Big Little Recipes

No-Measure Peanut Butter Cookies. But How?

February 16, 2021

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer—not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Psst, did you hear we’re coming out with a cookbook? We’re coming out with a cookbook!


We are told that baking is a science, that there’s a right way to measure flour (fluff, spoon, level), that there’s a wrong way to measure brown sugar (to pack or not to pack?), that weight is superior to volume, that grams are more precise than ounces. And all of this is true, but none of it matters right now.

For this recipe, you’ll need no measuring cups, no measuring spoons, no scale. Not even a good night of sleep. And yet, still, somehow, with three ingredients that might already be in your kitchen, you’ll bake up cookies that are pillowy and plush, with a fudgy center and mochi-like chewiness.

Before they became an internet sensation, even more sought-after than many of their baked goods brethren, like chocolate cookies and M&M cookies and protein cookies (this is a thing?), three-ingredient peanut butter cookies popped up in cookbooks. Notably: The Family Baker (1999) by Susan G. Purdy, BakeWise (2008) by Shirley Corriher, and Ovenly (2014) by Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga, whose inspired addition of flaky salt was inaugurated into the Smitten Kitchen Hall of Fame.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I edited (of course as my husband says) used Trader Joe's Sunflower Seed Spread and TJ's Organic Strawberry Fruit Spread (no added sugar - they use white grape juice concentrate). So easy and as you said wonderful soft, chewy texture. Thank you for your creativity and for sharing!”
— Joyce
Comment

To stick to three ingredients, all of these recipes ditch the usual suspects, like flour, butter, baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla extract. Which leaves us with what? Just peanut butter, eggs, and sugar, be it granulated or brown.

Photo by ROCKY LUTEN. PROP STYLIST: AMANDA WIDIS. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG.

Today, we’re taking another route, one that keeps the ingredient list little, and makes the technique even lazier.

Peanut butter? Check. Unsweetened, so the distinction between dessert and breakfast becomes blurry enough to fail an eye exam. Eggs? Check. Because, at least in my kitchen, they’re never not around.

But—and this is where you ignore Google Maps directing you to stay on the highway, put on your blinker, change lanes, and zoom toward the billboard exit for an amusement park—sugar? Nope. Instead, we’re reaching for a jar of jam.

I don’t need to tell you that peanut butter and jam are a power couple. But when you stir them together into cookie dough, they become more than the sum of their parts. Think of it like when Taylor Swift sings and then Bon Iver sings and then Taylor Swift sings and then Bon Iver sings and then, all of the sudden, Taylor Swift and Bon Iver sing, together, as one. That’s the vibe.

While sugar serves up sweetness, jam delivers a fruity tang and, well, jammy texture. Peach and apricot both slap. But who’s to stop you from enlisting apple or fig? Just stick to something that’s orange-ish in color and humble in flavor, so the peanut butter can shine bright like a diamond.

I have a theory that if you give this cookie to someone who doesn’t know that the just-so-goodness comes from jam, they’d never be able to guess. But I’ve only tested this on my husband and could use a bigger sample size. You can help with that, right?


Big Little News!

If you come here often (knew I recognized you), you might've heard that I'm turning this column into a cookbook. It's chock-full of few-ingredient recipes like this one, it's coming out in October, and it's available for preorder right—checks watch—now. I just can't wait to share it with you. Especially this eggy, bacony pasta on the cover.

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Put down those long grocery lists. Inspired by the award-winning column, our upcoming Big Little Recipes cookbook is minimalism at its best: few ingredients, tons of flavor.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • lindamodaro
    lindamodaro
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    Kbz4946
  • Nancy Frehling
    Nancy Frehling
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    Becky Devlin
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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

32 Comments

lindamodaro February 25, 2021
How so I store these? They are just right to our taste - not too sweet. We used a purple berry jam that a friend made for us, so they are dark but delicious. Right now I have them in a tupperware container on the counter. Do I need to refrigerate?
 
Kbz4946 February 23, 2021
I used a silicone baking sheet and they were fine. I never baked because of all the measuring involved not to mention sugar is bad for you so I thought they were good and using jam was super easy and healthier.
 
Nancy F. February 23, 2021
The bottoms burned but less time would not have cooked them through. I threw them all out.
 
janet April 28, 2021
Nancy, I wonder if your rack was too low? Just a thought.
 
Becky D. February 20, 2021
350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes
 
Becky D. February 20, 2021
Boocat2426 click on view recipe to find info
 
Boocat2426 February 20, 2021
I can't find the oven temperature or the time. Thanks for your help.
 
mnc February 18, 2021
Would this work with a chunky-style peanut butter (which is the only kind I usually have around the house)?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 19, 2021
Yes!
 
Joyce February 18, 2021
Delicious! A brilliant recipe! I edited (of course as my husband says) used Trader Joe's Sunflower Seed Spread and TJ's Organic Strawberry Fruit Spread (no added sugar - they use white grape juice concentrate). So easy and as you said wonderful soft, chewy texture. Thank you for your creativity and for sharing!
 
lerkes February 18, 2021
I did't like these - they didn't have much flavor.
 
Bonnie February 16, 2021
SOOOOOOO excited about the cookbook. Have pre-ordered and now will try to wait patiently. :-)
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 17, 2021
Thank you, Bonnie! That means so much to me. So excited for you to cook and bake the new recipes :)
 
SuperKay February 16, 2021
Hi, can you add chocolate chips? Is there a good way to make this a chocolatey cookie?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 17, 2021
I haven't tried chocolate chips! But sounds sooo good—I'd use finely chopped chocolate or smaller chocolate chips. If you give it a go, let me know how they turn out!
 
SuperKay February 27, 2021
I made it! I added white chocolate chips and used crunchy peanut butter. It was delicious! I wish I had added some salt, it would have added another dimension.
 
youngtoast February 16, 2021
what is the texture of the cookie like??
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 17, 2021
Puffy and soft, cakey around on the edges, fudgy-chewy in the center
 
Kbz4946 February 16, 2021
Can I i use sugar free jam... I really watch my sugar intake?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 17, 2021
Not sure about that one! The sugar in the jam plays a big role in these cookies' composition, so using a sugar-free variety would likely affect the overall texture.
 
janet April 28, 2021
Im all for trying that! I will use just 1/4 of the recipe to experiment.
 
Wendy February 16, 2021
These are wonderful protein snacks prior to a workout. What do think the calorie content is
 
Smaug February 16, 2021
Wait a minute- there are some situations where weight is superior to volume, a whole lot where it's not, but grams are not more accurate than ounces. Many scale makers choose, for whatever reason, to use smaller gradations in their gram measurements, but that's purely a manufacturing choice. In theory (and in scientific use) grams measure mass rather than weight, but unless you're using a balance scale they don't in the kitchen.
 
Marcie(Marcia M. February 16, 2021
Sound really delish! Would almond butter work, as well, and if so—would seedless raspberry or strawberry jam work?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 16, 2021
Hi Marcie! Yes, almond butter would work. And while raspberry or strawberry jam wouldn't negatively affect the cookies' texture, you would notice the flavor and color much more than apricot or peach (which serve as a more subtle backdrop to the nut butter).
 
SWG February 16, 2021
Can I use almond butter instead of peanut butter?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 16, 2021
Yes for sure!
 
Becky D. February 16, 2021
What if I only have sweetened peanut butter? Will this be a problem that sends me out to the store or can I just go ahead with what I have on hand?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 16, 2021
Hi Becky! I haven't tried this recipe with sweetened peanut butter but it should work (the cookies will just be sweeter).
 
janet April 28, 2021
Wait, what? I dont know what sweetened peanut butter is? Sounds like regular peanut butter to me. What am i missing? Thanks
 
Marie February 16, 2021
Sounds great, will definitely try this
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 16, 2021
Thanks Marie!