The Lost Art of Preacher Cookies

Preacher cookie, cow patty, poodgie, or no bake cookie. What do you call it?

My niece and nephew had never eaten preacher cookies. They were visiting last week, and I asked if they wanted to make a batch. I got blank stares.

I described the ingredients—chocolate, peanut butter, oatmeal—and added, “You know, you cook them on the stove.”

My niece looked confused. My nephew curled his nose and said, “I don’t like chocolate very much.”

I wasted no time in calling their grandmother to tell her that she’s falling down on the job. Growing up, preacher cookies were a cornerstone of our snack food diet. They were fast and low mess. They didn’t require the oven (which mattered during summertime in our un-air conditioned apartment). They were so simple I could make them by myself by age nine. They filled my mouth with the most ecstatic goopy wonder, the perfect balance of creamy and crunchy, chocolate and nutty, as cool as a popsicle and as sweet as a slice of fudge.

She was a loving grandmother. How had she not fixed at least one batch for the children?

“They don’t seem to want to cook when they’re here.”

I didn’t quite hang up on her, but I must have made an audible gasp. She added, “Really, I don’t think they’re interested.”

The baking goods cabinet was open and the cocoa was on the counter before I said, “Love ya’. Gotta go.”

The kids helped me measure and stir. They watched enrapt as I dropped dollops onto a plate. They offered their tongues when I asked if they’d like to lick the goo-encrusted spoon.

My niece was hooked from her first taste. She “mmmmmed” and motioned for my nephew. He claimed that the chocolate gave him a bellyache, but once they cooled, I caught him eating them, a half a cookie at a time. By the middle of the next day, he had finished off four.

I’d never given any thought to preacher cookies’ origin until I discovered that they were becoming a lost art in my family. Then I poked around the Internet. Everybody seems to agree on the genesis of the name. The blog Hillbilly Housewife describes it this way:

“It got it’s name because it could be prepared quickly when a housewife looked out her window and saw the preacher riding up the mountain on his horse. By the time the preacher arrived, the cookies were cooling.”

People don’t agree, however, on the right name for the cookies. Everyone I know in the Appalachians call them preacher cookies, but apparently, somewhere out there, they’re referred to as cow-patties. I suppose it’s apt. They are dark brown little globs that squish under the least pressure.

I recently offered a batch to a friend from Texas. She squealed, “You made poodgies?!”

While she couldn’t explain the name, she clearly relished saying it. She drew it out, “Pooooooodgies,” and spelled it without prompting.

I also discovered that some poor folks call them no-bake cookies. Maybe they’re Puritans or mathematicians. Whatever the case, let’s hope this post inspires a less literal name.

At the other end of the spectrum are people who fiddle with the recipe itself, adding exotic ingredients like dulce de leche and Nutella. I’m all for creative monikers, but when making this dish, become a bit of a Puritan.

Below is the good, old recipe I use for my preacher cookies, which was handed down from my mother, and I’m dying to hear about yours. What do you put in these oven-free treats? And what’s your favorite name for them?

Preacher Cookies

½ cup butter

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

2 cups sugar

½ cup milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 cups quick cooking oatmeal

¼ cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the cocoa powder, butter, sugar, milk, and salt in a double boiler. (Don’t tell Mother, but I just use a regular pot.) Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add the peanut butter, vanilla, and oatmeal—not the new, instant kind, Mother emphasizes, just quick oats. Slop it all together. Drop them on a plate. (Wax paper is even better if you have it.) Pop in the fridge for a few hours and enjoy.

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  • Sabrina

    We call them hob-nobs here in my neck of the woods. Great for bake sales.

  • Denise Hullender

    You forgot Dookie Wads, that is another name I have heard them called. LOL First thing I ever cooked in home ec back in the late 60’s.

  • Louise

    My sister brought this recipe home from home ec class over 40 years ago. My Mom made them from that point on for busy days on the farm when work hands needed a quick snack. I’ve made them too since then but I had never heard them called Preacher cookies! We have always called them Connie’s No Bake Cookies after my sister.

  • Alicia Murphy

    I was one of those whose who grew up calling them No Bake Cookies. My mother substituted coconut, about two cups, instead of peanut butter. I love them that way but also like the ones with peanut butter as well.

  • Michael Johnson

    Growing up in Marion, VA (SW) We called them preacher cookies as well but no bake cookies was pretty interchangeable.

  • Jeanne mcallister

    My mom and dad were both from Southwest Virginia in fact they both grew up in Saltviille, Va. I only knew these by Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies.

  • Lisa J johnson

    We called them Mississippi Mud cookies. Lived on the Old Man River

  • Anonymous

    I’m 61 and these have been my favorite since I was very little. Our recipe calls them Peanut Butter Delight. We used to have them on occasion
    for dessert with our school lunch and they called them PB Delights also.

  • Millie Holmes

    I first found this recipe in a magazine, The Progressive Farmer, March 1959. There was an article titled “Our Southern Food Ways” by Sallie Hill. Miss Hill looked in on 1,200 Oklahoma women and their program featuring new accents in family living and brings you some recipes with an Indian flavor. The recipe says that peanut butter is optional so I don’t use it. I have made the “Boiled Cookies” using chocolate chips instead of the cocoa, adding them when you add the oatmeal. Another variation is don’t use chocolate and add coconut when adding the oatmeal, making them Coconut Boiled Cookies.

  • Gordon Bass

    All the school cafeteria cooks made these in Smyth Co Va.
    Great memories.

  • Belinda

    I grew up in SW Virginia calling them preacher cookies; but when I moved to NE Tennessee as an adult, I found that people called them no-bake cookies or cow patties and had never heard the term preacher cookies. Delicious by whatever name

  • Linda Willis

    I call them Chewy Charlie’s. Always a hit at any family gathering.

  • Sarah C.

    I grew up with these cookies (except we didn’t always add peanut butter.) Our family called them “mud pies.” (I do like the “Preacher Cookies” name.) Now, that I have my own family, we call them “no-bakes,” and our recipe is similar to the one you posted. My second son has perfected the recipe. My husband had never liked them until my son made them!

    PS – I’ve also heard them called Charlie Browns. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Ive always heard of them as oatmeal no bake cookies. I love them. We also make them without the chocolate and they are good like that too!

  • Connie Chastain

    The ones I had growing up in Alabama also had coconut in them.

  • Leslie

    I guess my family & friends are idiots cause we call them no bake cookies. Sorry we are so unimaginative!

  • Anonymous

    We called it Oatmeal Candy, here in Ga.. They are called that in North
    Alabama also. Easy to make and very good.

  • Cynthia

    These were a staple of my snack diet as a kid. As an adult I got the recipe from mom and have made them a good number of times for my family. I”m afraid I Had not ever heard them called “Preacher cookies,:” “Poodigies” or “cow pies” (ew)., My recipe is entitled “No Bake Fudge cookies” These are great to make when you are out of chocolate chips and want something chocolatey.

  • De Bullion

    I live in Ashland, Ky. We have always called them Summertime Cookies. I never knew why they were called that until I read your post about Preacher Cookies. Very interesting. My family loves them.

  • Kristin

    I am from WV, along the Ohio River. We have simply always called them Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies. I never heard them called preacher cookies until I moved south (have lived in NC and now in VA). We use almost the same recipe as you, except we don’t add salt and use 1/2 cup of peanut butter. I have 4 kiddos, and these cookies are gone by the end of the day. I also always have people ask for my recipe. These were a STAPLE in my house growing up!! Love these cookies!

  • Vickey Neel

    My girls made this growing up in SE West Virginia … my dad would tease them about having made Mud Cookies … therefore in our family they are known as mud cookies or no bake cookies … I have never heard of them referred to as Preacher Cookies … I can’ wait to share this article with them.

  • Stephanie

    Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina my Mamaw would make them for us and she called them Indian Boil cookies. I make them today cause they are so easy and I also call them Indian Boil cookies.

  • Susan A

    Pretty common in NE Tennessee. We call them cow patties and they sell them at most grocery stores that have a bakery and most convenience stores. Love them

  • Jen

    I have always called them Preacher Cookies but have heard the other names around SWVA as well. I prefer old fashioned oatmeal in them!

  • Cleo A. Lampos

    I have never made them, but think I ate one once. Loved the history of the cookie and your writing style. I’m now hooked on your blog and the cookie idea.

  • Cathy

    When my kids were little I named them mud balls. We never knew what the real name was.

  • Anonymous

    They were fudgies in my school cafeteria. Cut into squares. I was always being forced to diet (likely because I’m the type to obsess over cookies) and I never got to eat more than one. They were so good in my memory.

    During a period of extreme dieting 20 years later, I dreamed about these and, after dozens of failures, found the right recipie.

    Oddly, only one person from my elementary school seems to remember them. We pass each other at the gym.

  • gwen richards

    This is where my people are from the Carter’s Norton ,Va.Always been interested in this areas Bluegrass,grandparents were Stanley’s and Carter’s,

  • Angela Naylor

    I live in central Wv and I grew up calling theses lazy cookies because you make them when your to lazy to bake. Everyone else not in my family call them no bakes.

  • Bri Lowell

    Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve only ever heard these referred to as “no-bake” cookies. This includes Pennsylvania, New York, Oregon and Illinois.
    I have never heard of these being called anything else. Neato.

  • Anonymous

    I have always known them by preacher cookies. The recipe was given to me by an older lady in Richmond. Since my husband was in the ministry she told me these were served to all preachers that she knew, I never knew they were called anything else. All my granddaughters were taught to make them and they still do.

  • Trish

    My Mom made these years go, we called them No Bake Cookies. Grew up in SE West Virginia. Have never heard them called Preacher Cookies. My sisters started making them using the Microwave Oven. I still make them in pan on the stove top.

  • Peggy Richmond

    Preacher cookies. I have heard them called cow patties but absolutely no way am I going to eat something called a cow pattie! I have heard them called no bake too. With the advent of dark chocolate semi sweet chips I have changed the recipe from the dark cocoa, milk, sugar and butter to 1/4 cup of honey and 1/2 cup of dark chocolate Melted or not, mix it all up together and plop out by spoonsful. Great energy cookie.

  • Richard Coley

    Feb 2,2016

    My mother ran across a recipe for “boiled cookies” in our local newspapers food section almost 60 years ago, and initially thought “boiled… yuck!!” But she read the ingredients and thought it sounded better than their name, tried them, and they’ve been a hit in our family ever since. It might well be the only recipe that all the family members know how to make from memory, and that we all agree upon the value of. 😊😊

  • kim

    My family has all ways called them dog turds. lol

    My kids call them papa cookies because my dad makes them for church fellowship almost every week.

  • Anonymous

    My mommas hand written recipe says Preacher Cookies and very similar to the one here.

  • Karen

    We love them! They are called “boiled cookies” in our area in South Georgia.

  • Angela Holly

    I’m from a family of 14 children and our mom used to make these what we called “no-bake” cookies, but without the peanut butter. We all loved them especially my little brother Joel. He tried to make some by himself once and accidentally used salt in place of the sugar. Needless to say, those weren’t so good. I find it interesting that these cookies were also called Preacher cookies, because my brother Joel became a priest!

  • Slvrsnooz (Pilot, VA)

    Years ago, we had a Methodist preacher and his wife come to our area (Radford, VA) to preach. The pastor’s wife made these Preacher Cookies for our youth group and said these were the favorite cookie of our preacher so she wanted us to enjoy them. That recipe was shared through the SW VA Methodist churches (and others) faster than a speeding bullet! LOL!

  • Darlene Smith

    My family from Ohio, West Virginia area have called them No Bake cookies for over 100+ years. My son-in-laws family from the same area also called them No Bake cookies. Whatever you choose to call them, they are good!

  • Earnest Nettles

    I knew a Lady that made them for years called them No Bake Oatmeal cookies but she never added coco or chocolate. I have her recipe for 1975.

  • Debbie Gillis

    I always heard them called Boiled cookies, or No Bake cookies. I like the story, and especially like the Cow Patties name. We used to make these at Girl Scout camp in the early 1960s because we didn’t need an oven. Grew up in Norfolk VA.

  • Aileen Brooks

    They are in the Betty Crocker cookbook from the 50s known as no bake cookies

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