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Are Shipped and Frozen Levain Cookies as Tasty as Fresh? We Tasted All Three, for Science

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When it comes to the biggest food trends of the past year, we’d say over-the-top cookies are right up there with unconventional charcuterie boards and boozy kombucha. And if you’re well-versed in the world of sweets, you know that Levain Bakery, an iconic NYC bread shop-turned-dessert haven, has been slinging small-batch, softball-sized cookies since 1995, long before it was hip. Their confections have become so deeply engrained in the Manhattan zeitgeist that we’d argue no real New Yorker hasn’t had the pleasure of eating one.

Of their five flavors, the chocolate chip walnut is no doubt the most iconic (although we have big love for the brownie-like dark chocolate-chocolate chip). Impossibly gooey, tantalizingly thick and studded with crunchy nuts and molten semi-sweet chocolate, their trademark treat remains the shop’s best seller. The only downside? Only those in the tristate area (plus a few lucky Bostonians, Marylanders and DC residents) have access to Levain’s ten bakeries. Thankfully, you can order them to be shipped to your door, or buy them frozen at a local Whole Foods Market if you’re not in the area. But how do these alternatives compare to the O.G.? We investigated with a painstakingly official taste test, for science.

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levain bakery cookie taste test fresh
Taryn Pire

The Fresh

If you’re a non-New Yorker who’s wondering if they’re worth the hype, the answer is heck yes. Make sure you’re sitting down with napkins at the ready when you taste your first fresh chocolate chip walnut Levain cookie: It’s six ounces of pure, unadulterated bliss. The crisp, golden brown exterior is the ultimate foil for the underbaked, dare we say doughy, interior. The outside provides bonus crunch to the chopped walnuts, while the chocolate chips practically gushing from the tender center offer sweetness, nuance and all the nostalgia. The biggest leg up that the fresh cookies have over the shipped and frozen ones is their drool-worthy scent. (Attention Levain: Have you considered making cookie-scented candles?) BTW, if you’re allergic to nuts or just don’t like them, the two-chip chocolate chip cookie—brimming with semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips—is the pick for you.

levain bakery cookie taste test shipped
Taryn Pire

The Shipped

These are as close as out-of-towners can get to from-the-bakery Levain cookies. And TBH, they’re almost identical. The shipped, full-size cookies are baked to order, so they arrive as close to fresh as humanly possible—never stale. You can also request a specific delivery date (which is especially helpful if you’re sending the cookies as a gift) that the bakery will try their best to adhere to, despite ever-persistent Covid delays.

Of course, the shipped cookies won’t arrive warm, but you can easily revert them to their gooey original state by popping them in the oven for a few minutes. We’ll also say that they last an impressively long time; it took us about a week to finish our four-pack, and due to the cookies’ underbaked, moist centers, they never really dried out to the point of staleness. The shipped cookies are easily the best option for people who don’t live near a Levain bakery.

levain bakery cookie taste test frozen
Taryn Pire

The Frozen

If there’s a Whole Foods near you, odds are this NYC delicacy is within your chocolate-loving reach. The cookies are pre-baked, so you don’t have to worry about your unpredictable oven throwing a wrench in dessert by under- or over-baking dough. (It also means the cookies only need 5 to 7 minutes to turn warm and melty, meaning you can sink your teeth in ASAP.)

Each box contains eight 2-ounce cookies, so they’re a third of the weight of the fresh and shipped varieties. This may seem like a flat-out con, given that Levain cookies are known for their size, but we’d argue that the smaller ones offer a faraway eater the chance to snack on—and finish—a perfectly warm cookie every time. (The full-size ones are peak decadence in the best way but finishing them at their freshest in one sitting can be a tall order; the smaller ones are admittedly more practical for everyday noshing.) They’re also the most affordable option at $1.25 a pop, versus $5 at the bakery and $6.75 shipped.

Our one bone to pick? Because they’re significantly thinner, they don’t have that impossibly chewy, slightly underbaked center like the full-size cookies. In terms of texture, they’re mostly soft all around, as opposed to crisp on the outside and famously doughy on the inside. Newbies certainly won’t be disappointed, but if you’ve had the big cookies before, you’ll likely feel the frozen ones don’t compare.

The Tl;dr

To no one’s surprise, there’s no beating a fresh-from-the-oven Levain cookie. The gooey interior texture is unreal, the chocolate chips are melty and sweet, the walnuts are warm and tender and don’t even get us started on the aroma. But the shipped ones come pretty damn close, especially if you warm them up in the oven before indulging. The frozen ones are at the bottom of our list, but they’re still decidedly drool-worthy, especially if you don’t want to commit to a massive six-ounce cookie.

In short, you can’t go wrong with any of them. But if you’re a newbie, we 1,000 percent urge you to order the Signature Cookie Assortment so you can try the chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate-chocolate chip, dark chocolate peanut butter chip and oatmeal raisin varieties—that way, you can restock on your favorites once you’ve tasted them all. Speaking of…