Surprise Oatmeal Cookies

This cookie recipe comes courtesy of Louise, who you may know from the comment section and who also happens to be the official baker for the Bethlehem, PA Trail of Lights. Every year she makes dozens of assorted cookies to serve to groups who take guided tours of the lights. While we didn’t get to go on Louise’s tour (though we did go on Pete’s!), we were the lucky recipients of a box of Louise’s special cookies.  She is every bit as good a baker as I expected and she also turned me on to some new recipes.  This is one of my favorites from her collection.  Louise says it’s an adaptation of Maida Heatter’s Key Largo Oatmeal Cookies, which call for a very special ingredient.

Oatmeal Cookies

I’d used potato chips in lots of other cookies, but never in oatmeal. In fact, when I first tried one of the cookies (in a fairly dark kitchen and in a tired mood) I thought the potato chips were coconut chips.  But what I really loved about the cookies was their size, shape, and how packed with goodies they were.  These cookies are really big and fat, crisp on the outside, and filled with nuts, dried fruit, and of course the potato chips.  I’ve since made two batches of my own and have incorporated coconut.

My only advice is to make sure to sift the flour so you’ll get the right weight/volume.  If you have a kitchen scale, you can skip the sifting and just weigh out 4 oz. Also, this recipe makes 12 big cookies. Maida’s original version was double this.

Surprise Oatmeal Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A unique oatmeal cookie recipe adapted from Maida Heatter.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12
  • 4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature or cool
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 large egg, room temp
  • 1 cup sifted unbleached flour (4 oz weight)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2-3 tablespoons currants (or raisins)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cups toasted pecans
  • 1 1/2 oz (weigh) potato chips (I used Kettle Chips) –lightly crushed**
  • 1/2 shredded sweetened coconut (or leave out and use a full 2 oz of chips)
  1. Beat the butter with a mixer until it is creamy. Beat in the brown sugar and vanilla and continue to cream mixture for about 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in the egg.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the batter and stir until it’s mixed in, then add the oats, dried fruit, pecans and potato chips. Stir well. Batter should be slightly crumbly from all the add-ins, but not dry. If you used the right amount of flour it won’t be.
  3. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop up dough and make 12 large mounds. To help shape the crumbly dough, moisten hands with a small amount of water. At this point you can bake the cookies OR you can arrange the mounds on a plate and chill them until ready to bake. I’ve been chilling mine overnight to get more height.
  4. When ready to bake, let the dough mounds come to cool room temperature. Place dough mounds on heavy duty ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet spreading about 2 inches apart. Press tops down slightly. Bake at 350 for 18-20 min or till lightly browned and cookies appear set. For moister centers, 18 minutes, for dryer cookies, go with the longer cook-time. Makes 12.
  5. Notes: To toast pecans, spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes.
For flour, you can skip the sifting part if you weigh out 4 oz. Otherwise, sift flour then measure. Sifted flour weighs less per cup than unsifted.

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  1. says

    Wow! I live so close to Bethlehem and never knew about the Trail of Lights. ( Guess I need to get out of the kitchen more!).
    I love potato chips in cookies. I made a Potato Chip Cookie recipe about a week or so ago. Yum!

  2. Louise says

    I was able to just scoop up the dough in a fairly compact ball and flatten it a bit with a glass. Mine baked in about 14 minutes as a single sheet in the oven. Be careful not to overbake them. Maida Heatter strongly suggests using dried sour cherries instead of cranberries. And storing them back to back. 🙂

  3. says

    Louise, maybe mine were a bit larger. At 18 minutes the centers were chewy and at 20, the cookies were slightly less chewy. They would have been overdone at anything more than 20 minutes. I suppose it really depends on the size of your cookies, the oven, etc. Also, I tried dried cherries and they were good, but cranberries were good too.

  4. says

    Hi Jackie,

    Have a nice visit! I know that feeling of being on vacation and wanting to get home and back in the kitchen.

  5. Sheila says


    Wondering your thoughts on leaving out the cinnamon in these? I prefer oatmeal cookies without and my thought is with so much “stuff” (including your coconut suggestion!) in these, they would still be great?

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