It’s that time again! The time of year when we gather with our
fellow witches closest friends around a glowing green bonfire kitchen table to determine which village baby to steal away name-brand snacks are worth it… and witch which are not!
Last time we settled the ancient blood feud of which cheese cracker is best. There were lots of surprises in that test! And the results permanently altered the course of our cheese-cracker-buying habits.
This year we’re talking about chocolate and vanilla sandwich cookies: a thin layer of vanilla cream resting in the loving embrace of two chocolate cookies.
Yes… we’re talking about Oreos and Faux-reos.
Guided by our extremely awesome Patreon donors, it is time to answer the question: can a store brand cookie knock the Oreo from its throne and/or cast it down into the darkest pits of hell?!
Let’s find out!
Terms of engagement
When tasting each cookie, we considered five criteria: the chocolatiness of the chocolate, the vanillaness of the vanilla, the texture, their ability to stay fresh a few days after opening, and the overall eating experience.
We will also note if each cookie convincingly passes as an Oreo. If we were handed this cookie, and ate it without looking closely, would we detect an unacceptable imposter?
To ensure consistency, Bitches tasted from the same boxes, and all boxes were checked to make sure each was well within its expiration date. I bought them, sampled them, then re-sealed them into zip bags and shipped them to Piggy’s crew. Piggy herself sat this one out, as she does not like chocolate. I know, I know—let it go, it means there’s more for us.
Testers were instructed not to closely examine the cookie, as some had their brand name printed on the cookie itself. They were also encouraged to eat their cookies however they usually would. Some dunked them in milk; some twisted them apart to eat the cream separately; and some ate them whole and dry.
The twelve contenders
I went to five brick-and-mortar stores and bought every single chocolate sandwich cookie they had. Then to be thorough, I even dipped into online retailers. This gave us a nice spread of brands and price points, from very low to very high.
- Market Basket Chocolate Cremes
- Trader Joe’s Joe-Joe’s
- Back to Nature’s Classic Creme Cookies
- 365’s Chocolate Sandwich Cremes
- Newman’s Own Newman-O’s
- Kinnikinnick’s KinniToos
- Annie’s Organic Grabbits
- Nabisco’s Oreos
- Goodie Girl’s Chocolate Cremes
- Three Dog Bakery’s Classic Cremes
- Amazon Pantry’s Happy Belly Chocolate Sandwich Cremes
As with our cheese cracker test, we did not consider anything other than the original. “Does that mean no Double Stuff?!” you cry, clutching your pearls. Indeed it does! Fuck Double Stuffs and Thins and Pumpkin Spice and Mint and Mango and every other iteration. Like my house parties in 2009, we’re only playing Apples to Apples here! And if you like a thiccer cookie, don’t worry—our lineup does not disappoint.
Market Basket Chocolate Cremes ($0.11/oz)
Purchased at Market Basket for $2.00
Marky Barky’s store brand is almost always welcome in our household. And this cookie was no exception. Its success as an Oreo dupe was so strong it made our testers doubt their ability to tell any of the coming cookies apart.
- “Wow. Now I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell the difference between all of these…”
- “Yeah, this tastes like an Oreo.”
- “The taste isn’t especially vanilla-y or especially chocolatey… but you know, when I think hard about it, neither is an Oreo.”
- “The flavor is sweet, but not very chocolatey.”
- “The cookie part is pretty crispy when dry, and it did absorb milk well. The texture passes.”
- “More cream would be appreciated.”
- “Just slightly chalky in flavor.”
- “Whatever it is, I’m not disappointed.”
Did it taste just like an Oreo?: Yes
Trader Joe’s Joe-Joe’s ($0.14/oz)
Purchased at Trader Joe’s for $2.99
Trader Joe’s store brand is their only brand. And they absolutely have game. Their food is respected for being delicious, well sourced, and affordable.
Most cheap cookies are made with artificial vanilla flavor. But Joe-Joe’s claim to fame is the real vanilla. You can actually see small black flecks embedded in the cream.
… Because yes, real vanilla is a brownish-black! A dash of dark brown extract added to white dairy products produced an off-white, which is the color we now wrongly associate with vanilla.
Could the testers tell the difference? The answer is: absolutely!
- “Oh, good—I actually can tell a difference between the cookies…”
- “There’s certainly enough cream!”
- “Nice thick filling.”
- “The vanilla cream actually tastes like vanilla!”
- “The cream tastes like marshmallow.”
- “The frosting is thicker, more like a paste.”
- “You almost can’t taste the chocolate in the cookie, because the vanilla is so strong.”
- “The cream is definitely overpowering on this one.”
- “If I were blindfolded, I would’ve thought this was one of those golden-colored sandwich cookies that’s all vanilla.”
- “But the cookie is structurally sound.”
- “Thicc cookie overall.”
- “Mine tilted in when I bit into it, because there was so much cream. Which I’m not mad about. It was a good bite tho…”
- “And it absorbed milk at the rate I wanted it to.”
- “I know this isn’t an Oreo. But in the right circumstance, I would prefer this to an Oreo.”
Did it taste just like an Oreo?: No—but we liked it more
Back To Nature Classic Cream Cookies ($0.45/oz)
Purchased at Foodie’s for $5.49 (jeebus cripes)
I want everyone to know how hard Piggy had to work to keep her partner from reading the labels on the cookies. We recorded our tasting sessions as voice memos this time—and every ten seconds, she is swooping in to admonish him for peeking. It’s tough work herding cats, but it’s important, as these have a VERY prominent logo imprinted onto them.
… Which they might want to remove. I would not want my brand associated with this cookie.
- “It broke!”
- “Mine cracked too, and it left cream residue all over my fingers.”
- “It is crunchy, but it’s also crumbly.”
- “Wh–what? Is this… multigrain? It has a pronounced wheat flavor.”
- “Cookie part has a taste and texture more like a graham cracker.”
- “Crumbly as hell, and it’s packed into my molars.”
- “Texture was gritty and a bit like wet sand.”
- “The nicest thing I can say about it is that the cream is okay, if I really lean in and examine it. But the texture is a big problem.”
- “Absorbed milk too quickly, and left wet chocolate peeling off on our fingertips. Damp and sticky with milk.”
- “When eaten separately, the cookie is salty.”
- “I don’t like this.”
- “I don’t either.”
- “That was a strange one…”
Did it taste just like an Oreo?: No
365 Chocolate Sandwich Cremes ($0.14/oz)
Purchased at Whole Foods for $2.99
Whole Foods’ house brand did not impress the testers. In fact, we were unusually united in our notes about the cream filling. We used almost the exact terms to describe it, despite being several days and several thousand miles apart. It’s actually pretty amazing to hear the same sentiments echoed so exactly across time and space!
- “These aren’t made well.”
- “All of our cookies are tilted. They look drunk.”
- “Oh. A mouthful of glue.”
- “Yes, we could use this to build a model airplane.”
- “The texture is very dry. Even when I soak it in the milk, it’s still dry.”
- “The cream is sweet and vanilla-y, but it isn’t rich. It tastes like JUST vanilla and sugar. There isn’t a fatty element, a cream element.”
- “This frosting is only sugar, with enough water or canola oil to just barely hold it together.”
- “Also the most stale overall.”
- “Too soft.”
- “I don’t dislike it—“
- “—l do. I will go on record and say I don’t like these.”
- “They’re very… different.”
- “I’m not finishing that one.”
- “That was a bad cookie.”
- “I know that this is not an Oreo.”
Did it taste just like an Oreo?: No
Newman’s Own Newman-O’s ($0.48/oz)
Purchased at Market Basket for $3.87
It’s pretty crazy that there are a lot of people who only know Paul Newman as a face on a food label. Because he was so much more than Count Chocula!
Newman was an upsettingly handsome, prolific, and talented actor best known for great movies like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Cool Hand Luke.
He also directed and produced films. And drove race cars! Because why not! This made him an appropriate choice to voice Doc Hudson in the Cars franchise as his final film role.
Newman also did all this wild philanthropic stuff. He funded clean water initiatives and summer camps for sick children. He advocated for gay rights long before it was popular. And he was an early climate change activist. Noted racist crook Richard Nixon considered Newman one of his twenty personal enemies, which Newman considered an honor.
As if that wasn’t enough, this Gary Stu motherfucker also made salad dressings as housewarming gifts for his friends that were so fucking delicious that people begged to buy them. So he decided to put them up for sale… with all the profits going to charity?!
THAT is how the Newman’s Own brand was born. Newman’s business plan was, and I quote: “Let’s give it all away.” They’ve expanded way past salad dressings, and have funneled over $550 million of profit towards a broad portfolio of charitable causes: rescuing animals, helping veterans, defending independent media and the First Amendment, ending hunger, alleviating poverty, and promoting racial justice, to name a few.
For that reason, I was scared to eat this cookie! I wanted to like it so badly, simply because I have so much respect for this brand. But in my heart of hearts, I assumed it wouldn’t be very good.
My fears were unfounded.
- “Thicc! Strong!”
- “Mm! The crunchiest cookie so far! Withstood shipping the best.”
- “Crispy almost to the point of being hard to break apart.”
- “This could survive being put in a pocket or lunchbox.”
- “Good stuffing thickness.”
- “The cookie/cream ratio is very satisfying for me.”
- “You gotta chomp through these. But in a good way.”
- “Like the last one, the cream is very thick. But unlike the last one, the cream actually has a good flavor.”
- “Almost a hint of hazelnut flavor in the cream?”
- “Definitely more than two ingredients in this cream.”
- “None of the cookies have had a strong chocolate flavor. But this one’s been the closest.”
- “It tastes almost like cocoa—like hot chocolate?”
- “If you’ve been chopping firewood near a cabin in Maine all day, this cookie is for you.”
- “Old Spice could sponsor this cookie. You could sell this in camo or gunmetal grey.”
- “Yes! This is a manly cookie! Like Men’s Pocky!”
- “Wait—it literally cleaned the competitor’s gunk out of my molars. My teeth feel way better now!”
- “And it’s great dunked, too!”
- “I really like this one.”
- “That one’s up there.”
- “Definitely in the top.
Did it taste just like an Oreo?: No—but we liked it more anyway
Kinnikinnick KinniToos ($0.49/oz)
Purchased at Market Basket for $3.99
At this point the test started to take its toll. I could feel my heart racing from all the sugar I’d ingested. Piggy’s husband claimed to cough up blood. (Odds that it was just red due to the wine he was drinking and tomatoes he’d had for dinner? High.)
(Note: Piggy’s team was also literally high. They began the taste test with a THC-laced chocolate bar, as was their standard pre-cookie ritual.)
It was a bad time to be sucker-punched by the worst cookie I’ve ever eaten in my life.
Our tests were completely separated. Yet we all arrived at an identical conclusion: a molar-clogging, too-sweet cookie with a disgusting grainy texture that verged on outright rockiness.
- “Holy cow… were these shipped to us?” (No.)
- “It’s visibly crummy. There’s a ton of dust…”
- “WHAT IS THIS?!”
- “Oh, okay, this is upsetting.”
- “This is either a budget cookie, or a something-free cookie. Because something is missing.”
- “I’ll tell you what isn’t missing: the mica.”
- “That’s a sandy cookie. A sandy cookie with yucky frosting.”
- “This is a limestone cookie made by assholes.”
- “Oh! It gets worse as it goes along! The texture inside my mouth became… dusty!?”
- “Somehow both airy and hard.”
- “Hold on… I have to try it with milk… pray for me…”
- “Man. It’s also overwhelmingly sweet and sugary.”
- “Yes! Too sweet! Cookies should be sweet, but not like that.”
- “This is crazy sweet…”
- “Six? More like sucks.”
- “I would guess this was a gluten-free cookie. It tastes like it.”
- “YEAH because it tastes like a DRIVEWAY.”
- “The last one cleared out my teeth—but this put it all right back in.”
- “Horrible taste. Like cigarette ash. Are these smoking aversion therapy tools?”
- “I’m upset. I need to write a letter to someone.”
- “By far the worst.”
- “That’s a bad cookie.”
- “I didn’t know cookies could be bad…”
- “Why did Kitty put this in the test? This is the kind of cookie you should protect your friends from.”
Did it taste just like an Oreo?: FUCK NO, IT TASTED LIKE ROCKS MADE OUT OF SADNESS
Annie’s Grabbits ($0.49/oz)
Purchased at Whole Foods for $3.99
The awfulness of the KinniToos would make any cookie taste great in comparison. But as with our cheese cracker taste test, we were not impressed by the Annie’s brand.
- “Ten bucks says this is an Oreo.” (Piggy please let your taster know she can send me a check.)
- “This tastes like it was made in a lab.”
- “That’s very hard…”
- “I tried to dunk it, and the milk ran off it like Teflon.”
- “Didn’t travel well… they’re pretty stale.”
- “It has a taste that reminds me of tin-can frosting.”
- “This tastes cheap and artificial. Like a Walmart cookie.”
- “The cream is there, the amount is good…”
- “Yes, the cookie/cream ratio is good. I just wish both were better.”
- “Usually when I dunk a cookie, bubbles come up. But there is no air leaving this cookie. It’s un-dunkable.”
- “No. I don’t like it.”
- “I would know that is not an Oreo.”
- “Not an Oreo—but has an Oreo-like aftertaste.”
Did it taste just like an Oreo?: Mixed opinions, leaning toward no
Nabisco’s Oreos ($0.17/oz)
Purchased at Market Basket for $2.50
Here we go: the gold standard of chocolate sandwich cookies!
Based purely on the Oreo’s popularity, I would expect it to be a standout, if not the slam-dunk winner overall. And we did like them. But we weren’t blown away by them! Our reaction, if anything, was closer to “meh!”
- “Skimpy on the frosting.”
- “Pretty close to an Oreo in frosting—there’s just not enough of it.”
- “Yeah, the frosting is smaller in diameter.”
- “Yeah, there’s a big gap between the edge of the cookie and the start of the cream.”
- “This could be an Oreo. It has that barely salty aftertaste I’d expect from Nabisco.”
- “And they’re not very stale. They kept well. Preservatives!”
- “When dunked, it got soggy immediately. Which is actually a plus for me, because I like a fully-saturated cookie. Though I’m sure not everyone would agree.”
- “The chocolate taste is all right.”
- “Not a bad cookie…”
- “Close, but no cigar.”
- “Nothing extraordinary, but it gets the job done.”
Did it taste just like an Oreo?: Yes
Goodie Girl Chocolate Creme ($0.49/oz)
Purchased at Whole Foods for $4.99
I’d never seen this brand before. Their entire line seems to be gluten free. Given the success of the KinniToos (the success of making me want to walk into the desert, never to return), we would’ve been scared if we’d known.
Luckily we didn’t. So we were pleasantly surprised!
- “Not a strong cookie. My first bite smashed it.”
- “My cookie was a little cracked—but the cream did a good job holding the whole thing together.”
- “I’m enjoying my first bite.”
- “It’s a crunchy cookie.”
- “More cream than the last one…”
- “I like the cream here!”
- “A little gluey. But it’s a pretty good cookie.”
- “There is a bare hint of graininess. But nowhere near the [Back to Nature] or [KinniToos].”
- “Hints of gluten free, but it’s nowhere near as sandy as the [KinniToos].”
- “It falls apart easily. But taste-wise, it’s an Oreo.”
- “This would be REALLY good smashed into ice cream.”
- “Yes! This belongs IN something. Ice cream or cheesecake.”
- “And it didn’t soak up much milk, so it would stand up in a baked good.”
- “It’s pretty sweet, but overall, it’s well-balanced, if not well-constructed.”
Did it taste just like an Oreo?: Yes
Three Dog Bakery’s Classic Cremes ($0.30/oz)
Purchased on Amazon for $3.99
Q: Did I trick my friends into eating dog treats?
Listen! In my defense… it was very funny.
All the ingredients used were normal and human-quality—no hidden beef tallow or beet pulp or whatever. Mostly I thought it would be a fun control. Because despite looking like an Oreo, there was no chocolate. And I knew going in that Oreos really don’t have a strong chocolate flavor. Is chocolate in a sandwich cookie merely an illusion of black food coloring? How would our tasters react when there was none at all?
- “I would like to note for the history books that this cookie is brown, not black, like the others.”
- “Ew. This is awful.”
- “Weird flavor.”
- “They’re kinda buttery. But it’s peanut-buttery.”
- “It doesn’t taste like an Oreo. But it’s a fine light, bland peanut-butter cookie.”
- “Was that a trick cookie?” (It was. Sorry ’bout it.)
And a few selected excerpts post-reveal…
- “You BITCH—“
- “Honestly… frankly… I’m shocked they’re not worse.”
- “They’re not the worst cookies we’ve had tonight!”
- “Yes they are.”
- “Fuck no, they are NOT worse than the [KinniToos]!”
- “On the one hand, I’m kind of amazed that the dog cookie wasn’t the worst one. But also don’t feed me dog treats.”
- “How lucky are our dogs that we feed them stuff this nice??”
Did it taste just like an Oreo?: No, it tasted like peanut butter and trickery
Amazon Pantry’s Happy Belly Chocolate Sandwich Cremes ($0.14/oz)
Purchased on Amazon for $2.06
My Amazon Prime membership was about to go into the big unsubscribe button in the sky. So why not sample their bargain-bin Prime Pantry offering while we still had the chance?
Unfortunately, its quality strengthened my resolve to de-Amazon my household.
- “Oof. That’s very hard.”
- “Crispy to the point of being hard.”
- “It’s taking the moisture out of my mouth.”
- “Yes, my mouth is very dry now. Although that could be the weed…”
- “Ratio is bad. Too much cookie, not enough frosting.”
- “This tastes like an Oreo at first, but then it develops into something… medicinal?”
- “Has an almost cakey texture when dunked. Which some people might like.”
- “How can something be sweeter than sugar?”
- “There’s something weird in there. It’s sweet, but not like sugar, and not even like corn syrup. It’s tongue-coating. And I don’t like it.”
- “This cookie is like the kid in high school who’s weird, but not terrible. No one else wants him in their group project, but you’ll take him because he’s not the worst.”
- “Bland and inoffensive.”
- “It’s an okay cookie.”
- “Somehow snappy and stale.”
Did it taste just like an Oreo?: Yes
In our cheese cracker taste test last year, Team Piggy was roasted, toasted, and burnt to a crisp re: their loyalty to Cheez-Its. After scoffing at the idea that any other cheese cracker could compare, they were shaken to discover they had not only failed to pick it out, but they’d given the Cheez-Its only middling scores.
This time everyone approached with a much more open mind. Of the eleven cookies we ate, we thought four of them could be Oreos. And two cookies (Joe-Joe’s and Newman-O’s) were detected as non-Oreos, but deemed better sandwich cookies overall.
My first takeaway is that brand loyalty isn’t as hard to overcome as I thought it was, based on our last test. Once we understand that our brand loyalty is blind, we can translate this into greater skepticism in all purchases. This test is proof that we can learn to taste and consume independently, outside of the sway of brands.
Oreos are replaceable. And 75% of those acceptable alternatives are also cheaper.
My second takeaway is a warning: if an entity has your loyalty on lock, they’re probably gonna do you dirty.
Oreos are definitely the dominant cookie in the market. And we all noticed that the cream disc was set further back, failing to come all the way to the edge of the cookie. This is almost certainly a calculated cost-saving measure. If they’re convinced your loyalty will remain steady no matter what, they can experiment with less filling, cheaper ingredients—whatever will save them half of a penny on each container. They’re not nervous about keeping you as a customer because so many people point-blank refuse to consider an alternative.
My third takeaway is that store brands have come a long way.
When I told people we were doing store brand Oreos, many wrinkled up their faces in disgust. Some of that disgust can be attributed to brand loyalty. But I think some of it is real. I have memories of eating store-brand “imposters” when I was a kid, and I remember them being chalky and dry and bland and, well, terrible. This makes me think that store brands have gotten better over time.
So if you were scarred by bad off-brand stuff as a kid, give it another shot.
I want to say something about this. Lots and lots of people have allergies, and don’t tolerate all ingredients well, including gluten. And the reason has nothing to do with hypochondria, or a desire to be special, or whatever other irritating, condescending talking points you’ve heard.
The spike in dietary restrictions is almost certainly due to changes in the way we grow crops and mass-produce food. Wheat strains with higher gluten content repel insects better, so farmers bred for that trait. There’s way more gluten in our wheat now than there was two generations ago. And yeasted foods used to be partially fermented, with microorganisms basically pre-digesting the food, making it easier for humans to digest. Now we skip this step, to our intestinal detriment. Peek behind the curtain of this “movement” and you will find far more science than hysteria.
I hate people who whine and complain about how bad gluten-free food is. Or vegan food, or dairy-free food, or any other kind of specialty food. I am thrilled that there are so many options for people with allergies. Celiac disease, for example, has existed for thousands of years. And for thousands of years, our best medical advice for its sufferers was “wow, that nonstop diarrhea thing looks rough, have you tried slicing the bread thinly?”
The point is: I don’t think it’s right to scoff at the proliferation of incredible, life-altering culinary medical breakthroughs.
It’s true that we loathed the KinniToos. Passionately. But I am glad they exist. There are people who can’t have nuts, soy, dairy, or gluten. And I am glad they can pick up a box of cookies like everybody else.
The truth is that the cookies we finished first were the Goody Girls, which we folded into homemade ice cream. They’re good Oreo knockoffs, and it’s astounding that they managed to be so while also being gluten-free. So don’t file this information away as evidence that all _______-free food sucks. It can be good, even great. And it has its place in the world.
And I’ll leave you with a final fun fact: Oreos are vegan.
Enough SJW stuff. Let’s declare some winners!
Best in Show: Newman-O’s
Everyone loved the Newman-O’s. Their strong, crunchy exterior withstood the elements of time and shipping. They had the best chocolate flavor overall. The vanilla cream was flavorful without being overpowering, and there was plenty of it to satisfy even a die-hard Double Stuffer. They challenged and amazed us. And—I am not making this up-–they cleaned our teeth.
While they’re not the cheapest cookies, they’re also not the most expensive. The brand is widely available in affordable grocery stores. And buying Newman-O’s funds fantastic charitable endeavors.
Plus they reminded me of how dreamy Paul Newman is. What the hell more could I ask for?
Honorable Mention for Best Budget Cookie: Market Basket Chocolate Cremes
If you’re currently eating Oreos and happy about it, you’ll be psyched to know that there are store brands out there making a pretty identical product for fifty cents cheaper!
Honorable Mention for Best Dog Cookie: Three Dog Bakery’s Classic Cremes
My dogs never counter-surf.
We could put food on the floor, and if we told them not to touch it, they wouldn’t touch it.
… But that was before we left the box of Three Dog Bakery’s Classic Cremes sitting on the dining room table.
The human testers may not have been impressed with them. But they made my very well-trained dogs do a full Walter White. This deserves recognition.
Piggy’s dog ate them with the same single-minded enthusiasm he eats all things, including goose poop, dirty athletic socks, and his own vomit. Take that as you will.
Best Loser: Kinnikinnick’s KinniToos
“Who could’ve thought they’d be bad with a name like K— Kinni… Kinny-kinny. Kinnikinnick? Kinnikinnick’s Kinni… Toos?? FUCK…”– Mr. Kitty
If you are gluten-free, for the love of god, try Goody Girls instead. Or Divvies! They are vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free. And although they were not included in this test, I’ve had them and love them. Try anything other than KinniToos. WE LOVE YOU AND YOU DESERVE BETTER.
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Fast food burgers?
Supermarket sushi!? Because we’re prepared to die for this cause!
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A version of this article was originally published in November, 2019.