Picture the best chocolate chip cookie you've ever tasted.
Is it crisp and buttery? Soft and chewy? Studded with semisweet chocolate chips or packed with chunks of dark chocolate? Are there a few flakes of salt scattered on top to balance out the sweetness?
The cookie aisle at supermarkets and convenience stores is packed with chocolate chip cookies of all sizes, textures and chocolate types. But which one stands out from the brown, buttery crowd?
We collected 14 varieties, including the top-selling brands in the United States and popular grocery store private labels, to determine who makes the best. For consistency, we stuck to the flagship version for each brand - you won't see "soft-baked" styles on this list unless that was the brand's lone offering. We ranked the cookies in three categories: texture (How crispy are they? Do they hold up to chewing, or do they disintegrate easily?), chocolate (Is there enough? Does it actually taste like real chocolate?) and overall taste. Nine tasters rated each cookie--a top score would have totalled 180. While there were no perfect marks, there were more than a few failing grades.
Here's how our competitors stacked up, beginning at the bottom of the heap.
14. Mrs. Fields
This individually wrapped cookie looked promising, but one bite was enough to reveal its shortcomings. Tasters found it "too sweet," "underbaked" and "damp tasting." They picked out "artificial vanilla," "weird" and "truly terrible chocolate flavor - and lots of other from-the-lab delights."
It's barely bigger than a silver dollar, so there was "something adorable about this cookie. It's cute." said one taster. But the love affair didn't last. Multiple tasters found the cookie "stale" and "mushy."
The biggest cookie in the contest was another textural train wreck. "Soft, but not in a good way," one taster remarked. "Unnaturally moist," said another. "HUGE!" exclaimed one taster, who noted the "deep attractive golden brown" color and "nice cracks on the surface." But that excitement disintegrated, like this cookie does in the palm of your hand. But tasters simply could not get past the "odd, chemical taste" and that texture.
11. Keebler Chips Deluxe
This cookie emerged from its package with a coat of superfine cookie grit dusted across its surface. Tasters found it "crumbly," "dusty," "sandy" and "almost like shortbread." One taster "loved the first bite, but not the flavor," and others were struck by the "really bad aftertaste." One plus: There was no shortage of chocolate chips in each cookie, but that wasn't enough to save it.
10. Lucy's Gluten-Free
Marketed as gluten-free, vegan and kosher, Lucy's stood out from some others thanks to an especially crispy bite. "Love the snap of it," one taster said. "Very crunchy," noted another. But this cookie was too crunchy for others, it was light on chocolate chips, and two tasters picked up on a distinct vanilla aroma and taste: "It's like biting into a rock. A vanilla-flavored rock."
8. (tie) 365 Organic
Our panel was divided on Whole Foods' house brand. Some liked the "nice snap" and a crispy texture that made it "very pleasant to eat." "I'd down a couple bags of these, no sweat," one taster raved. But others found it bland, like "a little dirt-clod" that tasted "more like a cracker than a cookie."
8 (tie) Back to Nature Chocolate Chunk
"Craggy" was the popular adjective for this plant-based cookie, and it was applied as both pro and con. "Really ugly, craggy milk chocolate chunks," wrote one taster. While another taster was swayed at first sight: "Had me at the look - nice and craggy, looks homemade. Tastes nice and clean, too." But others found the texture to be stale and bread-like, with "no flavor at all."
7. Famous Amos
Another cookie that falls into the smaller category, Famous Amos leans into its quarter-size circumference: "The perfect munchable cookie," the package proudly proclaims. And while the dry texture was a common critique, the sweetness of the chocolate and subtle saltiness had one taster admitting: "I keep eating it. The chocolate itself is actually really nice."
6. Chips Ahoy! Chunky
Our first representative from one of the most recognizable top sellers on supermarket shelves received praise for its general chocolate distribution. "Now THAT is chocolate. Love how much is packed in, and it leaves a lovely chocolate taste." But the flavor didn't match the volume for most: "It has an impressive number of chips, and yet, no flavor." It was "artificial" and "not particularly chocolaty," said another taster. But Chips Ahoy! Chunky was the pick of the litter for one taster: "This cookie has a soft crunch, which I like. I'm feeling it."
5. Enjoy Life
An unfamiliar offering, this box was labeled "crunchy cookies," and its contents lived up to the description. "Pleasantly crispy and I don't mind eating it," one taster wrote. Points were awarded for this cookie's "nicely browned color" and "buttery flavor," and one taster said it looked homemade. Two tasters mentioned a minty flavor that tasted "weirdly like a Thin Mint." But for one panelist, it was "all bite and no bark - that is, all texture and very little flavor."
4. Trader Joe's
These button-sized cookies are piled into a plastic bucket so they can be devoured by the handful. They were "fun and light," "so tiny and pale and thin." Coconut was the prevailing flavor. "It's a coconut cookie with chocolate chips. Just a matter of marketing." And while it reminded two tasters of Cookie Crisp cereal, the majority of the panel was pleasantly surprised.
3. Chips Ahoy! Original
The flagship of Nabisco's cookie fleet got high marks for texture and chocolate. A "nice, crunchy, buttery cookie," with a pleasant level of salt. It had an "airy crunch with a classic appeal," that "would hold up to milk, which is nice." It was reminiscent of "school lunch box" cookies. "It definitely tastes cheap," wrote one taster, "but not in a bad way - in a nostalgic way, like '90s kid-snack-vibe."
2. Pepperidge Farm Thin and Crispy
The bag says "thin & crispy," which is exactly how tasters found this number from cookie powerhouse Pepperidge Farm. It had "excellent caramelization" and "toasty butterscotch flavors," with a "pleasant saltiness on the finish." And while a few tasters said the milk chocolate chips ruined its potential, the "irregular" shape, "homemade" look and "light, milk-chocolate flavor and something that smacks of real butter" were appealing. Even our milk chocolate hater was on board: "I like this a lot."
1. Tate's Bake Shop
With its dark brown color and thin, crispy texture, this cookie immediately stood out from the field. "A wafer-style cookie whose crunch I like," one taster wrote. It was "lovely," "buttery, crispy, flavorful," and "crispy-chewy" with "nice and rich chocolate." But there wasn't enough of that chocolate for several tasters. While one taster suggested knocking off a couple minutes of oven time to give it a bit more chew, others were smitten with a cookie that "could almost pass for homemade." "It tastes like a chocolate chip cookie! Can we just eat these in lieu of the others and call it a night?"