National Chocolate Chip Day: May 15

Chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip cookie dough pops…the possibilities are endless for tasty, irresistible treats on National Chocolate Chip Day

Today is National Chocolate Chip Day! Chocolate chips are an essential ingredient in dozens of delicious baked goods—chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip pancakes, chocolate chip muffins, chocolate chip brownies, chocolate chip bagels, and many more. You can even find chili recipes that call for these sweet morsels!

We might not know which came first—the chicken, or the egg—but when it comes to chocolate chips and their namesake cookie, the history is well-documented and it might not be what you think. Chocolate chips actually came after the chocolate chip cookie and despite their presence everywhere are likely younger than your grandmother.

Yes, Blue Bell offers chocolate chip ice cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The recipe spread like wildfire and after a few years of selling their semi-sweet chocolate bars with a chopping tool (for easy chunking of the bar), Nestlé went one step further by introducing chocolate morsels to the world. With such a history and with so much mass appeal it’s no surprise that this kitchen delight deserves celebration and that’s why on May 15, we have National Chocolate Chip Day.

Have you ever wondered how a single ingredient would change a recipe? If it weren’t for one curious baker, it would be hard to imagine where we would be without the invention of chocolate chips.

In 1937, Ruth Graves Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth, owned the popular Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. While mulling new desserts to serve at the inn’s restaurant, she decided to make a batch of Butter Drop Do pecan cookies (a thin butterscotch treat) with an alteration using semisweet chocolate instead of baker’s chocolate.

Lake Champlain Chocolates in Burlington, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rather than melting in the baker’s chocolate, she used an ice pick to cut the semisweet chocolate into tiny pieces. Upon removing the cookies from the oven, Wakefield found that the semisweet chocolate had held its shape much better than baker’s chocolate which tended to spread throughout the dough during baking to create a chocolate-flavored cookie. These cookies instead had sweet little nuggets of chocolate studded throughout. The recipe for the treats—known as Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies—was included in a late 1930s edition of her cookbook, Ruth Wakefield’s Tried and True Recipes

The cookies were a huge success and in 1939 Wakefield signed an agreement with Nestle to add her recipe to the chocolate bar’s packaging. In exchange for the recipe, Wakefield reportedly received a lifetime supply of chocolate. The Nestle brand Toll House cookies were named for the Inn.

Nestle initially included a small chopping tool with the chocolate bars, too.

Rebecca Ruth Chocolates in Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Starting in 1941, Nestle and other competitors started selling the chocolate in chip or morsel form. For the first time, bakers began making chocolate chip cookies without chopping up the chocolate bar first. 

Chocolate chips originally came in semi-sweet. Later, chocolate producers began offering bittersweet, mint, white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white and dark swirled. Today, chips also come in a variety of other flavors that bakers and candy makers use creatively in their kitchens.

While cookies may be the first treat to come to mind, imagination is really the only thing limiting how chocolate chips can be used in baking and candy making. Even savory dishes feature chocolate chips in a variety of ways, too. Had Ruth Graves Wakefield never wondered what a few chopped up chunks of chocolate would be like in her baking, we wouldn’t even have chocolate chip cookies.  

Yes to chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Chocolate Chip Day timeline

1937: Ruth Graves Wakefield creates the chocolate-chip cookie

1963: Chips Ahoy! hits the shelves in U.S. supermarkets

1991: Ben and Jerry’s creates Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

1997: The chocolate-chip cookie is named and recognized as the official state cookie of Massachusetts

Yes, Blue Bell offers chocolate chip ice cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why I love National Chocolate Chip Day

Chocolate chips are everywhere: They might have been created with one purpose in mind but chocolate chips have branched out since their early days as cookie-fillers. Nowadays, it’s hard to think up a confection that hasn’t donned a chocolate chip cap whether its pancakes, muffins, or ice cream sundaes.

The choices … oh, so many choices: The chocolate chips that eventually found their way into the classic chocolate chip cookie are made of semi-sweet chocolate but they now come in a plethora of options ranging from white chocolate to dark chocolate and all the way to caramel ensuring that no matter what you’re baking there’s a place for a chip!

Big or small—I’ll eat them all: Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies, no matter the size. They could be small (so long as there’s enough to have more than one!) or they could be massive as in the case of Immaculate Baking’s 40,000 pound Guinness Record breaker but regardless of size, they’re sure to draw a crowd. The fact that chocolate chips were used to break the record of world’s largest cookie is only a testament to their universality and it’s safe to say that they’ll always have a space on the shelf of any baker.

Yes, Ben & Jerry’s offers chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Chocolate Chip Day activities

Hack the kitchen: Chocolate for dinner

Most chefs know how to use tried-and-true flavor combinations to great effect but the best chefs create new combinations altogether. Try using chocolate chips in a dinner recipe for a real challenge. If you’re looking for a place to start, you might consider trying a Mexican mole (pronounced moh-lay) sauce recipe. Mole sauce tastes fantastic with chicken, tostadas, chicken or veggie enchiladas, tacos, and burritos.

Yes to chocolate chip ice cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How big can you bake it?

You probably won’t approach the world record but National Chocolate Chip Day is the perfect occasion to try your hand at baking the biggest chocolate chip cookie possible.

Art you can eat

With a mix of chocolate chips, M&Ms, and some other similarly-sized chocolate candies you’re well on your way to a kid-friendly edible art project!

Rebecca Ruth Chocolates in Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Chocolate Chip Day related holidays

January 27: National Chocolate Cake Day

August 4: National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

October 28: National Chocolate Day

Worth Pondering…

Lou pushes a plate of cookies in front of us.

Chocolate pieces tease like jewels in sand.

Please, she says, have some!

I don’t want to be impolite, so I take five.

—Katherine Applegate