Best Peanut Butter Cookies
While "best" is a little different for everyone, for me, it's all about a cookie that's crisp and crumbly around the edges while being dense and chewy in the center. Also, since it's called a peanut butter cookie, I think the flavor should be all about the PB. It's also a nice bonus if it has some nutritional merits, so you don't feel quite as guilty about eating a bunch of them. With all that in mind, here's my Best Peanut Butter Cookies recipe.
Why this recipe works
- Rice syrup gives the cookies a chewy texture and caramel flavor.
- By using oatmeal and chickpea flour, you not only increase the fiber and protein content of the cookies, but you also avoid the gluten in wheat flour that can make cookies tough.
- Using peanut butter as the fat in these cookies allows you to add a lot more peanut butter, which amps up the peanut butter flavor.
- By adjusting the amount of time you bake it for, you can make the cookie light and crisp or dense and chewy.
Ingredients for Peanut Butter Cookies
All baked goods are fundamentally made by mixing flour with sugar and fat and adding some form leavening. The thing that sets cookies apart is that they have relatively high sugar and fat content. This is what gives cookies their distinctly dense texture and taste.
While most cookies use ordinary wheat flour, I prefer using an alternative flour for a couple of reasons. The first is that wheat flour contains gluten, which is great for bread and pasta, but it's not good for cakes and cookies because it can make the finished product tough if the dough is overmixed. I've used a blend of oatmeal and chickpea flour in these. The oats not only boost the fiber content of these cookies, but they also help out the texture by lending the well-done edges some flakiness, while the underdone interior ends up pleasantly chewy without becoming tough. Chickpea flour contains double the amount of protein of wheat flour, and over 3 times the amount of fiber, which makes it a great addition to these cookies. If you don't have these on hand, other types of flour that contain a sufficient amount of starch should work.
For the sugar, I like using a combination of coconut sugar and brown rice syrup. The coconut sugar contributes some nutty caramel notes that work brilliantly with the peanut butter, while the brown rice syrup helps bind all the ingredients together.
Rice syrup is a very thick liquid sugar made from malted brown rice. It's thick and sticky texture (like chilled honey, even at room temperature) is what makes these cookies so delightfully chewy. Both coconut sugar and brown rice syrup should be available at high-end grocery and health food stores, as well as online. If you don't have coconut sugar, brown sugar will work as a substitute. As for the brown rice syrup, any thick liquid sugar like honey (not vegan), molasses, or corn-syrup will work.
Because peanut butter contains so much fat, it's possible to use it without adding any extra oil. Aside from making these cookies plant-based, it also means I get to max out the peanut flavor.
I usually prefer creamy peanut butter for my sandwiches, but I like using chunky peanut butter for these cookies because it means I can add chunks of peanuts to them, without getting out a knife and cutting board. If you don't want pieces of peanuts in your cookies, smooth peanut butter will work fine. I've used ordinary peanut butter, which contains salt and sugar, so if you use natural peanut butter that doesn't include either, you may want to add a bit more sugar and a pinch of salt to compensate.
Leavening helps baked goods to rise, so they don't end up dense and tough. For these cookies, I've used baking soda. This works because baking soda is alkaline, while peanut butter is slightly acidic. The reaction when these two ingredients mix causes carbon dioxide to form, which creates little bubbles in the dough that expand when heated. Once the starches in the dough gel, the bubbles get trapped, giving the cookie a fluffy flakey texture.
How to Make Peanut Butter Cookies from Scratch
The first thing you want to do is grind the oatmeal into flour. I used a clean coffee grinder to do this, but a blender, food processor or mortar and pestle will work. If you don't have any of these, you could just chop the oatmeal up as fine as you can using a knife.
Then you want to mix the oat flour with the chickpea flour, coconut sugar, and baking soda until it's evenly mixed.
Now you want to work in the peanut butter, rice syrup, and vanilla extract until you get a shaggy dough. You can do this in a food processor, or by hand using a spoon.
Finally, you want to add the water and knead the mixture until it forms a dough that's the consistency of Play-Doh. If it's too crumbly, add some more water and continue kneading. If it's too sticky, add some more chickpea flour.
To shape the cookies, spread a sheet of parchment paper out onto a baking sheet and then roll the dough into ping-pong-ball-sized spheres. Be sure to roll the balls until they're smooth; otherwise, they will crack when you flatten them. These cookies won't spread too much, so you can place them fairly close together, but leave a little room between each ball so that you have enough room to press them flat.
Now you can use the tines of a fork to press the cookies flat. Then turn the fork ninety-degrees and press them again to make a crosshatch pattern in the top of the cookie. It's normal for the cookies to crack a little around the edges, but if they are crumbling apart, you either need to roll them into smoother spheres, or your dough is too dry. If the problem is the dough's moisture content, just put everything back in the bowl and knead it together with a little more water.
The texture of the cookies is determined by how long you bake them. Longer baking times will result in a dryer, flakier crisper cookies. Shorter baking times will result in a denser, chewier cookie.
In my convection oven, 7 minutes at 355 degrees F gives the perfect balance between a crisp ring of crumbly cookie surrounding a chewy center. How thick you make the cookies and variations between different ovens will mean your baking times will vary.
Unfortunately, you can't tell the final texture of the peanut butter cookies while they're still hot, so you may need to make a couple of batches to nail the perfect timing for your oven. The good news is that these cookies don't contain any eggs, which means you can eat the dough raw. If you want to ensure your cookies are chewy from the first batch, I'd recommend erring on undercooked.
On the flip side, if you're the type that likes your peanut butter cookies crisp, then just bake these a bit longer, and the sugars will caramelize, the moisture will evaporate, and you'll end up with peanut butter cookies with a nice snap.
Variations on Peanut Butter Cookies
- Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookie - To crank the peanut butter flavor up to 11, you can press these cookies a little thinner and sandwich some peanut butter in between two cookies.
- Fluffernutter - You can also make the cookie equivalent of a fluffernutter by sandwiching some marshmallow fluff between two cookies.
- Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie - To go for something more chocolatey, you can arrange a few chocolate chips on top of each cookie as soon as they come out of the oven. The residual heat will melt the chips and bond them to the top of the cookie. Since these are pretty sweet, I recommend using dark chocolate or even unsweetened chocolate if you are going to do this.
- Peanut Butter Blossoms - If you're looking to make peanut butter blossoms, skip step 6 (flattening the balls with a fork) and then press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Other Wholesome Sweets Recipes
- Better Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Vegan Double Chocolate Cookies
- 1-Minute Chocolate Pudding
- Coconut Cream Bars
- 55 grams rolled oats (~½ cup)
- 60 grams chickpea flour (~½ cup)
- 100 grams coconut sugar (~½ cup + 2 tablespoons)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 320 grams chunky peanut butter (~1 ¼ cup)
- 70 grams rice syrup (~ ¼ cup)
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 355 degrees F (180 C).
- Put the rolled oats into a clean spice grinder, blender or food processor and grind until they turn into a powder.
- Add the oat flour along with the chickpea flour, coconut sugar, and baking soda to a bowl and whisk together to combine.
- Add the peanut butter, rice syrup, and vanilla extract and use a sturdy spoon or wooden paddle to knead the mixture together (you can also do this in a food processor or mixer).
- Once this forms a shaggy dough, add the water and knead everything together until it forms a uniform dough.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roll the dough into 1 to 1 ½ inch balls, arranging them around the parchment paper with a little space in between each ball. You should be able to fit 10-13 cookies on a standard-sized sheet pan.
- Use a fork to flatten the balls, creating a crosshatch pattern on top by pressing once, and then turning the fork 90 degrees and pressing again.
- Bake the cookies for 6-8 minutes. The less you bake them for, the more dense and chewy they will be; the longer they go, the more crusty and cakey they will be.
- Let the cookies cool on a rack and repeat with any remaining dough.