Do you have peanut butter, maple syrup, coconut flour, salt, and chocolate? Then you have everything you need to make these simple yet decadent no-bake peanut butter bars, made without powdered sugar and without graham cracker crumbs! They’re gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and all-around awesome.
I feel like I say this a lot when I introduce a new recipe, but I’m saying it again: this recipe has been months in the making.
Through a combination of my own (sometimes disabling) perfectionism and life distractions happening at an ever-increasing pace, this recipe has been picked up and put down no less than 6 times in the past 6 months.
When you see how simple the ingredients are, you may wonder how the heck it could’ve taken so long to figure out. The truth is, it only took about 2 tries to figure it out, and after that I just tinkered around the edges whenever I had a fresh jar of peanut butter and didn’t feel like doing whatever I was supposed to be doing at that time.
Procrastibaking is real.
Here’s the deal. We’re all spending a lot of time at home right now, and some people are spending it doing very impressive things like baking sourdough bread or cinnamon rolls. Cool, to be sure. But if you’re sitting here on a Monday night and wondering whether you’re up to that kind of task, I have another option for you.
I’m of the opinion that right now, we should do and make things that help us feel joyful, or at least comforted. Maybe that involves nurturing some wizardry of flour and water into bubbly life over a week’s time, but maybe it also involves simply stirring together some peanut butter with a couple other ingredients, covering it with chocolate and sea salt, throwing it in the freezer for 30 minutes, and eating it in chunks with your hands and CALLING IT A DAY.
But maybe that’s just me.
If you happen to be of the same mind, these no-bake peanut butter bars are going to rock your world. Listen, there are a lot of SUPER delicious, but SUPER unhealthy no-bake peanut butter bar recipes out there. Like, let’s take peanut butter and chocolate, two delicious but already highly caloric foods, and add a whole stick of butter and 2 cups of powdered sugar and graham crackers to them. Why not?
I guess there’s a time and place for that kind of recipe, but personally, if I’m already just sitting in various places around my apartment all day, I’d rather not add to my problems by ingesting a sugar bomb.
So! Hence the tinkering. I wanted a no-bake peanut butter bar recipe that delivered on that amazing salty-sweet peanut butter flavor and dense texture we all love in a Reese’s, but didn’t blow the sugar bank.
There are surprisingly few options out there in the internet world. A google search for “healthy no-bake peanut butter bars” yielded a bunch of peanut butter oat bar recipes, which, while delicious I’m sure, was not what I was looking for.
I wanted the full-blown, “this tastes like a way better version of a Reese’s” bars that I’ve had before, but without all the…well…junk. If you want something done right, better do it yourself.
I remembered that coconut flour is a particularly absorbent flour, and doesn’t need to be cooked like wheat flour does. It also happens to have a ton of fiber and other such good things. I don’t often use coconut flour in my baking because it’s a tricky ingredient, but it’s widely available and easy to procure, especially in a time where people have bought out the wheat flour section in preparation for the aforementioned sourdough adventures.
Yes, absorbent coconut flour combined with a bit of maple syrup for sweetness, vanilla for flavor, salt (if needed) and creamy, natural peanut butter. After a couple iterations messing with the ratios, I got the batter to a texture matching the sugar-laden treats of old.
All that remained was to add a simple mixture of melted chocolate and a little more peanut butter to help it firm up into a crackable shell on top of the bars. I used dark chocolate instead of the traditional milk chocolate, because we’re grownups here (most of the time). Also I just really like dark chocolate. If you like a different kind of chocolate, use that!
And a little flaky sea salt never hurt anyone, either.
Notes for No-Bake Peanut Butter Bar Success:
Use natural peanut butter. The kind with one ingredient on the label: peanuts (ok, and salt if you like). That’s what I tested in this recipe, using both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods store brands. Both worked great! Any brand that is just peanuts and salt will do. I haven’t tested this using conventional, shelf-stable peanut butter so I can’t guarantee the same results. Also, room temperature peanut butter is best for mixing. I usually just open a fresh jar to make this recipe because it uses most of a standard 16 oz jar.
Coconut flour subs: I haven’t tested any substitutions for the coconut flour and recommend using it, but I think almond flour or oat flour might work as well. You may need to add more than the 1/2 cup called for – just keep adding until a stiff batter is formed. It should be a little soft but mostly hold its shape.
Line the pan. You can use parchment or wax paper, or even foil. It makes it MUCH easier to get the bars out of the pan once they’re chilled. Just grab the paper and lift!
Make sure to chill long enough. If you try to cut these peanut butter bars before they’re completely cold, they’ll fall apart. Not recommended. For impatient people like myself I recommend using the freezer. That way you only have to wait half an hour to dig in! Store the bars in the fridge or freezer to maintain their shape. I love them frozen.
These no-bake peanut butter bars are intensely peanut buttery, rich, and filling. The dark chocolate is the perfect sweet offset to the dense peanut butter layer. They’re a substantial dessert, and I really like that about them. Plus, they take a sum total of 15 minutes of work, and I REALLY like that about them.
If the idea of dessert with less work appeals to you right now, I have some blogger friends who are also sharing no-bake desserts today, and invite you to check out their creations below!
No Bake Pistachio Pie from Pies and Tacos
No Bake Strawberry Cheesecake from Sugar Salt Magic
No Bake Cheesecake Bars from Love in My Oven
Lemon Raspberry Icebox Cake from This Celebrated Life
Butterfinger Pie from The Itsy-Bitsy Kitchen
As always, if you try this recipe, please let me know either by leaving a comment here or tagging me on Instagram @katiebirdbakes. I love seeing your creations! Stay well.
No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars
For the Peanut Butter Layer
- 1 1/2 cups creamy natural peanut butter (202g) at room temperature
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (104g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (if your peanut butter is salted, omit this)
- 1/2 cup coconut flour (64g; do not pack it)
For the Chocolate Layer
- 4 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate (113g)
- 2 Tablespoons creamy natural peanut butter (33g)
- Flaky sea salt (optional, for sprinkling)
- In a large bowl, whisk together peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt (if using) until well-combined. Stir in the coconut flour until a stiff batter forms.
- Line an 8×8 inch square pan with parchment or wax paper. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.
- In a medium bowl, melt the chocolate and peanut butter together in 30-second increments in the microwave, stirring in between, until melted and smooth.
- Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the peanut butter batter and spread evenly to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle flaky salt over top if desired.
- Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes, or in the fridge for 2 hours. Cut into bars (a large chef's knife works best for this) and serve!