Upgraded Cowboy Cookies: My Ultimate High Country Companion

Cowboy cookies are very nostalgic for me. The chewy, soft texture and marriage of oatmeal, chocolate, and salty crunch make up the perfect cookie. They take me back to the days of wrangling and ranching as a crew girl at Deer Valley Ranch.

I mean, I had the coolest summer job during college. I wish I could go back to those days! I got to spend the summer months in beautiful Buena Vista, Colorado on a DUDE RANCH.

People have crazy ideas about what a dude ranch is (Thanks, movies). In reality, I describe it best as a weeklong summer camp for families. We had a program that ran Saturday to Saturday; families would show up for scheduled activities like hiking, horseback riding, and fly fishing. All meals were on a set schedule and nightly entertainment included Monday Square Dance, Wednesday Night Hayrides, and Thursday Western Show.

I grew up vacationing at DVR, and one week was never enough!

Being on staff was a whole new perspective. Summer staff was around 30 college-aged boys and girls–many of whom are still my close friends today. Us crew girls would cook, clean, babysit, and wait tables. Wranglers would manage the stables, horses, and lead guest rides. It was hard work, and a lot of play.

One of the most anticipated activities of the week was Wednesday’s Lunch Cookout. We’d pack up and head out to an aspen-lined meadow where we’d grill out and play a *competitive* family softball game. On the menu: Burgers, Beans, Watermelon, and COWBOY COOKIES!

Did I mention these cookies were the size of your face? It always amazed me that they stayed so soft and chewy; and even though they were the size of frisbees, they didn’t break! These are cookies of legend. We so looked forward to Wednesdays for the promise of a cowboy cookie.

I later learned a ranch secret. If you take a hike on Thursday, the kitchen girls pack a leftover cowboy cookie in your lunch! I can’t describe how good these cookies taste at the mid-point of a high elevation trek. WOW.

Somewhere in the Chalk Creek Valley

Here’s what happened: now I crave a cowboy cookie EVERY TIME I go on a high country hike with my packed lunch. Hiking and cowboy cookies just go together.

My family is coming to visit for a fall getaway! We’ve got a spectacular hike planned to Grizzly Lake (hint: my favorite spot in all of Colorado). You know what that means… I needed a batch of cowboy cookies!

Here’s the original DVR Recipe for Cowboy Cookies.

In the years since Deer Valley, I’ve become more conscious of ingredients and inflammatory foods. The traditional recipe doesn’t make me feel my best (and that’s something I do want while hiking). I made a few tweaks to decrease the sugar, swapped out the flour, and upgraded the mix-ins. Aha! I still get my cookie fix in the high country and know that I’m fueling myself with a better-for-me treat.

Here are my changes (Shhhhh! Don’t tell Sue!): In place of white sugar, I used unrefined coconut sugar. In place of brown sugar, I used golden monk fruit. I decreased the amount of both sugars and added a bit of unsweetened coconut flakes (which give natural sweetness).

Instead of white flour, I used Cup4Cup Gluten Free flour. It’s my favorite mix for baking because you truly can replace white flour 1-1 in recipes (and no one will notice!) I kept the oatmeal, but instead of Quick Oats, I used Whole Grain Toasted Oats.

Lastly, I toasted the pecans before adding to the mix (worth the extra step) and I used my favorite stevia-sweetened dark chocolate chips.

I’m eager to have my family test out this recipe and see if they notice my sneaky upgrades. Heh-heh.

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5 from 1 vote

Gluten-Free Cowboy Cookies — (Oatmeal + Coconut + Pecan + Dark Chocolate)

An upgraded version of cowboy cookies that uses gluten-free flour, alternative sweetener, coconut flakes, toasted pecans, and dark chocolate. Perfect for taking on the trail!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cookies, gluten-free
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 20 Large Cookies
Calories 200kcal


  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup coconut sugar
  • ¾ cup golden monk fruit
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups gluten-free flour Cup4Cup
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole grain oats
  • 1 ½ cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped (toasted) pecans


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Beat eggs, sugars, and butter in large bowl until mixture is fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl frequently with rubber spatula. Mix in vanilla. 
  • In another bowl, stir together baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, gluten-free flour, and oats. Add these dry ingredients to creamed mixture, stirring until well blended.
  • Stir in coconut, chocolate chips, and pecans. Note: dough will be very stiff. 
  • Drop heaping quarter cupfuls of the dough onto the silpat-lined baking sheet. Put only six mounds of dough on baking sheet, staggering them about 3 inches apart. Cookies will spread as they bake. 
  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown but still spongy when touched on top. Don’t overbake cookies – they should have a chewy texture. Let cookies cool about five minutes before removing them from the baking sheet. 


Makes about 20 LARGE cookies. 



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