Tara Jensen's Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookies


Tara Jensen is one of our 2021 Cooks of the Year.

Tara Jensen’s Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookies
Photo: Robbie Caponetto
Active Time:
25 mins
Chill Time:
8 hrs
Bake Time:
1 hrs 5 mins
Total Time:
9 hrs 30 mins

After opening Smoke Signals, a bakery centered around a wood-fired oven in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2012, Tara Jensen became known all over the world for rustic loaves made with freshly milled grains and flours and fruit from local orchards. Now focusing on instruction, Jensen spends her days spreading the gospel of artisanal baking. One of her favorite subjects? Sourdough.

Jensen's recipe for Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookies calls for ¼ cup of sourdough discard—if you don't have a starter of your own, you can grow one from scratch or see if your local bakery has any to spare. These light, fluffy chocolate chip cookies lean into chewy, cakey territory, while still maintaining crisp outer edges. Creaming the butter and sugar for an extended amount of time (along with the addition of sourdough) gives these cookies their cakey texture and lofty rise. The sourdough discard brings a recognizable tang, complemented by the plentiful dose of chocolate. Baking the cookies halfway, then topping with the chocolate ensures that it stays in place; it also only partially melts the chocolate, so it retains a slight snap once cooled. The finishing touch? A sprinkle of crunchy sea salt on top.


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • cup packed light brown sugar

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 large eggs

  • ¼ cup sourdough starter discard

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

  • 12 ounces (about 2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips

  • 8 ounces 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (about 1½ cups) 

  • 1 ½ teaspoons flaky sea salt 


  1. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, starting on low and gradually increasing speed to medium, until batter climbs up the wall of the bowl, about 3 minutes. Stop mixer; scrape sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Repeat process 2 more times, starting on low and gradually increasing to medium, until mixture is light, fluffy, and pale, 9 to 10 minutes.

  2. With mixer running on medium speed, add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sourdough starter discard and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-low speed until batter is smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides and bottom of bowl as needed.

  3. Add flour and semisweet chocolate chips. Beat on low speed just until flour is completely incorporated and there are no visible streaks in the batter, 15 to 30 seconds. Transfer dough to an airtight container, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill at least 8 hours or up to 48 hours.

  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide dough into 12 pieces (about ⅓ cup each). Working quickly, shape each piece into a ball. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Chill, uncovered, 15 minutes.

  5. Arrange 4 dough balls at least 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Keep remaining dough balls chilled. Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and top half-baked cookies with about ½ cup of roughly chopped 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt. Return to oven; bake at 350°F until cookies are golden and firm around edges with soft and slightly risen centers, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool cookies on pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool at least 20 minutes. Repeat baking process with remaining dough balls, chopped chocolate, and flaky sea salt. The cooled cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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