Nova Scotia Oatcakes

Nova Scotia oatcake squares

The Spruce Eats / Molly Watson

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 25 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Yield: 16 oatcakes
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
186 Calories
10g Fat
21g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 186
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 13%
Saturated Fat 4g 20%
Cholesterol 5mg 2%
Sodium 188mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 8%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 14mg 1%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 57mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Nova Scotia-style oatcakes are popular throughout the province but especially beloved in Cape Breton. While they are beloved, oatcakes aren't necessarily presented as anything special. In fact, they are often sold just stacked on plastic-wrapped trays in grocery store bakeries. 

The taste of oatcakes is unique. They have a magical flavor that is sweet, but not too sweet, and a bit salty. Part dessert, but mainly a snack, oatcakes are cookie-like but sort of cracker-like too—very much like hobnob biscuits. These oatcakes are perfect with a cup of tea or a cup of coffee. Serve them as a simple dessert or grab them as an on-the-go breakfast. They are flexible little numbers that can be left plain, topped with butter or honey, or enjoyed with sliced cheese or fruits such as apples and pears.


  • 2 cups rolled oats

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 3/4 cup shortening, or unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup boiling water

Steps to Make It

  1. Preheat an oven to 375 F. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the shortening or butter and use 2 knives, a large fork, or your fingers to work the fat into the dry ingredients.

  2. Pour in the hot water and stir until everything comes together into a thick, sticky dough.

  3. You can roll the dough out on a well-floured surface, cut it into shapes, and set them on a large baking sheet. Or keep things simple and simply press the dough into an even 1/4-inch layer on a baking sheet. Score this large "cake" into smaller pieces: Use a knife to cut the dough into squares or rectangles or whatever shapes you like, but don't bother to separate the pieces; the pieces will bake back together but be easy to cut or break along that original cut line. 

  4. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. You can take them out now for chewier oatcakes or reduce the oven temperature to 325 F and bake until lightly browned, about 10 more minutes, for crisper oatcakes.

  5. When they have finished baking, if you've cut them into shapes, let them cool; if you've scored them, cut them apart while warm so they cool into squares (or rectangles or triangles or whatever you've cut them into).

  6. Serve and enjoy.

Recipe Variations

While they are delicious as is, there are a number of add-ins that work with oatcakes.

  • Add 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate, or drizzle melted chocolate on top as they cool.
  • Mix in 1/2 cup of chopped nuts, dried fruit, or seeds such as pumpkins, sesame, or sunflower.
  • Give oatcakes some spice with ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or a warming spice blend. About 1/2 to 1 teaspoon should do.

How to Store and Freeze Oatcakes

Keep the oatcakes stored in an airtight container for up to a week or even two, depending on the heat and humidity in your kitchen. They also freeze well for up to three months if you want to make a large batch. Separate layers with parchment or foil, then wrap tightly with foil before placing them in a freezer-safe bag or container. Let them thaw at room temperature.

Can Oatcakes Be Made With Quick Oats?

This recipe works best with rolled oats (also called old-fashioned oats). Quick and instant oats are cut smaller and steamed longer, which allows them to cook more quickly. In a pinch, you could try quick oats in oatcakes. The flavor would be similar, but the texture will be considerably different.

What's the Difference Between Scottish and Nova Scotia Oatcakes?

Oatcakes have Scottish origins, and many settlers in Nova Scotia emigrated from Scotland. It is only natural that they brought a favorite snack with them. There are a few differences between the two styles of oatcakes. The most noticeable is the shape: In Scotland, they're often round, while squares or rectangles are favored in Nova Scotia. Scottish oatcakes also prefer Scottish oatmeal or steel-cut oats for a finer texture and use little or no sugar. Nova Scotia-style oatcakes prefer rolled oats and are sweeter.

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