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A Chicagoan Bakes Vegan Cookies With Jamaican Flavors For the Holidays

Tubby’s Taste is for cookie lovers who want more than funfetti

A woman smiling with bags of cookies in front of her.
Danielle Tubbs of Tubby’s Taste.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Danielle Tubbs is prepping for a big holiday season for her seven-year-old cookie business. Tubbs founded Tubby’s Taste in 2014 and filled a niche for featuring sweets with Jamaican flavors like mango coconut lime; ginger and sweet molasses; and grapefruit, pineapple, and hibiscus. Tubbs says each cookie reminds her of a specific childhood memory, and she taps into that while working out of the Hatchery in Garfield Park, the commercial kitchen space that’s incubated delivery-only restaurants like Cocoa Chili.

After Tubbs, whose nickname at college was “Tubby,” launched the company, she heard from friends and family who wished Tubby’s would make vegan options. Instead of rolling one item without eggs and dairy, Tubbs decided to overhaul all her recipes and make them vegan. The cookies are available to buy online

Tubbs grew up in Miami, a much warmer locale than currently 20-degree Chicago. With those higher temps, she grew up in a traditional Jamaican household where her aunties would make rum and black cakes.

“I come from a long line of Jamaican cake ladies,” Tubbs says. “So it’s safe to say that baking is in my blood.”

Danielle Tubbs is inspired by Jamaican flavors.

Tubby’s intends to shake up the cookie business, which tastes a little homogenous to Tubbs. She says she didn’t set out to incorporate Jamaican flavors. She was caught in a rut working for not for profits — she moved to Chicago in 2012 to work with AmeriCorps. The idea for Tubby’s came after a session with her therapist who asked her about her future. Tubbs recalls thinking that she would devote all her time to cookies if she could find a way to get paid. The therapist encouraged that path. Two weeks later, Tubbs showed up to her next therapist appointment with a website domain name secured and an application for a limited liability company submitted.

As a child, she would have preferred to watch Nickelodeon, but Tubbs was instead roped into the cake-making operation during the holidays where family would make sweets to celebrate. She learned secrets including how some members of her family would keep secret jugs of rum to soak fruit for the black cakes. That fruit would sometimes stay submerged for two years.

A round ceramic plate with five round cookies.
Taste of Paradise (coconut, oatmeal, cinnamon)
The Ascension Cookie (mocha, oat, chocolate chip)

Baking may not be the first thing people think of when it comes to diversity and representation. But Tubbs says it shouldn’t be underestimated. If bakeries had more options, she would have realized much earlier that she didn’t have to settle for funfetti cupcakes. She would have prefered the coconut, oatmeal, and cinnamon which reminds her of the oatmeal milkshakes she used to drink as a kid.

“I think it’s always important to see people like you doing a thing, doing something that kind of whispers to you in a way.” Tubbs says. “It lets you know that you can do it, too.”