**This recipe was featured in Bon Appetit‘s Blog Envy 2009 Contest, which, although we didn’t win, was fun to be considered for.

oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies

In my grandma’s world, there were two good Christmas gifts: clothing hangers, wrapped with their heads sticking out and placed under the tree, and, homemade food.

Every December, she stacked dozens of aluminum tins on the stairs to the dark, creaky attic of her Maywood bungalow. They were all different shapes and colors, some with holiday pictures of winter sleigh rides or smiling snowmen. And for the weeks leading up to December 25th, she filled them with what she baked: fudge, sugar cookies, pecan tassies, kolachkys, peanut butter cookies, chocolate-chip cookies, dessert bars. If you were one of the relatives, you got a tin. If you lived next door, you got a tin. If you were in one of her clubs or helped run her garage sales or somehow in some way knew Caroline, you got a tin. Bonus points if she found a recipe you liked, by the way: after she knew, you’d get it every year after.

This is the woman who gave me my first cookie lesson, letting me sample chocolate chips and lick the bowl afterwards. So I hardly need to say, when it came to baking in my book, she was the queen of cool. I liked everything she made, thought it over-the-moon delicious. And now, almost a decade after she died, I realize by teaching me to love food, she gave me another gift: something to keep when she left, to stay connected to her.

If she were alive, these oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies are what she’d make me for Christmas. They’re my favorites, and, let’s be honest, that’s saying something. The dough is simple: a basic chocolate-chip cookie with the addition of oatmeal. Yet the results are complex: a golden, crunchy texture with a strong bite, the kind that creates tiny crumbs on the corners of your lips and falling from your fingers. Rich with chunks of semisweet chocolate, the shape is bumpy and wrinkled.

Because this recipe is from Grandma, there are two things you have to understand.

(1) All affinities for KitchenAid aside, don’t use your standmixer. For these, it’s hand-stirred all the way, Baby, and, trust me, it matters.

(2) Every time I make this recipe, it turns out a little different, even though I’ve made it so many times, it’s near memorized. See, the thing about Grandma’s recipes, this one having been recorded by my mom, is that they were written cook to cook. She assumed I’d know how many chocolate chips to add when she wrote “Additions: nuts, chocolate chips, raisins” and what order to combine the list of ingredients.

So I’m going to reproduce the instructions here with the kind of specifics that she’d give (with a touch more detail), and you can feel free to tweak—really, you’d make my grandma proud. Just be prepared: Rarely does a batch of these come out of the oven without disappearing as quickly as it baked.

best cookies I eat

(I promised cookies for this holiday season, and, look, I deliver!)

Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookies
from my grandma, Caroline, the best cookie maker there was

1 stick of margarine (butter doesn’t work as well)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour (slight, not over)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 to 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
OPTIONAL: raisins, walnuts—amounts up to you

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients but the oatmeal and the chocolate chips. After well-mixed, add the oatmeal and stir together. Then add the chocolate chips (and nuts, if preferred).

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto greased or Silpat cookie sheets. Baked for 12 to 15 minutes.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 34 Comments

  1. Lan

    yes! a grandma recipe! loves it. and you know, i have ALL of these ingredients on hand at home now. however, you KNOW i just bought a kitchen aid mixer that i HAVE to bust out this week. i have a teaser for you now, maple cookies sometimes this week …. mmmm.

    i think this year i’m going to copy your grandma. i’ve bought tins, small and big, for homemade goodies as gifts. she sounds like a wonderful woman!

  2. Elizabeth

    The oatmeal and chocolate chip combo is THE BEST!

  3. Lan

    ok. i lied. i made these last night because i had all the ingredients handy. i was also lazy and i used my mixer (it was already dirty from a previous batch of cookies!)… they came out lovely. soft and chewy and crispy. i’d to think with the raisins, and oats, it’s good for me. :) i’ll be making these again but i’ll probably make them a bit smaller. thanks for posting your grandma’s recipe!

  4. My First Kitchen

    Great post. I love grandma’s recipes that don’t have measurements or expectations, only memories and comfort. The best.

  5. amy

    i’ve been looking for a good oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe for a while, and these might just be the ones! i love the texture of oatmeal, but i’m not a huge fan of raisins, so chocolate chips are perfect!

  6. Shannalee

    Lan: You’re awesome–so glad you got to try them already! Everyone else: take it from Lan—the standmixer still works well with these. (I’ll never know firsthand.. just can’t do it!)

    Elizabeth: Right? SO GOOD.

    MFK: You’d love her two little tins, then, filled with cryptic notes and clippings. I think they’re adventures, every one. :)

    Amy: Agreed 100%. No raisins in my cookies, no sir. But chocolate? OH YEAH.

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  8. Rachel

    you and your cookies! mm……..

  9. Janet_Gourmet Traveller

    Hi there, lovely picture you have here, chocolate cookies is really a big thing and a lot of people’s favorite. Do you use the small oats (like instant ones) or big ones, do you call them old fashioned oats? What is PB Chips by the way?

  10. Shannalee

    Janet: Good call about the oats–you should use old-fashioned (not instant) ones, and I’ve updated the ingredients list accordingly. As for PB Chips… I’m guessing they’re peanut-butter chips, but I’ve never used those in these cookies (although I don’t see why you couldn’t!). Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Kristin

    I made these today and they were a hit! People were just raving about them. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. And yes, I mixed by hand. :)

  12. Shannalee

    That’s fantastic, Kristin! Way to go with the hand mixing (it’s hard to resist alternatives!) and I’m so glad they were a hit! :)

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  14. Desiree

    It is best to make these small…they spread a LOT when cooking.

  15. Shannalee

    Desiree: What might help with that is to keep them chilled between batches. I mean, when the first group is in the oven, put the bowl in the fridge until it’s time to scoop them out. Alternatively, scoop them all out and put them in the fridge. If they’re very cold when they enter the oven, they’ll spread less.

  16. Rachel B.

    I made these last night, without a mixer, pretty small. I baked for 13 min. and cooled them on a wire rack. They were good and didn’t spread too much, but were very flat and crispy. How do I get them to be more chewy?

  17. Shannalee

    Rachel: The only thing I can think, and this is what I’d say for any cookies that turned out flatter than expected, is that maybe it has to do with your baking soda? We’re supposed to replace it every 30 days, which is hard to do! And if it does get old, it loses its ability to make the cookies rise. Other than that, I’m stumped, too! Wish I could be of more help!

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  19. Stefanie Schmidt

    What an amazing post, I almost licked the screen. These cookies look so good and I can’t wait to try the recipe.

  20. Elana

    These were perfect! I used quick oats because I didn’t have any old-fashioned oats, and they turned out fine. Thanks for the post!

  21. Shannalee

    I’m so glad, Stefanie!

    Elana, Oh, good! I’ve made them with quick oats before, too, but old-fashioned is still my favorite. So glad you enjoyed them!

  22. David

    I asked my mother why grandma’s cookies were always go great and mine fall so short. Two secrets:
    1. They were made by my grandmother and
    2. She always used rounded measurements, never level measurements.

  23. Shannalee

    David, Ha, that’s so true!

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  25. Klarissa

    Hi Shannalee!
    I just finished baking this. I used the quick oats, because I don’t know where to find the old fashioned oats around here.
    This is such a great recipe, the cookies are delicious! Just the way I always liked an oatmeal cookie. Thanks for sharing it.

    I’m going to write and link your recipe in my blog.

  26. Shannalee

    That’s fantastic, Klarissa! My grandma would be proud. Thanks for letting me know!

  27. veronica

    these look amazing! i only have unsalted butter on hand. will that be a waste of time?

    1. Shannalee

      Veronica, Butter will make different cookies unfortunately. I’d recommend swapping the margarine for oil or, if you must, half butter and half oil.

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  29. felicia | Dish by Dish

    I’m just reading about your grandma’s famous cookies now – I first read about them in your ebook, but then got carried away with the story and left this recipe somewhere behind. But the image of your granny handing out tins and tins and tins of cookies like these (together with hangers wrapped with their heads sticking out) is just hilarious. She sounds like she was a wonderful grandma, and I’m glad you had the joy of having her.

    bookmarking these for one day!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thanks, Felicia — I hope you enjoy them! You inspired me to go back another batch, so they’re in the oven now. : )

  30. Fabia

    Hey the recipe sounds wonderful! I am planning to bake them tomorrow but I had one doubt. I would be using quick oats, is it necessary to partially grind the oats as some recipes mention? Or do I just pour in the oats as they are?

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Hi Fabia, I have made these cookies with quick oats before, and it will work… rolled oats provide a preferable texture, but the quick oats are usable when you’re in a pinch. You don’t need to grind them or partially grind them at all. Just pour them in as they are. Hope you enjoy!

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