There’s something comforting and wholesome about an oatmeal cookie. Whether it’s crisp or chewy, the oats provide texture and a subtle butterscotch flavor. Also, roughage. That’s where the wholesome part comes in.
As old-timey as oatmeal cookies may seem, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the rolled oats crucial to their character even existed. A miller named Ferdinand Schumacher implemented the process for rolling oats at his giant Ravenna, Ohio mill; before that, oats were generally sold as whole oat groats, which took much longer to cook and would have been an unwelcome addition to cookie dough.
Schumacher eventually became of one the founders of Quaker Oats, and the new company soon launched a savvy marketing campaign, since many Americans still thought of oats as animal fodder. Convenient packaging and the iconic Quaker Oats dude helped change that.
Food writer Nancy Baggett speculates the first oatmeal cookie recipe in America was printed in 1881. By 1908, Quaker Oats put an oatmeal cookie recipe on its packaging for the first time.
April 30 is National Oatmeal Cookie Day, and we’re celebrating by gathering our favorite recipes together. Some have chocolate, some have raisins, some have neither. Whichever way you like them, go ahead and enjoy an oatmeal cookie or two for breakfast. We promise not to judge.
Sara Bir is Paste’s contributing food editor. She gladly ate two oatmeal cookies for breakfast today. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @Sausagetarian.
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Tried and True: In the mid-1990s, Cook's Illustrated took on the Quaker Oats Famous Oatmeal Cookie recipe, which they considered to be the classic, and subjected it to their tireless scrutiny. The result (which is quite true to the original, but employs butter instead of shortening and adds nutmeg instead of vanilla) remains my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe, despite Cook's revisiting the topic many times in subsequent years. For a special treat, swap the raisins for chopped dates (you'll find the recipe halfway down through this Chowhound thread).
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Neinman Marcus Cookies: The urban legend holds that a woman was billed anywhere between $50 to $100 for this recipe after requesting it from the Neiman Marcus tea room, but it's been debunked more times than there are now versions of this delightfully oaty chocolate chip cookie. Its appeal lies in dual combos: rolled and pulverized oats, plus milk and semisweet chocolate.
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Florentines: Lacy and brittle, Florentines are traditionally made with sliced or ground almonds, but in some recipes rolled oats stand in for them just as well. Now is a good time to mention the existence of National Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day, which falls on March 18, but there's absolutely no reason to abstain from these now if Florentines strike your fancy. Alice Medrich's "faux florentines" from Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts are appealing because they're a little less fussy than some recipes.
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Monster Cookies: A hybrid of peanut butter, oatmeal, and chocolate chip cookies, monster cookies are curious because they don't contain any wheat flour. If this story is to be believed, this recipe's genesis traces back to the 1970s, when photographer Dick Wesley (a father of six cookie-hungry children) created it using only oats because he didn't have any all-purpose flour around when he got the urge to bake one day. Monster cookies are also notable for the inclusion of M&M's. For a slightly scaled-down recipe (Wesley's calls for six eggs and yields 40 to 50 cookies), try Paula Deen's version of these over-the-top bake sale staples.
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Sara Perry's Oatmeal-Lemon Sugar Cookies: Crisp, delicate, and citrusy, these captivating treats (the lighter cookies pictured in the stack in the center) are the very antithesis of what we expect from a default oatmeal cookie. Addictive. Sara Perry was a longtime contributor to The Oregonian, and her story on oatmeal cookies has a few other winning recipes, too.
Mike Davis/The Oregonian
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Anzac Biscuits: Made with golden syrup and sometimes coconut, these eggless cookies are a staple sweet of Australia and New Zealand. The recipe came about during World War I, when women on the home front baked them to send to soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Anzac biscuits are dry and keep well, and so are excellent to bake for care packages of your own.
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No-Bake Cookies: Made by cooking butter, milk, cocoa, and sugar on the stove into a thin, goopy syrup and stirring in rolled oats, no-bake cookies are popular for making with kids, or just people who are in a rush. They're part cookie, part confection, and sweet enough to crack your teeth. Beloved in West Virginia, they're known there as "no-bakes." The recipe on the Quaker site is very loyal to the era of its origin in calling for margarine and low-fat milk, but this version on Sally's Baking Addiction calls for the honest-to-goodness butter, has a lot less sugar, and includes a big gob of peanut butter (which should really be non-negotiable in the first place).
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Laura Bush's Cowboy Cookies: Remember the Bush-Gore cookie debacle of 2000? While its impact dwarfed other hallmarks of that storied election year (hanging chads, e.g.), it was one of the more inflamed of the recipe standoffs of begun by Family Circle in 1992, when the magazine had readers vote on cookie recipes submitted by Hilary Clinton and Barbara Bush (Clinton's won). After the Clinton years passed, voters decided between Tipper Gore's ginger molasses cookies and Laura Bush's Cowboy Cookies — a chunky conglomeration of oats, coconut, chocolate chips, and nuts — which easily triumphed. Now we are facing down the possibility of Clinton Years Mach II, and one has to wonder: what cookie recipe would Bill Clinton submit?
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Archway: Okay, maybe you're not into baking. Hands up if you love Archway oatmeal cookies (with or without raisins). It's okay! They're soft and sweet and not very oaty, but they do hit the spot. Runner-up is the oatmeal raisin cookie from Starbucks, which I just found out also includes dried apricots, but maybe in my past cookie-gobbling my pace was too swift to register that.