During my first year of graduate school, the chemistry department required all first year students to attend two weekly seminars. The professors took turns presenting their research groups’ focuses and current projects on Tuesday evenings, and experts from outside of the university gave talks on their industry jobs and businesses…
On Friday afternoons.
While most people on campus zipped up their backpacks and headed home to relax and kick off the weekend, we piled into a small lecture hall with the lights shut off to stare at slides. Diagrams, molecules, and equations flashed across the projector screen pulled down over the black chalkboard as many of us fought to pay close attention — or even stay awake.
As a seasoned vet who hosted the seminar series every year, the professor in charge had a few tricks up his sleeve to make those two-hour lectures a little more bearable. Each week, about five minutes before the presentation officially began, he carried two large paper bags to the front of the room, both filled to the brim with…
Yes, it was a bribe. Yes, it worked. (Free food almost always does with grad students!) And yes… The Friday afternoon seminars didn’t seem nearly as bad with treats in our hands and bellies.
So recently, when I needed to work really late on a Friday to wrap up a project, I smiled as I remembered that professor’s trick, took a leaf out of his book…
And baked a batch of these healthy zucchini oatmeal cookies! Although they required a little extra time to prepare (in comparison to simply ripping open the plastic from the professor’s store-bought boxes!), the result was well worth it… And I even finished my work faster than I anticipated too.
Turns out cookie bribes aren’t just good for graduate students! 😉
QUICK OVERVIEW – HEALTHY ZUCCHINI OATMEAL COOKIES
Difficulty: Mainly easy, including for many beginner bakers.
Taste: Cozy and sweet with comforting spice flavors.
Texture: Supremely chewy and moist with lots of soft oats and tender zucchini — almost as if you crossed oatmeal cookies with zucchini bread!
KEY INGREDIENTS TO MAKE HEALTHY ZUCCHINI OATMEAL COOKIES
Let’s cover the ingredients you’ll need to make these healthy zucchini oatmeal cookies. I have a feeling you have most of them in your pantry and fridge already!
To clear up a little confusion… Instant oats are not the ones that come in individual packets with flavors like “apple cinnamon” and “maple brown sugar.” They’re also called “quick cooking” or “one-minute” oats, and they only contain one ingredient: oats!
Instant oats are smaller and thinner than old-fashioned rolled oats, so they cook much faster (which is how they earned the “instant” part of their name!). That smaller size also means they soften faster in baking recipes, which yields an incredible soft and chewy texture in oatmeal cookies (as well as in oatmeal muffins and oatmeal cakes!). You can often find them right next to the old-fashioned rolled oats at the grocery store.
Hint: Gluten free instant oats also work, if you’d like to make your healthy zucchini oatmeal cookies gluten free!
Tip: If you only have old-fashioned rolled oats (whether regular or gluten free!) and you don’t want to make a special trip to the grocery store, pop those in a blender or food processor and pulse them a few times until they’re ¼ to ⅛ of their original size. These DIY “instant oats” will give you almost the exact same beautifully soft and chewy texture!
Flour. To make these zucchini oatmeal cookies more nutritious, I opted for whole wheat flour. However, lots of other flour varieties work too! White whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oat flour, all-purpose flour… Even a number of gluten free options.
Basically, I wanted a recipe that was easy to whip up with whatever you already had on hand — without hunting down any hard-to-find specialty ingredients. So take a peek in your pantry, then check out this recipe’s Notes section and my Oatmeal Cookie FAQ Page. I’ve listed the flours that have worked really well for readers and myself in those places!
Spices. I tested this recipe with a few different types and amounts. I almost felt like Goldilocks when I sampled the batches! Plain cinnamon tasted too bland; the trio of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger tasted a bit too bold (although still incredibly delicious and something I’d enjoy making again!); but the duo of cinnamon and nutmeg tasted just right.
It’s almost crazy… A fairly small amount of nutmeg yields a huge difference in the overall flavor! With the nutmeg, these cookies taste rich and indulgent — yet cozy and comforting (like a big ol’ bear hug!) — all at the same time. It reminded me of my grandma’s infamous zucchini bread, just turned into oatmeal cookies instead!
Sweetener. I used pure maple syrup to sweeten these zucchini oatmeal cookies. It’s the kind that comes directly from maple trees! There should only be one ingredient on the label: maple syrup. It’s often sold in thin glass bottles or squat plastic jugs, like this.
Zucchini. You’ll use freshly grated zucchini to make these healthy oatmeal cookies — and 1 full cup of it! I don’t know about you… But I think this is a very tasty way to sneak some extra veggies into my diet. 😉
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY ZUCCHINI OATMEAL COOKIES
Let’s go over how to make these zucchini oatmeal cookies. Although this recipe is fairly simple and straightforward, I also have some tips for you to make sure you end up with the best cookies imaginable, starting with…
Measure correctly. This is so important — especially for the oats and flour! Use this method or a kitchen scale to measure them. Do not dip your measuring cups directly into either one! You’ll end up adding up to 1 ½ times as much of these ingredients as what the recipe calls for, and that will dry out your cookie dough and make your cookies cakey, bready, or dry. It’ll also prevent your cookies from spreading properly. The oats are often the biggest culprit; they act like little sponges and soak up lots of moisture from the cookie dough!
Tip: If you have a kitchen scale (← that’s the one I own!), you can use it to measure any ingredients given in grams. I don’t recommend using it to measure liquids or ingredients given in mL. This is because almost all liquid ingredients have different densities, so stick to measuring cups or spoons for those instead!
Dry the zucchini. Fresh zucchini contains a lot of moisture. If you mixed the grated zucchini straight into your cookie dough, it would release that moisture into your cookies as they baked in the oven… And that extra liquid would make your cookies very soft and flimsy, even to the point of falling apart when you tried to pick them up off of the baking sheet. Not good!
To avoid that, and to make sure your cookies are soft and chewy, you’ll dry the zucchini first. It barely takes any time to do! Just spread out the grated zucchini on a layer of double-thick paper towels. Place a second layer of double-thick paper towels on top, and firmly press down. Be very thorough! Both sets of paper towels should be soaked through by the time you finish.
Chill. This cookie dough is pretty wet and loose when you first mix everything together. It should almost look like thick muffin batter. That’s a good thing — it helps yield a really soft and chewy texture in your healthy oatmeal cookies!
It also means that chilling is mandatory. When you pop the bowl in the fridge, the oats start to work their magic and soak up moisture from the cookie dough. Chilling also stiffens the cookie dough and makes it easier to work with!
Scoop + shape. Even after chilling, the cookie dough will still be sticky, so do not try to use your hands to shape it. Instead, use a spoon and spatula to transfer it to the baking sheet. I use these mini spatulas. They’re really handy!
These healthy zucchini oatmeal cookies spread some while baking, but not excessively, so I recommend flattening the mounds of cookie dough a bit before sliding the tray into the oven. This little trick gives them a spreading “head start!”
And because someone always asks… I don’t use a cookie scoop or any special equipment to make my cookies look nice and round. I just smooth out their edges before baking with the same mini spatula. (You can see how I’ve flattened and smoothed out the cookie dough’s edges in the photo below!)
Bake — but not too long! These oatmeal cookies are done baking when their centers still look and feel a teensy bit soft and underdone. The heat from the warm baking sheet will continue to cook their centers all the way through while you let them rest before transferring them to a wire rack. This is one of my tried-and-true tricks for the best soft and chewy oatmeal cookie texture!
Reshape. This is optional, but it’s my second trick for beautifully round cookies. As soon as you remove them from the oven, use a butter knife to gently smooth out any lopsided edges that appeared as the cookies spread. You have to do this the moment they come out, when the cookies are still piping hot and before they’ve fully set, so work quickly!
Wait. (Impatiently.) If you’re willing and able, I’ve found these cookies taste even better a day later. Their spices meld and marry, and they taste even more cozy and sweet. I know it’s really hard to wait — but I promise it’s magical and completely worth it!
FAQS ABOUT HEALTHY ZUCCHINI OATMEAL COOKIES
Are these healthy zucchini oatmeal cookies gluten free, dairy free, clean eating, or low calorie?
Yes — to all of the above! As written, this oatmeal cookie recipe is naturally clean eating, low calorie, and dairy free. (Nut free too!) I’ve also included my top gluten free recommendations in the Notes section and on my Oatmeal Cookie FAQ Page.
Can I use old-fashioned rolled oats?
Sort of! Pulse them in a food processor or blender first so they’re the correct size and to ensure that you end up with a better soft and chewy cookie texture. (See the “oats” header in the “Key Ingredients to Make Healthy Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies” section above for more info!)
What about a different flour?
Yup! I’ve listed the ones that have worked well in the Notes section and on my Oatmeal Cookie FAQ Page too.
Do I really need both spices?
Well, I guess technically no… But adding the nutmeg makes a huge difference in the way these cookies taste, so I really, really, really hope you’ll use it! (See the “spices” header in the “Key Ingredients to Make Healthy Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies” section above for more info!)
Can I substitute a different sweetener?
Yes again! Honey and agave both work equally well, and I’ve included even more alternatives on my Oatmeal Cookie FAQ Page.
My cookies turned out cakey and didn’t spread. Why’s that?
There were either too many dry ingredients or not enough wet. Make sure you’re measuring the oats and flour correctly (see the “measure correctly” header in the “How to Make Healthy Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies” section above for more info!) so you aren’t adding too much of either one. Double check that you’re using the full amount of pure maple syrup too. Don’t use a kitchen scale to measure the maple syrup, and don’t substitute sugar free maple syrup either. (It’s water-based, and that can make your cookies cakey!)
My cookies were really wet and flimsy. Why’s that?
Did you skip drying the zucchini? Or add more than the recipe called for? Those are the top two culprits! Otherwise, try baking your cookies a little longer so they’re firmer and hold together better.
How should I store these healthy zucchini oatmeal cookies? And how long do they last?
Store them in an airtight container. They should last for at least a couple of days as room temperature or closer to a week (if not more!) if refrigerated.
Can I freeze them?
Absolutely! These cookies freeze and thaw quite well. I like to reheat individual cookies in the microwave on 30% power until they’re warmed all the way through. They almost taste freshly baked when thawed like that!
Now all that’s missing is a glass of milk… And maybe a second cookie to go with it! 😉 Then when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy zucchini oatmeal cookies!
Healthy Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies
- 1 cup (100g) instant oats (gluten free if necessary and measured like this)
- ¾ cup (90g) whole wheat flour or gluten free* flour (measured like this)
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp (28g) coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup (120mL) pure maple syrup
- 1 cup (90g) freshly grated zucchini, patted dry (see Notes!)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil or butter, egg, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Stir in the maple syrup. Add in the oat mixture, and stir until just incorporated. Fold in the zucchini. Chill the cookie dough for 30 minutes.
- Using a spoon and spatula, drop the cookie dough into 15 rounded scoops onto the prepared sheet. Flatten to ⅜”-thick using a spatula. Bake at 325°F for 11-14 minutes. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
♡ Healthy Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies
♡ Healthy Apple Pie Oatmeal Cookies
♡ Healthy Zucchini Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
♡ Healthy Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins
♡ Healthy Zucchini Oatmeal Snack Cake
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy oatmeal cookie recipes and healthy zucchini recipes!