These gluten free chocolate kiss cookies are rich and fudgy with a thin, crispy shell, all topped off with a single Hershey’s kiss after baking. There’s even a chocolate and peanut butter-flavored variation!
Do Hershey’s kisses melt in the oven?
If you’re putting a milk chocolate Hershey’s kiss in an oven that has been heated to anything higher than about 200°F (93°C), it’s going to melt in a hurry. Even at 200°F, it will melt eventually.
Like chocolate chips, though, they tend to melt in a controlled way and then regain shape after baking. But in these chocolate kiss cookies, we’re not placing the Hershey’s kiss in the oven.
Instead, we’re pressing the kiss into the cookies the moment they come out of the hot oven. The cookies are softest then, and you can place the unwrapped kiss right in the center. I like to give it a small twist to melt the bottom of the kiss and ensure that it adheres to the cookie.
Which Hershey’s kisses are best?
The “regular” milk chocolate kisses will melt a bit, but they will firm right back up as the cookies cool. You can also place the finished cookies in the refrigerator to help them firm up, although I’d wait until the cookies are no longer hot.
I’ve also used dark chocolate Hershey’s kisses, and they melt less than the milk chocolate kisses. I prefer the sweetness of the milk chocolate kisses in these cookies, though.
If you watch the how-to video carefully, you’ll notice that I used the red and white striped “candy cane” variety of Hershey’s chocolate kisses in some of the cookies. I’m sorry to report that I really don’t recommend them here, though. ☹️
I love the white chocolate and candy cane taste, and they’re very festive-looking. But those kisses are super soft and melt sadly into a weepy lump with a tiny little point. Keep that in mind if you decide to try any of the other fancy kisses!
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy: To replace the butter in this recipe, try using Melt brand vegan butter, my favorite butter replacement. Otherwise, you can try using Earth Balance buttery sticks, but the cookies will likely spread a bit more since Earth Balance has quite a lot of moisture. Be sure the semi-sweet chocolate you’re using a diary-free, and you’ll want to skip the kisses. Or make your own, even!
Eggs: The single whole egg should be able to be replaced by a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel). I really don’t know how to replace the egg yolk, but you could try 1 additional tablespoon of butter. Higher-fat European butter would be an even better bet.
Hershey Kisses: For a complete discussion of the chocolate kiss part of this recipe, please scroll up. If you can’t have or don’t want to use kisses, you can leave the cookies as is. I’ve also wanted to try using a Rolo, but I’m not sure how it would look.
Peanut butter variety: I originally developed this recipe as a chocolate adaptation of our fan favorite gluten free peanut butter blossom cookies. The recipe works great, but my son said they “taste like nothing,” and I think I know what he meant.
Peanut butter is a strong flavor, and so is chocolate. The richness from both the nut butter and chocolate compete with one another, without a ton of sweetness for balance.
I served equal numbers of the peanut butter and straight-up chocolate varieties to my family, and the peanut butter won with everyone other than my son. I decided to share the peanut butter variety, since it tastes great. Be mindful that the cookies will crackle a bit more when you press in the Hershey’s kiss after baking, since peanut butter makes for a slightly less tender cookie.
Coarse sugar and nonpareils: You don’t have to use coarse sugar, nonpareils, or anything else on the outside of these cookies. They won’t have the crisp outer shell that the candy creates, but they will still turn out great.
If you’d like to add the decorative shell, you’ll need to find gluten free ingredients. The white coarse sugar (Chef’s Select brand granulated sugar crystals) that I’ve bought in the past is no longer available on Amazon, but Sugar in the Raw brand coarse sugar is available most everywhere. It has more of a yellow tinge, though.
Cake Mate brand and Signature brand nonpareils are both made by Betty Crocker, and they’re reliably gluten free according to information I received directly from the company. If you’re concerned, please contact them directly using the contact information on the package or on their website (which is what I did!).
Gluten Free Chocolate Kiss Cookies | Peanut Butter Optional
6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, chopped
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (158 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/4 cup (20 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-processed)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (55 g) packed light brown sugar
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) + 1 egg yolk (25 g) at room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Coarse sugar or nonpareils, for rolling (optional)
18 Hershey’s milk chocolate kisses, unwrapped
For the peanut butter version
Add 1/4 cup (64 g) peanut butter
Use 4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter (not 6)
Use 2 ounces chocolate, chopped (not 3)
Use only 1 cup (140 g) all purpose gluten free flour (not 1 cup + 2 tablespoons)
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line rimmed baking sheets with unbleached parchment and set them aside. In a small, heat-safe bowl, place the butter and chopped chocolate, and heat either over a double boiler or in the microwave in 30-second bursts until melted and smooth. Set the mixture aside to cool briefly. For the peanut butter variation, melt the peanut butter, 4 tablespoons of butter, and 2 ounces of chocolate in this way.
In a large bowl, place the flour blend (2 tablespoons less if making the peanut butter version), xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the brown sugar, and mix to combine, working out any lumps in the brown sugar. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the butter and chocolate mixture, egg and egg yolk, and vanilla, and mix to combine. The dough will come together and be thick but soft and shiny.
Divide the dough into 18 balls of approximately equal size (each weighing about 1 ounce). Between the palms of both of your hands, roll each piece of dough into a round, then roll it in the (optional) coarse sugar or nonpareils, pressing gently on all sides to make sure that the sugar adheres in a single layer to the cookie dough. Place the pieces of dough about 1 1/2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets (they’ll spread a bit during baking). Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until the balls of dough have flattened into thick disks and the cookies have begun to take on a slightly crackled appearance.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately press one unwrapped chocolate kiss in the center of each just-baked cookie, as much as you can without cracking the cookie. Once the kiss has begun to melt a bit on the bottom, press down a bit on top to about halfway to the center of the cookie. Allow to cool on the baking sheet until firm (about 10 minutes) before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. The chocolate kisses will firm up again as the cookies cool.