Fudge Oatmeal Cookies

About this dish

  • Serves: 20 or so
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Method: oven

These are one of my favorites from growing up in the sprawling suburban replic-scape that was Willingboro, NJ. The first time I made these, it was for a bake sale in 4th grade. My teacher, Mrs. Lewis, insisted that the students participated directly in things like bake sales. This was my contribution. It takes about 15 minutes, start-to-end, and uses one pot.

This, by the way, is the same teacher that let my friend Kenny and me spend surplus time cartooning in the back of the room. We formed our first corporation, and sold cartoons for a penny each, amassing $150 over the school year. We spent half on a book on cartooning, donating it to the school library, and putting our original cartoon characters in the front. That same cartoon character can be found in the preface to my PhD dissertation, completed about 20 years later. Little did I know school would take that long – good thing I had fine foods like this to nourish me… 🙂

My mother got this recipe out of the newspaper, allegedly President Nixon’s favorite. Even though I helped lead a debate encouraging his impeachment in the same class, I still like the cookie.


A single batch fits in a 2-quart saucepan; make sure you use a heavy-bottomed one, so the mix doesn’t burn. Use a wooden spoon – it scrapes the bottom better. Make single batches, which make about 2 cookie sheets

  •  1 stick margarine (butter works; don’t use low-fat or diet)
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk (you can render 1 C milk down to 1/2, but if you do, **let it burn to the bottom, but DO NOT stir it to the bottom. the burnt milk forms a protective layer, but doesn’t taste good!)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 2 – 2 1/4 C oatmeal (not the instant kind; it works, but the cookies come chewier with regular)
  • 2 T cocoa (you can use semisweet chocolate, about 2 oz, if you want, instead. if so – melt the chocolate into the melted margarine, i.e., add AFTER the margarine melts, and BEFORE adding other ingredients)
  • 1/2 C peanut butter (chunky or smooth, even honey roasted, but NOT low-fat. the oil helps the rest of the recipe)


  • Deep large pot, preferably with a long single handle
  • baking sheets lined with waxed paper or parchment


NB: Measure out the ingredients before you start. You won’t have time once you begin mixing things.

Melt margarine – do not burn it. Add cocoa (or slowly melt semisweet chocolate into the melted margarine now). Add sugar and milk, and stir until it comes to a boil.

Boil the mix, stirring constantly (scrape the bottom constantly). Boil until the mix renders off most of the water – you’ll see it change from a bubbling oil/sugar/milk mix to an almost carmelized froth. That’s when the sugar is dissolved, too.

Add the peanut butter and vanilla. Be careful about the vanilla – it has aromatics that fizz when it hits the hot mix, and can splatter.

Add the oatmeal, all at one time. Enough not to be runny, but not more than that. Too much, and the mix becomes brittle, and looks like half-caked cocoa powder. Too little and the mix looks like chocolate sauce and the mix runs out of the oatmeal. 2 cups is a minimum; I usually end up adding about 1/4 cup extra.

Stir just until the oatmeal mixes in; IMMEDIATELY drop onto waxed paper, by teaspoon-fuls.

Makes 2 cookie-sheets full. They don’t keep very long – a few days at best. Mostly because they dry out and get brittle; the crumbs are fine to eat 🙂