3-Ingredient Challenge: Gluten-Free Almond Cookies

For this month’s Let’s Lunch challenge, we were tasked with making three-ingredient recipes. Now I’ve seen and attempted five-ingredient recipes but three ingredients? That’s a tough one.

As often happens in life, things organically fell into place.

Last month, I wrote a story on building a gluten-free pantry and I was intrigued by all the alternative flours available for baking. Almond meal in particular caught my eye. I love almond flavored anything. I can still remember little-girl-me at weddings scraping off the marzipan frosting from the cake slices we were served (yes, I attacked my family’s share as well) and leaving the (yucky) fruitcake behind.

Almond meal cookie
Made with almond meal instead of wheat flour, these gluten-free almond cookies are a fascimile of my favorite Chinese almond cookies but they’re still yummy!

In adulthood, my almond obsession continues: I swoon for sweet frangipane tarts and I can devour a dozen delicate amaretti cookies at one sitting. And then there are Chinese almond cookies. I don’t remember having them in Singapore but as a college student in Seattle, I’d often buy them at the Chinese bakery in Chinatown in addition to the barbecued pork buns and egg tarts that offered a taste of home. When I was researching The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook, I saw many recipes in old cookbooks but it never occurred to me to make them at home. Until now.

By chance, I came across this honey almond cookie recipe. Another coincidence occurred when fellow Let’s Luncher Grace of HapaMama.com resurfaced an old blog post about Chinese almond cookies in commemoration of Chinese Almond Cookie Day on April 9 (who knew?).

You don't have to wait long for these cookies to bake--go water your plants, read a page or two from your book and ding... they're done!
You don’t have to wait long for these cookies to bake–go water your plants, read a page or two from your book and ding… they’re done!

The almond cookie I came up with tastes similar to Chinese almond cookies but are softer and chewier, lacking the crunch of the true specimen (visit HapaMama.com for Grace’s version of a more traditional Chinese almond cookie). But I’m not complaining: This cookie is mighty tasty considering it’s gluten-free, has no refined sugars, and takes barely10 minutes of active time. Plus, it fulfilled the three-ingredient challenge!


Gluten-Free Almond Cookies

cookie stack

This is a basic, basic gluten-free cookie recipe made with almond meal. If I weren’t restricted to just three ingredients, I’d add vanilla, baking soda (1/4 teaspoon) to give it more rise, and some almond extract (1/4 teaspoon) for a more almondy flavor. Oh and crown each cookie with an almond sliver to pretty them up some more! Almond meal is basically ground blanched almonds. It’s a pricy package–$8.99 per pound but it’s very useful in gluten-free baking. Even if you’re not gluten-free, try replacing some of the wheat flour with almond meal in a favorite cake or muffin recipe–you’ll reduce total carbs and give yourself a good dose of Vitamin E and manganese.

Makes: 3 dozen cookies
Time: 10 minutes active, 30 minutes resting, 8 minutes baking

1/4 cup salted butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
2 -1/2 cups almond meal
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling (OK, so I cheated and added a 4th ingredient, but it’s only for decoration!)

In a medium bowl, mix the butter and honey until well blended. Add the almond meal and mix until a soft dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or so until the dough firms up a little.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Take dough out of the fridge and roll into 1-inch balls with damp hands. Place them on the parchment and flatten with the back of a wet spoon. Sprinkle turbinado sugar with or without abandon!

Bake for 8 to 9 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. The cookies will be soft so handle with care.

Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container.

**Addendum: if you refrigerate the baked cookies, they’ll be firmer and in my opinion, taste even better!


Today’s post is part of our monthly Let’s Lunch Twitter blogger potluck and we’re featuring 3-ingredient recipes!

For more Let’s Lunch posts, follow #LetsLunch on Twitter or visit my fellow bloggers below:

Mac and Cheese and Peanut Butter Cookies at Tea and Scones.

Filipino Sticky Rice Logs at Asian in America.

Easier Chicken and Dumplings at A Cook and Her Books.

Turkish Sesame Sweet at Monday Morning Cooking Club.

Trinidadian Mango Chow at Spicebox Travels.

Mango Coconut Chia Pudding at HapaMama.

Peanut Butter Cookies at Hot Curries & Cold Beer.

Stocking a Gluten-free Asian Pantry

I’d be so sad if I couldn’t share bakmi, one of my favorite Indonesian dishes–it contains wheat noodles, sweet soy sauce, AND soy sauce–with my gluten-free friends. 

A few years ago, my friend randomly mentioned that her mom has a stash of wheat-free soy sauce kept in a safe place at her neighborhood Chinese restaurant. And every time she goes there the owners whip out the bottle and happily prepare her favorite dish–shrimp fried rice–for her.

I was much bemused by this. I’d never even considered that Asian cooking contained a lot of wheat products, and besides, I didn’t know any Asians who were bothered by wheat. In fact, we live on wheat products. Egg noodles, wheat gluten (aka TVP), bean sauce, soy sauce–all of these products contain wheat.

Then last year, I was visiting my husband’s aunt who was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. I wanted to cook for her from my cookbook and her pantry was stocked with gluten-free products. Both she, and I, were pleasantly surprised at how many Asian meal options she had. I did a little research to help her with shopping and coincidentally, I was also asked to write a blog post about gluten-free options for common Asian sauces and condiments for Wasabimon readers.

I figured my own readers would be interested in this as well. According to the University of Chicago’s Center for Celiac Disease, 3 million Americans are affected by this disease. So you might be cooking for someone with celiac disease very soon!

While there are many gluten-free Asian products out there, pay attention and please please please read the labels! There are some sneaky ones that you’d never expect.

Shaoxing rice wine

This aromatic cooking wine adds flavor to Chinese stir-fries and braises. While it is made by fermenting glutinous rice, wheat is usually added. Pale dry sherry (I use Trader Joe’s Tesoro brand) is a great substitute.

Dark soy sauce

To replicate dark soy sauce, add some molasses or dark brown sugar to a gluten-free tamari soy sauce (like San-J or Eden Foods) to thicken and sweeten the potion.


All the bottled hoisin sauces I’ve tried contain wheat flour. A quick online search revealed Premier Japan brand Organic Hoisin Sauce. Although this gluten-free sauce has some unorthodox ingredients (at least by Chinese standards) like apple cider vinegar, molasses and orange juice, it’s worth a shot.


True mirin (hon-mirin) is made by fermenting sweet rice and contains nothing else (besides the alcohol of course). I have seen unfermented products labeled “mirin” containing Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein (HVP) which may be made from wheat. In this case, use sake or dry sherry with some sugar added.

Bean sauce

Bottled black bean garlic sauce contains wheat but you can easily make your own with fermented black beans (they come in a cellophane bag). For a from-scratch black bean sauce recipe, go here. Chinese yellow or brown bean sauces usually contain wheat as a thickener. Substitute with a gluten-free hatcho miso paste made only from soybeans. If you like it spicy, Yeo’s brand hot bean sauce is gluten-free; but it contains MSG. Or you could mix miso with a chili paste like sambal oelek.


Most dried rice noodles are made from just rice and water but please read the labels as not all brands are created equal. The fresh rice sheets/noodles you find at Asian markets often contain wheat starch. So if you’re at an Asian restaurant, avoid any dish containing wide rice noodles. Soba noodles, if made only with buckwheat, are gluten-free as well.

Instant dashi powder

Yes it’s convenient but this Japanese staple contains hydrolyzed wheat protein so make your own dashi. It’s not difficult at all. All you need is some sheets of kombu, bonito (dried bonito fish flakes), and patience and a watchful eye! Refer to my cookbook for a recipe.

Oyster sauce

Lee Kum Kee’s Panda Brand Green Label Oyster Flavored Sauce and Choy Sun Oyster Flavored Sauce in glass bottles and metal cans are both gluten-free and MSG-free.

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