Big Little Recipes

This Salted Peanut Butter Pie Is All About the Fudgy 3-Ingredient Filling

The buttery Ritz cracker crust doesn't hurt either.

February 12, 2019

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re taking an iconic three-ingredient cookie, and turning it into pie.

The first pie I ever mastered was peanut butter, sometime in high school. The recipe was from a cookbook called Sweety Pies and most of its ingredients were always in our pantry: chunky peanut butter, vanilla extract, salt, butter, eggs, corn syrup, sugar. I made it for birthdays and celebrations and just because.

Many peanut butter pie fillings are fluffy and creamy, like mousse. But my first-love pie wasn’t like that. It was thick, fudgy, and dense, like a really great blondie. I baked it in an all-butter crust (by no means flaky, but I tried my best) and cut-out pastry hearts and scattered them on top.

Fast-forward to today and I make all sorts of pies. For a few years, I even made pie for a living. I love lemon pie and pecan pie and coconut pie. In fact, I found so many new pies to love, I forgot all about my highschool sweetheart.

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Top Comment:
“Flourless peanut butter cookies 1 cup peanut butter 1 egg 1 cup sugar Mix... roll and crisscross 350 oven til little crispy on the edges We put a kiss on top”
— Denise A.

Until I made Ovenly’s three-ingredient peanut butter cookies.

Admittedly, I was about four years late to the party. Ovenly has been an NYC favorite since 2010. Owners Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin published the bakery’s namesake cookbook in 2014, which included the recipe for their fan-favorite peanut butter cookies (“inspired by our friend Emmy Tiderington”). And Deb Perelman raved about the recipe on her blog Smitten Kitchen in 2015.

Ever since, more than a few people have told me that it’s the end-all peanut butter cookie. The hook? All you need is creamy peanut butter, brown sugar, eggs, a splash of vanilla, and some flaky salt on top. Oh, and a bowl and a spoon. No special equipment. No flour.

When I first baked them, I thought the same thing as everyone else: This is the best peanut butter cookie I’ve ever had. And then I thought about the peanut butter pie I couldn’t stop making as a teenager. And then I thought: What if this cookie somehow became that pie?

We're five ingredients from pie time. Photo by Rocky Luten

While Ovenly’s peanut butter cookie was an aha moment for me, it wasn’t the first of its kind. In BakeWise, Shirley Corriher has a recipe for “E-Z Delicious Peanut Butter Cookies.” Like Ovenly's, they’re made with creamy peanut butter, brown sugar, and egg. (Unlike Ovenly's, they also add in English toffee bits for good measure.)

Corriher based her recipe on the “Impossible Peanut Butter Cookies” from The Family Baker by Susan G. Purdy, published in 1999. These, too, have three ingredients: creamy peanut butter, sugar, and egg—though notably, the sugar here is granulated, not brown.

And though the ingredients are more or less the same, each recipe has its own ratios. Ovenly’s uses less peanut butter and sugar than the other two. Purdy’s “Impossible” cookies use the most sugar of all.

Which gets me back to this pie. I thought it would be as easy as dumping Ovenly’s cookie dough into a pie crust and calling it a day. But it ended up being way more complicated (and took way more pies than I care to admit). The winner was Corriher’s dough sans the toffee bits, and turned out as delicious as the pie of my childhood only with way fewer ingredients.

And about that crust: I went with an ultra-buttery, extra-thick Ritz cracker one. Partly to avoid par-baking a classic pie crust, but mostly because Ritz crackers and peanut butter go so well together.

The pièce de résistance is that final flourish of flaky sea salt. I wouldn’t have sprinkled it on those early peanut butter pies, but I know better now.

Have you ever made flourless peanut butter cookies before? Discuss in the comments!
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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Diane September 3, 2020
This sounds insanely delicious and I too can not wait to try it.
Michele H. July 11, 2019
This sounds delicious and I can't wait to try it! I like to save my favorite recipes from across the web in one place. Would you consider adding the just a pinch recipe plugin to your blog? It would be great to be able to share your blog's and recipes from my just a pinch recipe box.
Kristine E. June 23, 2019
Thanks for another amazing recipe Food 52! No changes needed... It’s perfect the way it is!
Vicci C. March 15, 2019
Disappointed to see use of hydrogenated nut butter and hydrogenated oil in the crackers used in the crust as well.
Therese February 14, 2019
Help please! :) Ritz crackers are sold in a box over here (Norway to be exact), how many grams does a sleeve contain?
Jessica H. February 16, 2019
The boxes don’t have sleeves of crackers inside the box in Europe? I’ll be sure to weigh them when I bake tomorrow and report back here for you! 😊
Jessica H. February 17, 2019
About 300g of ritz!
Therese February 17, 2019
Thank you! :)
And no sleeves, just a bag inside the box. Less plastic, more broken crackers I guess ;)
Hoda E. February 12, 2019
Can I use almond butter instead? the natural toasted kind they sell at Costco?
Emma L. February 14, 2019
Hi Hoda! Is it unsweetened? If so, please see my reply to Tia below about swapping in unsweetened nut butter.
tia February 12, 2019
Are you using regular peanut butter or the "natural" (aka runny) kind? Do you know if it matters?
Emma L. February 14, 2019
Hi Tia! I used creamy, sweetened peanut butter. I haven't tried it with a natural, unsweetened variety—it might still work, but I can't say for sure what the differences would be. If you give it a try, let me know what you think!
Trisha G. February 12, 2019
How would some chocolate chips or a light chocolate icing go with the peanut utter pie?
Emma L. February 12, 2019
Hi Trisha! I love the idea of stirring chocolate chips into the filling—but since I haven't tried it myself, I'm not sure how it would turn out (could be too gooey?). And a chocolate icing sounds sooo good; I'd just spread it on top right before serving!
Erin N. February 13, 2019
I was just thinking this! Chocolate makes everything better! I'm thinking a thin layer between the crust and filling so as to not alter the consistency of the filling
Emma L. February 14, 2019
Ooh, that's a fun idea, too! Maybe something like this recipe from Four & Twenty Blackbirds:
Sharon L. June 22, 2019
Or maybe a crushed chocolate wafer crust? 😋
Denise A. February 12, 2019
Flourless peanut butter cookies
1 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 cup sugar
Mix... roll and crisscross
350 oven til little crispy on the edges
We put a kiss on top
Eric K. February 12, 2019
Thank you!
A R. February 12, 2019
Tell us the exact bake time, you troglodyte...