What is a cowboy cookie made of?

A cowboy cookie, sometimes called a cowboy chocolate chip cookie, is a beloved baked treat that combines oats, coconut, pecans, chocolate chips, and brown sugar for a uniquely sweet and chewy experience. But what exactly goes into making this oversized, chunky cookie? Let’s take a closer look at the key ingredients that give the cowboy cookie its distinctive texture and flavor profile.


One of the defining ingredients in a cowboy cookie is oats. Oatmeal adds great texture and visible oat flakes give each cookie a rustic, homemade look. The oats absorb moisture during baking which results in a soft and chewy cookie interior. Old fashioned whole rolled oats or quick oats both work well in cowboy cookie recipes. The oats complement the other mix-ins and contribute an earthy, nutty flavor.


Wheat flour provides structure and binding to help hold the cowboy cookie dough together. All-purpose flour is commonly used, but you could also substitute bread flour or whole wheat flour. Occasionally, a small amount of barley flour or rye flour is added to enhance flavor. The flour absorbs the moisture from ingredients like eggs, butter, and brown sugar to develop the base of the cookie.

Brown Sugar

What sets a cowboy cookie apart from a regular chocolate chip cookie is the use of brown sugar rather than just white granulated sugar. Dark brown sugar’s rich molasses notes pair beautifully with oats, coconut, and chocolate chips. The brown sugar also gives the cookies enhanced chewiness. You can use dark or light brown sugar, or even try a blend. The brown sugar should be creamed together with the butter to create a smooth, sweet foundation.


Butter is responsible for the signature texture of cowboy cookies. When creamed with brown sugar, the butter incorporates air into the dough which leads to a soft and chewy cookie with great height. Butter also carries the flavors of the other cookie ingredients and contributes rich, savory notes. Salted or unsalted butter will both work. Some bakers even use browned butter for extra nuttiness.


Eggs add moisture, structure, and binding power to cowboy cookie dough. The egg proteins coagulate during baking to set the cookie’s shape. Whole eggs are typically used, but you could swap in egg whites only to reduce fat and cholesterol for a healthier cookie. The eggs should be lightly beaten before adding to the butter and sugar mixture.

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract rounds out the flavors in cowboy cookies. Vanilla adds a sweet, aromatic quality that enhances the taste of the chocolate, coconut, nuts, and brown sugar. Opt for pure vanilla extract rather than imitation vanilla for superior flavor. Vanilla complementary notes like maple, rum, or almond are also delicious in cowboy cookies.

Baking Soda

A touch of baking soda gives cowboy cookies lift and airiness. When baking soda is combined with acidic ingredients like brown sugar and eggs, it reacts to produce carbon dioxide bubbles that make the cookies rise. This gives the interior a cakey, soft texture. Too much baking soda can make cookies spread too much, so be careful not to overdo it.


A bit of salt, either fine table salt or coarse sea salt, balances out the sweetness and enhances other flavors. Salt draws out the caramel notes of the brown sugar, for example. A sprinkle on top of shaped cookie dough before baking provides a nice salty crunch and savory contrast.

Chocolate Chips

What would a cowboy cookie be without chocolate chips? Mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate give bursts of chocolate in every bite. Semisweet and bittersweet chocolate chips are common. You could also use milk chocolate or dark chocolate chips depending on your preference. The chocolate melts slightly during baking for irresistible pockets of chocolate in the cookie.


Chopped or halved pecans are a classic mix-in for cowboy cookies. Pecans have a distinctive flavor that stands up well to the sweet cookie dough. Toasting the pecans heightens their nutty taste. Pecans add crunchy bursts of texture to contrast with the chewy oats and melted chocolate chips. Other nuts like walnuts, peanuts, or almonds could also be used.


Sweetened or unsweetened shredded coconut provides tropical flavor in cowboy cookies. Using toasted coconut gives it deeper flavor complexity. The coconut also introduces more chewiness to complement the oats. Dried coconut flakes can be used as well. Adding some coconut extract to the dough takes the coconut flavor up another notch.

Raisins or Dried Fruit

Some cowboy cookie recipes will include raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit for pops of chewy sweetness. The dried fruit benefits from being plumped in hot water or juice before adding to the dough. This rehydrates the fruit so it is soft and juicy in the cookies. Dried cherries, blueberries, mango, or apricots also work nicely.


Warm spices are right at home in cowboy cookies. Ground cinnamon is commonly used to accentuate the warmth of the brown sugar and chocolate. Ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, or cardamom could also make an appearance. Even a pinch of cayenne pepper kicks things up a notch. Spice blends like pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice, or chai spices make fun additions too.

How to Make Cowboy Cookies

Now that we’ve covered the key ingredients, let’s look at how they come together to create cowboy cookies:

  1. Preheat the oven, grease baking sheets, and gather ingredients
  2. In one bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, spices, and any other dry ingredients
  3. In another large bowl, cream together the softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy
  4. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. You can also add brown butter at this stage if using
  5. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until just combined
  6. Fold in the oats, coconut, chocolate chips, nuts, and any other chunky mix-ins
  7. Drop dough by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets
  8. Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned
  9. Allow to cool on the pans before transferring to a wire rack
  10. Enjoy the cowboy cookies warm or at room temperature with milk or coffee

The great thing about cowboy cookies is how versatile and customizable they are. Play around with the mix-ins and spices to create your ideal cookie. Just keep the oats, brown sugar, butter and chocolate chips as the base. Now that you know what a cowboy cookie is made of, grab an apron and get baking!

Common Cowboy Cookie Variations

While the standard recipe sticks close to the ingredients above, there are endless ways to put your own spin on cowboy cookies. Here are some of the most popular cowboy cookie variations:

Snickerdoodle Cowboy Cookies

– Add ground cinnamon and cumin to the dough

– Roll balls of dough in cinnamon-sugar before baking

Peanut Butter Cowboy Cookies

– Use browned butter for extra nuttiness

– Swap peanut butter chips for some or all of the chocolate chips

– Add 1/2 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter to the dough

M&M Cowboy Cookies

– Use mini M&Ms instead of chocolate chips for fun color

– Mix in peanuts, pretzels, potato chips or other crunchy candies

White Chocolate Cowboy Cookies

– Replace semisweet chocolate chips with white chocolate chips

– Consider using almond extract along with vanilla extract

– Toast slivered almonds to mix in for added crunch

Gluten-Free Cowboy Cookies

– Substitute gluten-free oats and use other gluten-free flours like

– Try almond flour, coconut flour, or oat flour

– May need extra egg or binding agents like xanthan gum

Vegan Cowboy Cookies

– Use vegan butter, oil, or shortening instead of dairy butter

– Replace eggs with mashed banana, applesauce, or flax eggs

– Use dairy-free chocolate chips or chunks

Storing and Freezing Cowboy Cookies

Freshly baked cowboy cookies will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 2-3 days. To extend their shelf life, store cowboy cookie in the freezer. They will keep frozen for 2-3 months. Thaw at room temperature or briefly warm in the microwave or oven before serving.

Unbaked cowboy cookie dough can also be scooped onto a baking sheet and frozen. Once frozen solid, transfer the dough balls to a freezer bag or container. Frozen cookie dough will keep for 3-4 months and can be baked straight from the freezer as needed.

Tips for Best Results

Here are a few tips to ensure your cowboy cookies turn out perfect every time:

  • Use room temperature butter for easiest creaming
  • Don’t overmix the dough, just until ingredients are incorporated
  • Chill dough for at least 30 minutes for easiest handling
  • Use an ice cream scoop for uniform dough balls
  • Press chocolate chips and mix-ins gently into the dough
  • Bake on the middle rack for even browning
  • Let cookies cool completely on the pan before removing
  • Store in an airtight container at room temp or freeze for longer storage

Cowboy Cookie FAQs

Why are they called cowboy cookies?

There are a few theories about how the cowboy cookie got its name. One is that the chunky, rustic nature of these cookies resembles old-fashioned chuck wagon fare meant to fuel cowboys out on the range. The mix of oats, nuts, and dried fruit may have been handy ingredients cowboys had on hand. The oversized cookies also provide a filling on-the-go snack, perfect for an active cowboy lifestyle.

What is the difference between a cowboy cookie and a chocolate chip cookie?

While both cookies are delicious, there are several differences:

  • Cowboy cookies contain oats while chocolate chip cookies do not
  • Cowboy cookies use brown sugar rather than just white sugar
  • Cowboy cookies have nuts and sometimes coconut; chocolate chip cookies do not
  • Cowboy cookies are much larger in size and thickness
  • Cowboy cookies have a chewier texture than crisp chocolate chip cookies

What can I add to cowboy cookie dough?

Some tasty mix-in options include:

  • M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, sprinkles, crushed candy canes
  • Dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, apricots, cherries
  • Granola, crushed graham crackers, pretzels, potato chips
  • Shredded carrot, pumpkin puree, sweet potato
  • Extracts like maple, almond, vanilla, orange
  • Nuts like pecans, walnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts

Let your imagination run wild when it comes to cowboy cookie add-ins!

How do you make cowboy cookies from cake mix?

For an easy shortcut version:

  • Start with a box of chocolate cake mix
  • Add 2 eggs, 1/2 cup oil, 1 tbsp water
  • Mix in 1 cup each chocolate chips, oats, and nuts
  • Scoop dough and bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes

In Conclusion

With its blend of hearty oats, brown sugar, chocolate chips, and nuts, the cowboy cookie has become a cherished American treat. This soft and chewy cookie with crispy edges offers the perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors. While the ingredients are simple, they can be tweaked in endless ways to customize your own signature cowboy cookie. Bake up a batch using your favorite add-ins and enjoy this satisfying chunky cookie on its own or alongside a tall glass of cold milk. Yee-haw!

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