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 loved the black bean brownies, and I love anything anisy so I must try these! Congratulations to Wayne! It's interesting that "marathon" is the Greek word for fennel... maybe you could use fennel seeds instead of aniseed next year? HS: Great tip Jennifer.


first of all, congrats to Wayne. I'd say the first one is painful and memorable but the second one is always more enjoyable- then you'll be hooked! Since i started running marathons, i've never been able to stop (no matter how often i gave my alarm clock the evil eye). I am the baker in my marathon posse and we've enjoyed your granola bars as breakfast on our races and to those sherpa-ing at the event. We had anzac cookies and homemade fig newtons for after the runs and snacks on the road. Thanks for developing this reciepe, i'm making them for my friends on our next big training day.


How did I I forget? GOOD JOB WAYNE!!!


What a cool idea. I want to try these. I'm doing my first event--the Danskin Triathlon in Seattle--in a few weeks and might bake up some for my post event recharge. But I'm wondering --like Kim above-- how long they keep. I wouldn't be able to bake them any sooner than 3 or 4 days before. Would they have to be chilled because of the beans?


These sound interesting, but all you runners out there should remember never to try something new before a race - ESPECIALLY if you, like I do, generally don't go fiber-heavy before a run. If you're used to running on carb gels or something like that, and switch to beany, fiber-rich cookies, you should make sure you're ready for the possible, um, consequences :) That said, these sound like great post-run snacks!


I'm interested to hear, Heidi, how Wayne felt eating these during the race? My experience has been bad with anything harder than a banana during a race, but energy blocks do get dull, so I'm willing to try it if he felt good. HS: He didn't eat them until after. He packs stuff into his pockets for the duration of the long runs - which is a whole other topic entirely. I would be curious to know what sort of all-natural energy snacks you marathoners / ultra marathoners keep on hand. Some of those goop/goos and certainly some of the uber-processed power bars I'm not a fan of.


I LOVE the sesame-seed coating and the extra protein idea with the beans. I can't wait to try the recipe. It's great to be able to run a marathon. What keeps us able to recover and do it again is what tools we give the body, in the form of vitamins, minerals and protein. Dean Karnazes, the ULTRA-MARATHON man (he wrote a wonderfully informative book) ran 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states! He uses Shaklee's Joint Health Complex to rebuild cartilage in his hips, knees, etc., a product called Physique mixed in juice, water or milk that is a blend of protein and carbs taken within 2 hrs. after an extreme workout. (Or for the weekend warrior). He also uses their snack bars and whey for training. My best! Enjoy the summer.


These look fantastic, and I'm sure were a much-appreciated post-run treat! That 5:45a start time is a killer; I've always thought about doing the SF race but man ... so early. Maybe the sleepiness helps numb the pain of all the miles though -- plus, you're done way before noon!


I love baking with beans, but I haven't tried cookies yet so this will be fun.

Diann (aTxVegn)

I am new to this website, a girlfriend told me about it and I am loving the photos and the recipes...! My husband and I have both ran marathons! I have ran 8 and he has ran a few too, it is an amazing feeling when you cross that finish line, an adrenaline that you cannot experience any other way! Everyone should try it!! How did your husband do? We live in Sonoma, new to this area, married for a year and experimenting new recipes all the time! Thanks for sharing your stories!


Hi Heidi! Love your site, pics and recipes. I am allergic to sesame seeds - do you think poppy seeds might work here? HS: What about nuts? Try a nut version, or spice version.


Love this idea! I've been wanting to play with white beans in baked goods for a while, just haven't gotten around to it! The cookies look so pretty too.

Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

I only ran one marathon, although I did train for three... injuries got in the way. The first marathon we never forget, but I bet his second was much more special thanks to your cookies :-) Congratulations to Wayne!


These are so Beautiful.....I love the addition of the beans. Thanks so much!


Oops...that should have been cardamom...didn't catch that typo!


Great Job Wayne!! I've run 2 marathons in Chicago. Before that Heidi, I was like you cheering my husband on for 4 marathons before I ever attempted doing it! He's doing the Jan. rock and roll marathon in Arizona, I might just have to make these for him! Great idea! HS: Good luck to him, and congrats to you. I think it's pretty safe to say I won't be running any marathons anytime soon. I think I'll stick to the support team side of the equation ;)


I thought of cardamon as an anise substitute...wonder how that would be? :)


I was running that day too and these would have beaten the post race food. Will try my hand at this next race! Or before!


I wonder if almond would work instead of anise? i also am not a big anise fan. HS: Go for it - maybe a splash of almond extract in the dough plus roll the cookies in chopped almond slices instead of the sesame seeds.

Liz C

Oh this one is definitely going into the TO BAKE folder ! A folder with an awful lot of your recipes. This one looks fantastic ! What an original recipe - that ingredient list is so diverse. For me, anything with dates in it catches my eye (love them!). Dates, sesame seeds, olive oil and beans - I can't wait to try! Thanks for the recipe !!

Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf

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