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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Excellent recipe! I turned them into chocolate chip cookies by omitting the anise seed and lemon zest and using 1 teaspoon of cinnamon instead. Instead of adding dates, I used 1 cup chocolate chips. Then I rolled the balls in raw sugar before flattening them.


We have been following your blog for a while & I had never made the connection that you were the author of Super Natural Cooking until I was referencing it tonight for one of our posts. Love your blog!


What a neat cookie idea!

Nutmeg Nanny

pretty good recipe and congrats to wayne


you said you'd done granola bars to death but I couldn't find one recipe for them. Please give me one or two suitable for lunch boxes (ie that won't go mushy and fall apart) HS: Here you go Jan. Big Sur Power Bars

jan dash

My husband has run 6 marathons, so I feel your pain regarding the early morning drive to the start line. I am definitely going to try these cookies. My husband was just mentioning that he wants to have something with higher protein post-run. With the addition of the beans, these would fit the bill perfectly!

Cookin' Canuck

Beans! I love the idea and am eager to try w/o the sugar and maybe some lavender or rosemary instead of the aniseed....a good friend of mine once made fabulous butter cookies and dropped in a whole bunch of fresh rosemary into the dough....DELIcious!


I start training for Philadelphia next week, so your recipe comes at a great time. I half-joke with people that I only run for the snacks, so I'm psyched to try out a cookie that's actually healthy! Love your blog. Thanks!


These look wonderful! I love the use of beans. Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland made a bean pie that was a treat every time I flew in/out of Oakland (now *there's* a recipe that could use your touch). I'm not much of a baker, but I can't wait to try these!


Thanks for posting. I'm training for my second marathon this fall and these look great. You mentioned granola bars in your notes and I've been looking for a good homemade granola bar recipe and haven't found one. Any chance you could post one? Thanks!


Any problem substituting Bob's Red Mill General Gluten Free Baking flour for the whole wheat?

Kat Carroll, Nutritional Therapy Prac.

I love it when you use beans in such unexpected ways! In cookies, indeed! I love the beans with brownies recipe you did some time ago, and now here's a new snack-with-beans! Now if you included a little pre-cooked (but not too moist) rice, the cookies would have all the amino acids needed to form a complete nutritional body-building protein (all the amino acids in meat, without the meat). Of course, corn would do the same thing as rice with beans, but somehow corn doesn't seem fitting in these cookies here. Please consider doing more recipes that combine beans with either rice or with corn because of the complete amino acid protein mix (you could live on beans with rice, or beans with corn, with little else needed in terms of protein -- though what's missing are some of the vitamins and minerals, so slightly more is needed to round out a full day's nutritional set). Please put your marvelous creativity to more unique recipes with beans combined with rice, or beans combined with corn, for nutrition's sake!


These sounds delicious, Heidi. I have an old German family recipe for anise bretel that has only three ingredient, but which I haven't made because it has instructions like "beat ingredients by hand for 45 minutes" and "let rise on a cookie sheet under the bed all night". This recipe may be just the thing to use up the anise seed I bought to make them.


Perfect! My partner is biking the Marin Century on Saturday, and since I can't make it, I've been trying to think of ways to make it up to him... This is such great timing! We've also made your granola bars for our various biking trips... unfortunately we used way too much espresso in the last batch (my miscalculation) and we haven't been able to shrug off the bad association... So glad to see another idea for an energy fix!


Yum! These would be a great alternative to energy bars on a backpacking trip.


I'd be making a lot of your recipes if it weren't for a picky husband .... but we are, in medical jargon, "old old" so I don't expect change. However, I have turned some of my children into fans. I am, and have always been, curious about what you do with the cookies etc. that don't please you. I can't picture your eating them to prevent waste, but.....!

Sybil Conn

Hi Heidi, Thanks for posting this recipe! I love this website btw... These cookies look awesome and I can't wait to try making them They remind me of a type of high energy bread I used to make called Logan bread. I have unfortunately lost that recipe :(... I was wondering what the difference is between whole wheat pasty flour and reg. whole wheat flour? Thanks again...


initially i thought you were gonna have a cookie marathon but no matter your marathon cookies looks yummy:)




Kudos to Wayne! Good thing you gave him the beans AFTER the race;-)


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