The Untold Truth Of Samoa Cookies

Up there with Oreos and Chips Ahoy, Girl Scout Cookies are some of the most beloved cookies in the United States. While the most talked-about cookie might be the Thin Mint, the arguably most iconic of all is the sticky-sweet coconutty sensation known as the Samoa — or Caramel DeLite, depending on where you live. 

This tiny wreath of toasted coconut, caramel, and milk chocolate piled generously on an airy shortbread cookie wows both pastry chefs and stoners wandering around grocery stores. She might not be the popular girl with a perfect chocolate coating minty snap, but she's definitely the Lizzie McGuire of the cookies. The Samoa is sweet, a little bit quirky, and comes dressed in a pretty purple box, ready to impress. 

And there's so much more to know about this delicious Girl Scout Cookie. It's the story we want to follow from beginning to tasty end. Here's the untold truth of Samoa cookies.

Samoa cookies are not technically the same as Caramel DeLites

Samoa cookies aren't technically the same as Caramel DeLites, but they are essentially the same cookie. Think of fraternal twins that look very much alike, but aren't genetically identical. This is because the Girl Scouts of America have two different bakeries they work with to make their cookies. The cookies sold as Samoas are baked by Little Brownie Bakers while the cookies sold as Caramel DeLites are baked by ABC Bakers. Whichever bakery your local girl scout council works with decides whether you get the vacation vibes Samoa, or the tea companion Caramel DeLite.

While the two cookies look and taste very similar, there are slight differences. According to the investigative taste tests conducted by both the LA Times and Disney Family editors, the Samoa is actually a little bit larger than the Caramel DeLite. The Caramel DeLite also has sharper edges, while the Samoa is a bit rounder. The coconut on the Samoa is toastier, with a heavier layer of caramel to carry it. Meanwhile, the Caramel DeLite has a paler coconut topping and a higher caramel to coconut ratio, but less caramel overall than on the Samoa. As for the all-important chocolate, the Samoa uses darker chocolate, and the piping is less even. Both the Samoa and Caramel DeLite have a shortbread cookie base, but the Caramel DeLite's has a vanilla flavor, and there's more cookie to caramel. Overall, the Samoa is sweeter, but the Caramel DeLite has a stronger coconut flavor and marginally crunchier cookie.

Samoa cookies are from Kentucky or Virginia

Some believe that the Samoa/Caramel DeLite divide is based on geography, and that whatever cookie you grew up with was as much an indication of your home state as what you call a sweetened carbonated beverage. However, this isn't really true.

It is based on geography, but only on a very local level. One town could have Samoas, and the next town over could have Caramel DeLites. This is because there are usually multiple Girl Scout councils in each state, and each council is given the choice of which bakery — ABC or Little Brownie Bakers — to work with. Once a council chooses a bakery, it rarely changes (via Disney Family). After all, Girl Scouts are loyal.

According to Vox, there used to be even more Girl Scout bakeries. While the very first cookies were actually made by Girl Scouts (or their grandmothers), by 1936, the Girl Scouts were relying on commercial bakers for their sweet treats. This eventually grew to a whopping 29 different bakeries by the late 1940s. By the '70s, they whittled the number down to four, and then in the '90s, to the last two standing: Little Brownie and ABC.

So while we'd all love to imagine adorable local girl scouts making our Samoas or Caramel DeLites, the reality is both of these cookies come from headquarters in the South. While ABC (Caramel DeLite) is from Richmond, Virginia, Little Brownie (Samoa) is from Louisville, Kentucky.

The Samoa cookies is a child of the '70s

If there's one thing we can thank kids of the 1970s for, it's for ushering in the magic of caramel, coconut, and chocolate in massed-produced, girl scout cookie form. When Baby Boomers came of girl scouting age in the 1960s, there was a massive boom in both participation and cookie sales, which soon led to the creation of a whole new cookie. As NBC reports, the Samoa was officially introduced in 1976, although Little Brown Bakers claims they were born as early as 1974. Either way, Samoas would quickly become one of the most popular cookies. In 2010, they made up as much as 19 percent of sales, despite being one of the younger cookies.

To illustrate the Samoa's success, there were many, many cookies that followed, but failed to capture America's hearts. Also introduced in the seventies were the Van'chos, a sandwich cookie with a vanilla center and the Forget-Me-Nots, which we're sad to say, we've definitely forgotten (via Little Brown Bakers).

Samoa cookies are actually flower-shaped

Since the 1960s and 1970s were the time of "'flower power," it makes sense that underneath its chewy coconut and caramel layer, the shortbread cookie that makes up the base of the Samoa is actually flower-shaped itself. As seen in an Insider video taken at Little Brownie Bakers, not only does the Samoa have this cute and secret shape, but the space within its perimeter is also slightly indented to hold on to all the toppings it can.

As the baked cookie runs through a caramel waterfall, the indented petal space on each flower-shaped cookie catches extra caramel before the cookie is run through a rainfall of toasted coconut. Next comes the drizzle of chocolate, and then on to packaging.

This special shape created an extra challenge for Bon Appetit's pastry chef Claire Saffitz, whose web series Gourmet Makes tries to replicate popular snacks in a gourmet kitchen with high end ingredients. Instead of the flower shape, Saffitz uses a simple circle, and to recreate the caramel moat, uses the lip of her co-worker's water bottle.

Samoa cookies are one of the highest in sugar

It's no secret that the Samoa is a super sweet cookie, and it does contain a large amount of sugar at five grams a piece for 75 calories (via Healthline). But it's actually not the Girl Scout Cookie highest in sugar. That title goes to the ABC Baker's version of the S'more cookie, which has eight grams of sugar and 90 calories. Interestingly, the Caramel DeLite has more sugar than the Samoa, by a gram, but also has less fat and sugar at three and five grams, respectively. In a way, compared to the Samoa, it is slightly lite-r. But given how good they both tastes, how much do we really care?

Although Girl Scout cookies and their deliciousness should arguably be immune to discussions of nutrition, according to NCB, the bakers started labeling their ingredients and nutritional information after the concern around trans fats in the 2000s. As stated on the Little Brownie Baker website, the good news is that the Samoa is free of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, and trans fat per serving. It also uses ethical, environmentally friendly, RSPO certified palm oil. This makes it a guilty pleasure with a conscience.

Samoa cookies are named after the island of Samoa

If eating Samoas also brings back memories of vacations in tropical getaways, that's likely the intention. According to Mental Floss, the cookie is likely to be named after the island of Samoa in the Pacific Island because of the use of coconut, since both coconut and coconut oil are top exports of the country. 

But they also explain another theory that the name is a play on words, like s'mores. Since they couldn't use s'mores, they invented their own word to sound like "some more of," therefore "Samoas." But in that case, wouldn't it be spelled S'moa?

Thankfully, Charlene Meidlinger, who was assistant executive director of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital (GSCNC), lent her official opinion in a 2002 Q&A with the The Washington Post. When asked where the Samoa got its name, Meidlinger responded, "This wonderful cookie covered with caramel on top and bottom, rolled in toasted coconut and striped with a rich, cocoa coating has to remind you of an exotic island." Although she couldn't confirm that was the origin of the name, she did finish by saying that's what she thought. "Imagine eating a Samoa cookie on a beautiful beach . . . works for me!" That works for us, too, Charlene.

Samoa cookies have also been sold as in Jason

Samoas can cure the munchies, but who knew they could also quench your thirst?

Girl Scout Charlotte Holmberg from Highland Ranch, Colorado decided to spice up the Samoa's traditional packaging to help increase her cookie sales in 2019. While normally, the box has an image of girl scout giving a speech with a quotation such as "Speaking out on issues I care about allows me to inspire others to get involved and make a difference," Holmberg swapped this with a shirtless image of Jason Momoa and sold them under the punny name "Momoas." According to Entertainment Weekly, the idea actually came from her mother, who works in marketing. Together they printed and crafted the Samoas into Momoas.

The decision was instantly lucrative — and controversial. As Today reported, some people were thrilled with the change, while others were concerned about copyright infringement and what message the marketing set for young girls, with some people even calling it sexist. As for Jason Momoa's own thoughts, he joked to ET, "I love Girl Scout cookies, I was waiting to get some free ones," but shockingly added that his favorites are trefoils. Yes, we feel a bit betrayed, too.

Samoas, and the other cookies, teach girl scouts people skills and financial responsibility

In addition to selling delicious cookies like the Samoa, the Girl Scouts are an organization dedicated to teaching girls from the ages of 5 to 18 important life skills. According to the Girl Scouts of America, that includes earning badges, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, outdoor activities, community service, STEM, and leadership. Selling cookies plays a big part of this mission.

As reported to Vox, 100 percent of the profits cookie sales go back into the organization, and more specifically, the local girl scout council, which helps fund camping trips and other programs. The girls themselves even help decide where the money goes and how to divide it fairly and responsibly. For many girls, selling cookies is their first introduction to the business world and accounting.

To further incentivize the financial, marketing, and people skills learned from selling cookies, NBC reports that the Girl Scouts introduced awards for cookie sales, as well as special cookie-specific badges, in the 1990s. These badges include the Cookie CEO, The Cookie Connection, Cookie Biz, Smart Cookie, Cookie Count, and Cookies & Dough.

And it works. More than 50 percent of female entrepreneurs and business owners were once cookie-selling Girls Scouts, according to the Girl Scouts themselves. The majority of women elected to congress in 2018 were also former girl scouts. According to USA Today, other famous alums include Michelle Obama, Gloria Steinem, and Taylor Swift. All thanks in part to Samoas.

Samoa cookies are unjustly the second favorite cookie

It's true, Thin Mints rate as the most purchased and popular Girl Scout cookie. As reported by Business Insider, in 2013 the Girl Scouts sold over 50 million boxes of the chocolate, minty cookie, which came to about 25 percent of all cookie sales. Samoas sold about 38 million boxes, for around 19 percent, making it a close second.

But some might argue that those who love the Samoa have especially high standards and tastes. The Samoa fans are diehard, and include pastry chefs like Bon Appetit's Claire Saffitz, who said, "Samoas are my favorite. As a recipe developer, I wish I'd come up with this shape and decoration for a cookie." Pastry chef Zac Young also waxed poetic about the Samoa in a video for Buzzfeed. "It's like a thing of beauty," says Young in the video, "Toasty, coconutty, hint of suntan lotion in the best possible way." He also says the Samoa is the only cookie he couldn't make better himself, before giving it the highest rating of the cookies.

Even a budding food critic rated the Samoa as her go-to cookie. According to the New York Post, New Jersey Girl Scout Charlotte McCourt broke records by selling over 25,000 boxes of cookies in 2017 with a viral, brutally honest cookie review. In it, she applauded the Samoa's harmony of flavors and called it her favorite cookie (via New York Post). Take that, Thin Mints!

Samoa cookies are also Justin Timberlake's favorite, so... that settles it

The Samoa also boasts some impressive celebrity endorsements. As reported on E! News, Justin Timberlake brought the Thin Mints versus Samoas debate straight to Instagram, asking scrollers to like for Samoas and comment for Thin Mints. As well as showing his appreciation and support for the girl scouts, Timberlake casted his vote for the Samoa, saying "Samoas, I mean, I love coconut... Samoas are my top." One member of his team even chimed in to say, "I truly think Thin Mints are overrated," which was met with some hostile pushback offscreen. This was followed by an online debate with over 722,000 likes in favor of the Samoa and only 14 comments. Make of that what you will.

Other celebrities that are team Samoa include Jimmy Fallon and Mindy Kaling. Jimmy Fallon declared the Samoa his favorite when legendary Girl Scout Katie Francis sold her 100,106th box to him on The Tonight Show (via WTHR). Mindy Kaling was spotted with Caramel DeLites at the Oscars, which she got from Olivia Wilde and Chris Rock's daughter (via

Samoa cookies are big business

Not only do these small cookies pack big flavor, they also come with a big payoff for the Girl Scouts. According to Fortune, Girl Scouts sell around 200 million boxes a year, and usually in just four months. This amounts to a total of $800 million, surpassing even Oreos. The Samoa makes up roughly 19 percent of these sales for about $133 million (via NBC). According to Business Insider, that's over 38 million boxes and over 570 million cookies.

While boxes have fluctuated and changed in price based on location, each box is roughly $3-$5, with 15 cookies per box. It's a sensation how many boxes are sold each year, especially given that they are not available year round. According to Vox, this might actually be the secret to their success. Because they are limited, Americans likely have a greater appreciation and love for the cookie season and its products. Even the big cookie companies can't do anything about it, so they simply wait for "the storm" to pass.

There are countless copycat recipes and Samoa-inspired dishes (even savory)

Unfortunately, sometimes cookie season is still months away, or maybe the freezer stash hasn't lasted as long as planned. For the DIY-savvy, this means trying to find a recipe of Samoas to fill the halo-shaped hole in your heart. Some copycats are pretty simple, such as the one from Food52. Their recipe actually teaches valuable basic baking skills, such as making a shortbread cookie, how to cook caramel, the art of toasting coconut, and tempering chocolate. There are also alternative Samoa recipes, including a vegan version that uses vegan butter and dairy-free chocolate chips. There's also a gluten-free version, for those that don't want to settle for the Toffee-tastic.

In addition to copycat recipes, there are also Samoa-inspired dishes, including everything from cakes, bars, cheesecakes, dessert lasagna, and even savory recipes like fried Samoas Shrimp (which comes from Little Brownie Bakers themselves). In this recipe, Samoas are chopped and tossed with breadcrumbs, coconut flakes, and cayenne. The shrimp is then floured, egged, and dusted in the Samoas mixture before being fried.

There are also year-round grocery store versions of Samoa cookies

For those who need their coconutty, caramel fix and aren't willing to wait or labor for them, there's always the grocery store knock offs available year round. As reported by CNBC, Little Brownie Bakers is not only one of the bakeries used by the Girl Scouts of America, but is also a subsidiary of Keebler (yes, of little elves fame). In addition to making Samoas, Keebler also makes their grocery store alias in the same factories, the Coconut Dream.

Thankfully, due to the unbeatable popularity of Girl Scout Cookies, even production of cheaper, grocery store clones aren't causing any losses. In other words, it's not a big concern, and the Girl Scouts are more interested in expanding their e-commerce and online sales.

Aldi also sells its versions of Girl Scout Cookies. According to Delish, its Samoa lookalikes are sold under the company Benton's and named simply "Caramel Coconut Fudge Cookies." How do these not-Samoas compare? Taste of Home claims that Benton's tastes just like Caramel DeLites, and food writer Alice Laussade writes in The Dallas Observer that "Coconut Dreams are exactly the same as Samoas." But with a lamer name, of course.

There are also spin-off Samoa products like cereal, yogurt, ice cream, and coffee

If eating the Samoa itself is not enough to express your deep love of the shortbread, caramel, coconut, and chocolate magic, there are additional products to purchase during or after cookie selling season to keep you in touch with your favorite Girl Scout Cookie. 

General Mills sells a tasty Samoa cereal called Caramel Crunch, Dunkin has a Caramel DeLite-inspired coffee that's absolutely delicious, and Yoplait even offers a Samoa-inspired coconut caramel yogurt. According to Bustle, there are also Samoa-inspired coffee pods, coffee creamer, ice cream, and tea. Samoa fans, rejoice!

There are even non-edible Samoa products to bring into your home, including an adorable set of Samoa earrings, a Samoa pillow, and a Samoa candle to make your entire home smell like your favorite cookie. It seems there's no end to the Samoa love.