Do Santa right with Dried Cherry Oatmeal Cookies.

Oatmeal cookies

Spoiler alert: Gourmandistan doesn’t actually believe Santa exists. This year, we’ve not even pretended to be into Christmas. There’s not a single holiday decoration out in our house. And, there has been very, very little holiday baking. But if the jolly old elf with his judgmental list was real, this oatmeal cookie would guarantee some extra presents.

Oatmeal cookies

Based on a 1980s Lee Bailey recipe, these cookies delightfully straddle the line between chewy and crispy, and come out of the oven with a lovely caramelized finish. This once was Michelle’s mom’s favorite cookie recipe. Before she tired of them, Jean adapted the original by adding nuts and replacing raisins with dried cherries, which make a world of difference. The sour-sweet tang and slightly tougher texture of the fruit enhances the sticky-crunchy texture, and the color of the cherries makes the cookie much more attractive.

Oatmeal cookies

We don’t see Santa in our future (though if someone wants to drop down our chimney with presents, we’ll be very appreciative). But we do see more of these cookies. Happy holidays, everybody!


  • Servings: about 50 cookies
  • Print

(adapted from Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts)

  • 1-1/2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 c. dried sour cherries
  • 1/2 heaping c. toasted walnuts, chopped small

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Mix in beaten egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture. Then, mix in oats, cherries and walnuts.

Refrigerate, covered, for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a cookie sheet with butter.

Place tablespoon-sized balls of dough on prepared baking sheet. Flatten the balls with your fingers.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until set. Remove from sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Alternatively, you can form the dough into logs and refrigerate or freeze, slicing off cookies and baking as needed.


  1. We have not a thing in our home for this particular holiday – but I am always happy to try a great cookie recipe this time of year. Thank you for sharing! I have the ingredients and it shall be delicious one afternoon with tea. Best – Shanna PS NIce photos. The green and red of the cranberries are quite festive and the colors are vibrant.

    • Thanks, Shanna! Our secular household has been known to contain Christmas decorations, particularly if we are hosting a holiday party. Though Steve is never closer to his Jewish heritage than when I ask him to help me take a Christmas tree down. 😉 These cookies are delicious. No holiday required.

      • Hi, Michelle,
        How lovely that you are integrating traditions…. secular, Christmas, Jewish… and simply enjoying what you will. Steve is very smart to deal you the Jew Card when asked to work. This just cracks me up…! 🙂

        We are Jewish and have no decorations. Just a lot of gorgeous candles in the house and New Mexican “luminaries” in our neighborhood. However, my kids and I love making lots of chocolates, sweets and cookies this time of year – and sharing them with friends. Hubby is always at the hospital working, but we drop off goodies for his co-workers. It is very fun to share sweet treats and look at beautiful lights…and invite friends for delicious food. I love a season that is focused on connecting and giving. However, I am very lucky that I don’t feel any stress, as I realize so many families are exhausted and frayed because they have holiday expectations. Have a great holiday! Maybe tell Steve that you shall give him a cookie for each 30 minutes of holiday-party-prep work?

  2. The 11 year old girl I babysit has somewhat varying beliefs on Santa. ‘Mum denies being Santa but I know it’s her, really,’ she said, with certainty. She still drew a disembodied cackling Santa head on her Christmas card to me this year though.

    I think MumSanta and Fictional Santa would deeply appreciate this lovely biscuits, and I’ll make these next year for my Pearents as they love oaty things. Because their happiness is important to me I’d have to take several samples for taste-testing and quality control. I mean, obviously. Yes. 🙂

    • Merry Christmas to you as well, Raymund! Read your post while riding in the car this afternoon and it definitely made me want to experience a Filipino Christmas one day. 🙂

  3. You are inspiring me to bake some Christmas cookies. I’ve got the tree up but vowed not to stress out with all the baking. It doesn’t feel like Christmas without cookies lying about. I’ve got dried cranberries on hand, which may make a decent substitute for dried cherries.

    Thanks for the inspiration! Merry Christmas to you both!

  4. Mmm, cookies. Christmas has now come and gone but I’m gointg to bake these anyway. I am sure that the non-existent Santa would be pleased that I’m maintaining the Christmas spirit, right?? I LOVE dried sour cherries. You are now officially my cookie hero.

  5. Michelle! You have Lee Bailey’s books? I do too. I think he was so underrated. He is one of those I simply can’t get rid of. Such a gentleman. I always thought his life was so genteel. Thank you for reminding me that most of my really good cookbooks are in storage. 😉

    • He was wonderful! My mom had (still has) all his cookbooks. Yes, such a nice Southern gentleman. But a bit of his New York life in there too. It’s sad that he’s mostly been forgotten. I’ve made most everything in the Country Desserts book at least once. The other books are a bit hit or miss, but who couldn’t love those tales of and recipes from long Eighties weekends on Long Island?! Those books really capture an era.

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