You set down your chopsticks and push back from the table, leaving a clean plate that used to be filled with sesame chicken, lo mein, and potstickers. Your belly may be full of Chinese food, but there’s just a little room left for dessert. Time to break open a fortune cookie!

Fortune cookies are uniquely-shaped, crisp cookies made from a simple recipe of flour, sugar, oil and either vanilla or almond flavoring. They are called fortune cookies, because each cookie breaks open to reveal a small slip of paper — a “fortune” — with a prediction for the future, a wise saying, a Chinese word or phrase with its translation, or even a list of lucky numbers.

Even though fortune cookies can be found in nearly every Chinese restaurant in America, you won’t find them very often in China! In fact, fortune cookies were not invented by the Chinese.

Exactly who invented the fortune cookie and when is the subject of some debate. Some people claim Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese immigrant from San Francisco, first served fortune cookies in the late 1890s or early 1900s. This was a way of saying “thank you” to visitors to the famous Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, which he designed.

Others claim the fortune cookie was invented in 1918 by David Jung, a Chinese immigrant living in Los Angeles who founded the Hong Kong Noodle Company. Jung was worried about the homeless people living on the streets near his shop. He created fortune cookies and passed them out for free. Each cookie contained a small slip of paper with an inspirational Bible verse.

Some Japanese people believe fortune cookies got their start as early as the 19th century in Kyoto, Japan. Cracker-like cookies — called tsujiura senbei — were popular in Kyoto. They were larger and darker than modern fortune cookies, but they did contain a fortune tucked into the bend of the cookie.

Regardless of their exact origin, fortune cookies became very popular in the United States after World War II. Perhaps because desserts were not traditionally part of Chinese cuisine, Americans enjoyed ending a Chinese meal with fortune cookies that seemed familiar, yet exotic.

At first, fortune cookies were made by hand using chopsticks. Today, they are mass-produced by special machines. The world’s largest fortune cookie maker — Wonton Food Inc. — is located in Long Island City, New York. It ships over 60 million fortune cookies every month!

Around the world, more than three billion fortune cookies are made every year. Isn’t that incredible? Just do the math. If there are that many fortune cookies, how many meals are served in Chinese restaurants each year? It must be billions!

As for predicting the future, no, fortune cookies don’t have special powers of foresight. The fortune cookie you open at a Chinese restaurant came into your hands randomly. If it happens to contain a fortune that comes true, it’s just coincidence.

Besides, many fortunes don’t even predict the future. Instead, they may offer simple advice that may or may not be helpful. If you’re looking for insight into your future, you probably don’t want to place too much importance on a tiny slip of paper from a mass-produced cookie!

You might, however, want to use the “lucky numbers” sometimes listed in fortune cookies if you play the lottery. In March 2005, over 100 people claimed second-place prizes in the Powerball lottery, because they had all used the same set of lucky numbers contained in a batch of fortune cookies!

128 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (77 votes, avg. 4.25 out of 5)
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  1. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Thanks for the video. It was really cool. I wonder why the invisible vase vanished when the kid ate his fortune cookie. I didn’t know that fortune cookies weren’t made by the Chinese.

    Sincerely,
    Steven

    • Hello, Steven! Thanks so much for leaving us this SUPER comment! We’re glad you thought the video for this Wonder was cool and that you learned a new, interesting fact about fortune cookies! :-)

  2. Our class enjoyed learning about fortune cookies today. We enjoy learning about why they are made. We learned that fortune cookies are not in China. Why are fortune cookies labeled, “Made in China?”

    • That’s a GREAT question, Ramey! LOTS of foods and products that had their beginnings in America (or other countries) are manufactured in China! It’s just a cool coincidence that some of the yummy fortune cookies served at Chinese restaurants throughout America were actually manufactured in China (even though they were invented by a Japanese-American man in California!). Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Happy Tuesday, Kamryn! Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis today and sharing your comment with us! :-)

    • Thanks so much for sharing what you think about fortune cookies, Christina! We appreciate your comment today! :-)

      • We are sorry to hear that you don’t like fortune cookies, Morgan. We like to WONDER about our fortune when we eat them in Wonderopolis. What was the best fortune you got in a cookie?

  3. Thanks Wonderopolis for this awesome video! This is 1 reason I love Chinese food because you get fortune cookies even though the fortunes come true. Whoever made them if they came for Japan or China (I Don’t Care) I love them anyways. THANKS AGAIN WONDEROPOLIS:)

    • We really like fortune cookies, too, Madalynn! You get a sweet treat at the end of a yummy meal AND something to think about! They are food for your stomach AND for your brain…that’s COOL! Thanks for visiting today’s Wonder and leaving us this SUPER comment! :-)

  4. As for predicting the future, no, fortune cookies don’t have special powers of foresight. The fortune cookie you open at a Chinese restaurant came into your hands randomly. If it happens to contain a fortune that comes true, it’s just coincidence.Thank you wonderopolis for giving us this information!!!!!

    • We like how you worded your explanation of whether fortune cookies can predict the future or not, Wonder Friend LaLa! Thanks for sharing your comment with everyone in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  5. I like cookies. Do you think by any chance that you can do one on wolves? I think that will be interesting.

    • Thanks for checking out today’s Wonder, Ashley! LOTS of Wonder Friends have been asking for a Wonder about wolves lately! We hear you guys and want you to know we think that is a GREAT idea! Look for a Wonder of the Day® about wolves in the future! :-)

  6. I rated this wonder of the day 3 stars. I did this because it wasn’t that cool, almost everybody knows that fortune cookies don’t tell the future.

    • Thanks for sharing why you rated this Wonder with “3 stars,” Callie! Please understand that we weren’t trying to trick anyone with the title of today’s Wonder of the Day®. Each Wonder’s title is based on something that some WONDERful Wonder Friend (like you!) has WONDERed about! Lots of people wonder if fortune cookies can REALLY predict the future, so we made a Wonder about it! :-)

  7. Great website! I love to come here and see what the question of the day is. Wonderopolis is a great educational website, hope you guys continue to have good success. This website is awesome, keep it up! Please don’t respond, I’ll get scared.

    • Thanks for leaving us such a nice comment, Kaitlyn! We like hearing that you thought the video for today’s Wonder was funny and that you like fortune cookies (we do, too!)! :-)

    • That ROCKS, Caroline! It sounds like you are a super lucky person! Thanks for being such a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Hi, Kimberly! That’s a really awesome question! Some people believe fortune cookies tell the future, but some people don’t. If someone happens to get a fortune inside his or her fortune cookie, and that fortune just happens to come true, then that person probably believes that fortune cookies CAN tell the future! :-)

  8. Hi wonderopolis, when I get a fortune cookie, they are about love, which is so weird and I just can’t believe it can tell the future. I think so, I don’t know.

    • Hello, “Lazy Weird n Koool!” Welcome to Wonderopolis! We think you might know one of our Wonder Friends, Aleia! She’s super cool and always leaves us AWESOME comments! We’re glad you BOTH stopped by today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  9. I don’t really think that fortune cookies tell the future because one said that I would rise above all others and I didn’t, but if other people think that they do tell the future, I respect that.

  10. I didn’t know that fortune cookies didn’t come from China. It was really interesting to know what people thought about where fortune cookies came from and who invented them. Do you think you can do a wonder on the Galapagos Islands?

  11. Hey Wonderopolis! Thanks VERY much about the videos of wolves. I really enjoyed them! I love this website so much! I think I might explode!!!! :)

    • We are REALLY excited to learn that you love exploring Wonderopolis so much, Grace! Just promise to keep visiting us and learning FUN new things, OK? :-)

    • You’re right, Eric! We’re curious about what that might have to do with tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®! We can’t wait to visit Wonderopolis again in the morning to find out! :-)

    • Well, that’s TWO Wonder Friends who would like to see a future Wonder about surfing…we will have to see what we can do! We think it’s an AWESOME idea! :-)

  12. I was part of Mrs. Barthelmes’ class, and I thought it was very helpful when you made a link to the other website. I really enjoyed the wonder of the day. Thank you very much!

    • Hello, Abrianna! Thanks so much for letting us know you are in Mrs. Barthelmes’ class! We think you and your classmates are SUPER lucky to get to WONDER about cool stuff with Mr. P., too! We think he ROCKS! :-)

  13. Thank you SO MUCH for leaving us awesome comments today, Tyler, Selina and Zoe! We really appreciate hearing your views about fortune cookies! :-)

  14. We think you guys ROCK, Camden and Abhinav! Thank you for sharing your comments with everyone in Wonderopolis! :-)

  15. I really liked this wonder. It reminded me of the wonder Which foods bring good luck?. It was the first wonder I checked out on my iPod touch. I really find your website fun! I was wondering if you could do a wonder on time differences. That really confused me today at school. I was just sitting there talking about that topic and I really and truly did not know what it was!!

  16. Everyone knows it’s just a coincidence if you get a fortune and it happens! I actually like the cookies! My classmate thinks that when they started making them there was no fortune and they tasted bad so then they put a fortune inside of it so people would buy the cookie! Cool, right?!

    • Your classmate’s thinking about the history of fortune cookies is cool, Mak! Thanks for sharing your comment with us and THANK YOU for visiting this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  17. I don’t think fortune cookies are going to tell about the future because I had one and it didn’t come true. I have a question how many bones does a person have in their body?

  18. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool wonder! No fortune cookies can’t predict the future. They are printed with random statements on them. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about bugs.
    XOXOXOXOXO,
    Paige ;)

    • Thanks for sharing what you think about fortune cookies predicting the future, Paige! We can always count on you to share awesome comments with us…you are a SUPER Wonder Friend! :-)

    • We’re SO VERY GLAD to hear that you love Wonderopolis, Kaya! Thanks for being such a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

  19. I wish fortune cookies could tell the future, then I could get one that says “You will get a billion dollars taxes payed.”

    • That would be a REALLY great fortune cookie to get, we agree, Ellen! Thank you for leaving us this super comment today! :-)

    • Hello, Wonder Friend Class! Some people believe that fortune cookies can predict the future, and some people believe that they can’t. We’re sorry your fortune didn’t come true! Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you liked the fortune cookie video, Elle and Michelle! We’re happy to hear that! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT Wonder, Rida, and it would make a FABULOUS future Wonder of the Day®! Thanks so much for sharing it with us! :-)

  20. I wish they gave us a another one, because now I’m hungry and they should give 50 billion dollars to us. And poor people.
    And I like the video.

    • Hello, Warrior! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about fortune cookies! We appreciate your comment! :-)

  21. Very nice article! I am delivering an informational speech on the history of the fortune cookie and I have to submit my speech outline along with a MLA works cited page and I need the name of the author for this article. If its not to much trouble could I have the name of the author?

    • Hi, Tristan! We’re super excited that you used Wonderopolis as a reference for your speech…that’s so COOL! We’re not positive, but we think you can just list “Wonderopolis” as the author, because lots of people work to make each Wonder of the Day® the best it can be for our Wonder Friends! You should check with your teacher first, though! :-)

  22. I love the idea of you guys wondering if fortune cookies can predict the future, since my grandma was Vietnamese, she would always give me fortune cookies.

    • What a special memory about your grandma and fortune cookies, Felix! Thanks for sharing it with everyone in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  23. Hey there Wonderopolis! :)
    This is a great wonder on fortune cookies. I learned that the fortune cookie was made around the 1900′s and that fortune cookies used to be made by hand using chopsticks. I also learned two new words. They are “distinctly” and “foresight”. I didn’t know that a company could make 60 million fortune cookies a month. I was wondering, can you get fortune cookies anywhere else other than a Chinese restaurant? Anyways, thanks for this great wonder. Wonderopolis is WONDERful!! :)

    • What an AWESOME comment you left for us today, Team Unger 7! We like the facts and vocabulary words you learned! We have seen fortune cookies in the Asian foods section of the grocery store, and we know you can also purchase them online. Once in a while, you might be able to find some in a bakery around your town, but that’s a special treat! Did you know that there are companies that make “specialty” fortune cookies? They make fortune cookies that are super-sized, chocolate-dipped, sprinkled, neon-colored…the possibilities are endless! Some companies even let you craft your own special messages for the fortunes inside! :-)

    • We think that’s really COOL, “Unknown!” Thank you for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®! You can always find Wonder Friends here in Wonderopolis, too! We’re glad you stopped by today! :-)

    • We’ve had a few fortune cookies before that weren’t as tasty as some of the others we’ve tried, Isaac! We guess whether a fortune cookie is “decent” depends on the individual cookie and what the individual Wonder Friend who’s eating it thinks about it! :-)

  24. Can you please retype the link to make the fortune cookies because the link you put up isn’t working. Thanks!

    • Hi there DD, we are so glad you are WONDERing about fortunes with us today! ALthough it would be SUPER cool to predict the future, fortune cookies offer advice and perhaps make you think. Sometimes, what you find in your fortune cookie may actually be connected to something happening in your life at the time. We are so glad you are doing some WONDERing of your own– we can’t wait to see you soon! :)

    • Hey there, Aarti! We love to Wonder about the future, but we can’t predict it! We sure are glad you’re WONDERing with us today! :)

  25. Ok, those people in those restaurants are wizards. Every time I get a fortune cookie, it says something that in every way describes me. They are wizards! :P

    • WOW, what a coincidence! Or perhaps it’s actually your fortune, Tyler! Thanks for sharing your cool comment with us! :)

    • Hey Jennifer! We think fortune cookies are cool too! Can you imagine making them by hand with chopsticks? That would be fun to try! Thanks!! :)

    • Hey Basketball Lover, we’re sorry to hear that you’re having technical difficulties with our Wonder video. Perhaps you can view it on another computer at a different time, or you can visit the site directly: http://vimeo.com/22110707# :)

  26. I don’t think fortune cookies actually tell your future, but they are fun! I like the video. My little sister once got one that said:
    “You will live a life of adventure and destiny”
    Weird!

    • Hey Ice Cream Lover, thanks for sharing your comment with us! While fortune cookies may not predict our future, we are glad to hear that you still like reading them! They make us smile, too! We hope you and your sister live a life of adventure! :)

    • You’ll have to decide that for yourself, Wonder Friend Aiden! It’s awesome to read our fortunes that come in the cookies; we Wonder if any of yours have come true? :)

    • Thanks for telling us about one of your favorite cuisines, Abby! We are always looking for awesome new videos and Wonder ideas, so thank you for sharing yours! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Lauryn! We’re so glad you’ve been WONDERing with us today! We Wonder, have you found your fortune in one of your cookies? :)

    • We’re glad this Wonder video made you chuckle, Lucy! We Wonder if you have ever received a fortune cookie after a meal? Was the fortune right? :)

  27. It is kind of an obvious answer would you trust a cookie with your money? That’s kind of the same thing with this question.

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Mia! We are glad you enjoy fortune cookies, but you don’t take them seriously! :)

  28. We thought your video was cool. But we’ve been wondering when people get famous how do other people hear about that person?

    • Hi, Emily and Olivia! We are glad to have you WONDERing with us today! We think the media has a lot to do with keeping a person in the spotlight. Sometimes social media can boost a person to stardom. We have a Wonder that may help explain this a little better. It is WONDER #754: What Does It Mean To Go Viral? Check it out, Wonder Friends! Enjoy! :-)

  29. Thanks for writing that. I have learned a lot. I always had the debate with myself if the fortune in a fortune cookie were true or not. Thanks for clearing that up! Please write back soccer girl 5
    P.S. can you do a WONDER about cats???

  30. THOUGHT: I think fortune cookies don’t predict your future.

    CONNECTION: I had a fortune and it said “you will be on top of the world”. That didn’t happen. That’s why I think they aren’t true.

    PREDICTION: I predict that tomorrow’s wonder will be about the groundhog.

    • You never know, Destiny. You may be on top of the world someday! :-) Thanks for WONDERing with us today! Keep WONDERing!

  31. That video was SUPER FUNNY! Is it true that if a fortune does come true, it won’t like stop, or it won’t happen anymore? I really enjoyed WONDERing.

    • WONDERful, Morgan! We are so glad that you enjoyed this Wonder! You may have to test out your theory about fortunes, and let us know what you discover. Thanks for WONDERing with us! :-)

  32. One day my friend Gia told me my worst enemy liked me. Me and my other friend, Zoe where wondering why? Then, that night I had a fortune cookie and this is what it said:

    You are admired for your adventurous ways.
    That was the answer to our problem!Thanks.

    (P.S my worst enemy is Luke)

    • Wow, Morgan! So, are you going to try to be less adventurous from now on? ;-) Thanks for sharing this with us today, Wonder Friend!

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Can fortune cookies predict the future?
  • Who invented the fortune cookie?
  • How many fortune cookies are produced every year?

Wonder Gallery

fortune-cookie_shutterstock_1875059dreamstime_xl_13938536 customdreamstime_xl_13319526 customdreamstime_xl_2756242 customVimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready for a glimpse into your future? We predict you will have tons of fun with family and friends trying one or more of these fun fortune cookie activities:

  • As you learned in today’s Wonder of the Day, fortune cookies have more than just predictions about the future. Many contain advice or funny sayings. Is it good advice? Well, you’ll just have to decide for yourself. It’s always best to consider the source of any advice you get. A random, anonymous fortune cookie doesn’t know you, so its advice may or may not apply to you. Of course, there are some universal sayings that might apply to everyone. If you’re curious about what types of advice you might get from a fortune cookie, have fun reading through these fortune cookie sayings online!
  • Do you have predictions of your own about the future? Do you have good advice that others need to hear? Maybe you should start writing down the things that come you’re your mind, so you can share them with others. If you start collecting your thoughts on little slips of paper, you’re going to need some place to put them. Do you think you can make a special box for your fortunes with a few sheets of paper? Click over to learn how to make your own origami fortune cookie box!
  • Have you ever had a friend who needed some help? Perhaps he or she needs some good advice. Maybe you see their actions and can predict where those actions will lead them. But you might be a little hesitant to offer unsolicited advice. How might you be able to get your thoughts across to them in a non-confrontational way? Why not put them in a fortune cookie? Jump online to learn how to bake your own fortune cookies! Invite your friend to a Chinese meal and serve your homemade fortune cookie as dessert. Then be prepared to discuss the prediction or advice you slipped into your cookie!

Still Wondering

Fortune cookies may not have been invented in China, but they’re certainly popular in Chinese restaurants. Want to learn more about some of the symbolism you’re likely to see in Chinese restaurants? Check out EDSITEment!’s Animals of the Chinese Zodiac lesson to learn about the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.

 

Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

Will it be six more weeks of winter or an early spring? Tune in tomorrow to meet the furry forecaster.  

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