The O.G. Oatmeal Cookie—and Why It's Here to Stay

Classics stick around for a reason. To endure years of trends and to please every new generation, they have to be something special.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Just like striped t-shirts, Bruce Springsteen songs, and martinis, this oatmeal cookie recipe has been beloved for decades. It’s the one you remember eating when you were little, the one that hits all the high notes: moist, chewy, nutty, spiced, and sweet. It’s comforting, evoking midnight snacks and lunchbox desserts and the scent of baking wafting through a warm kitchen.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Ask anyone about their favorite back-of-the-box recipes, and you will get a dozen votes for this Quaker Oatmeal cookie. People are emphatic about how good this cookie is. And they aren’t wrong. Yes, you can gussy your oatmeal cookies up with chocolate chunks and cacao nibs. You can make them crisp or spice them up with white pepper or churn them into ice cream.

But I feel about them the way Mark Darcy felt about Bridget Jones: I like them just as they are.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Okay, with two tiny exceptions. First, after doing some extensive cookie-baking research, I decided to dispense with the cinnamon in the original recipe. Cook’s Illustrated has a wonderful article on perfecting oatmeal cookies, and they found that swapping the cinnamon for nutmeg allowed for a “cleaner” flavor, letting the nutty taste of the oats shine through. Cinnamon is such a strong spice that it can crowd out other ingredients. After multiple batches and too much raw dough to admit to eating, I concur.

Second, go big. Cook’s Illustrated also notes that a good oatmeal cookie should be very moist, but they often end out dry and crumbly. This is because we’ve been making our cookies too small! Has there ever been happier news? You don’t want them so big that they stay raw in the center (unless you want to go Levain Bakery-style, in which case, be my guest). But scooping jumbo-sized balls of dough ensures that the center of the cookie stays perfectly chewy, even days later. I like to use a 1/3-cup or 1/4-cup scoop for uniformity.

What's your favorite oatmeal cookie recipe? Is it, indeed, this one? (If so, have you tweaked it, or kept it exactly the same?)


Lisa W. May 31, 2016
Yep, I use the Cooks Illustrated oatmeal recipe, fresh nutmeg, and cut up crystallized ginger (the baking pieces from Ginger People are too small), or dried tart cherries.
Noreen F. May 23, 2016
I love Marcus Samuelsson's version, which uses garam masala instead of cinnamon or nutmeg, and also calls for dried cherries.
AntoniaJames May 23, 2016
The recipe on the Quaker site today is not the recipe that many of us (those your mother's age, at least) grew up with. Food companies tweak their back-of-the-box recipes over time to stay current with general trends. The recipe Quaker called "classic" back in the day looked like this:<br />3/4 cup shortening, soft<br />1 cup firmly packed brown sugar<br />1/2 cup granulated sugar<br />1 egg<br />1/4 cup water<br />1 teaspoon vanilla<br />1 cup sifted all-purpose flour<br />1 teaspoon salt<br />1/2 teaspoon baking soda<br />3 cups uncooked Quaker Oats<br /><br />(No cinnamon!)<br /><br />There are several fun, fairly comprehensive cookbooks out there that compile the oldies but goodies as they were originally published. One that comes to mind, which I occasionally check out of the library, is Ceil Dyer's "Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans and Jars." It contains so many gems from sources like Fleischmann's yeast and Land o' Lakes butter that we copied into notebooks for my mother, and used again and again over the years. You'd find that book interesting, if you don't already have it. ;o)
Author Comment
Posie (. May 23, 2016
Yes you're right! This current version on the oat package is called Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies -- I DO have that cookbook and a few similar ones -- I could spend hours reading through (and I have!). So many interesting older recipes. Glad they aren't lost.
AntoniaJames May 23, 2016
I actually don't care for most of my childhood baked goods recipes anymore, because my tastes have changed so much. The idea of a warm, chewy oatmeal cookie, yes. But that recipe, or even the "Vanishing" cookies on the site? No thanks. Joanne Chang's Low Sugar Oatmeal Cookies featured here last summer? Yes, please. That said, there are many recipes that I baked as a girl, which we all thought then were the best ever, that I've fiddled with to make them tastier to the grown up me. <br />I must say, too, that mrslarkins's whole wheat chubbies are outstanding. (I reduce the total sugar by about 1/3. And for the record, I've always put nutmeg + cardamom in them, with orange zest if I have some, and no cinnamon. ) ;o)
LULULAND May 29, 2016
I love cardamom in recipes, but how much in a batch of cookies? thanks
bookjunky May 23, 2016
Oh, and the real secret to having moist cookies is simply not to overbake them. They don't need to be large, just baked appropriately. Any cookie should come out of the oven when they are just puffed and still look a bit raw.
bookjunky May 23, 2016
I pretty much stick to the Quaker Oats cookie, but Irvin Lin at Eat the Love had a really awesome one with ginger and blueberries IIRC. I use that variation sometimes. Never use cinnamon in the original recipe though. I love to put in dried cranberries, chocolate chips, and nuts.
Cpprbull May 29, 2016
I don't know if it's the same one I found, but it has blueberries, candied ginger, and white chocolate. Awesome cookie!
mrslarkin May 22, 2016
Oh, this is a good one! Try it with orange zest, too. Very yum. <br /><br />Not to sound haughty, but my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe is my own. It's really really good!
AntoniaJames May 23, 2016
Not haughty at all! I consider it a public service, Liz. Seriously. ;o)
Author Comment
Posie (. May 24, 2016
Ooh love the orange zest idea. And seconded, NOT haughty, sharing your recipes is something I am extremely grateful for (and my kitchen is better off for it too!).
Smaug May 22, 2016
I don't agree about the cinnamon at all, I find it essential. Even my lemon version (double the raisins, simmer them with lemon juice, add 1/4 tsp. lemon oil in the dough) I use half cinnamon and half nutmeg- I tried mace, but I did find that a bit too much.
AntoniaJames May 23, 2016
Smaug, those sound incredible! Love cinnamon + lemon. Must try this. Thank you for posting it! ;o)
Smaug May 23, 2016
They are, at any rate, the only one of several experiments I bothered to write down. Foor the record, I use 1/3 c. juice for 1 c. raisins (I do this quite a bit for cookies; I like the little burst of moisture, without changing the cookie structure). I also cut the sugar by 1/3 from the Quaker recipe, but I do that almost routinely with cookies.
AntoniaJames May 24, 2016
Thanks so much, Smaug, for the additional details. I cannot wait to implement. ;o)
Lynn D. May 22, 2016
I always make oatmeal cookies (and oatmeal) with nutmeg. I also use chopped dates instead of raisin. Why are these O.G. cookies?
Cathy May 22, 2016
You're right!! It IS Quaker's oatmeal cookie recipe! I have not tweaked it. I may consider the nutmeg variation, though. : )