Food & Drink

The Definitive Color of Oreo Cookies

Are they brown or black? Here's our guess.

The internet was once sent into a tizzy by a dress that was either blue and black or white and gold and soundbite that seemed to say both "Yanni" and "Laurel." But simmering underneath it all was a question that nobody bothered to ask: What color is an Oreo cookie?

I’ve always thought the cookie part of the Oreo was black. You probably did, too. I’ve tasted just about every Oreo cookie ever created, and I’ve loved Oreo cookies since I was a kid. But guess what? Some people think the cookie is brown. To me, that’s like waking up to the news that the world has decided that the Pink Power Ranger is now actually Fuchsia. No. No it is not.

This all started when I was reading the FAQ for Mondelez, Oreo’s parent company. My job is to write about food, so it’s not that weird of a thing to do! Here’s the actually weird thing: Mondelez refuses to weigh in on the color of the Oreo cookie --even though it’s clearly black!

Here's the official stance: “We do not have a color assigned to the cookie portion of an OREO. Some people think the OREO is a shade of brown, while others view the color closer to black.”

Who the hell are the people who think it’s brown? They’re out there!

Whether Mondelez wants to admit it, there’s actually evidence to support the fact that the cookie is black. And it comes down to how the cocoa in the cookie is processed. The ingredients of a standard Oreo give us a clue: “cocoa (processed with alkali).”

Chocolate comes from cacao beans, and if you’ve ever bought raw cacao powder in the grocery store (aka cold-pressed, unroasted cacao beans), it certainly looks brown. But Oreo doesn’t have any of that fancy cacao! It has cocoa, which is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. It’s also been processed with alkali like the label says, which, as Food Crumbles explains, results in a reduction of the cocoa’s bitterness and changes its color.

“Alkalization darkens the color of cocoa powder,” the site says.

A ha! That means the cocoa has a browner shade in an unprocessed form and gets closer to black after it goes through alkalization.

One more thing. Take a look at this baking cocoa powder from Amazon that’s been processed with alkali: on the label it says black cocoa powder. The description reads: “Black cocoa powder has a 10-12% fat content and is often used in wafer-type cookies like those for ice cream sandwiches or in Oreo-type sandwich cookies.” Not just Oreo-type. Like Oreo itself!

While Mondelez doesn’t want to say that Oreo cookies are black or brown, science seems to lean toward the “cookie is black” side.

I can’t tell what you see when you look at an Oreo cookie, but if you think it’s brown, you’re wrong, Yanny. You too, Laurel.

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Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist, and writes about everything from tipping to craft beer. He's based out of Colorado, where he often partakes in some of the country's best beers and mountains.