Marathon Cookies Recipe

I made these cookies for Wayne to eat when he finished the San Francisco Marathon. The batter is made with pureed white beans, lots of oats, and whole wheat flour. The resulting cookies are sesame coated and flavored with aniseed, lemon zest, olive oil and chopped dates. They are beautifully tender, licorice-scented, with a bit of crunch from the sesame seed coating.

Marathon Cookies

Wayne ran the San Francisco Marathon on Sunday. He ran it last year, but because I hopped a last-minute plane to Chile and Argentina, I missed his first-ever 26-miler. Needless to say, I had some making up to do this year. The alarm clock went off at 5 o'clock the morning of the race, and I groggily assumed my role of chauffeur and post-race food supplier. We were in the car by 5:20, and he was at the start line ready to go by 5:45. Again, this is a.m. On Saturday I put some thought into what I might pack for him to eat after crossing the finish line. There's no lack of cyber-drinks or muscle bars at these sorts of things, but I thought he might like something homemade. I've done the granola bar thing to death around here, so that was out. But I remembered a breakfast bean cookie recipe that made the rounds a while back (I came across them on Nicole's beautiful the habit of being site via Definitely Not Martha), and I used that recipe as a jumping off point. The cookies use pureed white beans in the dough, lots of oats, and whole wheat flour. After a bit of experimenting, I had a baggie full of palm-sized, sesame coated, bun-shaped cookies flavored with aniseed, lemon zest, olive oil and chopped dates. The cookies are beautifully tender, licorice-scented, with a bit of crunch from the sesame seed coating.

Marathon Cookies

A couple technical notes: I tried a few different things here, with varying degrees of success. I baked off a sheet of small drop-style cookies first. They tasted good, but the texture was off, they weren't attractive, and they dried out a bit during baking. The second round was much much better and the key was shape and size. I decided to go for a much larger cookie (3x the original), shaped into balls and fully coated with sesame seeds. They were great, and you could certainly slice them in half for a satisfying snack. I made a hodge-podge of other departures from the original recipe - I decided to use olive oil instead of butter, and thought dates would be interesting as well. And for those of you who are skeptical about beans in your cookies - you'd never know they were in there.

Marathon Cookies

I should also mention the inspiration for the flavors at play here. I tasted a cigar cookie last week at the new Blue Bottle Cafe at the SFMOMA. It was sesame-coated, tender, with a hint of what I thought was aniseed, but was actually absinthe. I wrote "aniseed/sesame" on a post-it note when I got home and slapped it on my desk. There it was staring at me when I sat down to think about these cookies.

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Marathon Cookies

My guess is that you could substitute spelt flour or all-purpose flour if you don't have whole wheat pastry flour on hand, or have difficulty finding it.

2 cups rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon aniseed, crushed in mortar and pestle (or spice grinder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

one 15-ounce can white kidney, great northern, or navy beans, rinsed & drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and place a rack in the top third. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Pulse the oats in a food processor (or blender) until they resemble a raggy flour. Transfer the oats to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the flour, aniseed, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest and salt.

Pulse the beans and olive oil in the food processor until they are creamy. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and pulse until smooth. Scrap down the sides of the bowl once or twice along the way.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until the ingredients start to come together. Sprinkle the dates across the top of the batter and stir until everything just comes together.

Place the sesames seeds in a bowl. Make each cookie with a scant 1/4 cup scoop of dough. Roll each scoop of dough into a ball then coat it with sesame seeds. Set each ball on the prepared baking sheet and with the palm of your hand flatten the dough just a bit (see photo). Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving at least an inch or so between each cookie - they'll spread a bit, but not much. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the sesame seeds around the bottom start to get golden.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen cookies. I'm not 100% sure about the yield here because I tested a variety of cookies sizes.

Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 25 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I've never thought of sesame seeds with cookies but it looks like it could work. They look really good!

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

Any info on how long these cookies keep before going stale? I'm planning a week-long camping trip at the end of the month and would love to bring something like this along. Some cookies get better with age, while others get hard and stale tasting. HS: I like the texture best in the few hours after they are baked. BUT its as if the flavor keeps developing overnight and the cookies taste even better the next day w/ more anise coming through. They get quite tender though. Store in air-tight container. They'll keep a couple days.

Kim (Edible/Usable)

I don't find it odd to have beans in your cookies... I've seen the black bean puree brownies everywhere the past couple of months!

The Kitchenette

i love habit of being! I'm definitely going to make these cookies - right up my alley. thank you!

Mae Bird

Hi Heidi - Amro & I are both big runners (trails mostly), and he also just ran the last 8 miles of the SF Marathon to help our friend finish her first marathon. These cookies look super tasty and a great snack to carry for fuel on our runs up in the Marin Headlands. Thanks for posting it, and congrats to Wayne on finishing the marathon! Harmony HS: Thanks Harmony! Trail running sounds fun. I just finished reading that new Christopher McDougall book - Born To Run. Fascinating.


awesome! I am doing a triathlon this weekend and a 1/2 marathon in the fall. I will give this a whirl and see how they go.


To answer my own question above: red lentils work great. I ran out of sesame seeds (didn't have much left anyway) so the last few got coated in finely chopped walnuts. They seem more like tea cakes than cookies to me really; but very tasty all the same.


Yum - can't wait to try these. :)


These sound great! I wonder if you have any suggestions for flavourings other than aniseed? The cookies sound great otherwise, but I really dislike aniseed... Running my first marathon in two weeks! Yikes!


How do you think other beans would work in this recipe? I have some chickpeas I could cook up (nothing canned). I also have some red lentils which might make a pretty colored cookie. HS: Hi Kat, white beans (particularly the canned ones) tend to be quite a bit creamier - but if you give the chickpeas a try with good results please report back :)


I wonder if I could take on the conversion to a dairy/gluten free version. Intriguing!

Hannah (Hannah's Harvest)

I am on a perpetual hunt for a delicious healthy cookie. Beans would surely do it. I have yet to try it but once my kitchen is back in working order (It was ripped out for a renovation on Monday and I am feeling well lost without it), beans beans beans good for the heart will find their way into my baking.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen

Congratulations to Wayne on the marathon! They are addictive. I am dying to try these... white bean are so much cheaper and healthier than butter!


I love that you use whole wheat pastry flour. I'll make these tomorrow night for sure, they look great, plus I've never had a bean cookie before and somehow it sounds so right. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Dean E.

I also ran the SF Marathon this weekend!! My first one, actually. Of course, my knees still feel like they're on a boat in choppy seas, but I had a blast.... Just wish someone baked some Marathon cookies for me to chomp on after the race. Congrats Yse, maybe next year I'll bring a big basket of homemade post-run treats for any 101 Cookbooks readers who are running! -h


Wow! I think as long as I didn't tell my husband what was in them before he tried them, we'd be ok :) Oh, and way to go Wayne, for running a marathon! Whew!!! How did he like them??


Hello Heidi, Those cookies look really good! Beans? Why not they must give a nice texture. I thankfull for this post of yours because it reminds me of an energy cookie I came across while travelling trough India...I'll have to see If I wrote down the ingredients somewhere and start experimenting! Keep cooking! I love your ideas, Thank you for sharing them.


Hello Heidi, I'd thought the black bean brownies were interesting, but bean cookies sound fun, too... and I love how they look so cute covered in sesame seeds! Wayne, congratulations on completing your second full marathon...hope you're now well rested and taking it easy! x


My dad, being a terribly picky eater, just might love these. Especially when it comes to desserts. Usually, if it isn't triple dark chocolate mousse pie, he's not a fan. But I think the sesame seeds might win him over. Can't wait to try them out!


What a wonderfully creative idea! But I'm curious how Wayne did in the marathon?


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