Make Ahead

Quick Peanut Butter and Chocolate Squares

September 29, 2013
10 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 16 large squares
Author Notes

These squares are ridiculously quick to make, require no baking, and have a very grown-up hit of salt on top. They're perfect as a hostess gift, and also great to have in your repertoire for the craziness of the holidays. The bars work well as a mid-morning pick-me-up with a shot of espresso, but also as an after-school snack with a glass of milk. Pack them on a picnic and watch them disappear! —Selma | Selma's Table

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe takes the classic chocolate and peanut butter pairing and turns it into a no-bake bar cookie. It's the perfect dessert recipe to have in your back pocket for bake sales, picnics, large gatherings of any kind, or just when you need a sugar fix -- stat. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons (45g) butter
  • 2 sleeves (240g) saltine crackers
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups (340g) smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup (200g) chopped dark chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top
  1. Blitz or crush the crackers into fine crumbs, depending on how much texture you want in your squares. You should have about 2 cups of crushed crackers. Empty into a large mixing bowl, then add the peanut butter.
  2. Place the sugar, milk, and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. While the mixture is coming to a boil, line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper or non-stick foil. Leave a little overhang so that you can pull it out later.
  3. Once the mixture on the stove comes to a full boil, set the timer for 1 minute. Don't panic if the mixture froths and foams. When the minute is up, carefully pour the extremely hot sugar mixture over the crackers and peanut butter. Add the vanilla, then stir with a spatula until everything is really well combined. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth it out, and leave it to cool for about an hour.
  4. Heat the cream in a pan until it just comes to a boil. Take it off the heat and stir in the pieces of chocolate. When it looks lovely and glossy, it's ready.
  5. Pour the chocolate on top of the peanut butter base and smooth it out with a spatula. Sprinkle with flaky salt while the chocolate is still warm
  6. Pop the pan into the fridge to allow it to set. When it's firm, remove it from the tin using the overhang to help to pull it out. With a large knife, cut it into squares -- whichever size you like. Store in an airtight tin.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Two Trays Kitchen
    Two Trays Kitchen
  • Jessica Jhinnu Meunier
    Jessica Jhinnu Meunier
  • Jo Supko
    Jo Supko
  • Selma | Selma's Table
    Selma | Selma's Table
  • VanessaJo

41 Reviews

Amy December 29, 2021
Whoa. These are amazing. Big hit at Christmas. If you are a fan of PB cups, don’t delay! You will love these. I enjoyed the simplicity of the recipe, yet you get a complex result. I used Italian saltines (Pavesi, I think. Mulino Bianco saltines are great crackers if you can find them) and Jif natural PB, which is still a processed PB, just better flavor, IMO. Because it was my first time making them, I didn’t cut back the sugar as much as I would have liked. Too sweet, but next time I’m going to try 1/3 cup dark brown sugar and 1/3 cup white granulated, total. I added 1T bourbon instead of vanilla. I used 65% dark melting chocolate. As some other reviewers noted, I needed an extra tablespoon of cream to get all the chocolate melted and smooth. Will be making these for years to come. Thanks
jgboston June 11, 2020
These are always a huge hit when I bring to any event. You can decrease sugar a bit with good results; yet if you keep as is totally fine to cut into small pieces so no one knows when you keep going back for seconds, thirds...etc.
jgboston June 11, 2020
These are always a huge hit when I bring to any event. You can decrease sugar a bit with good results; yet if you keep as is totally fine to cut into small pieces so no one knows when you keep going back for seconds/thirds...etc.
Two T. January 18, 2020
What is the best way to store these? They are yummy!
Jessica J. January 29, 2018
Hi! I am wondering how long these will keep in a covered glass pan? Can I make them 2 days ahead of a party? they look great, thank you!
Jo S. September 6, 2017
Needs only 2/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup white sugar.
Selma |. October 1, 2014
Apologies to all who have left comments and asked questions - I have only just realised that this was a CP - not sure why I didn't get a notification from F52 but I hope that you have all had success with this recipes and the fabulous subs that are in the comments.
fran September 15, 2014
Is semi-sweet chocolate chips what you mean as dark chocolate, or is it something else?
Selma |. October 1, 2014
I live in the UK and we tend to use slabs of chocolate which we chop up, rather than chocolate chips. (I stock up on bags and bags of chocolate chips when I visit my mum in Canada!!) I use a 70% cocoa because I like the darker, deeper flavour. I believe that semi sweet would work as it is about 60% cocoa. Hope that helps.
lapetitecrum August 8, 2014
Chewy chocolate peanut butter! I just made this recipe but with a few substitutions. I halved the sugar and used light brown instead of white and half and half instead of heavy cream. The peanut butter I used is the non-stabilized natural type, chunky style. I figured that my peanut butter is a bit more oily than creamy jiff style so I also lowered the butter amount by ~1/3. It still came out great. Thanks for the recipe!
Selma |. October 1, 2014
Thanks for your lovely comment and all the subs too. I use a commercial smooth peanut butter so your tips are very helpful to those going the natural route.
Clif B. July 4, 2014
Just put this together and the cracker and peanut butter base hardened before I even got it in the pan. Is it supposed to be this hard?
VanessaJo July 4, 2014
It sounds like the sugar cooked too long?
Selma |. October 1, 2014
I am so sorry to hear that - perhaps the sugar was over cooked - it literally needs one minute from when it comes to a boil. It is quite a stiff mixture, however it should not have hardened to that extent. I have made this numerous times with no problems but I do stand over the pan and set the timer for one minute too!
VanessaJo June 30, 2014
I just made these with natural peanut butter and subbed almond milk for a non-milk drinking friend. I didn't have saltines, so I subbed a mixture of (wait for it...) Weetabix and oyster crackers.
The mixture tasted divine, they set up wonderfully in the fridge, and I am now scheming as to which corner I can cut off without anyone noticing. For quality control purposes, of course.
VanessaJo July 1, 2014
Make these now! Completely delicious (with the above substitutions) and addictive!
Selma |. October 1, 2014
So happy to hear that these were a success for you. I love the subs and the Weetabix and Oyster Crackers combination sounds amazing!
Linda O. June 29, 2014
I also wondered about the PB - can it be natural or more like Jif? Thanks for the great gluten free sub suggestions
Selma |. October 1, 2014
I used a commercial smooth peanut butter but others on here have used natural with success. One person reduced the butter by a ⅓ to make up for the oiliness of the natural PB. Another doesn't seem to have adjusted for it. Hope that helps!
alia June 29, 2014
sounds awfully salty.....could one use graham crackers in place of the saltines?
Selma |. October 1, 2014
I use an Italian version of the Saltines (I am in the UK) but that is part of the flavour profile - salty, savoury, sweet with the dark chocolate. Others have subbed rice kris pies or weetabix and oyster crackers. I have only made it with the saltines and the balance is right it is absolutely delicious - you are not eating huge portions of it any case (hopefully!)
amy June 27, 2014
I made these yesterday. They didn't cut cleanly - the peanut butter part crumbled quite a bit. Also, 3 tablespoons of cream does not seem like enough to melt a cup of chocolate. My chocolate seized on me - I ended up warming a bit more cream to add to the chocolate, which got the chocolate soft enough to spread.
amy June 27, 2014
I should add that they did taste good, and the people I served liked them. I would like to perfect this recipe before making them again.
Selma |. October 1, 2014
Thanks Amy. It sounds as if the sugar mixture was cooked for too long - It literally only needs one minute from when it comes to a boil. Your chocolate may have seized on you because it got too hot too quickly or some water got into the mixture. Glad to hear that you were able to save it though!
Greatfallsdeb June 24, 2014
I have a similar recipe that uses Special K cereal and corn syrup in place of some of the sugar. Last week I made the using natural peanut butter and they didn't turn out as well. Not sure if the peanut butter was the culprit...but my-oh-my, these are incredibly addictive!
Selma |. October 1, 2014
Thanks for your comment and the sub ideas too. Natural PB is quite oily so that may have been the problem. Perhaps cut back on the butter by a third as one commenter has suggested.
Dawn M. June 24, 2014
What's an equal measurement of a gluten free dry ingredients? How many cups of chex would work best here?
Karen A. June 29, 2014
I would think it would be equal measurements. 2 cups crushed Chex = 2 cups cracker crumbs.
Selma |. October 1, 2014
Yes, Karen is correct - it would be equal measurements.
Peggy G. June 24, 2014
Is there anything you could substitute for saltine crackers to make it wheat free?
bb June 24, 2014
You could probably use a wheat-free cereal as the base. My grandmother makes a similar recipe with special k.
Peggy G. June 24, 2014
Thank you - that's a great idea. Something a little salty (Chex) might work.
Selma |. October 1, 2014
Yes, Chex sounds great!
Luz R. June 24, 2014
Very interesting combination of ingredients , texture can be varied with how you crumble saltines. Will try making this for the kids and see what they say.
Selma |. October 1, 2014
Hope they enjoyed them!
fearlessem June 19, 2014
Congrats on the Community Pick! I'm really intrigued by this recipe (I loooove saltines!), but 2 cups of sugar seems like such a huge amount... How sweet are these? Is the PB commercial (Jif?) or natural (without sugar?)
Selma |. October 1, 2014
So sorry for such a hideously late reply - I have only just realised that this was a CP!! I have made this several times with great success. In fact I had to make some overnight to give to some French friends to take home with them as they loved them so much!! The flavour profile is sweet, salty, savoury with the bitterness from the dark chocolate. Another commenter has cut back on the sugar successfully so give it a try and see!
EmilyC June 19, 2014
These look so good! Congrats on the CP!
Selma |. October 1, 2014
Thank you so much - I have only just realised that these were a CP!