Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars
Chewy no-bake cookie bars made with nutty peanut butter, rich cocoa powder, and chewy oats. These sweet, buttery bars are topped with a layer of peanut butter-swirled semi-sweet chocolate – a dream for any no-bake cookie fan.
Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars
If no-bake cookies had a slightly more sophisticated, and less sweet, older sister, these bars would be her. The chocolate peanut butter base comes together a lot like a classic no-bake cookie. And tastes a lot like it, too! With butter, sugar, cocoa powder, peanut butter, and oats, these simple bars are sweet, chewy, and very reminiscent of that cookie we all know and love. But instead of boiling the mixture to that perfect soft-ball stage, all you need to do is simply heat the first few ingredients together just until the sugar is melted. So there’s no guesswork in whether these no-bake bars will set the way you like.
I topped mine with melted chocolate chips and more peanut butter, which is swirled into the chocolate for a pretty (and simple!) decoration. If you’re a fan of no-bake cookies then I know you’ll love these bars. And if you’re unfamiliar with the American “no-bake”, I’m confident that any chocolate peanut butter fan will like these easy bars.
Why You’ll Love These No-Bake Bars
- They’re like no-bake cookies without the “will they set?” guesswork
- They require only pantry staple ingredients
- They’re vegan (as long as you use plant-based butter and milk)
- They take very little on-hand time
What You’ll Need + Possible Substitutions
- White granulated sugar adds sweetness. I haven’t tested this recipe with other sugars, but a raw or unrefined cane sugar should work just fine (the bigger granules may take longer to melt).
- Plant-based butter adds buttery flavor and moisture to these cookies. Feel free to use regular butter if you aren’t dairy-free/vegan.
- Plant-based milk adds moisture as well. You can use your favorite plant-based milk or regular milk.
- Dutched cocoa powder adds the chocolate flavor to the peanut butter and oat base. Dutched cocoa is darker in color and richer in flavor than natural cocoa. In a pinch, natural (regular) cocoa powder will work here, but your bars won’t have as strong of a chocolate taste.
- Natural peanut butter is the kind made with just peanuts. I like to use mine at room temperature when its drippy. A peanut butter spread should also work in this recipe (for the base), but you won’t be able to swirl it into the melted chocolate on top.
- Vanilla extract adds flavor.
- Quick oats bind the melted ingredients together and give these bars structure. I don’t recommend rolled oats as I found they can make these bars a bit crumbly.
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips are melted to create a smooth chocolate layer on top of the bars. You can use a dark chocolate or semi-sweet, or your favorite chocolate bar.
- Olive oil is used to thin the melted chocolate so that it’s smooth and spreadable. You can also use avocado oil or coconut oil (coconut oil will lend a slight coconut taste to the chocolate layer).
Can I use regular cocoa powder? I don’t recommend it as the cookie base won’t have as much of a chocolate flavor, but, in a pinch, it will work (it won’t change the structure of the bars).
Can I use peanut butter spread? A peanut butter spread will work in the melted cookie base, but you won’t be able to swirl it into the melted chocolate as pictured.
Will regular butter/milk work? Yes, both the plant-based butter and milk can be replaced with regular butter and milk 1:1.
How do I store these bars? You’ll want to store these in an airtight container in the refrigerator, in a single layer OR in multiple layers with parchment paper in between each layer.
Can I make them ahead of time? Absolutely! These bars can be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them. You can store them sliced or unsliced.
- 1 cup (210g) white granulated sugar
- 6 Tbsp (85g) plant-based butter (or regular butter)
- 6 Tbsp (75g) almond milk (or regular milk)
- 3 Tbsp (15g) Dutched cocoa powder
- 1 cup + 2 Tbsp (281g) natural peanut butter, room temperature
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups (230g) quick oats
- 3/4 cup (135g) semi-sweet chocolate chips (dairy-free if needed)
- 1-2 tsp olive oil (see Note 1)
- ~2 Tbsp natural peanut butter, room temperature
- Prepare an 8x8" baking pan or dish with non-stick spray and parchment paper (be sure at least two sides are covered in parchment). Fold the excess paper over the edges of the pan - you'll use these "tabs" later to pull the bars out.
- In a medium saucepan, add the sugar, butter, cocoa powder, and milk. Heat on medium, whisking occasionally, until all the ingredients are melted and combined (make sure the sugar granules are melted by dipping a spoon in the mixture and looking for granules). You don't want the mixture to boil.
- Immediately remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla extract until totally combined. Stir in the quick oats and mix until the oats are well-coated in the chocolate mixture.
- Gently press the mixture into your prepared pan/dish and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the chocolate chips and 1 tsp of oil in a microwave-safe bowl in 15 second increments until the chocolate is totally melted - be sure to stir thoroughly each time. Stir in the extra teaspoon of oil to thin the chocolate.
- Take the bars out of the fridge and use the back of a spoon to press the mixture down further (it will be less sticky and easier to do now that the bars have chilled for a bit).
- Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top of the bars. Add small dollops of runny peanut butter over the top of the chocolate. Use a chopstick, skewer, or butter knife to gently swirl the peanut butter.
- Place the bars back in the refrigerator for at least two hours to allow them to firm up.
- Once set, pull the bars out of the refrigerator 10 minutes prior to serving. This will allow the bars to thaw enough that you can lift them up and out of the pan/dish (and onto a cutting board) using the parchment paper.
- For clean cuts, carefully heat a sharp knife under hot water, and quickly wipe dry - avoid touching the blade (I recommend using a thick towel to prevent cutting yourself). Then immediately make one slice in the middle of the big bar from one end to the other. Repeat this five more times until the bars are cut into 16 squares.
- Serve immediately. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container, preferably in a single layer OR layer with parchment paper between each layer to prevent the bars from sticking together.
- Olive oil: I like to use olive oil as I always have it on hand for baking. Avocado oil or coconut oil will also work here. Do not use butter or plant-based butter as that can thicken the melted chocoalte.