This recipe for the easiest peanut butter cookies you’ll ever make involves one bowl, melted butter, no mixer, and no chilling. It delivers soft, intensely peanut buttery cookies every time!
I have a bone to pick with most peanut butter cookie recipes.
And that bone is: they aren’t peanut buttery enough.
Recently at work we went around the lunch table discussing our favorite foods. As a serious food lover, I am hard-pressed to pick just one food to rank above all others; being forced to choose is pretty unfair.
I remember in childhood I would default to “pizza” as the answer to this question, mostly because I knew that while I did legitimately love pizza, others were assured to love it too. Thus my response would be universally accepted rather than ridiculed, or worse, dismissed as “weird.”
But luckily, adulthood brings with it an acceptance of self and also a certain devil-may-care regard for the opinions of others (well, sometimes at least). So when my turn came around, my answer to the “what’s your favorite food” question was: peanut butter.
Yes. Peanut butter. And I wasn’t the only one who chose it! My 10-year-old self would be proud.
Peanut butter may seem like a very boring choice, but let me count the ways that I love it and you’ll see why. It started, as I imagine for most people, with PB&Js in childhood.
Actually, it started when my dad would mix peanut butter and honey together in a small bowl and then spread it on toast for me. Aren’t childhood memories so oddly specific sometimes? It was true heaven in a bite.
Then later, for after-school snacks, my mom would spread PB on banana slices, and that began my drive to put it on everything.
I could (and do) eat the stuff every day and never get bored of it. I love it cold, warm, natural, conventional, creamy, chunky. I love it spread on toast, banana bread, waffles, and pancakes, mixed into my oatmeal, drizzled on top of an açaí bowl or pretty much any fruit, and most recently, I’ve taken to eating it straight up in a bowl topped with honey, blueberries, and hemp seeds.
Also, I’m of the opinion that if you haven’t made a PB&J with toast instead of plain bread, you haven’t lived. Trust me on this one.
All of this is to say that when I eat a peanut butter cookie rather than just going straight for the jar of real stuff, it better knock my socks off. I’m talking intense, practically fudgy peanut butter flavor with deep, slightly salted caramel notes and a dense chew. The bakery-style kind, where peanut butter residue remains on your fingers long after the cookie is gone.
You know the ones I mean.
Unfortunately, most peanut butter cookie recipes just don’t live up to that standard. They can be dry, crumbly, too crispy, too sweet, or worst of all, NOT peanut buttery.
Most, if not all of them, rely on the creaming of butter and sugar to create crispness and lightness in the cookie. Usually the peanut butter is added during the creaming process, and then the finished dough is chilled to prevent spreading before the scooping and rolling and shaping can commence.
Again I find myself asking: why does this have to be so complicated?
Conventional baking wisdom suggests that the creaming and chilling method is the best for cookie baking, but I have some issues with it. I detailed these reasons in my post containing the recipe for the easiest chocolate chip cookies, which has become the most popular recipe on this site by far.
If you’re like me (and by virtue of your reading this post, I assume that you are) you want less steps and complication in your recipes, not more. You want excellent baked goods that don’t skimp on flavor or texture, but that won’t take all night to make.
I’m here to deliver.
Elements of The Easiest Peanut Butter Cookies
Melted butter. In addition to my issues with an overcomplicated process, I realized that the common thread in my unfortunate experiences with homemade peanut butter cookies was a lack of density, or fudge factor, in the cookies. Usually, in fact, they are on the dry side. How could I go about fixing that?
As so many of my recipes do, it comes back to this: melted butter.
Melted butter makes the mixing process a lot less complicated. If we don’t need to cream room temperature butter and sugar, then we don’t need a mixer at all. And if we’re not using a mixer, we don’t whip as much air into the batter, and as a result we get the denser texture we want for these peanut butter cookies.
It also adds moisture. Added moisture equals a heavier, denser cookie. And that’s exactly what we want when it comes to peanut butter cookies.
One bowl. If you have a large microwave-safe bowl (I use glass), the entire recipe can be made in one bowl.
You start by melting the butter and peanut butter together in the microwave. Then stir in brown sugar, followed by the egg, then the vanilla, salt, and baking soda.
Yes, I want you to stir in the salt and baking soda before the flour, not with it. This is because we want them to be fully incorporated and evenly distributed throughout the wet mixture before adding the flour. Because we’re doing this all in one bowl, we don’t want to run the risk of unmixed pockets of baking soda or salt in the mixture. That would be gross.
Lastly, the flour is stirred in until a cohesive dough forms. The dough becomes pretty stiff once all the flour is mixed in. You may have to turn it over a few times with a spatula or even your hands to get it to come together, but it will.
No chilling. Yes, you can use this dough immediately.
Once the flour is mixed in, simply scoop the dough using a tablespoon cookie scoop (I use this one), roll between your hands if desired to create a smooth ball, then press down in a hashtag pattern with a fork.
Sprinkle with some sugar over the top if you want. 10 minutes later, you will have the best peanut butter cookies ever.
Smaller yield. This recipe makes about 20 cookies in total. I find this is the perfect amount of cookies to make for a party, or just for yourself on a Tuesday. The point is, you won’t be spending an hour pulling cookie sheets in and out of the oven.
And whether you live in a small apartment with limited counter space like me, or you have all the kitchen space in the world, I think we can agree that less time spent laboring over cookies and more time spent eating them is a good thing.
What type of peanut butter to use in peanut butter cookies?
A frequent question when baking with peanut butter is which type to use. Most recipes will advise you to use conventional peanut butter. Well, I have made this recipe with both “natural” (i.e., just peanuts and salt) and “conventional” (i.e., shelf stable) peanut butter, and I only noticed a slight difference.
The cookies made with natural peanut butter had a bit of a grainier, sandier texture than the cookies made with conventional peanut butter. They also crumbled a bit more. I think this is because conventional peanut butters contain added sugar and oils (either hydrogenated vegetable oil or palm oil) to make them shelf stable. This in turn adds a bit more fat/sugar and therefore moisture to the cookies, helps them hold together, and gives them a soft texture.
The results, however, were not so different that I would clearly recommend one kind over the other. Both produced delicious, soft peanut butter cookies. So all of this is to say that you should use whichever kind is your favorite!
I hope you love this recipe for the easiest peanut butter cookies. We certainly haven’t been able to keep them around for longer than a few hours around here.
The Easiest Peanut Butter Cookies
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup peanut butter*
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour**
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter and peanut butter together (this takes about 45 seconds to 1 minute in my microwave). Stir until there is one homogenous melted butter-peanut butter mixture, then whisk in brown sugar. My whisk of choice is actually a fork, but a normal whisk works too.
- Whisk in egg and vanilla until mixture is well-combined. Add the salt and baking soda, and whisk until fully incorporated.
- Add the flour and stir with a fork or spatula until a fairly stiff dough is formed. You may need to put in some elbow grease with the spatula or your hands to get it to come together, but it will.
- Scoop dough using a tablespoon cookie scoop, then roll it between your palms to create a smooth dough ball. Place on the cookie sheet then press down gently using the tines of a fork to form a criss-cross or hashtag pattern. Repeat with remaining cookie dough balls, spacing 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Sprinkle granulated sugar over the cookies before baking if desired.
- Bake for 10 minutes, until the cookies are slightly puffed and smelling amazing. Enjoy!