of floral flavor, they are stuffed with either dates, walnuts, or pistachios. Have napkins handy — the pistachio and walnut are covered in powdered sugar, so things can get a bit messy.
📍4420 Walnut St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19104, 📞 215-921-2135, 🌐 manakeeshcafe.com, 📷 @manakeeshcafe, 🕑 Mon.-Thu. 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri. 9 a.m.-1 p.m., 2:15 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Metropolitan Bakery’s sour cherry chocolate chip cookies are so popular that they sell them year-round. It’s a traditional chocolate chip with a slightly tart punch from chewy dried sour cherries balanced with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt. It’s so popular that the bakery also sells an ice cream version of it. You can also get chocolate chip and walnut, oatmeal raisin and pecan, as well as other seasonal offerings. They’re famous for their sourdough bread too, so grab a baguette and a cookie.
Amy Edelman and her husband (and fellow chef), John Millard, are the baking duo and owners of Chestnut Hill’s Night Kitchen Bakery. (Their daughter Izzy claims the job as official taste tester.) Their cookie menu includes more than a dozen varieties. The 4-inch jumbo chocolate chip was the first on the menu and remains the most popular, as is the sugared shortbread, which is thick cut and available in different shapes for the holidays. If you love chocolate, the chocolate sea salt cookie is dark, dense, and incredibly rich and uses only a little bit of flour to hold the chocolate-forward cookie together, and has Maldon sea salt on top. Visit the bakery to pick up a cookie to take home, or eat it right there at the bakery. There’s a table inside and several outdoors. You can also pick up holiday cookie decorating kits that include shortbread cookies, pastry bags with royal icing, and a variety of sprinkles. ($35) For December, they have “yule logs” seasonal treats — a chocolate spongecake with chocolate icing and whipped cream center.
Old City Coffee, which also has locations in Reading Terminal Market, is known for its big-as-your-face cookies that make you feel like a kid again. They come in chocolate chip, vegan peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin and are made using traditional recipes and high-quality ingredients. The customer favorite is the chocolate chip, using the same recipe since they opened in 1985. The flavor is balanced, not too sweet, and, of course, chocolaty. The vegan peanut butter cookies are also popular. They roast their coffee beans using a vintage gas-fired drum roaster to produce the rich, flavorful coffee they’ve become known for. They also have holiday gifts available online and in-store.
The brainchild of Delco sister duo Rhonda Saltzman and Mercedes Brooks, Second Daughter is an award-winning artisanal bakery that’s wooed customers and critics in the short time since getting the dough rolling in 2021. Saltzman, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, made brownies 30 days straight, approximately five times a day, to get their renowned brownies perfect — finding that balance of fudgy, not too chewy inside with a crackled top sprinkled with Maldon salt. Their crowd-favorite cookie is the brown butter chocolate chip jawn, a six-inch wide, thin chocolate chip cookie that is delectably chewy from the gooey inside all the way to the outer edges. Other staples include maple snickerdoodle, double chocolate Nutella, and rye black and white cookies. Located in Bok Building, Second Daughter currently only accepts preorders but will soon start retail in 2024.
📍1901 S. 9th Street, Suite 403, Philadelphia, Pa. 19148 📞 215-350-2207, 🌐 seconddaughterbakingco.com 📷 @seconddaughterbakingco 🕑 Wed.-Sun. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Where else can you order a spicy pork sandwich, vegan meatballs, a side of crispy pig skin, and delicious cookies in one stop? Small Oven Pastry Shop is connected to Porco’s Porchetteria in Point Breeze/Graduate Hospital. While Porco’s is known for its 100% natural heritage pork, the pastry offerings are just as mouthwatering, like a gluten-free chocolate fudge cookie or brown butter espresso cookie. For the holidays, be sure to check out the red velvet crinkle cookies, chewy holiday spice-flavored molasses cookies, and a few holiday desserts like a coquito tarte and turtle cheesecake with chocolate, pecans, and caramel.
Termini Bros Bakery celebrated 100 years in 2021. “It’s even more special after these past few years,” says Joe Termini. All cookies are made by hand, from scratch, using the same tools and techniques handed down from original recipes brought over from Sicily. They use high-quality almond paste, house-made preserves made every summer, and crumbs from trimmed cakes to make their cookie dough. Their techniques are steeped in tradition. Their most beloved cookie is the pignoli, a soft, chewy macaroon made with almond paste and imported Spanish pignoli (pine nuts). Other favorites: the Long John, made with almond paste and filled with raspberry jam; the chocolate banana, an amaretto cookie with French buttercream and raspberry jam and topped with a sliced banana and dark chocolate; and torrone, a nougat mixture with pistachios and almonds. Buy at the bakery, or order specialty tins 24 hours in advance. Termini also offers shipping online and local delivery.
This little bakery has cupcakes, brownies, cheesecakes, and more. They’ve perfected the edible cookie dough, making it egg-free and available by the scoop, as cookie dough bites, or enrobed in a homemade chocolate magic shell as a cookie dough popsicle. You can even get a doughwich with cookie dough sandwiched between two cookies. If you prefer your cookies baked, go for the funfetti sugar cookies. They’re chewy, colorful, and said to be as big as your face.
Soft and chewy cookies just like your favorites from childhood — that’s The Bakeshop on 20th’s specialty. The sugar cookies are a customer favorite made primarily with eggs, butter, and sugar so that they’re light and fluffy and melt in your mouth, plus topped with nonpareils. Other staples include the brookie, Italian ricotta, maple snickerdoodle, and dark chocolate peppermint.
Bonnie Sarana was working in finance in 2007 when she decided to take a much-needed hiatus and enroll in the Culinary Institute of America. She graduated two years later and went on to open Vanilya, a globally inspired dessert and breakfast bakery in the Passyunk neighborhood, at first solely focusing on custom cakes that blossomed into serving bagels, breakfast pastries, and cookies. The six-cookie menu includes the best-selling mudslide cookie, a double chocolate cookie using unsweetened chocolate, dark chocolate, and chocolate chips, which also happens to be gluten-free. There’s also the crowd favorite banana oat chip cookie which was an office favorite during Sarana’s finance days and a personal family favorite, according to her son. They also have a ginger cookie (year-round, not just during holidays), classic chocolate chip, sugar cookies with nonpareils, and toffee.
Whipped Bakeshop was founded in 2009 by husband and wife Zoë and Brennen Lukas. They specialize in custom cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. Their most well-known cookies are their beautifully decorated sugar cookies, which come individually wrapped. Whipped Bakeshop made treats for Olivia Rodrigo, Lizzo, and other celebrities in 2022. This holiday season, they will feature festive holiday cookie gift boxes.