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Chocolate Oatmeal no-bake cookies

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Initial post: Aug 8, 2010 9:53:04 AM PDT
Michael WR says:
I see there are many differing cooking (boil) times related to these no-bake cookies. What is the boil time to get a soft chewy result Vs. a crumbly sugary (crystalline) cookie? Most recipes called for one minute, one called for boiling until a small amount dropped into cold water would form a ball. I remember these as a child as being soft, not crumbly, and chewy. The ones I made recently were hard-ish crumbly and the sugar was slightly crystalline. They tasted fine, just not the texture I was looking for. Any thoughts?

Posted on Aug 8, 2010 3:30:34 PM PDT
stufftoread says:
I'm not sure about the boil time because I haven't made these in many years. But the ones I remember from my childhood, as well as the ones I made years ago, were like your recent ones--"hard-ish crumbly and the sugar was slightly crystalline"--to varying degrees. All the ones I've ever eaten were basically like this. However, some batches I've made, as I recall, were softer than others, so you probably will just have to experiment with times. Most of the time when I've cooked this type of recipe, I've used the "boiling until a small amount dropped into cold water would form a ball" method.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2010 5:49:56 PM PDT
I used to make these a lot when I was young. I'm not an expert chemist/cook (although I love testing and experimenting) but I'm familiar with the textures you describe and I agree with "stuff2read" that most turn out hard and sugary. They're incredibly sweet, which can be pure pleasure but also terrible for those (like me) who are triggered by super-sweet things to eat more-more-more. Hence, I try not to make them because I know I'll eat way too many.

My mom was somewhat health-minded and always had me cut down on sugar (even to half) when I made cookies, but I soon learned that you can't cut the sugar on this recipe or they don't set up properly. They stay soft and you will have to eat them with a spoon. However...that makes me think that what you're trying to achieve will have more to do with sugar content than cooking time. The cooking time on this recipe (my version anyway) is surprisingly inexact. I never understood that until I learned that the success of the cookie (not needing a spoon) is dependent on sugar content, not cooking. So I would try cutting down gradually on the sugar until you achieve your desired texture. Maybe your mom's recipe was a little different from the one you're using now?

Oh, and by the way, I dug up this recipe for a camping trip last year, after not having made it for...hmm...10 years maybe? and remembering the super-sweetness which I can't handle now, I tried doubling (or maybe even more) the cocoa to try to balance that. I think my recipe only called for 2 tbsp. and that didn't seem like enough. (My recipe also calls for peanut butter, but not all do.) Well, they came out chewy...didn't really set properly, in my opinion, and I didn't like them. That didn't stop everyone from scarfing them down, though! Of course, it is a great recipe to take camping, with the necessary ingredients (most of which are standard camping items), because you make them on the stove.

Wow, I didn't know I had so much to say about a simple recipe! But it's a great childhood memory.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2010 6:37:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 8, 2010 6:38:41 PM PDT
stufftoread says:
I agree with Catherine Morland that the texture you want is probably much more dependent on sugar content than cooking time. My version's cooking time is inexact, too. It's basically candy, which I don't have a lot of experience with, but if you tried using a candy thermometer (which I haven't with these), you'd discover whether exact temperature has much of an impact, or at least know what temperature created your best results, if you want to go to the trouble. My experience with these has been like hers: reducing the sugar will prevent these cookies from setting properly. However, I have noticed that cooking too long can cause them to be more crystalline.

My version also calls for peanut butter, and I think it's an integral part of the flavor. I think it's possible that changing the amount of the peanut butter, too, could change the texture or setup factor, due to the oil in the peanut butter (which adds to the "candy" factor; the combination of the cocoa, sugar, and oil adding up to chocolate).

Posted on Aug 8, 2010 6:43:56 PM PDT
Kristina R. says:
I have used this recipe and finally perfected it. It used to be that sometimes they would not set up and other times crumble. I took all of the recipes and basically with a majority rules and went from there. The cooking time that works consistently is once the mixture comes to a rolling boil, set the timer for 1-1/2 minutes and stir constantly. They come out perfectly every time. If it is too humid, it is virtually impossible to get them to turn out. I hope this helps. Good luck!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2010 4:25:31 PM PDT
Michael WR says:
Amazing, I hadn't thought of reducing the sugar. I am an Engineer and not a cook, but I love to cook, and as I recall from childhood mom used a candy thermometer to make candy so I thought heat might be an issue. However from listening to you two I am inclined to think sugar content IS the key. I like them soft and chewy, I could just roll in this stuff it's so good. The batch I made the other day is nearly gone so I will do some more testing. I don't care if I have to carry a spoon around with me, I like them messy. <grin> Thanks much for the input, you've both been a great help!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2010 10:02:26 AM PDT
stufftoread says:
Everybody I know has childhood memories of eating a batch of either these or fudge with a spoon--and it usually seems only to increase the fondness of the memory. Messy often equals good, apparently, although I don't know if I'd go so far as rolling in this stuff. I do like the image, though. ;) Good luck with getting the right texture! Now you've made me want some; I'll have to make a batch soon! My kids will thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2010 10:46:19 AM PDT
You're welcome, Michael! I think an engineering mind combines with a cooking mind very well. =) I think I have something like that (though I'm an editor not an engineer--but my dad's an engineer so I know the type). I never have time to experiment as much as I'd like to. I keep working on my favorite recipes in search of that elusive "perfection."

If you have time to come back here and post it, I'd love to have the recipe you finally settle on!

Posted on Aug 12, 2010 11:41:16 AM PDT
Carrie O. says:
Okay, this kicked off a very funny conversation with my mom last night. I was discussing this thread with her as she called while she was making cookies for a family picnic. I said she should make these, because I remember eating these a lot as a kid and loving them. Heck, I've even made them a time or two. :)

She tells me she doesn't have a recipe. I scoffed. I told her that she had to have the recipe, because I have it and it's grandma's recipe. She really doesn't have it. This is the first time I've had to give a family recipe to my Mom!

I'm thinking I'm going to have to do one of those family cookbooks. We all get together twice a year, so it would be pretty easy to get recipes from my cousins, aunts and uncles.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2010 2:47:59 PM PDT
E.Dickenson says:
thanks for the memories ladies...(tear)

Posted on Aug 12, 2010 3:20:27 PM PDT
J. Westwind says:
I haven't baked cookies since I was a kid, and I don't know zip about no-bake cookies, but it sounds like a good idea.
Unfortunately, your posts make it sound too complicated.

Way back when I did make cookies, using honey in place of sugar made them "chewy".

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2010 5:48:37 PM PDT
Ha! Memories are so unreliable...and such silly things happen because of it. Would you be willing to post your recipe? Especially so J. Wisdom can see how easy it is?

If not, I may eventually post mine, but I've got too much on my list at the moment.

Posted on Aug 13, 2010 10:30:08 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 13, 2010 10:30:58 PM PDT
Michael WR says:
Okay, if I had a tail it would be waggin'... <grin> I did it! I made the perfect batch. They turned out just as I recall them as a kid, chewy, sort of soft but not sticky, firm enough to "set" but not hard and crumbly. I am in heaven... Here's what I did; I am out in my office so I don't have the exact recipe but it is listed everywhere on the Internet, I will try to recall it later in the post. As it turned out the devil was in the details and my solution was - just as I was advised - reducing the sugar content just a bit and then bringing it to a fair boil, not for any length of time, just to a boil. (I've read anywhere from one minute to five minutes.) Here is the `stuff' as I recall and this is from memory, two cups sugar, half cup cocoa, mixed well, add half cup milk, one cube butter (or margarine I suppose) bring to boil, remove from heat and thoroughly mix in one cup peanut butter, a teaspoon vanilla. After all is mixed add two and one half cups one-minute oats, I tried three cups of oats and it was a bit much. Tada!!! The perfect batch. Thanks one and all, especially `stuff2read', `Kristina R' and `Catherine Morland'.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2010 4:17:02 PM PDT
Carrie O. says:
Catherine - I'll try to remember to do so when I get home from work (and go through my recipe box). :)

Posted on Sep 25, 2010 3:21:34 AM PDT
Grandma says:
The version that I have always made calls for 3 minutes boiling until you add the peanut butter, oatmeal and vanilla and then 5 minutes stirring over low heat. However, that recipe was written nearly 50 years ago and since then there have been fairly significant changes to the composition of peanut butter and I now use butter instead of margarine and a different oatmeal. These days I find that 2 minutes of boiling and about 2 minutes of stirring is about right.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2010 9:30:26 AM PDT
Michael WR says:
I read your post regarding cooking time and recalled some misguided childhood adventures: Well, I can say with some authority that you can NOT use regular oats. <Grin> I chewed for nearly 10 minutes on those cookies and the oats were still not ready for consumption. "Hmm, maybe I could cook the whole shebang "after" I place the oats in. Kinda the cart before the horse sort of thing. Fortunately my mother intervened and nixed that idea, I explained it was too late. (That mess should be left for the imagination) That was many years ago and the wife laughed herself silly when I explained my childhood culinary diversions. Thanks for your thoughts on cooking time. I know you didn't ask about oats verses "Quick Oats" but the post make me recall times past. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2010 10:05:14 AM PDT
Hi Grandma - That's very interesting. I always felt uncertain about the cooking step because it was so vague. I'd prefer having specific times as you describe, and I'm always interested in 50-year-old recipes! Any chance you could type it for us here? Or enter it at a recipe site such as

There's a baking blog I like to read, at which this recipe is the most popular:

I think it's funny that the recipe has slight variations everywhere I see it. Either 1/2 cup or 1 cup of peanut butter, either 1/4 or 1/2 cup of cocoa, either 2 1/2 cups or 3 cups of oats...varying amounts of doesn't seem to matter as long as you have enough sugar! Another variation I haven't seen in a long time used coconut, and I know I used to make one without peanut butter, before I got my current recipe from a friend (because I liked it better).

I just found my recipe on my computer so I'll paste it below in case someone is interested. I'm not saying it's the best, but it was "ol' reliable" for many years! Nowadays I think I'd try one with more cocoa, peanut butter, and oats to help counteract the extreme sweetness of 2 cups of sugar!

Boiled Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons cocoa (1/4 cup)
2 1/2 cups oats
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional-I usually use chunky peanut butter)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter

Bring sugar, milk, butter and cocoa to full rolling boil. Remove from heat, stir in peanut butter first, then remaining ingredients. Drop spoonfuls onto waxed paper, or, pour entire amount into a greased square pan and cut into squares when cool.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2010 10:34:05 AM PDT
Grandma says:
Actually, Michael, you CAN use regular oats. For many years I used quick oats. Then one day all I happened to have on hand were the "old fashioned" regular oats so I used them - no problem at all. These days I use whatever my hand lands on first, since I keep both on hand for breakfast and baking and usually have more of whatever was cheapest at the co-op (member owned natural food store to those of you who don't know what a co-op is).

The key is that you cook the sugar, cocoa, salt, butter & milk just as if you were making fudge: stir until the butter melts, then cook without stirring. Remove the pan from the heat - and i mean move it - while you lower the heat down to as low as it will go. Meanwhile stir in your peanut butter and vanilla. When that has blended add the oats and any extras like raisins or coconut (1/2 cup of either of those works well) you are using, then stir over the low heat for 2-3 minutes and drop from a spoon onto aluminum foil or waxed paper.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2010 10:36:06 AM PDT
Grandma says:
I use regular milk rather than evaporated, heaping tablespoons of cocoa which is closer to 1/2 cup - ~1/3 if you're using a measuring cup, 1/2 the vanilla, no nuts, 3 cups oats and 2/3 cup peanut butter. A teeny pinch of salt - just a few grains.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2010 2:43:57 PM PDT
Listen to Grandma. I would cook the mixture at the 5 and 3 minutes as given for the original recipe. That's the recipe I use.

Also, the graininess is probably caused by not bringing the sugar mixture up to temperature long enough. You have to allow the sugar crystals to come up to temperature so they lose their graininess. Ask the engineer for a better description.

I would not reduce the amount of sugar used but I would bring the mixture up to a good boil, stir often, and cook for the time given. Also, do not scrape the sugary parts of the cookie off the sides of the pan. This may promote crystallization leading to sugary cookies.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2010 3:30:33 PM PDT
Grandma says:
Just make VERY sure that you do not stir the chocolate mixture once it has come to a boil until it is time to mix in the peanut butter. Doing so promotes crystal formation. Just like making fudge.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2010 4:17:37 PM PDT
Yup. Thanks Grandma for the reminder. I've spent the day installing some new software and I am a bit foggy.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2012 2:44:08 AM PDT
make them when it's raining. It will affect the texture. They won't set as well.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2012 11:02:21 AM PDT
Hey Claire - I think you meant "DON'T make them when it's raining." Just checking and clarifying. =)

Posted on Apr 3, 2012 1:30:58 PM PDT
Jo says:
Great thread! I used to make these for the kids a lot.

One little tip is when the mixture comes to a boil and you do not stir it, place a lid on the pot for a minute or two. That removes any crystals on the inside of the pan. This is a tip for making fudge, as well.

I won't be making them for awhile, although I'd like to. We've had nothing but rain for a long time, and it's not going to stop anytime soon!

Thanks for all the great ideas, tips and recipe above! It looks like the one I have.
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Discussion in:  Cooking forum
Participants:  24
Total posts:  54
Initial post:  Aug 8, 2010
Latest post:  Jul 19, 2014

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