Cowboy cookies — made famous by first lady Laura Bush — make a chewy, caramel-y cookie loaded with nuts, coconut, oats, and chocolate. But this recipe for cowboy cookie bars is even better. You’ll love these dense, sweet, buttery cowboy blondies: stuffed with goodness and better than the original. These taste seriously good.
Cowboy cookies are a new classic cookie, made famous by Laura Bush in a cookie contest. But cowboy cookies get an upgrade as cowboy cookie bars. This recipe is seriously good. It combines all the best elements of cowboy cookies — oats, brown sugar, chocolate, pecans, and butter — into an even better dessert.
Cowboy cookies taste chewy, buttery, and absolutely delicious. This is one of my favorite desserts, and now yours, too.
Did Laura Bush Invent Cowboy Cookies?
Cowboy cookies are essentially a chocolate chip cookie with lots of bonuses. Think of regular chocolate chip cookie dough (flour, brown sugar, sugar, vanilla, egg, chocolate chips, pinch of salt), then load it with pecans, coconut flakes, and cinnamon.
Cowboy cookies became well known in 2000 during the Bush-Gore presidential campaign season. Family Circle magazine used to have a presidential election cookie bake-off, in which the wives of the candidates published their best cookie recipe and readers voted for their favorite. Laura Bush’s Texas Governor’s House Cowboy Cookies beat Tipper Gore’s gingersnaps.
Putting controversial or outmoded gender assumptions aside, the three-decade contest successfully predicted the presidential race outcomes every time except for the 2008 election, when Michelle Obama’s shortbread cookie recipe lost to Cindy McCain’s butterscotch oatmeal cookies.
The cookie contest — renamed the Presidential Cookie Poll by Family Circle when Bill Clinton was the first male candidate spouse — is now defunct. Family Circle shuttered in December 2019.
A Legend Is Born: The Unpeeled Cowboy Cookie Bars
Recipe development can be hard, especially with baked goods. This recipe for cowboy cookie bars took me about five tries to get right. But it was worth the effort.
Great blondies should have three qualities: 1) dense but not heavy; 2) loaded with chips and add-ins; and 3) like brownies, a good crust on top. Some baking science comes into play here. Playing around with sugar, fats, flour, baking powder, and even the amount of stirring can effect the final product.
I officially love these cowboy cookie bars better than cowboy cookies. Unlike cowboy cookies’ sometimes dry texture, these have all the same flavor, but in a rich, cake-y form, with an extra pinch of salt to better complement the brown sugar and chocolate.
Recipe Notes: Cowboy Cookie Bars
- This recipe calls for an 8″ x 8″ square brownie pan to give them a little height, but a 9″ x 9″ pan would work fine too. You may have to adjust the baking time down slightly by a few minutes.
- You will know the blondies are done when a cake tester in the center comes out clean, the color turns a rich caramel, and a crust forms on top.
- Cool in the pan, then cut as you would brownies, and serve.
How to Cut Brownies and Blondies Like a Pro
Cutting squares while the blondies or brownies are still in the pan is fine, but it’s hard to do without mauling at least one piece as you run a knife down the length of the pan and awkwardly angle a spatula to dig out that first square.
- Grease and line the baking pan with parchment as in the photo. I like to do a strip of parchment that covers the bottom and two sides.
- Let the brownies or blondies cool in the pan. Run an offset spatula around the rim to loosen any stuck-on bits, then lift the blondies from the pan and place the whole thing on a cutting board.
- Score markings in the top of the blondies where you want to cut. Use a long serrated blade to go straight down through the entire blondie, gently sawing as you press down. A general rule is to always use a serrated knife when you cut into anything with hard pieces in it, like chocolate chips or nuts.
- Wipe the blade clean between each cut.
You’ll also enjoy:
Cowboy Cookie Bars
- 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3/4 cups chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
- 1 pinch flaky sea salt, such as Maldon (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line with parchment an 8" x 8" brownie pan.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, rolled oats, and baking powder.
- In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. PRO TIP: Though recipes usually include salt and spices with dry ingredients, I always add them to liquid so the flavors can "bloom."
- Pour the liquids into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until mostly combined. Add the chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut flakes. Stir until fully mixed.
- Spread the brownie batter into the pan, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt.
- Bake 35 to 45 minutes, until the color is a golden caramel, the top sets and looks dry, and a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting and serving.