While the best cookies in San Francisco are often overshadowed by fancier dessert options, it's time they got their spotlight in the display case. Whether you’re a chocolate-chip—purist or a seeker of exotic flavors, San Francisco bakeries offer a fresh-from-the-oven cookie for every taste. So next time a snack attack hits, check out these sweet spots from North Beach to the Mission.
RECOMMENDED: The best dessert in San Francisco
Best cookies in San Francisco
This local mainstay from Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt attracts around-the-block lines. The cookies are as elevated as their famous breads, from the powder-sugar-dusted Mexican wedding cookies to the chocolate salted rye cookie. The couple expanded to a second, 5,000-square-foot location in the Heath building in 2016. There, a whole bar is dedicated to decadent Italian-style soft-serve (the secret’s in the buffalo milk) and rich, dense cookies in flavors like ginger spice, chocolate chip hazelnut and salted chocolate.
“I got baked in San Francisco,” reads the fuchsia neon sign adorning Mr. Holmes. The bakery went from a tiny Tenderloin newcomer to a viral foodie destination with the invention of the cruffin, a cream-filled cross between a croissant and a muffin. But the chewy chocolate chunk cookie is a true work of pastry art, studded with dark chocolate and baked to a deep golden brown. If you want something more out-of-the-box, look for the cornflake cookie, an addictive concoction made with brown butter, toffee, and cereal.
Chef and co-owner Belinda Leone is a rock star in the baking world, having worked in the kitchens of Gary Danko and Michelin-starred Manresa. She trained in patisseries in Paris, Barcelona and Copenhagen before launching her own European-inspired bakery in 2013. The chocolate chip and Valrhona fudge cookies achieve the perfect chewy-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside consistency. But on weekends, don’t pass up the pillowy grand macarons, flavored with rose crème, vanilla and raspberries.
Since opening on Fillmore in 2011, Jane has become a Pac Heights institution. Owner Amanda Michael has since expanded to sister locations in the Tenderloin, Western Addition and—most excitingly—a dedicated bakery. The top picks are the salted white chocolate oatmeal cookie, a perfectly balanced concoction laden with hunks of chocolate, and the crazy cookie, a gooey vessel for chocolate chips, toffee, and marshmallows. In addition to a smattering of daily rotating flavors, the bakery offers party-ready mini cookies in exotic flavors like peanut butter tahini, almond fennel biscotti and lemon currant shortbread.
After living in the Outer Sunset for over a decade, lawyer and mom Hilary Passman opened Devil’s Teeth a few blocks from the beach. (She’s also the owner of the nearby Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company, which she introduced in 2015.) Lines start forming around 8am for the bakery’s justifiably famous breakfast sandwich, but the case full of baked goods is destination-worthy in itself. Everything is baked on-site, including four kinds of cookies: chocolate chip, peanut butter chocolate chip, ginger and sugar. Kids love the latter, which is shark-shaped and glazed, while grown-ups go for the ginger cookie, deftly spiced with cloves and cinnamon.
This worker-owned community bakery has created the perfect salty-sweet mash-up: the Cowgirl cookie. The hybrid is a cross between a walnut chocolate chip cookie and an oatmeal raisin cookie. It’s based in brown rice flour—a plus for the gluten-free crowd. In addition to the Cowgirl, the bakery also churns out chewy ricciarelli (an almond-flower based Italian wedding cookie), crazy-rich double chocolate chip bombs, and classic peanut butter, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and shortbread varieties.
Baker Greg Mindel has been perfuming the Dogpatch with the smell of his fresh-baked breads, pastries, tarts and cookies since 2015. The cookies are equal parts chewy and crispy—regularly pulled fresh from the oven—but the oat-pecan-coconut-chocolate-chunk cookie is the menu’s star. For a subtler sweet, try the macarons, which come in delicate flavors like raspberry lime and passion fruit.
Anthony Lucas began baking cookies on the side while studying accounting and engineering at San Francisco State University. His sweets became so popular among classmates that he started selling them out of his car. Today he sells thousands of his decadently buttery cookies each week from his Mission storefront; they’re all baked fresh daily using organic ingredients. The magic is in the texture—gooey on the inside, chewy along the edges. Anthony’s daily line-up includes cinnamon spice, chocolate chip, cookies and cream, toffee chip, white chocolate chip, and whole wheat oatmeal raisin, plus seasonal flavors like peanut butter, coffee cookie, or German chocolate.
Former Chez Panisse pastry chef Stacie Pierce opened this tiny Bernal Heights bakery in 2013. She stresses seasonal ingredients and flavors, resulting in an inventive, ever-changing pastry cake. (Look for the rosemary cornmeal cookie first.) The packed case is a boon for lovers of baked goods, heaped with almond macaroons, gingersnaps, and chocolate chip, chocolate sea salt, brown butter pecan, and hazelnut chocolate chip cookies.
Brothers Tommy and Chris Newbury have grown from the proprietors of an out-of-the-way coffee truck to a trio of full-blown cafes serving sandwiches, salads, and pastries from Neighbor Bakehouse and Starter Bakery. They only sell one variety of cookie—classic chocolate chip—but it’s a model of the form. (The daily stack often sells out by lunch.) The giant, salad-plate-sized cookie is soft and gooey, almost (but not quite!) underbaked. It’s finished with a generous smattering of sea salt, which cuts through the richness of the chocolate.