Meet Yellowhammer Cookies, Alabama’s New State Cookie|Recipes Spots

  • on August 26, 2023
Meet Yellowhammer Cookies, Alabama’s New State Cookie

Yellowhammer cookies (one is missing a bite) on a piece of parchment paper with some oats and crumbs around the cookies and a glass of milk
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

As of June 2, 2023, Alabama gained an official state cookie–it’s even been signed into law. If you’re from Alabama and you’ve never heard of yellowhammer cookies, you’re in for a treat. If you’re from anywhere and you’ve never had them, you really should make them. 

They’re giant, slightly soft oatmeal cookies sandwiching a peanut buttery cream filling—100 percent scarfable. Imagine a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie crossed with a whoopie pie crossed with a Girls Scout Do-si-do, but supersized and homemade in all the best of ways.

Why is it that Alabama gets a state cookie and not, say, Ohio, where I live? (We do have peanut butter buckeyes, the unofficial state confection/obsession.) It’s all because of a fourth-grader named Mary Claire Cook and a school project. 

The Story of Yellowhammer Cookies

Mary Claire’s class was working on a unit about state symbols and Alabama history. When the class discovered that Alabama had no official state cookie, they submitted recipes and then voted on them. The winning entry was Mary Claire’s, which she worked on with her grandmother. 

Why yellowhammer? One of Alabama’s state nicknames is the Yellowhammer State. The state bird is the northern flicker, locally known as the yellowhammer.

Yellowhammer cookies on the counter next to a glass of milk
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

What Makes It a Yellowhammer Cookie?

Let’s break down the yellowhammer cookie’s defining ingredients and see how they embody Alabama:

  • Peanut butter: Tons of creamy peanut butter give a yellowhammer cookie’s filling oomph. Peanuts are the official state legume, and Alabama is the number two producer in the US. Dothan, Alabama is home to the annual National Peanut Festival.
  • Honey: The filling has a kiss of honey. According to BeesWiki, the most common honey produced in Alabama is wildflower honey.
  • Pecans: The Alabama state nut (the tree is native to the region), pecans sit atop each yellowhammer cookie like a signature. 
  • Oats: While not an economically significant crop in Alabama, oats are what endow a yellowhammer cookie with its fabulous nubbly texture. They also help give the illusion that the cookies are somewhat good for you—important if, like me, you have eaten them for breakfast.

Tips and Tricks

These cookies are not difficult to make, but the recipe yields a huge batch (perfect for bake sales!) and there are a number of steps. We’re sharing our adaptation of Mary Claire’s very solid original recipe which a number of news outlets shared. All of the elements were there, but we wanted to clarify a few of the steps to guarantee success, and that’s the recipe we offer below. Mary Claire Cook, we know you are new to the recipe development game, but you have hit the ground running. 

  • Use quick oats only. That’s what the recipe calls for, and you can run into trouble when you swap one kind of oats for another (as we learned when retesting our own oatmeal raisin cookie recipe).
  • Use regular, not natural, peanut butter. This will ensure a smooth, creamy filling with the correct consistency.
  • Pair the cookies up by size before filling them. It’s inevitable that your cookies won’t all be the same exact size. Matching the baked cookies by size means you won’t wind up with a smaller cookie on top and a bigger one on the bottom.
  • Pipe the filling for speed. A fancy piped filling would perhaps be putting on airs—we love the homespun character of yellowhammer cookies—but using a gallon zip-top bag with the corner snipped off makes it tidier and faster to get the proper tablespoon-sized dollops on the cookie bottoms.
Stack of two yellowhammer cookies on the counter, and in the background, a glass of milk, a carafe of milk, and a plate with more cookies
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

More Regional Treats

  • Lobster Rolls
  • Chicago Hot Dogs
  • Pepperoni Rolls
  • Bananas Foster
  • Indian Pudding

Make the cookies

Mix the dry ingredients except for the oats:

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together until combined.

Bowl of dry ingredients whisked together for yellowhammer cookie recipe
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Mix the wet ingredients:

In a large bowl, use the whisk to beat the brown sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla until the mixture is smooth and no lumps of sugar remain. (You can also use a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.)

Yellowhammer cookie wet ingredients in a mixer bowl with the flat beater attachment
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Finish the dough: 

Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix together with a sturdy wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and looks like taffy.

Add the oats and continue beating until well-mixed. If the dough is not stiff, don’t worry; it’ll firm up as it chills.

Dry ingredients folded into wet ingredients in the mixer bowl for yellowhammer cookie recipe
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe
Oats mixed into to the yellowhammer cookie dough using a flat beater attachment
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe


Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough until firm, 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.

Shape the cookies:

Form the dough into 48 balls, each 1 1/2 inches in diameter (we recommend double-checking with a ruler). 

Place 8 balls on each baking sheet and flatten slightly.

Place a pecan half on 4 of the cookies on each sheet (these will become the tops of the assembled cookies).

Yellowhammer cookie dough shaped into balls and placed on a parchment paper lined baking sheet
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe
A hand slightly flattening the cookie dough balls on the lined baking sheet for yellowhammer cookie recipe
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe
Half of the flattened yellowhammer cookie dough balls topped with pecan halves on the lined baking sheet
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Bake the cookies:

Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet and from front to back and top to bottom and bake for another 8 minutes, until the edges are faintly golden brown and the centers of the cookies are set. 

Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack with an offset spatula. Let the baking sheets cool before baking the remaining batches of cookies.

Baked yellowhammer cookies on a baking sheet
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Assemble the cookies

Make the filling:

Combine the peanut butter, honey, butter, and 1 cup of the powdered sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until smooth. The filling should be thick enough to be spreadable, yet not stiff.  If the filling is runny, beat in another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.

Yellowhammer cookie filling mixed together in a mixer bowl using the flat beater attachment
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Fill the cookies:

Pair up the baked cookies so there’s a plain cookie and one topped with a pecan half. (It helps to match them up by size, as the diameter of the baked cookies can vary a bit). Flip the plain cookie halves so their bottom sides face up. Put a generous tablespoon of filling on each (don’t worry about spreading it out).

Place a pecan-topped cookie on top of a cookie with the filling, then press down and twist to help distribute the filling. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

Hand holding a yellowhammer cookie half and filling it with with filling from a piping bag, and in the background below, more cookies on a cooling rack
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe
Two yellowhammer cookie halves pressed together to spread filling and create a cookie sandwich
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Store for later:

These cookies hold up fairly well! Store them in an airtight container at cool room temperature for up to 4 days.

Love the recipe? Leave us stars and a comment below!

Stack of two yellowhammer cookies on the counter, and in the background, two glasses of milk and a small saucer with pecans halves
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe
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