Genius Recipes

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies in 5 Minutes

This week’s Genius Recipe is a cheery, well-loved treat from Scott Peacock—and you'll barely have to heat a thing.

July 15, 2020

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

These mystical treats—cookies you don’t bake, candies that need no precision, an iconic dessert that a kid could stir together in five minutes—are chef Scott Peacock’s very favorite from childhood. “I feel myself blushing just thinking about that,” he told me.

Scott’s early lock on the rich, fudgy cookies was in his mother’s kitchen before he was six years old. Later, a family friend he called Aunt Nuna became legendary for her command and consistency—her cookies were always perfectly glossy and just-pliable. Then his sister Janet became the master of the half-batch, making just enough that they could eat them all while still warm.

Still warm. Photo by Kristen Miglore

He first shared his version under the name Boiled Peanut Butter Cookies in The Gift of Southern Cooking, the book he co-authored with the legendary Edna Lewis in 2003. But he suspects that the original recipe used by his mother, Aunt Nuna, and Janet was developed by a big-brand test kitchen, the kind tasked with developing compelling reasons for home cooks to buy quick-cooking oats or evaporated milk. This broad visibility would explain the millions (1) of slightly different variations of the recipe bumping around online. I did my own digging, too, and other than a lot of charming regional names like preacher cookies and poodgies, I didn’t find a clearer origin myself (if you have intel, please tell us!).

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“The only difference in recipes is slightly in amounts of ingredients and the fact that the peanut butter is put in the cocoa sugar butter and milk mixture. Oats are added at the end when mixture comes off the stove and not cooked. Also a small amount of powdered sugar is sprinkled on top of the cookies to look like snow caps on the mountain bars. Mmmmmmmm🤗💕”
— Kismet D.

Despite their ubiquity and forgiving nature, there is an art to making boiled cookies just as you want them. This is where Scott’s practice and passion will especially come in handy (2).

The process is simple: Stir together quick-cooking oats, peanut butter, and vanilla. Boil milk, butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt for 90 seconds. Then stir everything together and boil a minute more. Eat at least one cookie before it fully cools. That’s it.

But boil the cookies too long or abandon them in the pot and they’ll stick resolutely to the bottom (though you can scrape this up and sprinkle the bits on ice cream). Boil them too little and they may never set (though Scott still spooned these off his mother’s cookie sheets the next day—“we didn’t like them any less,” he says).

Here are Scott Peacock’s tips for making your own just-right boiled cookies:

Choose a heavy-bottomed, not-too-wide pot to keep the moisture from evaporating too quickly, which makes drier cookies that are harder to scoop.

Fancy cocoas and unsweetened peanut butters work just fine but more inexpensive, widely available brands might taste even better, especially if you grew up eating variations of these cookies.

No need to evenly mix the peanut butter into the oats—that’s tricky, and “a hot pot will fix a lot of that,” Scott says.

Scott’s to-the-minute instructions are great guidelines, but you may also want to watch for the syrupy chocolate to boil with big bubbles before adding your peanut buttery oats.

When your final “batter” is still fluid but holds a loose shape while you stir, it’s ready to start scooping. Don’t wait till it pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Scoop fast! And keep the pot on the turned-off burner—the residual warmth will keep the cookies warm and scoopable longer.

You should be able to start by pouring the cookies off of one spoon, but by the end the batter will be stiffer and you’ll likely need a second spoon to help nudge the cookies into place. “And that’s great too, because then you get to lick those spoons,” says Scott.

Like all of the most iconic recipes, the best part is in the shared experience—so if you have any memories or tips, please tell us. And if you don’t, it only takes about five minutes to start.

(1) Literally millions, including Food52’s own version by Ella Quittner, complete with 50 to 65 percent dark chocolate and Maldon salt.

(2) For an even more direct way to learn from Scott, check out the very personal Biscuit Experience he had until recently been offering from a historic mansion in his hometown of Marion, Alabama (and hopefully will be able to again soon).

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thank you, as-ever, to editor, stylist, and super-tipster Ali Slagle for this one.

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
Listen & Subscribe

From our new podcast network, The Genius Recipe Tapes is lifelong Genius hunter Kristen Miglore’s 10-year-strong column in audio form, featuring all the uncut gems from the weekly column and video series. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss out.

Listen & Subscribe

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Maggie Haslam
    Maggie Haslam
  • cjl
  • John
  • Rita
  • Jackie Samuels Gibson
    Jackie Samuels Gibson
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Maggie H. January 3, 2021
We made these cookies tonight after bookmarking them months ago. Our favorite part of any recipe at Food 52 is the video and this one was great! However, I think we may have cooked them too long? Working with twin 11-year-old-still-learning bakers makes things a bit chaotic and I lost track of time. I didn't have trouble scooping but the mixture had definitely pulled away from the sides of the pan by the time we started scooping. They weren't terribly glossy and a bit crumbly (I expected fudge-like). Is this an over-cooked problem? I'll want to try them again if so...
John January 3, 2021
First, I use 1.5 c of sugar. 2 c. Is grossly sweet and un-necessary. I just made these. Sometimes they turn out a bit gooey and do not harden. I put them in fridge after they set out awhile and they hardened. They are not like fudge at all. You can’t mess around on the time. I hope you make them again because I know you’ll love them. Just act fast and watch your time:)
cjl December 18, 2020
Sorry I did not finish my comment. As this is fudge frosting with add ins feel free to experiment. I have used all kinds of dried fruit, cereal and nuts in all kinds of combinations to create cookies/candy. Have fun.
John December 17, 2020
Seriously only need 1 cup of sugar in this and they are still sweet! My mother made us these cookies as children. Our favorite, indeed. I just made them the other day, but like I said, I never never use all that sugar! It’s overkill. I add a handful of organic 55% chocolate chips in the recipe, as well. Enjoy! And yes, I believe the original recipe came off of Quaker Oats box years ago. ONLY USE ORGANIC OATS. The Quaker Oats tested off the charts for high level glyphosate (weedkiller). You do not want weedkiller in your delicious cookies, folks.
John December 17, 2020
Seriously only need 1 cup of sugar in this and they are still sweet! My mother made us these cookies as children. Our favorite, indeed. I just made them the other day, but like I said, I never never use all that sugar! It’s overkill. I add a handful of organic 55% chocolate chips in the recipe, as well. Enjoy! And yes, I believe the original recipe came off of Quaker Oats box years ago. ONLY USE ORGANIC OATS. The Quaker Oats tested off the charts for high level glyphosate (weedkiller). You do not want weedkiller in your delicious cookies, folks.
cjl December 17, 2020
as the base is a minute boil frosting feel free to experiment
Rita December 15, 2020
Can you substitute rice crispies for the oatmeal?
Jackie S. August 1, 2020
I have this recipe from the early 1970’s when I worked in Houston, TX, at the now closed Diagnostic Clinic if Houston! Written by hand!!
I was the “dessert queen” when I was single!!
Julie P. July 28, 2020
We called these "cow patties" when I was growing up. I know, that's gross, but that's what I know them as. They were easy to make. I know we cut back on the sugar as we got older as we found them too sweet. I'll have to try this recipe probably with less sugar as well. Thanks for the sweet reminder of a cookie that I used to love as a kid. I might try it today since it's so hot outside.
John July 27, 2020
The original recipe came off the Quaker Oats. No bake cookies. Later, we added peanut butter. But they are just as good without it. We use less sugar, maybe 1.5 instead of 2 cups. They are still sweet. Always use organic oats as the Quaker Oats are extremely high in weedkiller. i.e., (Roundup) See EWG.ORG for test results.
Donna F. July 25, 2020
Ha the video was making me crazy! Mixing peanut butter and oats is a step you don’t need. Maybe that’s what makes it your own genius recipe, I don’t know the rules but I was like girl, drop and plop, that batter will stiffen fast. You can do this!! Haha these were a fave of ours growing up and every time they were served as dessert for school lunches , nobody dallied. No matter what you call them, or whose recipe you use, they are genius and simple,
Susie Q. July 25, 2020
I have been making these for forty years. They are my son’s favorite. He makes them for his office every Christmas. I also believe their are a favorite of my two grandson’s.
clayday3 July 24, 2020
Used to eat these as a kid. We called them cow plop cookies. We put them on wax paper to harden. Ive been thinking about them lately, but didnt have the recipie since my Mother passed. Thanks to you I can make them again !
Edna J. July 24, 2020
Love this . Reminds me of our family recipe . Almost identical to my grandmothers Mutti Cake (which is what we named it ) she referred to it as frozen dessert . Instead of oatmeal she used crushed 300g of Marie cookies
No peanut butter
I will make these cookies.. looks like a keeper recipe
Thank you!
Pomme D. July 21, 2020
This made me smile! We called these beloved morsels Busy Day Cookies, and they’ve been enjoyed through many a cookie emergency.
Diane S. July 24, 2020
I can’t imagine how this work without baking but I’m anxious to try it thanks for this idea recipe
Michelle July 21, 2020
So I watched these cookies being made on IG with my 5yr old Granddaughter who loves to bake with me. Boiled Cookies!!! We just had to try. Fail!!! We are a GlutenfreeDairyfreeNutfreeSoyfree family. I am an allergy baker. These cookies do not work with Oat Milk! But do not worry I will be making them with Whole Milk and will report back!
S A. July 24, 2020
You probably won't have much luck without peanut butter. The final consistency really comes from the oat starch and the peanut butter setting at room temperature. You could try using tahini without stirring the oil in, or perhaps an all natural sunflower seed butter that you strain. Or, add some coconut oil into the sunbutter to stiffen the final product. They should work with oat milk- I use it in place of regular milk all the time. Good luck!
Valerie B. July 20, 2020
Dear Genius(s): I love these No-Bake cookies! However, I learned them with one more step, which really makes them even more special!
After I finish the boiling, I place pot in refrigerator, (on potholder) for a few min,to cool just a bit. When I can handle the mixture I take spoonfuls of it and roll into a ball and drop into a bowl of sifted Confectionary sugar and gently roll around until all coated. Then place on waxed paper (or whatever) to cool completely. That’s it! Looks-and tastes-heavenly. I sometimes fix them without peanut butter, also. Umm, delicious!
Pamela J. July 20, 2020
Oh yes indeed I remember my cousin and I made these while spending the weekend. But we added shredded coconut. Yummy!
Heather W. July 19, 2020
These cookies are a staple in my home since childhood. Remember going to a neighbors house one day with a measuring cup to beg for peanut butter so my brother and I could make them. And during quarantine I made them to make my soul feel better. These cookies make me so happy. Who knew they were a genius recipe?
[email protected] July 19, 2020
Been making these for years and still a favorite with most everyone!
Melissa F. July 17, 2020
We call these "no bake" cookies. These are an old recipe. Delish!