Poor Man's Cookies Recipe
Poor Man's Cookies Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Poor Man's Cookies Recipe

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In the 1930s, producers of a popular radio program called Jake and Lena invited listeners to write in for this recipe. My mother changed the name from Jake and Lena Cookies to Poor Man's Cookies because they contained no eggs, milk or nuts. Despite the name, the cookies are rich in taste!
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 20 min. Bake: 10 min./batch
MAKES:36 servings
Quick Test Kitchen Approved
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 20 min. Bake: 10 min./batch
MAKES: 36 servings


  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups rolled oats

Nutritional Facts

1 cookie equals 112 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 54 mg sodium, 14 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 1 g protein.


  1. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in water and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in oats.
  2. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to stand 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. Yield: 3 dozen.
Originally published as Poor Man's Cookies in Reminisce May/June 1992, p35

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Reviewed Apr. 9, 2015

"Either method will produce a great cookie. The change in the recipe was made by our Test Kitchen after several flat cookie complaints. They retested and produced a nice cookie with the recipe as written above. Use whichever one works best for you.

Sue Stetzel
Field Editor Manager
Taste of Home Magazine"

Reviewed Apr. 8, 2015

"I have the original Reminisce magazine recipe from 1992. It appears that STollefson is correct in that there is an error on the webpage. The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup shortening - NOT 1 cup, which would make the cookies spread to much and be thin. It also calls for 1/4 cup HOT water. I have not made these cookies yet, but will follow the magazine version when I do."

Reviewed Jun. 26, 2013

"I also found this recipe previously and It calls for 1/2 cup MELTED shortening. Also the baking soda is dissolved in 1/4 hot water. Other than that it is basically the same. I rate that one 5 stars. I make it all the time. the trick is to NOT overbake. I like a soft, chewy cookie and this one is great for that. Be sure the let them cool on the cookie sheet a while before removing them from the pan."

Reviewed Feb. 11, 2013

"Same photo as in the TasteofHome's Low-fat Country Cooking book...but shortening amount is different! Original recipe has 1/2 the fat...it calls for 1/2 cup of BUTTER, melted & cooled. Everything else is identical. I'd give that original recipe 5 stars...everyone always loves those cookies & asks for the recipe (plus they'd be 1/2 the fat!!!)

Perhaps an error was made on this website, or perhaps it was "lightened up" for the low-fat cookbook? The extra shortening may be the reason one of the bakers was having issues with the cookies spreading too much."

Reviewed Oct. 12, 2011

"To Princess 1982; you are suppose to use 'rolled oats' as stated. That may be your problem. I had no trouble with them and the taste was excellent."

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