Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Quite Possibly the Best Cookie Ever)

September 29, 2018
It's not often you hear “These are seriously the best I’ve ever had,” come out of people’s mouths. A family recipe for a cookie that's truly fantastic!

“There are still stars which move in an ordered and beautiful rhythm.  There are still people in this world who keep promises.  Even little ones, like cooking stew over your Bunsen burner 

It's not often you hear “These are seriously the best I’ve ever had,” come out of people’s mouths. A family recipe for a cookie that's truly fantastic!

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That’s enough to keep my heart optimistic, no matter how pessimistic my mind”     ~ Madeline L’Engle

— —

It was my fourth try, and I was still getting her voicemail.  Finally, I put on my coat, walked a couple of blocks down, and knocked on her door.  She was dodging my calls because the name on the caller ID didn’t look quite right.  “You can never be too be careful these days.  All of these people trying to steal your identity”

On that cold December afternoon, I’m calling, of course, to walk her through the cookie recipe I’d brought that year to the neighborhood cookie exchange.  It’s the most requested recipe I’ve ever made and under normal circumstances, the one I usually kept close to the vest.  A signature dish and a family comfort food.  A refusal to let recipe anxiety keep me connecting with other people

She simply wouldn’t take no for an answer

On the bottom of the hastily scribbled sticky note, I’d included

“Call me for special instructions”

It's not often you hear “These are seriously the best I’ve ever had,” come out of people’s mouths. A family recipe for a cookie that's truly fantastic!

So many of our family’s recipes have been passed down from my grandma, who, when I was a kid, was the baker of all of the classics.  There were always fresh cookies on her kitchen counter

During the summers of my elementary school years, I spent a lot of nights at her house.  In the morning she’d make french toast that was often a little too eggy in the middle.  But it smelled good, and I piled berries onto my stack, a few walnuts, and ate on the edges.  She never minded at all.

Sometimes, in the evening, we’d have cookies and milk after we’d gone for a walk (At each intersection, I always got to pick – left or right?)  To this day, her cookies taste like a single childhood summer, like late afternoon bike rides and skinned knees and green, chlorinated hair

When the holidays rolled around, one of my favorite things to do was help in the kitchen because she made the most amazing treats.  I think she loved watching me watch her, and always gave me a job, like collecting sifting flour, greasing pans, or licking the bowl.  It was then that I discovered one of her baking secrets: Parkay

And while I always cringe when it finds its way in my shopping cart, when you can achieve a cookie like hers, should one really get too hung up on how you got there?

It's not often you hear “These are seriously the best I’ve ever had,” come out of people’s mouths. A family recipe for a cookie that's truly fantastic!

As she got older, our family made attempts at capturing her recipes.  My brother, perfecting her flaky pie crusts and coconut cream pie.  Me?  Her cookies.

During the process, I realized just how hard it is to translate baking (or cooking, for that matter) into words.  There are always exceptions and variations.  Heat sources vary.  It was hard to remember exactly what she did.  Which details should be included?  History?  Failed attempts?  Seasonal obstacles?

“Well, sometimes I do it one way and sometimes another.  Both are just as good”

How in the world do you teach someone to bake without bogging them down with too much information?

“Sponge cake is done when it springs back like a baby’s belly.  When the sugar starts to caramelize, it reminds me every time of cotton candy.  When browning butter, you have to wait for the nutty smell.”  

I wonder if this is what it means to be a grandmother: balancing, forever, the ways you learned with the ways you will teach.

It's not often you hear “These are seriously the best I’ve ever had,” come out of people’s mouths. A family recipe for a cookie that's truly fantastic!

During one of her last trips to Iowa, she made oatmeal raisin cookies.

It seems fitting that they would be the first thing I would bake in my new apartment.  It’s a recipe that’s hung on the inside of a cupboard door in every house I’ve owned and was the first to find a spot in the cupboards here

A shaky attempt at comfort in a place that still feels new; almost like the kitties and I are on vacation in a foreign land.  I reached for the one recipe that I know inside and out.  The one that reminds me that we’re not just hanging around for a while.  The one I wanted to share with the people who have been so helpful, kind, and welcoming to us this past month

The one recipe that never fails to build community

It's not often you hear “These are seriously the best I’ve ever had,” come out of people’s mouths. A family recipe for a cookie that's truly fantastic!

But these cookies ..

I wasn’t used to the new oven, and they were perhaps a bit overdone and burnt on the bottom, but their imperfection didn’t seem to matter as I walked to the neighborhood grocery for more raisins and brought a plate of them on the first day at my new job

I shared them with all of the cute and wonderful couples who live on my floor.  The kind person who helped with heavy IKEA boxes at midnight.  “I’ve got it .. I’m good “

“You sure about that?”

“Not so much”

I bite my tongue, fighting the urge to apologize for their appearance

Admittedly, the past few months have shaken my worldview to its core; it made me question every decision I had made, and every person I chose to trust.  They’ve left me tender and tentative about extending myself too far out into the world again.  But what I also know is beauty and kindness abound if we have eyes to see and this is my new reality, in all of its imperfect glory

And so now that is what her cookies taste like to me – the space between fear/anxiety and recovery.  Raisins.  Oats.  The familiar spark of tradition, the beginning of new memories.  Pecans.  The simplicity of a cookie made special thanks to the hands of a grandmother

Bringing an extra bit of sweetness to the people around me

It's not often you hear “These are seriously the best I’ve ever had,” come out of people’s mouths. A family recipe for a cookie that's truly fantastic!

I’m pretty sure the last thing anyone needs is another oatmeal cookie recipe

I mean, the sense I get is that most people have their favorite recipe, and tend to stick with it except, perhaps, for those times when you’re lured away by something off-beat and enticing – incorporating something like corn flakes, or, maybe – toffee.  But those are just short-lived flings, yes?

This recipe though, it’s pretty incredible.  A few special instructions:

I’ve made them with butter, shortening, and other kinds of margarine.  Without Parkay, they just aren’t the same.

Toasting the coconut and nuts adds a special touch, and you’ll be glad you made the effort

In my grandma’s day, the raisins were often run through a meat grinder to mash them into a paste.  I’ve always used a food processor, which is easier but leaves you with a sticky paste.  Tossing the raisins with a little bit of flour ahead of time makes it a little more manageable.

Let the dough rest in the fridge for 72 hours before baking.  (A trick I learned from the New York Times)

Keep a close eye on them, so they don’t to over-bake.  I like to take mine out when the edges are just beginning to brown and firm up.  A point at which the rest of the cookie will look completely undercooked.  Let them cool on the cookie tray for at least 10-15 minutes before transferring them to parchment or paper towels on the countertop to cool the rest of the way

They’re always thicker and chewier when I’ve started baking with dough that’s cold

As with most cookies, I bake these to order.  The dough freezes well, and you can bake off as many as you need, then portion off any leftover dough into balls.  Double-bag, then freeze.  You can even bake them straight out of the freezer, tack on a few extra minutes of baking time.



Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Quite Possibly the Best Cookie Ever)


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup margarine ( see the recipe notes above - Parkay is best)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 1 ½ cups flour all-purpose
  • 1 cup ground raisins
  • 1 cup coconut, toasted
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, toasted (I like pecans or walnuts)


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment
  • Grind the raisins in a food processor with a blade attachment for 20-30 seconds until they've formed a very thick paste and come together into a ball
  • Separately toast both the coconut and the nuts
  • Cream the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy
  • Add the eggs and beat until the mixture resembles soft frosting
  • Add flour and baking soda
  • Stir in the oatmeal
  • Stir in the raisins, coconut, and nuts
  • Bake for 15 min, or until the edges are browned and have started to set.
  • Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 10-15 minutes before transferring them to parchment or paper towels on the countertop to cool the rest of the way
Serves: 24
Nutrition + Show
Calories 268
Total Fat 12.9g
Saturated Fat 3.8g
Cholesterol 17.4mg
Carbohydrates 36.5g
Fiber 2.5g
Sugars 21.5g
Protein 3.6g
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  • Reply Kristina September 30, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    5 stars
    The story behind the recipe is very sweet. It is so interesting to see how recipes evolve based on people and experiences.

  • Reply Janice September 30, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    There is something about your writing that is very homey. I feel instantly relaxed when I start to read your posts and as someone with a very busy life of career, two little ones, a new puppy, studying, husband…I guess I just want to say thanks.

  • Reply Karen September 30, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    Now I don’t know which that caught my attention the most, the cookies or the interesting story behind it 🙂 The cookies look so yummylicious, I wished I could just try them. And your story had me reading until the very end. I just love the way you write.

  • Reply Zoe October 1, 2018 at 3:32 am

    5 stars
    I was reading America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook the other day, and it said that the secret to really chewy cookies is melted butter, not softened. I think they forgot to mention Parkay 🙂

  • Reply Bianca October 1, 2018 at 7:03 am

    Ooooh I love the addition of coconut to the cookie- coconut and I are very bonded lol! I also love a good story to go along with a recipe!

  • Reply Sania Ahmed October 1, 2018 at 8:15 am

    My dear hubs has insisted that I make these tomorrow. I’m not about to refuse 🙂

  • Reply Kita roberts October 1, 2018 at 11:39 am

    5 stars
    I love hearing about old family recipes. We secretly collected them and passed out a cookbook to everyone at my grandmother’s 100th birthday with a compilation of hers. They are true treasures, and thank you for sharing yours with us. And, I love oatmeal cookies. I can almost pretend that they are a healthy breakfast 😉

  • Reply Adam Townsend October 1, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    5 stars
    Lovely story and really refreshing to read a story like it before moving on to the recipe. Your writing is superb.

    And oatmeal and raisin cookies are the best. Hands down.

  • Reply Melanie October 1, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    Oatmeal raisin cookies are one of my favorite varieties. I haven’t made them in forever! They are the best, most comforting cookie variety. It goes perfectly with milk.

  • Reply Clara October 1, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    5 stars
    Old family recipes always have a story or stories to go with them. Thank you for sharing this one with us. The recipe looks amazing, especially since I never met a cookie I didn’t love.

  • Reply Sarah October 2, 2018 at 5:28 am

    5 stars
    I love your writing … about food, about life, about whatever you want to write. Even more, I love the essential human-ness you bring to whatever you’re writing about. As someone who’s read every post, just keep at it. You create a connection that makes me warm and happy and sure there are other friends out there that make me glad to be in this world.

  • Reply Suchi October 2, 2018 at 6:49 am

    This would be great for my daughter School snack or lunch!! Love the recipe and pics as always!Bookmarked!

  • Reply Ronnie October 2, 2018 at 11:44 am

    5 stars
    I looove oatmeal cookies but would you believe I’ve never made my own?? I always buy pre-made but I would definitely prefer some delicious, warm, freshly-based cookies. I’ll give this recipe a go soon!

  • Reply Tonya Morris October 2, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    5 stars
    Oatmeal raisin cookies are always a hit or miss for me! I love that these have coconut in them though, that’s my favorite!

  • Reply Anne Marie October 2, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    This is the first time I’ve clicked on the link of your blog and I think it might have been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I love how this post is written – and even the previous one you refer to. You’re so real. It is truly a pleasure to read your writing

  • Reply Rose October 2, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    5 stars
    It’s so wonderful when an online community can truly become a support network. It gives great credit to your loyal readers but even more to you for fostering a network of kind, compassionate folks who care about more than just your wonderful recipes. Although we likely will never meet, my prayers and thoughts are with you

  • Reply Sayanti October 3, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    5 stars
    I love going through your blog posts because of two reasons. First all the delicious recipes make me feel hungry and secondly, now I am learning to cook a few things after trying out your recipes. Thank you so much for sharing these delicious dishes with us

  • Reply Jana October 3, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    If we weren’t both heterosexual women and already married I’d get down on my knee and propose to you because in addition to my unspeakable affection for salty sweet things, oh my gawd do I love oatmeal raisin cookies. Really. I love them.

  • Reply Nayna Kanabar October 4, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Recipes passed down from generation to generation definitely need preserving and this recipe sounds delicious . The cookies look yum and perfect with a glass of milk.

  • Reply Adam Brock October 4, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    This looks very similar to my Grandma’s recipe. I can’t wait to try this one out too. Thanks for sharing your story to go along with what looks like a recipe for some great cookies.

  • Reply Melissa October 4, 2018 at 6:57 pm


  • Reply Christina Pilat October 6, 2018 at 12:38 am

    This post is written how I imagine those cookies taste. It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside! I love all the little tips!! I’ve never been a wizard in the kitchen- baking or cooking so a lot of this is foreign to me. But all these little tips, I feel like that’s where all the difference is made.

  • Reply Nina October 7, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    5 stars
    Oh, you temptress. These are going to be made and eaten in stealth owing to the boyfriend’s annoying nut allergy. Wonder if there are any cookie anonymous meetings going on soon? X

  • Reply Clarice October 13, 2018 at 8:47 am

    I am running out of cookie ideas as the kids do not want chocolate chip cookies anymore. Would love to try these oatmeal cookies instead. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Will try to make this on Sunday.

  • Reply Nidhi October 15, 2018 at 6:15 am

    5 stars
    These cookies look great, but your writing, as always, is the real reason I read your blog. Beautiful.

  • Reply John October 16, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Sounds to me like a lot of love goes into those cookies. Great read btw. Glad to hear things are beginning to look up for you.

  • Reply Ivanna VIllanueva October 27, 2018 at 2:06 am

    5 stars
    This cookie is best for lunch and the story behind the cookies is amazing,
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

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