Neapolitan Cookies. I've seen them floating around the internet this summer and had it in my mind that I needed to try them, which of course would require me to take apart a recipe and put it back together as a gluten free/as-close-to-paleo-as-possible recipe because I'll be darned if I'm gonna miss out on this deliciousness!
I've been following Michelle from Hummingbird High for some time now and when I saw these beauties grace her Instagram, I just KNEW it would be love at first bite. I have to say, this was a SUPER simple recipe to alter, especially now that I know all too well how Bob's Red Mill gluten and grain-free flours work (hint: they're amazing and are just about the perfect 1:1 replacement in most cases.)
Now, if you're following a strict Paleo diet and have skipped to the ingredients you're probably like, "hold up Kim you're using butter or vegan butter here?! That's not Paleo!" to which I'll tell you, I have no food rules. I eat predominantly grain-free/Paleo but allow grass-fed butter and some cheeses in my diet. I tolerate these foods and enjoy them and do not believe in deprivation so I used them. I did not test to see if something like coconut oil would work as a replacement in this recipe, however have used it as a butter replacement in other baking recipes successfully. You could certainly give it a go if you're looking to experiment.
The recipe steps posted below are from Michelle's original recipe, as these are the steps that I followed in order to make the Paleo Neapolitan Sugar Cookies, but I've left some notes in italics where I felt necessary just to help you along!
During your set up, you'll want to have three medium sized bowls to house your three different flavors of dough. I found this to be helpful and just made the process of assembling the cookies a little easier. You can pre-scoop all of your dough balls and line them up on a plate or a 4th cookie sheet if you prefer, or you can do what I did and just scoop as you go. Note that if you scoop as you go, you may experience dough mixing and get a little chocolate in your vanilla, but that never hurt anyone! If you're a perfectionist, definitely scoop ahead of time and make sure to wipe your cookie dough scoop in between flavors!
I also do highly recommend weighing out the dough before you add your strawberry and chocolate to it. It sounds tedious and unnecessary, but I promise there's a purpose and that purpose is so you don't run out of one of your dough flavors early! You'll be jipping yourself out of cookies and when it comes to cookies, you want to yield as many as possible (or at least that's how I operate!)
For my fellow low FODMAP friends out there, you might be wondering if cacao powder is OK. I've addressed this in a few other recipes but in case you're just finding me for the first time, here's the scoop:
According to Monash University, the authority on all things low FODMAP testing, cacao powder is not a high FODMAP food until you reach 200g/7oz. Since there are only 2-3 tbsp in this entire recipe, you're likely to be A-OK! If it's something you don't tolerate, well, just go for the vanilla and strawberry then, it will still be insanely delicious. Don't worry, the freeze dried strawberries are low FODMAP friendly, too!
I'm normally a chocolate lover and not so big into the fruity sweets, but I have to say the strawberry portion of these cookies was my absolute favorite! It's so much fun to be able to bite into the different doughs and taste each individual flavor, like getting three treats in one. This would be a great project to do with kids (I guess? I don't have them but if I did I'd totally be making these cookies with them!) as it's a little like playing with play-doh when you get to the assembly part.
Don't forget, if you make this version of Hummingbird High's Neapolitan Cookies, please leave me a review in the comments and let me know what you think! Don't forget to tag #PDLrecipes on Instagram or Facebook if you make my Paleo Low FODMAP Friendly Neapolitan Sugar Cookie version!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post, but rest assured these are all products I personally use and very highly recommend. I will never link to anything on this site unless it is something I love!
What Do I Need to Make These Gluten Free Neapolitan Cookies
Paleo Baking Flour or Gluten Free 1:1 Flour: I used Bob's Red Mill Paleo Flour Blend to make these neapolitan cookies grain free. This is a blend of almond flour, arrowroot powder, coconut flour and tapioca flour and works like an absolute charm if you're trying to substitute in recipes calling for all purpose flour. Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 flour also works as well if you are not grain free.
Granulated Monkfruit: First, let's discuss. What IS monkfruit anyway?! Monkfruit, or Luo Han Guo, is actually a gourd native to Southern China + Northern Thailand. The plant is harvested for its fruit extract, called mogrosides, which create a sweetness almost 200 times sweeter than regular cane sugar. The benefits of using monkfruit sweetener in these gluten free neapolitan cookies as opposed to white cane sugar are plentiful! Monkfruit sweetener is an unrefined sugar, meaning it has not gone through a chemical process which generally removes any nutrients the sugar cane provides. Unrefined sugars still maintain their nutritional profile, though it should be noted, sugar is sugar! Unrefined sugars generally have a lower glycemic index, however, and monkfruit in particular contains 0g of calories + carbohydrates, making this appropriate for all diets including paleo + keto.
Freeze Dried Strawberries + Beet Root Powder: In order to make the pink portion in this recipe for neapolitan cookies, you will need two things, freeze dried strawberries and beet root powder or natural pink food coloring. I like to keep things as clean as possible and use natural ingredients when food dye is called for in a gluten free recipe. Don't worry, you will use so little of the beet root or natural food coloring (which is typically made from beet root powder anyway!) that it will not change the strawberry taste in these gluten free neapolitan cookies.
Unsweetened Cacao Powder: You can use cocoa or cacao powder to make these paleo neapolitan cookies, but I prefer using cacao powder because of the health benefits. Cacao powder is very lightly processed and still contains the natural nutrients + minerals found in the cacao bean like magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium. Cocoa powder also often contains sweeteners and even milk powder so if you are choosing to use cocoa, make sure you're choosing a brand that does not contain either of those ingredients.
Vanilla Extract: Make sure you are choosing quality pure vanilla extract in your gluten free baking. Oftentimes "vanilla" extract is actually just vanillin which is a manufactured artificial flavor designed to taste like vanilla. Yuck! If you don't have any pure vanilla extract on hand when you are making these paleo neapolitan cookies, you can substitute in pure maple syrup instead. Pure maple syrup is my favorite vanilla extract substitute.
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup grass fed butter (also works with vegan butter like Miyokos Creamery if dairy free)
1 3/4 cup monk fruit sweetener
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup freeze dried strawberries
2-3 tbsp cacao powder
**Directions according to Hummingbird High's original recipe, along with my own notes.
1. Prep your oven and pans. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 3 half sheet pans with parchment paper.
2. Prep the freeze-dried strawberries. Use a food processor to pulse the freeze-dried strawberries into a fine powder. If you are using beet root powder or Color Kitchen food coloring, you can add it in during this step. This gives the strawberry portion of the cookie their beautiful pink hue, naturally!
3. Make the base cookie dough. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium-high until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the mixer to low and add the egg and egg yolk one at a time, adding the next egg only after the previous one is fully incorporated, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.
With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, and beat on low for an additional 30 seconds.
4. Divide the dough. Use the rubber spatula to scrape the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into a rough ball. Use a bench scraper to divide it into three equal portions weighing roughly 11.75 ounces (333 grams) each. I do not recommend skipping the weighing step if you can help it. You'll want to ensure your dough balls are as closely equal in size so you don't run out of one flavor sooner than the others!
5. Make the strawberry dough. Place one third of the dough back into the mixer and add the powdered strawberries and food coloring. Beat on low speed until just combined. Remove the dough and wipe down the inside of the bowl with a paper towel.
6. Make the chocolate dough. Place another third of the dough back into the mixer and add the cocoa powder. Beat on low speed until just combined.
7. Prep the cookies for shaping. Use a 1-Tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the vanilla (white) cookie dough into 15 balls. Wipe down the inside of the cookie dough scoop with a paper towel, then use the scoop to portion the strawberry (pink) cookie dough into 15 balls. Wipe down the inside of the cookie dough scoop once more, then use the scoop to portion the chocolate (brown) cookie dough into 15 balls.
8. Shape the cookies. Take a vanilla (white) cookie dough ball, a strawberry (pink) cookie dough ball) and chocolate (brown) cookie dough ball and press them gently together. They should adhere to each other but keep their own unique colors. Toss the tri-colored cookie dough ball in a shallow bowl filled with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar, covering it completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough balls. I simply took three dough scoops, pressed them together as shown in the second image and rolled the large dough ball between the palm of my hands back and forth until it looked like the last image. I did not add the additional sugar, however you could use 2 tbsp of monk fruit if you desire in place of granulated sugar.
9. Bake the cookies. Place the coated cookies at least 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. Bake one pan at a time for 10 minutes, or until the edges have set but the centers are still gooey. The cookies will look puffed when you pull them out of the oven, but will fall and crack into the perfect cookies as they cool. Cool the cookies on the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes or until the edges and bottoms of the cookies have set and feel firm to the touch. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough. I found that I needed to bake these a bit longer, about 15 minutes or so, using the paleo flour.
10. Serve and store. Serve warm, or at room temperature. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or a zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 2 days. I stored mine in a zip-top back in the fridge, but honestly I don't think they even lasted more than 3 days because we ate them all sooo I can't tell you how long they'll keep but I bet you won't need to know that either!