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By now in 2019, white chocolate macadamia nut seems a very typical cookie flavor (in the United States), available from lots of different shops and in lots of different brands.

I'm pretty sure I never saw them as a kid in the US in the 1980s. I have a strong memory of macadamia nuts being a rather exotic food at that time, associated with Hawaii.

Who invented the white chocolate macadamia nut cookie? How did it become popular?

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    I can't answer about the cookies, but Macadamia are Australian, there are 4 species (only 3 produce edible nuts though) and they are endemic to the region.
    – bob1
    Nov 8, 2019 at 18:50

4 Answers 4

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The now-defunct Blue Chip Cookies chain of stores in San Francisco claimed that they invented them and that was the first place I saw them.

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    when was that? do you have any more information / context to improve your answer?
    – Luciano
    Sep 6, 2023 at 9:05
  • Wikipedia concurs! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Chip_Cookies Unfortunately the cited article from the 1980s doesn't seem to be easily findable on the internet... Sep 26, 2023 at 3:21
  • They're not defunct. They may no longer be in San Francisco, but they're available for mail order and local delivery in several cities. I just did some further research on them and put links and further information within my (old) answer, crediting your answer for bringing up this connection.
    – Athanasius
    Oct 24, 2023 at 10:22
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The Blue Chip Cookie Company (now known as "Blue Chip Cookies") claims to have invented the cookie in 1983. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the cookie may have also been popularized by Debbi Fields of Mrs. Fields' Original Cookies in the late 1980s.

Macadamia nuts appeared in pairings with (milk or dark) chocolate, usually just in chocolate-covered versions or chunks of nuts in chocolate going back to at least the 1970s. While I could find sporadic references to macadamia use in baked goods, I couldn't find any references specifically to white chocolate and macadamia in this era.

Macadamia nuts were an unusual ingredient in the 1980s (often associated in the U.S. with Hawaii), but Mrs. Fields' cookies began using them, perhaps due to the connection of the company in one of its earliest store locations in Honolulu during its initial expansion in 1980. At some point in the 1980s, several macadamia nut flavored cookies were introduced by Mrs. Fields, including pairings with semisweet chocolate, coconut, and white chunk with macadamia nuts. This page indicates that the white chocolate flavor was available by 1987.

White chocolate was also a less typical ingredient in the 1980s, but Blue Chip Cookies (founded in 1983) claims the following:

Blue Chip Cookie’s signature cookie the “White Chocolate Macadamia” used Guittard white chocolate bars that were chopped up. It was very labor intensive.

Guittard Chocolate in the early 1980s seeing how popular the Blue Chip Cookie had become created a “white chocolate chip” just for Blue Chip Cookies. Later they expanded the offering to nationally.

They also claim elsewhere on their website to be the first to "serve this combination":

Our famous signature White Chocolate Macadamia cookie with Guittard White Chocolate and Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts. We made it famous; we were the first bakery worldwide to serve this combination in 1983.

(I appreciate the answer by Ed C. that tipped me off on this company.)

Note that the Blue Chip Cookie Company apparently began franchising in 1986, around the same time we can securely date the appearance of the flavor for Mrs. Fields.

I could find no primary references to this pairing before 1987, when we know these cookies were sold by Blue Chip and Mrs. Fields. However, Mrs. Fields didn't just stop with cookies: in 1986-87, in addition to chocolate-dipped macadamia nuts, it tried to introduce ice cream with chocolate and macadamia nuts and even chocolate chip-macadamia soda. The Mrs. Fields company seemed obsessed with macadamia-chocolate items at this time. A Hawaiian book in 1988 could immediately make the association from macadamia nuts to Mrs. Fields, stating that:

Macadamia-nut pie and macadamia-nut ice cream have become Hawaiian classics. Famous Amos' and Mrs. Fields' macadamia chocolate chip cookies would not be nearly as good with any other nut.

While Blue Chip, Famous Amos, and Mrs. Fields all apparently had macadamia cookies by this time, it was the white chocolate chunk version by Mrs. Fields that seems to have marketed this flavor pairing more widely.

All other references to specific pairing of white chocolate and macadamia nuts date to the late 1980s or later. The earliest references I can find in Google appear in ice cream flavors (see this LA Times article from 1988), but there also appears to be a trend in brownies made with white chocolate and macadamia nuts around this time, as in the first mention of the pairing in the NY Times in 1989 as well as this AP reference in 1990 to white chocolate macadamia nut brownies. One also begins to see references to cheesecake (NY Times, 1990) and tarts (NY Times, 1992) flavored in the same way at upscale restaurants. One of the earliest references Google seems to find for cookies is in 1993, where the Chicago Tribune covers a designer of high-end gift baskets, several of which seem to include white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.

After an initial period when the flavor pairing was apparently associated with higher-end cuisine and cookies, it began to spread more widely. By the mid-1990s, the white chocolate macadamia fad was in full swing, as the Washington Post could announce in 1996 that the most recent Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies book contained recipes for "monster-size cookies in trendy flavors such as mocha walnut and white chocolate macadamia."

In general, the franchising of Blue Chip Cookies and the popularization of this flavor pairing with Mrs. Fields items in the late 1980s seems to have made these cookies popular.

EDIT: Further evidence from Google Ngram of the popularity of the phrase "white chocolate macadamia" beginning its rise in 1987 through the mid-1990s, so at least we can narrow down the time period.

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I was eating white chocolate macadamia nut cookies in 1969 from a Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco cookie shop located between the Buena Vista Cafe and Ghirardelli Square. I think it’s name was Bell Buoy? As I’d never seen this combination before, I assumed they had invented it.

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  • Wow! I'd love to hear some follow-up to this story from any sleuths who can track down some information about this cookie shop. Jul 14, 2022 at 2:40
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Probably a cookie company marketing team asked their R'n'D team to see how they could reproduce a home made cooking one of them saw and ate while on a vacation in Hawaii.

I think it is difficult to find the origin of a recipe (yes, there are exceptions).

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