What's not to love about trail mix? It's equal parts sweet, savory, crunchy, and chewy — a perfect snack no matter what you're craving. Throwing all these elements into a soft oatmeal cookie yields a one-handed treat that's easier to eat than trail mix, yet still offers that same satisfying mix of dried fruit, toasty nuts, sweet chocolate, and yes, even salty bits of crunchy pretzel. Let's just call these little guys trailblazers (pun intended), shall we?
DIY Oat Flour
These trail mix cookies are basically oatmeal cookies studded with the ingredients found in trail mix. The cookies themselves are no ordinary oatmeal cookies, however. By grinding some of the oatmeal into flour first, it imparts a delicious nutty flavor throughout the cookie, and we can use less all-purpose flour while adding in some more grains. You can grind up the oatmeal in a spice grinder, food processor, or blender — whatever appliance you have that's handy.
Substitute to Your Heart's Content
Just as trail mix is more of a formula than a set list of ingredients, feel free to swap in mix-ins that you like or need to use up.
- Dried fruit: We like raisins or dried cranberries for convenience, but use any dried fruit you like as long as it's chopped up first.
- Nuts: Add whatever nuts you'd like — just make sure they're toasted and chopped. Need to be nut-free? Use toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds instead.
- Candy and chocolate: Don't want to add candy or buy a little package just for this recipe? Add more chocolate chips, or even try butterscotch chips for a fun twist.
- Pretzels: We like the salty crunch of pretzels here, but they can be omitted. Pretzels are also best used if the cookies will be eaten within a short period of time, as they do get soggy after a few days.
Tip: Want to take the easiest way out? Just mix in two cups of purchased trail mix.
Trail Mix Cookies
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 cup roasted peanuts or chopped roasted nuts
Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats; set aside.
Place 1 cup of the oats in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, high-speed blender, or spice grinder. Process until the oats are finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups whole oats, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine; set aside.
Place the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Beat in the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add the M&Ms, pretzels if using, cranberries, peanuts, and chocolate chips and mix into the dough by hand with a rubber spatula until evenly distributed throughout. Scoop 1-ounce (2-tablespoon) mounds of dough onto the baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart, 12 per baking sheet.
Bake for 9 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets between racks and from front to back halfway through. Bake until the cookies are light golden-brown on the bottoms and around the edges, 8 to 9 minutes more.
Place the baking sheets on wire racks and cool 3 minutes. Use a flat spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Let the baking sheets cool completely and bake any remaining dough (you can reuse the parchment paper).
- Toasting the oats: If you have the time, try toasting the oats first for an extra layer of flavor. Spread the oats in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring halfway through, for 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside and cool until the oats are cool enough to handle, then proceed with the recipe.
- Storage: Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- Make ahead: The cookie dough can be refrigerated for several days before baking. It can also be scooped out onto baking sheets, frozen solid, and stored in resealable freezer bags in the freezer for several months. Frozen cookies can be baked straight from the freezer but may need 1 to 2 minutes extra baking time.