Chocolate

The No-Bake Oreo Dessert That's Legendary in My Family

by:
July  9, 2018

Oreo Dessert is the yardstick for all other desserts in my family. “Oh, this triple-tier chocolate cake covered in perfect buttercream is good and all...but it’s no Oreo Dessert." Or: “I ate the most amazing dessert at the most amazing restaurant last night...but it was no Oreo Dessert.”

My mom got the recipe years ago from my late Aunt Vicki, who got the recipe from a church or community cookbook. My mom copied it down on an index card (remember those?), and our attempts to find that cookbook have always come up short. I’m glad, actually, because it seems much more legendary that way.

Behold! The first photographic evidence of a dessert my family's never stopped to take a picture of. Photo by Ty Mecham

When I was 12, my dad’s cousin Trisha from Sacramento came to spend about a week with us in southeastern Illinois where I grew up. It must have been July or August, when the smell of corn hangs heavy in the hot, humid air. Trisha would have been in her early thirties at the time, and I remember marveling that she had dimples bigger and deeper than my dad’s, and a warmth that immediately filled a room. Even though I didn’t know her well, I knew that she loved this little stretch of land we called home from her summer visits here as a child.

We had dinner that night at my grandpa’s, a white wooden farmhouse a stone’s throw from our own. I don’t recall the meal, only the Oreo Dessert that my mom made. She served big squares of it immediately following dinner. After the table was cleared and everything put away, Trisha and I tiptoed back to the kitchen and pulled the frosty Pyrex pan out of the freezer. We peeled back the foil and broke off slivers with a blunt butter knife. (The slivers never count.) We returned to the family room without saying a word, then tiptoed back again. We must have done this three times that evening.

After that visit, I spent several weeks for the next seven summers with Trisha in Sacramento. I got to watch her two daughters—Stasia and Emilie (who’s named after me)—grow up. Trisha taught me how to make pesto using Biba Caggiano’s recipe (the recipe I use to this day). She introduced me to Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese food, coaching me on how to use chopsticks and the difference between maki, sashimi, and nigiri. We’d spend at least a day in San Francisco on each visit, and when I got a little older, we’d go wine tasting in Napa or in closer-by Amador County. Every visit included a stop at Vic’s, an old-school ice cream parlor in Sacramento, for thick, hand-scooped chocolate malts. And every visit always involved a pan of Oreo Dessert.

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Top Comment:
“the salted butter and bakers chocolate makes the fudge taste like the elusive hot fudge of my youth. this is a definite winner and keeper”
— nicole K.
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When I got married, Stasia and Emilie stood by my side at the altar. Emilie, now in her twenties, lives within 20 minutes of me in Washington D.C. She’s a huge part of my own children’s lives. We make Oreo Dessert together every chance we get.

Several years ago, Trisha told me that she knew that we’d be lifelong friends after those trips to the freezer. Whether or not Oreo Dessert deserves the credit, we’re not sure. We’d like to think it does.


In case you haven't had enough chocolate


We’ve had countless conversations about Oreo Dessert over the years along the lines of: Why is this so good? Why are we so crazy for it? Can it be improved? What’s the best way to streamline prep when you haven’t planned ahead but want it right now? Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • The crust: The easiest way to crush 24 Oreos at once is in a gallon-sized, sealable plastic bag with a rolling pin. The easiest way to remove them is to turn the bag inside out (scraping off any that stick to the bag with a table knife) and mix them right in the pan with the melted butter. And make sure the butter is salted! Unsalted butter plus a pinch or two of salt just isn’t as good.
  • The ice cream: Vanilla ice cream is key. It’s tempting to get fancy with the ice cream (chocolate chunk! cookies and cream! coffee!), but each time we’ve strayed from plain vanilla, we’ve regretted it. It’s the perfect counterpoint to the Oreo crust and fudge topping. Use your favorite vanilla ice cream, whether it’s from a gallon bucket, the pints of premium stuff, or homemade.
  • The fudge topping: The fudge topping is the pièce de résistance. The list of ingredients and method defy how good it is—salted butter, sugar, evaporated milk, and German’s sweet chocolate—brought to a boil and cooked for four minutes. It stays thick and velvety even when frozen. For best results, fully cool the fudge topping before pouring it over the ice cream; otherwise it’ll melt down into the Oreo crust. Set the pan of hot fudge in an ice bath to speed up the cooling. If you’re thinking—I don’t like sweet chocolate, I’ll just substitute dark chocolate—well, I get it. But trust me, use German’s sweet. Its flavor with the Oreos is truly special.

And all of the parts together? True, frozen bliss.

When you’re ready to serve it, take it out of the freezer a few minutes ahead of time. The flavor and texture are best this way. Cut it into big squares. Leave the pan on the counter while everyone’s eating their first piece because seconds will happen. And once it goes back into the freezer? Just know there’s no shame in peeling back the foil and breaking off slivers for a late-night snack. Because, remember: The slivers never count.

Do you have a legendary family recipe? Tell us about it in the comments below.

49 Comments

Jennifer J. August 23, 2018
I've had this recipe in the back of my mind for weeks and made it with my daughter tonight. We used regular oreos, salted butter, the specified amounts of everything in a Pyrex dish-and we struggled mightily to get it out of the pan. Looking at the recipe again, I'm wondering if it is because we were too impatient and didn't let it sit out a few minutes first. Or maybe our crushed Oreo texture was wrong- is yours quite pulverized? Don't get me wrong, we ate it and it was delicious, but I would love to crack the crust code before serving it at a gathering.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC August 29, 2018
Hi Jennifer: I was with my mom when I got your note, and she said that the last time she made this (about a month ago), she had the very same problem with the crust sticking!! She was surprised because she’s made it a gazillion times over the years without this issue. We wonder if there have been small changes to the Oreo recipe to cause this difference? In any case, you could line your pan with foil the next time, or generously butter it (which is what I’ll do). I updated the recipe to reflect this change! Thanks for your note, and glad you liked it!!
 
Jennifer J. August 30, 2018
That is so interesting. We did find that we had better luck the second night when we let it sit out for a few minutes first- as you advised in the first place ;-)
 
Anne-Marie August 6, 2018
Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories! There is nothing like a particular food, or aroma, to bring back the very best times in our lives. Your recipe looks amazing, and will be added to my "did this" list before summer is over.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC August 6, 2018
Thanks so much Anne-Marie! : )
 
Margaret D. August 2, 2018
I 'tweeked' it a bit using 'reduced fat' Oreos, cut back on the sugar in the fudge topping, and replaced the sweet bakers chocolate with semi-sweet and it was perfectly delicious!<br />
 
Author Comment
EmilyC August 6, 2018
Wonderful!
 
Steven W. July 24, 2018
Sweet story, shared food bonds are lifelong. I have to tell you though I will never make or try this because I have a very strong aversion to Oreos and everything Oreo cookie related. Just me I suppose, because I understand how popular these chalky discs filled with plastic can be. I would definitely try it with just about any other cookie, perhaps.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC August 6, 2018
Hi Steven: thanks so much for reading! Re: the Oreos, a few people have commented that they're using Newman's and Trader Joe's versions of Oreos. Maybe they would appeal more? FYI, I've crushed up waffle cones before and used them instead (delicious).
 
lillianstrange July 22, 2018
Your story brought me to tears. The bond that you and Trisha share that is based on a recipe is so touching. The fact that she'd named her child after you, that both her children were included in your wedding, and that Emilie is now close to your own children and continues the tradition of making the Oreo dessert with them, is a testament to how food has the ability to bring people together and provide lasting memories. The recipe looks incredible too.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 24, 2018
Aw, thank you so much for reading and your kind note! I really appreciate it.
 
chefpatty July 22, 2018
We have a coffee sundae pie recipe that is so similar to this recipe. The topping is the same. Ours is made in a pie plate with coffee ice cream. And at Christmas we use peppermint pattie ice cream. Yummy.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 22, 2018
This sounds great! My mom LOVES peppermint ice cream. She'd be all over this version!
 
Karen July 22, 2018
Great memories! We made this (I grew up in Michigan) for Christmas, substituting peppermint ice cream - made by Hudsonville) for the vanilla. We also added a layer of Cool Whip on top - with crushed peppermints scattered on top of that.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 22, 2018
This sounds so good, Karen! I'll bet it's really pretty, too, with the crushed peppermint on top. Thanks for your note.
 
KATHERINE B. July 22, 2018
Less the fudge topping, this is my exact recipe for Hawaiian Mud Pie, subbing Kona Coffee Chip ice cream for the vanilla. Now my mud pie has a fudge topping! O Happy Day!
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 22, 2018
Oh, this is great! You'll love the fudge topping with the rest! : )
 
Claire C. July 22, 2018
i may never make this fantastic dessert, but I know it's delicious. How do I know? Because I can feel the joy of your connecting with Trisha around sneaking seconds (and thirds), and the lifelong bonds you created. And your delight in sharing this recipe with us. Thank you.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 22, 2018
Aw, thanks so much for reading the story and your sweet note.
 
Chris L. July 22, 2018
Emily - Thanks for tantalizing recipe and super well written post! Thoroughly enjoyed and will make soon! Happy Summer!
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 22, 2018
Thanks so much Chris! Really hope you enjoy the dessert!
 
Linda S. July 22, 2018
Loved the passion for this dessert in your story. My family has a similar tradition of chocolate cookie stackups, made with whipped cream and chocolate wafer cookies. But my husband is an ice-cream man, so this is going on the menu for his upcoming birthday. Thanks for the inspiration!
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 22, 2018
Thank you Linda for your nice note, and I hope this is a big hit for your husband's birthday party!
 
Nancy M. July 22, 2018
I couldn't get crumbs small enough with a rolling pin and a bag so I dumped it into the food processor for a few pulses to finish it. It was very good.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 22, 2018
Great! Good idea on the food processor for even finer crumbs. I kind of like mine a little chunkier, which I guess is why I've taken the other route all of these years! ; ) Obviously can't mess up this crust though!
 
Ginny H. July 22, 2018
Have saved this dessert to the recipe box. Thanks, looks yummy! But more importantly- your Aunt’s pesto recipe? My basil is prolific!
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 22, 2018
Hi Ginny: Let me see if I can find the recipe online and I'll circle back!
 
miznic July 22, 2018
Dear EmilyC and Oreo Dessert: <br /><br />THANK YOU so much, I finally, for the first time in the 20+ years I have been married to my hubby, FINALLY found a dessert that clutched his dessert-hating heart, and would not let go. <3 He not only wanted seconds, but thirds. That has never happened... ever.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 22, 2018
Aw, this warms my heart so much! So glad *this* is the dessert that changed his mind! Thanks for letting me know! : )
 
Jenn July 22, 2018
Emily, <br /><br />I thoroughly enjoyed reading your short, yet super engaging, and entertaining story revolving around your families “infamous” Oreo Dessert! What makes this story so amazingly heartwarming for me, is we (my family) also have an “infamous” Oreo dessert as well! However, there’s no way it ever makes it back into the fridge to sneak back to have those slivers that don’t count, as it’s always gone as soon as it’s put out. <br /><br />I found your story even more near and dear, as our Oreo dessert has an amazingly similar origin, my aunt is the one who first brought this dish into our family’s lives and forever changed the dessert table at all of our family functions for decades to come (and I will place bets to guarantee it will continue to do so for many generations to come)! The same as your aunt, we aren’t exactly sure if the original recipe was one from the “potluck” church cookbooks, that were ever so popular back in the day, or if it was a community type recipe book; whichever, it is, I have a feeling these two legendary Oreo-based desserts came from the same one or at the very least cross paths at some point along the way. Even all these years later, no family function/event would be complete without our ‘Dirt Pie’ & as our family has grown so much over the years continuing to add more Oreo dessert addicts to the family - it’s like the kid in all of us suddenly appears when that dessert makes its grand entry. We even have a “system” in place now to make sure everyone gets their portion of our families favorite dessert.<br /><br />Thank you so much for sharing not only another heaven sent Oreo dessert recipe, which I’m positive is just as amazing as it sounds although I haven’t tried your exact version as of yet (trust me, it’s already on the list to make this week); but also revealing this cherished family memory that continues to live on through multiple generations in your family as well! <br /><br />Cheers & Happy Sunday from one crazed oreo dessert lovin’ family member to another, who also agrees the ‘slivers never count’ and late night snacks are some of the best memories one can have! 💗😍
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 22, 2018
Jenn: thanks so much for your sweet note! I loved hearing how your family has a similar Oreo dessert! It’s an all-powerful thing, isn’t it?!
 
nicole K. July 15, 2018
emily c, thank you for the secret tips. i would have definitely subbed in butter and chocolate i already had on hand and would have been disappointed. the salted butter and bakers chocolate makes the fudge taste like the elusive hot fudge of my youth. this is a definite winner and keeper
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 17, 2018
Yay! So glad!
 
Kimberly W. July 14, 2018
This is a family staple for my Minnesota clan but we add Cool Whip as another layer on top.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 15, 2018
Thanks for your note Kimberly! Does your version use the same fudge recipe? I’d love to know if yours is exactly the same aside from the cool whip!
 
wharpua July 13, 2018
What size pan should be used for this?
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 13, 2018
A 9x13-inch pan with 2-inch sides. I always use a Pyrex! If you click on the recipe, you’ll see the full instructions! Enjoy! : )
 
wharpua July 15, 2018
Thanks! This page had so much info on it I didn't realize that there was a Recipe page beyond this one. Made this last night for my wife's birthday today, she, my 5yo daughter, and I all loved it, but my 2yo son did not. He'll learn soon enough. Thanks for sharing this recipe, I can't wait to make it with the kids, I know they're going to love crushing the Oreos.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 15, 2018
Wonderful, and yes, your 2-year old will likely come around! : ) My kids love crushing the Oreos, and eating extras while they help! Thanks for trying it and circling back!
 
Tasha July 9, 2018
would love to try this...any substitute for sweet chocolate? not sure i can get it in canada.<br /><br />
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 9, 2018
Hi Tasha: you might be able to order German's sweet chocolate from Amazon (Canada), if you can't find it in your grocery stores. Otherwise, a milk chocolate that's around 48% cacao is your best bet. Hope this helps!
 
Tasha July 9, 2018
thank you!!! looks like selection is limited on amazon but i will try your subs suggestion!
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 9, 2018
Great, and please report back! : )
 
Nancy M. July 22, 2018
I googled this because I couldn't find sweet chocolate. It's semi sweet chocolate plus 1/2 Tbsp sugar per ounce.
 
Emma L. July 9, 2018
I need this in my life immediately.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC July 9, 2018
I happen to have a pan in my freezer right now, so come on over!!
 
Emma L. July 9, 2018
!!!