This list is comprised of some of the most well-known American cookies. The rankings are based on the popularity of the cookies or what American cookies are the most famous, how interesting their backstory is, and their importance in the American culture. So, let’s begin!
Who doesn’t like M&Ms? These small chocolate treats with a crunchy texture and an array of different colors are always full of fun and a kids’ favorite. Because of their popularity and colorful appearance they have managed to find their way into the cookie world as well, being combined with chocolate chips, butter, sugar, pudding mix, etc. to create M&M cookies. Soft and chewy cookie dough is imbued with crunchy M&Ms to create a tantalizing eating experience. Usually, Mini M&Ms are used because the regular ones are too large and can overpower the cookie batter. Since it is a cookie combined with these treats you’d want to see both the cookie part and the M&M part.
These cookies crumble and melt in your mouth, while the pop of color that M&Ms add excites your visual sense.
Sugar cookies are simple cookies you probably affiliate with Christmas. They are a traditional treat in American families, especially at Christmas time when people shape them into snowflakes, snowmen, Christmas trees, etc. These cookies are considered simple due to the basic ingredients you need in order to make them: eggs, flour, butter, vanilla extract, sugar, baking powder, salt…
Deliciously sweet and soft, sugar cookies are often decorated with icing and sprinkles to make them more appealing. But that doesn’t mean they are not great on their own, without the decorations, as the cookies have a solid yummy foundation by themselves. They are fluffy, with thick centers and crisp edges easily nibbled on throughout the day. Making them with your family can be a great bonding time filled with creative ideas for the cookies’ shapes and patterns. Unleash your creative energy and excite your taste buds with lovely Sugar cookies. Learn about the functional properties of sugar in cookies (besides the sweetening function) if you want to become a better baker.
Cookies are usually either round or molded into different shapes using cookie molds. Yet, here we have an American cookie that is not molded in any specific shape, rather just presented as a heap of ingredients stacked on each other. It definitely is an unusual cookie. Still, this heap does have some shape as it is easily compared to a haystack, hence the name Haystack cookie.
The ingredients used to make this irregular delicacy are chocolate, oatmeal, coconut, buttermilk, butterscotch, chow mein noodles, and others. The way they are formed is by dumping the mix of chocolate, coconut, buttermilk, butterscotch, and other ingredients onto noodles or oatmeal and then allowing the mass to harden. After hardened, the Haystack cookies can be nibbled.
A great perk of these cookies is that they aren’t baked at all! You can make them in 10 minutes and just leave them to become firm. That’s it! Americans love them for their unique irregular shape, simple process of making, and, ultimately, because they are delicious.
One of the most well-known American traditions is making S’mores on a campfire. These heavenly tasting treats are made from roasted marshmallows and chocolate, which are then placed between two wafer crackers. The crackers traditionally used are Graham crackers, golden brown crunchy cookies made of whole wheat flour, i.e. Graham flour, after which they were named. Graham flour is more coarsely ground than regular wheat flour.
Both the Graham flour and the Graham cookies have an interesting origin, going back all the way to the 19th century. In 1829, a New Jersey Presbyterian minister Rev. Sylvester Graham created the Graham flour and the Graham crackers as part of his religious ideology. Graham led an ascetic lifestyle completely devoted to God and believed people should abstain from indulgences he considered sinful such as alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, meat, and white bread. The last one might be a surprising pick, but Graham didn’t consider any white bread a sinful indulgence. He opposed the factory-produced bread, which became prominent during the industrial revolution, believing the homemade version to be the only right one. In his work Treatise on Bread and Bread-making (1837), he gives instructions on how to make homemade grained flour (which became Graham flour) and introduces a recipe for wafer crackers, which are nowadays called Graham crackers. With his homemade products and preaching, Graham wanted to promote clean eating and living which he thought would lead to salvation.
Rev. Graham wouldn’t have been probably very happy had he known that his crackers would be used for a sweet indulgence such as creamy S’mores nowadays. But, we certainly are very happy that he created the crackers we use so fondly to make such a delicious treat and share it with our loved ones. So, sorry, Rev. Graham, but we don’t consider enjoying amazing food to be sinful. While we might feel sick and guilty when we eat too many of them (we’ve all been there), we wouldn’t go that far as to call our indulgence a sin. Neither should you because S’mores are a wonderful dessert and Graham crackers are a big part of that experience. Of course, if you want a simple and less sweet treat, you can always try them on their own, maybe as an accompaniment to tea. Find what works for you!
Some of you were wondering whether Graham Crackers were the same as Digestive biscuits. The truth is that they are similar, but not identical. Digestive biscuits are less sweet and have a different texture, being a little thicker and less crisp. They’re both simple and made out of wheat flour and can be used interchangeably in many recipes, but are two different cookies.
A big part of the American culture and history are the stories of cowboys - men that ruled over the Old West. They handled cattle and dueled, their way of life being portrayed and romanticized in the popular culture. It was a hard life in the Old West and cowboys needed a lot of strength to persevere through the hard Western life. In order to stay strong, cowboys had to eat well and a lot. Supposedly what they particularly enjoyed were special little cookies – Cowboy cookies. Why are they called Cowboy cookies? Exactly because it is believed that cowboys favored this delicious treat. This would mean that these cookies have been around since the 1800s when cowboys were roaming the Old West. However, this origin tale is not confirmed due to a lack of evidence and one inconsistency: Cowboy cookies’ recipe is based on the Chocolate chip cookies with a few ingredients added. Chocolate chip cookies were first made in 1938, way after the time of cowboys, which means that it’s impossible for these cookies to have existed back then. But, who knows, maybe they did but were just made differently? Either way, Cowboy cookies are great cookies, thick, soft, flavorful, and big! They’re baked in larger proportions than chocolate chip cookies and contain more ingredients.
Cowboy cookies are essentially big chocolate chip cookies with the addition of oats, pecans, and coconut flakes to the chocolate chip recipe (butter, chocolate chips, eggs, flour, sugar…). Added ingredients make for a richer cookie flavor that is nuttier and more exotic than the chocolate chip cookie.
The Cowboy cookie is popular in the US as it is but what further popularized it and cemented its position as a traditional American treat is Laura Bush’s recipe in her political bake-off in 2000. The former First Lady published her recipe of the Cowboy cookie in the bake-off with wives of other Presidential candidates. The recipe immediately became a hit and granted her victory.
In many American families on the Christmas menu, you can find Snickerdoodles, simple wheat cookies coated in spicy cinnamon sugar. These Christmas treats have been around for a long time, though their place of origin is unknown. Some believe these cookies come from Germany, or The Netherlands, or perhaps New England. The reason why some believe Snickerdoodles are not from the US is because of its name, which resembles words from foreign languages.
There are a couple of theories revolving around the etymology of the cookie’s name.
An interesting ingredient in this cookie’s recipe is cream of tartar, a powdered form of tartaric acid, which is a byproduct of winemaking.
Cream of tartar gives a chewy texture to Snickerdoodles by activating baking soda and adds to its flavor. It’s generally used to stabilize egg whites or cream while whipping them, to prevent sugar from crystallizing and is used as a leavening agent.
Recently, Snickerdoodle has ventured out of the cookie realm and became its own flavor added to other sweets. It is nowadays a common flavor of desserts, sweets, drinks, etc. A popular product with snickerdoodle flavor is General Mills’ Chex Mix Muddy Buddies, a cracker-like snack that is fluffy, tasty, and loved by many.
Oatmeal cookies are well known in the US as a healthier cookie option but are oatmeal cookies actually a healthy snack? Well, yes and no. Oatmeal cookies contain ingredients that are good for you, like oatmeal, raisins, and nuts. These provide some protein, have high fiber content, and contain minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium, all of which are necessary for our bodies. Sugar and butter are less healthy, but you can use honey or an artificial sweetener for sweetening as a healthier option. You can stay healthy and fit and still enjoy cookies. Butter is not unhealthy per se if it’s not consumed in large amounts. It has a high count of saturated fats which can create cholesterol.
Oatmeal cookies are soft and chewy and the healthiest cookie on this list. As we said, they can be more or less healthy but do contain really nutritious and lovely natural ingredients.
If you asked Non-Americans who are at least somewhat familiar with American cuisine to name signature American foods they would probably say peanut butter. It’s true that Americans love their peanut butter, especially on toast and with jam. So it doesn’t surprise that Americans decided to put peanut butter in cookies as well. Peanut butter cookies are for many Americans one of their favorite cookies because of their uncanny peanut butter flavor and softness. Because they contain peanut butter and sugar these cookies are both salty and sweet but made with a perfect balance of the two to create a wonderful little cookie. As you bite into them, they crumble in your mouth and hit you with that rich peanut butter flavor.
A signature trait of these cookies is the grid pattern on their tops that looks like a game of tic-tac-toe. This pattern is marked by a fork.
The marking on the cookies is done in order to flatten the dough so that it can bake more evenly. Peanut butter cookie dough is dense and doesn’t flatten easily by itself when baking. If you didn’t press them, they wouldn’t flatten and thereby wouldn’t bake perfectly.
Another reason for making these marks is possibly to indicate to those allergic to peanuts that this is a peanut cookie. Because the markings are a must on the cookie, people would instantly recognize it as the peanut butter cookie.
The most Southern cookie on this list is the Benne Wafer. This cookie is a traditional Southern cookie originating in South Carolina. Benne Wafer is a small crunchy cookie whose main ingredients are benne (sesame) seeds. It’s perfect with tea because of its simple, not overbearing taste. Benne wafer has deep connections with the continent of Africa as the cookie’s main ingredient (benne seeds) comes from the African plant Benne. The name benne in the African language of Bantu stands for ‘sesame’. This puts benne and sesame in relation, making many wonder whether sesame and benne are the same.
Benne seeds are very similar and have the same origin but are produced differently. Benne was a plant that Americans brought from Africa to America during the slave trade in the 1700s. In America, they were cultivated as a crop to produce oil from their seeds. Through the process of cultivating and crossbreeding Americans managed to maximize the plant’s oil-producing potential. The result of this is the modern sesame seed, which has higher oil content than benne seeds (60 % in the sesame seed, 45 % in the benne seed) and conversely less flavor.
Did you know that benne seeds are considered symbols of good luck? Yes, Bantu people believe that benne (pronounced ‘benny’) seeds bring good luck, so if you consume them, especially in the tasty Benne Wafers you can be lucky. Eat the cookies with passion and buy a lottery. You’ll see if it works.
It is also worthy to mention that Benne wafers are often made small in size so you can make a lot of them from one recipe. This is why these Southern homey-feel cookies are great for Christmas parties, weddings, baby showers, and other big celebrations.
Check out another treat you could use sesame in - the Sesame crackers.
Whoopie pie cookie is a cookie consisting of two parts: two cookie-shaped cakes sandwiched around a creamy filling. The classic version has chocolate cakes with vanilla-flavored frosting, but there are many variations such as with chocolate and peanut butter, double chocolate, pumpkin, and gingerbread. Still, the classic is the most well-known one. This cookie comes with other names as well, like gobs, bobs, black-and-whites (due to their color scheme), moon pies, etc.
Interestingly enough these cookies are quite a sensation in the States. They even have their own day – the official Whoopie Pie Day, celebrated on the third Saturday in June. Actually, these cookies are an official state treat of Maine. Some of you wondered whether Whoopie Pies were from Maine. The answer is yes because the first-ever commercially produced Whoopie Pie cookie was made in Maine’s Labadie’s bakery in 1925 (some say 1918). From then on, Whoopie pie cookies were sold in great numbers, people liked them from the start and Maine was so obsessed with the little nugget of pleasure that they made it its official state treat.
There is an interesting legend behind their name. Allegedly, Amish wives created Whoopie pies from leftovers of cake batter and frosting and their families loved it. When Amish men looked in their lunchboxes they would say “Whoopie!” if women provided them with the cookie.
Whoopie pies are popular on television too because Oprah Winfrey on her show once featured the cookies as one of her favorite things.
Americans love their celebrities and they sure love their cookie celebrities. Bizcochito is also an official state cookie of one of the American states, that being New Mexico. Bizcochito is a cinnamon anise shortbread cookie – yummy, simple, and cute (especially because of the endless possibilities of shapes it’s made into). Most often the cookies are cut into the shapes of stars, flowers, moons, etc.
The name of the cookie is a Spanish diminutive form of the word bizcocho, meaning ‘a sponge cake’, another type of dessert. Bizcochitos are similar to shortbread, or butter cookies, but obviously are unique little treats. The bizcochito dough is made with crushed anise seeds, as well as a hint of orange and cinnamon (together with other common ingredients like eggs, baking soda, etc.). The cookie itself is not very sweet and is more bland and simple but the cinnamon sugar topping is what gives it that pomp and enriches the flavor. Natives of New Mexico love it hence why it’s named the official state cookie in 1989. This act made New Mexico the first U.S. state to have an official state cookie.
The first to make these cookies were the first Spanish residents in this area, who brought their cuisine to the new land. The cookies kept getting made in the Spanish families to this day and are very popular nowadays with celebrations such as on Christmas and on weddings.
Black and White cookie is a very popular cookie originating in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. It is usually made out of butter (or shortening), sugar, eggs, flour (both cake and all-purpose), sometimes milk, vanilla, and lemon extracts, with a frosting of confectioner’s sugar, water, bitter chocolate, and a bit of corn syrup. The cookies get glazed with chocolate and vanilla frosting, which are black and white in color respectively, hence the name of the cookie. The frosting is spread at the bottom side of the cookie because the bottom side is easier to spread on.
Black and White cookie is one of the creamiest American cookies out there and we love it because of that. It just melts in your mouth.
It seems that this cookie is one of the American stars, at least in the cookie world, as it is recognized and liked by many. The cookie became really popular during and after WWII when American soldiers brought the cookies with them to war and introduced them to German soldiers. Germans liked the cookie instantly and named it after the people who brought the cookie – Amerikaner.
Recently, Black and White cookie has got made into modern versions, incorporating elements of pop culture into its appearance by having symbols of Darth Vader, Batman, and Spiderman glazed on them.
Interestingly enough, Black and White cookie serves as a symbol of racial harmony as well, an idea Americans strive for. The cookie was first observed as such a symbol in an episode of Seinfeld called In the “Dinner Party”. In this episode, Jerry states, “Look to the cookie!” as the answer to race relations: “Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate. And yet, somehow, racial harmony still eludes us.” Because of their symbolic meaning, President Barack Obama nicknamed them “Unity Cookies” in 2008 when visiting a deli in Hollywood.
Everyone loves Fortune cookies, even if you don’t believe in fortunes. I mean, it is fun to take a bite out of a cookie and find a little message hidden there just for you. Fortune cookie is essentially a doughy cookie made from flour, sugar, vanilla, sesame seed oil, etc. with a piece of paper found on the inside, on which is a “fortune”, a short prophecy. Nowadays these cookies are considered Chinese and served in many Chinese cafes and restaurants but as it turns out, they weren’t invented by the Chinese. So, who invented the fortune cookie? Well, they are actually Japanese in origin. The Fortune cookie that was introduced to America was inspired by a similar Japanese cookie – Tsujiura Sembei, also a small cookie with a fortune inside. The cookie was first made and sold in the US in 1914 by Makoto Higawara, a Japanese café owner who served the cookie with tea in his Tea Garden.
Higawara created a cookie resembling the Japanese fortune cookie but made a recipe that is slightly sweeter to suit the American needs. With such a clear origin behind the cookie, you might think, “But why do we think of it as Chinese when it’s clearly Japanese?” There is an explanation for this, too. The belief that the Fortune cookie is Chinese has spread since WWII when the Chinese took over the production of the cookie because many Japanese were not allowed to work. During the war, Japan and the US were enemies and many Japanese businesses were shut down in the USA and the Japanese were forced to evacuate. Some were held in internment camps. This was a hard time for the Japanese living in the US as they feared for their future. However, the Chinese café owners were working regularly as they were not enemies of war and they managed to recreate the Fortune cookie recipe. The Chinese started thus selling them and Americans who were unsympathetic towards the Japanese at the time, gladly started to believe that this was a Chinese cookie. Such an interesting and complex path of just a little cookie.
Sometimes you may experience a fortuneless Fortune cookie (even though that is kind of a paradox). Many start wondering whether a Fortune cookie without fortune means bad luck. Supposedly it’s quite the contrary: if there is no fortune in your Fortune cookie, it is said that something good will happen to you soon because the fortune-cookie-fairy owes you one fortune. A lovely fairy, wouldn’t you say?
A fun thing about Fortune cookies is that you can make them on your own and place personalized messages and fortunes in them for your loved ones. This is a great way to show them your love and make their day.
This is it; we’ve reached the iconic territory. Of course, all the cookies so far are great, delicious American sweets but the number 2 and number 1 on this list are their own worlds, respectively. Number 2 is probably the most popular mass-produced American cookie – Oreo.
Oreo is a sandwich-like cookie consisting of two (usually chocolate) wafers stuck together with a fine white crème filling, but there are many variations, both in taste, flavor, and appearance. Oreo cookie was first created in 1912 by the National Biscuit Company (nowadays Nabisco) at its Chelsea-based New York City factory on Ninth Avenue. Since its invention, the Oreo cookie has been loved by the majority and eventually spread to other parts of the world as well. In fact, nowadays Oreos are sold in more than 100 countries. This makes Oreo the world’s top-selling cookie.
Oreo’s popularity is largely due to its marketing campaigns, as the brand has made a conscious effort to set itself apart from other cookies with its specific “eating ritual” and so many different versions and flavors, some of which are limited editions. The eating ritual we’re talking about is the one you probably all know – the iconic “twist, lick, dunk” – you twist the cookie and separate the two wafers, lick the crème and dunk the one half of the cookie in a glass of milk. At this point, you can eat it. It’s brilliant how Oreo made such a simple way of consuming food its own gimmick, but also an incredibly efficient marketing strategy to promote the cookie. If you are an aspiring cookie manufacturer and seller, take notes from the Oreo company.
There is so much more we could talk about Oreos but we’ll stop here and let you explore the rest while you nibble on your Oreo. While you're at it, make sure to check our article on the history of Oreo cookies.
Alright, the time has come to announce the one and only, American cookie that everyone would think of first if you asked them to name an American cookie. Ladies and gentleman, we present to you:
America’s favorite cookie and the one dubbed “the American cookie” is the Chocolate chip cookie. Chocolate chip cookie is simply tantalizing both in flavor and in texture. The chips of both milk and dark chocolate provide you with a rich and strong flavor while the butter makes the cookies velvety. Its sweet and yet slightly bitter taste is an adventure for your senses and with every bite, the flavor becomes richer and richer. Because of chocolate chips, the cookies have a smell of cocoa, a deep aroma of the fine cocoa powder. When it comes to its texture, it is soft to the touch but crunchy. It breaks easily inside your mouth while still maintaining that crunchy sound as you chew it. The sound of the crunch really excites your senses and makes it fun to eat the cookie. This enables your body to experience food with all of its senses and maximize your pleasure. We could talk about nibbling on this cookie for days, but we’ll let you feel the rest, instead of us just explaining the process.
The entire history of chocolate chip cookies starts in the 1930s in Whitman, Massachusetts. A cook and an owner of a restaurant called Toll House, Ruth Wakefield, and her husband Kenneth made the first ever chocolate chip cookies for their guests. The cookies became instantly popular, especially after the American businesswoman Marjorie Husted (a.k.a. Betty Crocker) featured it on her famed radio program. Wakefield wrote the recipe in the 1938 edition of her cookbook Tried and True, thus sharing her recipe with the world (this shows that chocolate chip cookies have been around for 82 years now). Later on, she gave rights for the cookie recipe to Nestlé and in return was given free chocolate for the rest of her life.
Because this is such a popular cookie, Chocolate Chip cookies have a number of “creation myths” to their name. The most well-known one is that Wakefield ran out of nuts for a regular ice cream cookie and innovatively replaced them with chunks of dark chocolate. Another myth says that vibrations from a mixer caused chocolate stored on a shelf in the Toll House kitchen to fall into a bowl of cookie dough as it was being mixed. These myths construe the story of the famed cookies as big, mysterious, and almost magical, which is not surprising because of the cookies’ huge popularity and human tendency to glorify that which is perceived as popular. Of course, a more plausible answer is that Wakefield, being a professional and skilled cook, carefully created these cookies because she believed they would taste good.
Americans proudly declare this cookie their national cookie and have even chosen a special day for it (although there seems to be a theme with this when it comes to Americans) ˗ August 4th is declared the National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.
The love for Chocolate Chip cookies is immense in America. So much so, that they have made a giant version of it. 102 feet wide and over 40,000 pounds, to be more precise.
On May 17, 2003, the World’s Biggest Cookie, as it was dubbed, was created right next to a bakery in Flat Rock, NC and this was it. Could you imagine standing in front of such a large cookie? We would remember that day for the rest of our lives, for sure.
That was our list of Top 15 American cookies. Do you agree with our list? Let us know!
Have you tried any of these cookies and what are your thoughts on them?
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