Chocolate. Peanut butter. No-bake cookies. Here’s the classic recipe for these addictive cookies from our collective childhoods, and my no-fail method for success every time. These addictive treats scream holiday cheer, but they’re absolutely divine any time of year!
A classic cookie love story
I must first give a shout out to Husband here, for his contributions to this one. During our courtship (I won’t admit how long ago) he handed me a small piece of scribbled-on stationery and said, “this is my Mom’s recipe, you have to make these.” Of course it was a test. But a quick one. As these chocolate-oatmeal delights take about ten minutes start to finish.
No-bake chocolate-peanut butter cookie ingredients
Most quests for a classic “no-bake cookies” recipe, will lead you to seven pantry staples:
- Cocoa powder
- Peanut Butter
- Vanilla extract
A quick note on oatmeal
The most popular oats for no-bake cookies are instant. Because instant oats are primed to absorb moisture, the cookies will dry out and set faster. I use both old-fashioned and instant oats, and enjoy both results. Cookies made with old-fashioned oats will be shinier, and may need a bit more to set.
The no-bake cookie method
On the surface, the method for no-bake cookies is simple – boiling. And while the ingredients from one recipe to another won’t differ too much, the question of how long to boil does.
Why do boiling times vary?
Some recipes instruct for one minute of boiling, others for two. My Mother-in-law’s original recipe called for five minutes of boiling (this is actually too long in most cases).
The reason you see differences is because you’ll find A LOT of variety in the amount of peanut butter in popular recipes. This is why many cooks end up with either a runny mixture – which can be fixed – or rock cakes (which can’t).
The connection of peanut butter + boiling time
The less you boil, the thinner your chocolate mixture will be, and the more peanut butter you need to thicken it. This is why recipes with startling instructions like “boil for no more than one minute!” use an entire cup of peanut butter (made this way below).
If you want your cookies a little pasty and loaded with peanut butter, less boiling is the way for you. But even with loads of peanut butter at your finger tips, simply timing the boil is unreliable.
All stoves heat differently
One minute of boiling on my stove might get the mixture as hot as two minutes on yours. While I enjoy beautifully set, shiny cookies, you’re staring in disappointment at chocolate-peanut butter soup.
No-bake cookies are more or less candies
With such a high ratio of sugar to the other ingredients, what we’re really making here are rich, chocolate candies. If you want to succeed in candy making, a thermometer is the key to knowing you reach the correct temperature for the desired consistency.
For a classic no-bake cookie – the candy stage you want is around the thread or syrup stage. This is the consistency of sugar at 230° F. The World Science Festival has a fun write-up here on the science of candy making.
The secrets to no-bake cookie success
#1. Mise en place ‘everything in place’
Measure all the ingredients before you begin. If you’re winging it without a thermometer, I’d keep extra peanut butter and oats handy.
#2. Use a thermometer to boil to 230° F (or learn how to succeed without a thermometer below).
Stir the chocolate, butter, cocoa and sugar as they melt over medium-high heat in the pot. Once the mixture is to a rolling boil, using a candy or simply a digital thermometer, boil until the temperature reaches 230° F/110° C.
If you boil the mixture any hotter, the chocolate will contain less moisture for the oats to absorb. And after adding any amount of peanut butter and oats, you could up with chocolate bricks, not cookies.
#3. Add peanut butter and oatmeal slowly, and off the heat.
As soon as the boil reaches 230° F/110° C, remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and peanut butter. The slowly stir in the oats until the consistency is shiny and easily scooped. I often test during this process by scooping one cookie onto the parchment, and seeing how fast it spreads.
You want the cookies to spread slightly, but hold a little height and shape.
How to succeed without a thermometer
If you don’t have a thermometer, or don’t want to deal with it, a boiling time of two and half minutes on medium-high heat generally works (for my recipe). After a couple batches on your own stove, you’ll know.
To err on the side of caution, boil less. You can always add more peanut butter and oats, but you can’t take away.
The most important tip to remember
The most important thing with any kitchen venture is that YOU enjoy the result. I go down the recipe-testing rabbit hole to offer insight for success and explore cooking science.
But we’re talking about a creamy, chewy, melt-in-your-mouth cookie that bake sale dreams are made of. The only wrong way to whip these up is not to do it at all.
Yours in cookies,
P.S. A big thank you to my mother-in-law for this recipe, it’s become one of our favorite holiday traditions!Print
Here’s a legendary and classic no-bake cookie recipe that bake sale bliss is made of! With one simple step to prevent runny or grainy cookies, you’ll be boiling up scrumptious success in five minutes flat!
If nut allergies are a concern, sunflower seed butter works great! Whichever you choose, I recommend a creamy peanut or nut butter without any added sugar or oils.
- 2 cups of sugar
¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 ounces of unsalted butter (1 stick)
- ½ cup of whole milk
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- ¼ cup of unsweetened, no-additive peanut butter (or any pure nut or seed butter)
- 2½ cups of oatmeal, instant or old fashioned*
- pinch of salt
- Seasonal or holiday sprinkles, optional
- Measure all ingredients out, and lay around two feet of wax or parchment paper on your counter top. Have ready a wooden spoon, a flexible spatula and an ice cream scoop or two large spoons.
- Combine sugar, salt, cocoa powder, milk and butter in a medium sauce pot. If using a candy thermometer, secure it now.
- Over medium-high heat bring mixture to a boil, stirring just once to make sure ingredients are incorporated.
- Boil until the mixture reaches 230° F (thread/syrup candy stage), then immediately remove from the heat. On average, this takes about two minutes on medium-high heat.
- Stir in vanilla, then add the peanut butter whisking to combine completely. Add oats in small amounts until mixture thickens and can be scooped, but is still shiny.
- Pour or scoop cookies onto wax paper, and decorate immediately with sprinkles if you like.
- Let cool completely and remove gently from paper. Store sealed at room temperature for about a week, or freeze.
I tend to use whichever oatmeal I have on had, which is most often old-fashioned. With old-fashioned oats, you may need to use a quarter or half a cup more than with instant, as old-fashioned absorb less moisture.
Keywords: no bake cookies, no bake cookie recipe, no bake chocolate oatmeal cookies, chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies
Sit, stay, drool with Sadie Mae
Pwease Mom. Dad already had seven…