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The Delicious, Contested History of Who Invented the Oreo

The man they call Mr. Oreo isn’t a fraud exactly, but he’s no solo act either

At some point in the midst of my chaotic attempt to deep fry Oreos in an air fryer, I realized that Oreos are perfect as is. There’s a reason why centuries of sugary, snack-based cookie empires have risen and crumbled while Oreo has basically stood still, only added a bit more Stuf™️ to the proceedings. 

To that end, I can’t help but feel that we, as a nation, have forsaken our duty to celebrate the person who brought this divine combination into our world. So tell me, who invented Oreos? And when can we begin building statues of this American hero? 

Search for “Who invented the Oreo?” and you’ll receive a very simple answer: Sam Porcello. However, as with many other seemingly simple aspects of American history, the real answer is a bit more complicated. 

Nabisco’s “Oreo Biscuit,” came out in 1912 and famously went on to become among the most successful, popular cookies in the world. Though it’s important to note that Oreos were “invented” four years after Sunshine Biscuits first put creme filling between two chocolate cookies and called the combination Hydrox. However, when Porcello joined Nabisco in 1959, the company hadn’t yet perfected the ingredients in the Oreo that would ultimately be consumed by billions of consumers across the globe. Porcello started in Nabisco’s R&D Department before becoming the company’s “principal scientist” and earning himself a number of bona fides, including the “world’s foremost expert on cocoa” and “Mr. Oreo.” 

This is where the story goes a little haywire. In short, Porcello may be credited with inventing the Oreo only because it was written in his obituary when he died in 2012. From there, the claim was cemented further and further into fact when people wrote blogs just like this, but didn’t take the time to dig a bit deeper, like yours truly. 

As pointed out by journalist Sarah Joyner, Porcello’s largest contribution to the Oreo cookie is in tweaking the chemical composition of an Oreo’s cream filling so that it’s solid at room temperature, but melts at 98 degrees — i.e., when it’s in your mouth. However, he shares credit on the patent filing for these updated cream recipes with three other food scientists.

What’s more, when reached for comment, Mondelez International, the parent company of Oreo, told Joyner, “It would be inaccurate to say that Sam Porcello invented the modern Oreo creme.” And since Porcello retired in 1993, Oreo’s filling has changed twice more, once in 1997 when it became kosher, and again in 2006, when it became trans-fat free. For what it’s worth, design engineer William Turnier is widely credited with creating the current design on the chocolate cookie.

Unfortunately, the real answer to “who invented the Oreo” doesn’t quite fit the myth of heroic individualism. Despite the easy reality presented by search engines, the Oreo we know and love today wasn’t invented by a single man: It was invented by a team of humble food scientists, working across generations with the sole intent of making the greatest goddamn cookie we could ever stuff into our pink little mouths. 

And if that isn’t the most modern American version of the story, I don’t know what is.