What's Inside Fortune Cookies

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The Disputed Origin of the Fortune Cookie

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The fortune cookie is a familiar sight in Chinese restaurants, in America anyway. The bent shells of cooked dough containing slips of paper with various forms of information have been around since the early 20th Century (although no one can say for sure who invented them).

A typical recipe for making a fortune cookie calls for ingredients butter, flour, oil, sugar, and vanilla. (The original Japanese version used miso instead of butter and sesame instead of vanilla.) Some recipies also include eggs.

Bakers mix the ingredients and pour the resulting batter onto a grill or into circular shapes on a baking sheet and placed in an oven. The bakers then insert the slips of paper while the dough is still hot.

Fortune cookies were made by hand for many years. The invention of a cookie-making machine in the 1980s introduced mass production to the baking process.

In the 21st Century, estimates are that 3 billion fortune cookies are made each year worldwide. Most of those are consumed in the U.S. Wonton Food in Brooklyn, N.Y., makes 4.5 million fortune cookies each day.

Some manufacturers produce their own fortune slips; other manufacturers outsource this element of production. Yang's Fortunes, based in San Francisco, produces 4 million paper fortunes a day.

The sources for the "fortunes" themselves have changed through the years. Some of the first fortunes were sayings from the Christian Bible or from the Chinese philosopher Confucius. Other early sayings came from Aesop's Fables or from Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack.

Fortune cookies today contain some of those same things, along with more modern pithy sayings, jokes, and lottery numbers.

Examples of fortunes include the following:


  • A friend asks only for your time, not your money.
  • If you have something good in your life, don't let it go.


  • Adversity is the parent of virtue.
  • You can make your own happiness.
  • If you don't give something, you will not give anything.
  • He who walks in another's tracks leaves no footprints.
  • Two days from now, tomorrow will be yesterday.
  • He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.
  • A person who throws dirt is actually losing ground.


  • Your shoes will make you happy today.
  • A dream you have will come true
  • Serious trouble will bypass you.
  • 2017 will be an odd year.
  • You will be hungry again in one hour.

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David White