Cowboy Cookies | This Old Baker

Cowboy Cookies

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When we think of the Wild West, images of rugged cowboys, vast open plains, and roaring campfires come to mind. Yet, amidst this backdrop of Americana lies a lesser-known but equally intrinsic part of cowboy lore: the humble cowboy cookie. This delicious morsel, packed with energy and capable of enduring long cattle drives, has a history as rich and layered as its ingredients.

Origins on the Range

The exact origin of cowboy cookies is somewhat shrouded in mystery. Some say these hearty cookies were first made by loving wives or mothers who wanted to send their men off with a durable, filling treat that could withstand the harsh conditions of life on the range. Others believe chuckwagon cooks invented them as a way to boost morale during long cattle drives.

What is widely agreed upon, however, is that cowboy cookies are a product of practicality. They needed to be sturdy enough to survive being jostled around in a saddlebag, yet flavorful enough to satisfy a sweet tooth after a hard day’s work.

Ingredients with Intent

Traditionally, cowboy cookies feature a delectable combination of rolled oats, sugar, flour, eggs, and some form of fat—be it butter or shortening. However, what sets them apart is the addition of ingredients such as chocolate chips, nuts, and sometimes coconut. Each component wasn’t just chosen for flavor; they each served a purpose.

  • Rolled Oats: Provided sustained energy and a chewy texture.
  • Sugar: Offered a quick energy boost and helped preserve the cookies.
  • Flour & Eggs: Formed the structural base of the cookie, offering carbohydrates and protein.
  • Butter or Shortening: Added richness and calories, which were essential for the physically demanding cowboy lifestyle.
  • Chocolate Chips, Nuts, and Coconut: Delivered additional taste and texture while also packing more caloric punch per bite.

The Evolution of a Treat

As time passed, the cowboy cookie evolved from a necessity on the trail to a beloved treat savored by families across the country. Its adaptability meant that as new ingredients became available or certain items fell out of favor, the cookie could easily adjust to suit the times. During wartime, for instance, when certain rations were scarce, home bakers would substitute or omit ingredients, leading to a wide variety of recipes that still fell under the cowboy cookie banner.

A Modern-Day Favorite

Today, the cowboy cookie enjoys popularity not just for its connection to the past but also for its undeniable appeal as a dense, chewy, and flavorful snack. It shows up at school bake sales, in cozy cafés, and even in gourmet bakeries that add their own twist to the classic recipe.

Moreover, cowboy cookies have come to symbolize more than just sustenance; they represent ingenuity, endurance, and the spirit of the American West. They’re often a hit during holidays, especially when presented as a nostalgic nod to a bygone era, capturing both the imagination and the taste buds of those who enjoy them.


The allure of cowboy cookies lies not just in their rich taste but also in the stories they carry with them—a tale of resilience, resourcefulness, and the wild, untamed spirit of the frontier. As we bite into these indulgent treats, we’re reminded of the rugged paths trodden by those who shaped the history of the American West—one hearty, delicious cookie at a time.

Cowboy Cookies | This Old Baker

Cowboy Cookies

These cookies were made famous by former First Lady Laura Bush, who submitted them for a baking contest during the 2000 presidential election. 
Purchase Our Cookbooks
Course baking
Cuisine American
Servings 36


  • 1 cup 226 g unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup 200 g dark brown sugar firmly packed
  • ½ cup 100 g granulated sugar (100g
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups 250 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon optional
  • 2 cups 212 g old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 ½ cups 123 g sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup 115 g coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 ½ cups 255 g semisweet or milk chocolate chips or a blend of the two!


  • Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine butter and sugars and use an electric mixer (or you may use a stand mixer) to cream together until thoroughly combined and light and fluffy.
  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter,1 cup (200 g) dark brown sugar,½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar (100g
  • Add eggs and vanilla extract and stir until thoroughly combined.
  • 2 large eggs,2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon until thoroughly combined.
  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour,1 teaspoon baking soda,¾ teaspoon table salt,1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Gradually stir dry ingredients into wet (either using mixer on low-speed or by hand) until ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  • Add oats, coconut, pecans, and chocolate chips and use a spatula to stir together until ingredients are evenly distributed.
  • 2 cups (212 g) old-fashioned rolled oats,1 ½ cups (123 g) sweetened shredded coconut,1 cup (115 g) coarsely chopped pecans,1 ½ cups (255 g) semisweet or milk chocolate chips
  • Drop cookie dough by heaping 2 Tablespoon-sized scoop onto prepared baking sheet, and, if desired, use your hands to round into a ball (the dough will be a bit sticky, but this will make rounder, more uniform looking cookies). Space cookies at least 2” apart.
  • Transfer to 350F (175C) preheated oven and bake for 12-14 minutes and edges of cookies are light golden brown. Centers may seem slightly underbaked still, this is fine, allow cookies to cool completely on baking sheet where they will finish baking but still be soft and chewy.


I recommend whole oats for this recipe for the best texture.
Keyword cookies
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