The Extra Ingredients That Make Cowboy Cookies Different From Oatmeal

Freshly baked cookies are hard to pass up no matter what kind they are, including the popular cowboy cookie. If you haven't had the pleasure of biting into one, it is basically an elevated oatmeal cookie — but what exactly makes it so different?

It's all about what goes into these overloaded treats, which are typically much larger than the average oatmeal cookie because of the extra ingredients, and it varies slightly depending on who you ask. For the most part, cowboy cookies include some sort of chocolate chips (most commonly semi sweet), rolled oats, shredded coconut, and toasted pecans combined with the usual ingredients that go into most baked goods like vanilla, butter and sugars. That's what the majority of cowboy cookie recipes include, but there are many variations. 

To get a better idea of this comparison, oatmeal cookies are simple and have a base made out of rolled oats along with additions like vanilla and sugar. A popular variation are oatmeal raisin cookies, which have raisins and a bit of cinnamon. 

What's really in a cowboy cookie?

If you ask Former First Lady Laura Bush, who submitted her cowboy cookie recipe to Family Circle as part of the First Lady bake-off during the 2000 presidential campaign, these sweet treats also include a tablespoon of cinnamon. That extra ingredient may have paid off because she beat Former Second Lady Tipper Gore's ginger snap recipe.

Cowboy cookies have been around long before the 2000 First Lady bake-off, however. The name is thought to originate back in the Old West during the early 1900s, when the snack was used to sustain cowboys during their long days on the trail, while others say the name was coined because they originated in Texas, where many cowboys call home. 

Some older recipes show they were a hybrid of oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. They simply combined oats and chocolate chips into one and swapped the butter or margarine for shortening. While they were still likely a delicious treat, it's definitely fewer ingredients than what goes into the cowboy cookies we enjoy today.

Occasionally you'll come across a recipe that adds dried cranberries, dried cherries, or even dates into the mix. So while rolled oats are certainly essential to any cowboy cookie recipe, they take tastiness to the next level with these extra ingredients when you compare them to an average oatmeal cookie.