Chocolate. Peanut butter. No-bake cookies. And this is not just the recipe (because you can find it everywhere). But the simple technique for a perfect batch every time. For no-bake cookies without peanut butter, you can easily replace it with an alternative nut or seed butter. These can't-eat-just-one morsels scream holiday cheer and summer pool party. But are absolutely divine any time of year.
Fudgy, melt-in-your-mouth, speckled-with-oatmeal, and loaded-with-peanut butter, no-bake cookies are synonymous with bake sales, summer barbecues, and the holidays. The simple drop cookies are a crowd-pleasing treat. And perfect for occasions that demand dessert when time is of the essence.
No matter where you look, most recipes for no-bake cookies match up right down to the last teaspoon. But it will only get you so far. And can lead to chocolate rocks or a syrupy mess that doesn't set. So in the name of one-too-many failed batches, here's my family's favorite recipe and the incredibly simple step for perfectly-set cookies.
No-bake cookies call for seven pantry staples. And you can certainly substitute any milk, salted butter, or brown or coconut sugar for its listed counterpart.
- Cocoa powder
- Granulated sugar
- Whole milk
- Butter, unsalted
- Peanut butter
- Old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
- Vanilla extract
A note on the oats. The most popular oats for no-bake cookies are the quick-cooking ones. Because they are primed to absorb moisture, the cookies will dry out and set faster. I use quick-cooking and old-fashioned oats and enjoy both results. When the oats I have on hand are old-fashioned, I end up adding about a cup more to reach the right consistency.
Buying peanut butter. I typically buy natural, unsweetened peanut butter without added sugar. But any peanut butter works, including crunchy. Depending on the additives in your peanut butter, the mixture may thicken more or less, and cool a bit chewier.
A candy or meat thermometer is your secret weapon for foolproof no-bake cookies. I buy parchment paper in bulk (occupational hazard) so that's what I scoop the cookies onto. But wax paper works just as well.
- Medium-size pot, heavy-bottomed if possible (they distribute heat better)
- Digital meat or candy thermometer
- Wax or parchment paper
- Measuring cups, spoons
- Flexible spatula
No-bake cookies take about ten minutes from start to finish and are boiled on the stovetop. And I recommend using a thermometer to judge when the syrup is ready. Flying by the seat of your pants with how long to boil the mixture often results in a soupy mess (which can be fixed). Or rock cakes (which really can't).
Why do I recommend a thermometer to cook a quick batch of cookies? I'm so glad you asked, and my answer is three-fold.
- No-bake cookies are really candies. With such a high ratio of sugar, what we're really making here are chocolate candies. And candy makers swear by their thermometers. It's the only way to know how the hot, syrupy mixture will set. So for no-bake cookies, aim for 230° F, or the thread or syrup stage. No need to be exact, a few degrees in one direction or another isn't a deal breaker. You can always add a little more peanut butter, or hold back some of the oats.
- Every stove is different. One minute of boiling at high heat on my stove might get the mixture as hot as two minutes on yours. And while I enjoy a beautiful batch of cookies, you're staring in disappointment at chocolate-peanut butter soup. It's not the time that matters, it's the temperature. How hot the syrup gets determines its moisture content. Which determines how the cookies set when they cool.
- The power of the peanut butter. How much peanut butter is in the recipe also determines cookie consistency. Fatty nut butter acts like an emulsifier, which thickens and binds the cookies. So more peanut butter equals faster setting and denser cookies (and ones that don't necessarily have that shine).
Recipes with instructions like "Boil for no more than one minute!" use an entire cup of peanut butter because the mixture didn't heat long enough to reach the thread stage. And so it needs more peanut butter to thicken. The result is a less shiny, chewier, and thickset (but still delicious) cookie.
- Measure the ingredients and gather your tools. Measure the cocoa powder, sugar, milk, and butter in the pot. And the rest of the ingredients into small containers placed near the stove. If you're winging it without a thermometer, I'd keep extra peanut butter and oats nearby the stove or wax paper. If you're using a candy thermometer, attach it to the pot before you turn on the heat.
- Boil to 230° F. Set the pot over medium-high heat and stir the ingredients gently as they heat up. Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, you don't need to stir anymore. Boil until the temperature reaches 230° F/110° C. If you're using a meat thermometer, make sure the tip is submerged in the mixture for an accurate reading. Immediately remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and peanut butter.
- Add the oatmeal. Stir in the oats in several additions until the consistency thickens, is shiny, and easily scooped. You want the cookies to spread slightly but hold a little height and a round shape. I often test the mixture by scooping one cookie onto the parchment paper, and watching how fast it spreads. If it's too thin, I add a little more oats. If it's downright soupy, I add more peanut butter.
- Scoop and cool. With an ice cream scoop with a release or two spoons, scoop the mixture quickly onto your wax paper. Allow the cookies to cool completely before removing them. The cookies will spread a little and should set shiny.
- Storage. You can store the cookies in an airtight container in your secret hiding spot or in the refrigerator. If your cookies aren't firming up as expected, chilling them can help. But always serve the cookies at room temperature, as cold temperatures constrict aromatic compounds (all the flavors).
No-bake cookies are naturally gluten-free and vegetarian. And this recipe for no-bake cookies takes well to sunflower seed butter (which I use when making these for my peanut-allergic clients). Since the basics of the recipe require the carb-laden oats to thicken properly, these cookies aren't easily adapted for low-carb, paleo, or ketogenic diets. But if you're hankering for chocolate and don't eat oatmeal, perhaps consider paleo chocolate chip cookies, dark chocolate bark, or keto coconut clusters.
- Add the oats slowly. I always add the oats last, and a little at a time while stirring constantly. Then you can judge by the look and feel of the mixture if it will scoop easily. If it's still soupy after you add all of the oats, add more peanut butter a tablespoon at a time until it's a thick but scoopable mixture.
- Test a cookie. When in doubt, scoop one cookie onto the wax paper to see how it acts. If it spreads quickly and nearly flat, the mixture needs a little more peanut butter or oats (your choice). If the scooped mixture makes more of a mound, it will still be delicious. But you most likely boiled a little too long.
- Have fun with the flavors. This recipe calls for just the right amount of peanut butter (in my humble opinion). So it takes well to ingredient substitutions. Almond butter and cashew butter are delicious substitutes for peanut butter. Depending on the occasion and who's partaking, I reduce the sugar by a fourth (eliminate a half cup). The cookies are still rich and plenty sweet.
- Add festive touches. Around the holidays I garnish the scooped cookies with appropriately-colored sprinkles for a festive dessert. Crushed nuts, shredded coconut, and chopped seeds like pumpkin are also delicious. Sprinkle any garnishes on right after you scoop the cookies before they cool.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you don't have a thermometer, or don't want to deal with it, a boiling time of two and a half minutes on medium-high heat generally works on most stoves (for my recipe). After a couple of batches on your own, you'll definitely know. To err on the side of caution, boil less. You can always add more peanut butter and oats to thicken the mixture. But sadly there's really no great way to fix one that hardens on you in that pot.
Boiling times in recipes vary because many recipe publishers don't know that temperature is the best way to ensure a successful batch. Classic recipes for no-bake cookies have been handed down for generations. Long before culinary science gained steam. So the practice most likely wasn't mentioned in the original written recipe.
For best results, track the temperature of the boiling syrup with a digital kitchen or candy thermometer and aim for 230° F. Or a few degrees lower if the recipe you're using calls for excessive peanut butter (more than a quarter cup).
If your no-bake cookies are too wet and thin, it's not too late to fix them! You can thicken it up by adding more peanut butter and/or oats. But do so a little at a time and stir well. The hot mixture will also thicken as it cools, so it should be a thick but pourable consistency when you start scooping. You can also return the mixture to a boil to thicken it, but I don't recommend doing so if you've already added the peanut butter and oats.
If your cookies failed and are dry, sadly they can't be saved easily. But you can crumble the mixture for ice cream topping, milkshakes, or other desserts.
In spite of all the food science talk and dos and don'ts, the most important part of any cookie venture is that you enjoy the results. And seriously, we're talking about creamy, chewy, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, peanut butter cookies. The only wrong way to whip them up is not to do it at all.
A big thank you to my mother-in-law for this recipe. It's one of our favorite holiday traditions! If you have a family recipe for no-bake cookies, let everyone know about it in the comments!
- 2 cups of granulated sugar
- ¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 ounces or 1 stick of unsalted butter
- ½ cup of milk, whole recommended
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- ¼ cup of peanut butter (or any nut or seed butter)
- 2 cups of quick-cooking oats or 2¼ to 2½ cups of old-fashioned
- Pinch of salt
- Seasonal or holiday sprinkles, optional
- Measure and gather. Measure all the ingredients out before you begin. And lay out parchment or wax paper to scoop the cookies onto. If you're winging it without a thermometer, I'd keep extra peanut butter and oats nearby the stove or wax paper. If you're using a candy thermometer, attach it to the pot before you turn on the heat.
- Boil to 230° F. Combine the granulated sugar, cocoa powder, butter, and milk in a medium-sized pot and set the heat to medium-high. Stir the ingredients as they melt and warm. Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, you don't need to stir anymore. Boil until the temperature reaches 230° F/110° C and immediately remove the pot from the stove. If you're using a meat thermometer, make sure at least an inch of the tip is submerged in the mixture for an accurate reading. If you aren't using a thermometer, see the Notes section for the best approach.
- Add the remaining ingredients. First, whisk in the vanilla extract and peanut butter. Then slowly stir in the oats until the consistency is shiny and easily scooped. You want the cookies to spread slightly but hold a little height and a round shape. I often test the mixture by scooping one cookie onto the parchment paper, and watching how fast it spreads. If it's too thin, I add a little more oats. If it's downright soupy, I add more peanut butter. If it's too thick for some reason, start scooping what you can into cookies before it all hardens in the pot!
- Scoop the cookies. With a one or two-inch ice cream scoop with a release or two spoons, scoop the mixture quickly onto your wax or parchment paper. Allow the cookies to cool completely before removing them. The cookies will spread a little, and set shiny.
- Store. Keep the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature or chilled. Refrigeration can help harden cookies that set a little too soft. Always serve at room temperature for the best flavor and texture.
- Without a thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, or don't want to deal with it, a boiling time of two and a half minutes on medium-high heat generally works on most stoves (for this recipe). After a couple of batches on your own, you'll definitely know. To err on the side of caution, boil less. You can always add more peanut butter and oats to thicken the mixture. But sadly there's really no great way to fix one that hardens on you in that pot.
- Test a cookie. When in doubt, scoop one cookie onto the wax paper to see how it acts. If it spreads quickly and flat, the mixture needs more peanut butter or oats (your choice). If the scooped cookie doesn't settle somewhat flat and round, it will still be delicious. But you most likely boiled a bit too long.
- Experiment with different nut and seed butter. This recipe calls for just the right amount of peanut butter (in my humble opinion). So it takes well to substitutions since you're relying on the right boiling temperature to set the cookies (not loads of peanut butter). For no-bake cookies without peanut butter, try almond butter, cashew butter, mixed nut butter, or sunflower seed butter. Depending on the occasion and who's partaking, I hold back a little sugar. The cookies are still rich and plenty sweet.
- Add festive touches. Around holidays I garnish the scooped cookies with appropriately-colored sprinkles for festive no-bake cookies. Crushed nuts, shredded coconut, and chopped seeds like pumpkin are also delicious. Sprinkle any garnishes on right after you scoop the cookies before they cool.
Types of Oatmeal
I tend to use whichever oatmeal I have on hand, which is most often old-fashioned. With old-fashioned oats, you may need to use half to a cup more than with quick-cooking. Old-fashioned oats absorb less moisture and the syrup will thicken less. This recipe is not designed for instant oats.
For Cannabis Cookies
It came to my attention that readers looking to make weed cookies are ending up here. Go figure. Edibles. Edible Times. I guess Google isn't as smart as we thought, after all. But if that's you, thanks for coming! And here's what to do: As a starting point, replace half of the butter in the recipe with cannabutter. You can certainly replace the entire stick of butter with ½ cup of cannabutter, depending on how strong you want the cookies. And for the richest most delicious no-bake edibles, do scroll up for tips on how to make no-bake cookies. They're truly scrumptious even without the weed.👩🏻🍳 Dorky Legal Disclaimer: Don't do drugs. And only participate in cookie-making behaviors that you are of legal age for. And that are legal in your state.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
- Serving Size: 1 Cookie
- Calories: 181
- Sugar: 20.8 g
- Sodium: 134 mg
- Fat: 7.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 28.3 g
- Fiber: 1.4 g
- Protein: 2.5 g
- Cholesterol: 12.8 mg
Keywords: recipe for no bake cookies, chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies, no bake cookies without peanut butter
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