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These 3-Ingredient Oatmeal Cookies Are Basically Magic

September 10, 2019

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re making oatmeal cookies like—snaps fingers—that.


I’m always on the lookout for promising few-ingredient recipes that I can tinker with. Which is how I came across three-ingredient Nutella brownies, where I ditched the baking dish and ended up with fudgy cookies, and two-ingredient hot fudge, where I tried it with unsweetened chocolate and liked that even better, and brown butter tomatoes, where I swapped in juicy raw corn. So it was only a matter of time before I stumbled upon three-ingredient oatmeal cookies.

But really delicious oatmeal cookies in only three ingredients—how is that even possible?

For some perspective, classic oatmeal cookies call for all-purpose flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, baking soda, spices (such as cinnamon and nutmeg), rolled oats, and raisins (or if you’re my husband, chocolate chips, but let’s not fight about that here). Which tallies up at 10 ingredients.

Many three-ingredient oatmeal cookies—there are, by the way, almost five million results for these on Google—keep the oats (either old-fashioned or quick-cooking), but ditch everything else and sub in things like:

The list goes on, but it’s worth noting that there are a lot of the banana–peanut butter recipes. And it’s easy to see why. Bananas add sweetness, peanut butter adds fat, and both are non-dairy and gluten-free, which is appealing to a lot of people. Seems like a winning combo, right?

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Top Comment:
“I’ve recently had this obsession with Oatmeal Cookies - I’m highly devoted to a good chocolate chip cookie - but I love this recipe! It sounds super easy and I too like the tahini addition. Of course, I will probably add some dark chocolate pieces. 👩‍🍳🍪🙌 ”
— Sandy A.
Comment

Not necessarily. Because if you add bananas to a cookie, it will taste like a banana cookie. And if you add peanut butter to a cookie, it will taste like a peanut butter cookie. And if you add both, yeah, you get the idea.

This is less than ideal when what we’re actually after is an oatmeal cookie.

All you see is all you need. Equipment included. Photo by Bobbi Lin. PROP STYLIST: BROOKE DEONARINE. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG.

The Big Little solution is simple. To avoid an overtly banana flavor, we’ll say bye to the banana, and return to the signature source of sweetness in classic oatmeal cookies: brown sugar. Its caramel-toffee vibes give these cookies tons of complexity without overshadowing the oats.

When it comes to fat, we’ll swap in something that’s less in-your-face than peanut butter, but still dairy-free: tahini, or toasted, ground sesame seeds. I love using this ingredient as a replacement for butter in chocolate chip cookies (yes, really), thanks to its intense creaminess and subtle nuttiness.

All you have to do is mix the three ingredients in a bowl (a splash of water helps create a cohesive dough), then scoop and bake. No butter-and-sugar creaming. No dough chilling. No fuss.

The result is halfway between a newfangled granola bar and an old-fashioned oatmeal cookie, equal parts wholesome and gratifying, with a crunchy crust and chewy center. And considering that the ingredient list is identical to my morning oatmeal, I happily take this as permission to have two or three and call it breakfast. Coffee for dunking not optional.

What's your favorite big-flavor recipe with a little ingredient list? Please share in the comments!

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Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.

6 Comments

Sandy A. September 13, 2019
I’ve recently had this obsession with Oatmeal Cookies - I’m highly devoted to a good chocolate chip cookie - but I love this recipe! It sounds super easy and I too like the tahini addition. Of course, I will probably add some dark chocolate pieces. 👩‍🍳🍪🙌
 
FrugalCat September 11, 2019
I added golden raisins that had been soaked in gold rum.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 11, 2019
Nice! Sounds delicious.
 
judy September 10, 2019
I count 5 ingredients. but still worth a try....
 
Eric K. September 10, 2019
Hi Judy! We have certain parameters for this column, taking into account certain things we assume you already have in your pantry. As the intro states, "—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered."
 
Biscuits September 10, 2019
Tahini! Genius. Definitely need to give these a try.