Easy Peanut Butter Cookies Recipe

This classic recipe for peanut butter cookies comes straight from my mom’s recipe box, and they are the BEST peanut butter cookies. They are easy to make and stay wonderfully soft. This staple recipe deserves a place in everyone’s kitchen!

A stack of peanut butter cookies

When you think about what would be on the all-star team of cookies, I think it breaks down pretty simply to the following:

Sure, there are tons of other amazing cookies out there (hello shortbread, thumbprint, snickerdoodles, snowballs, and macaroons, to name a few), but these four are the essentials. They’re the cookies that always show up on cookie trays, the ones that everyone’s family has multiple recipes for, are easy to whip up, and evoke the most nostalgic cookie memories.

Of these, I’ve always had the softest spot for peanut butter cookies. There’s just something about those crisscross-laced cookies loaded with peanut butter and rolled in crunchy sugar that makes me remember sitting in my mom’s old kitchen and licking the beaters, helping her roll those balls of dough and pressing the tines of a fork on top.

I might be biased, but I think these are the BEST peanut butter cookies!

An overhead photo of baked peanut butter cookies with a spoonful of peanut butter.

This is the recipe my mom made with me and my sister when we were little and it was the first recipe I begged her for after I left home. I would venture to guess that it came from the back of a jar of peanut butter back in the day, but she doesn’t have a source listed anywhere.

It’s a simple list of ingredients – flour, baking soda, salt, peanut butter (of course!) brown sugar, shortening, milk, and vanilla. It takes all of five minutes to mix them together, then you roll the dough into tablespoon-size balls of dough, roll them in granular sugar, then press the tines of a fork in a crisscross pattern on top.

They are incredibly easy to make and belong on every single Christmas cookie tray, wedding cookie table, and after school snack plate from now until the end of time.

Why the criss-cross pattern on top?

Good question! That crosshatch is a defining trait of nearly all peanut butter cookies.

Peanut butter cookie dough is a bit dense, so pressing down on them helps to flatten them a bit so they bake more evenly. And, bonus! Since this is a traditional characteristic of peanut butter cookies, you’ll always be able to spot them on a cookie tray without having to ask what kind of cookie it is.

Making this pretty pattern is incredibly easy – dip the tines of a fork in sugar, gently press it into the top of the cookie, then repeat, this time making the impression perpendicular to the first. You did it!

A fork making a crisscross pattern on the top of unbaked peanut butter cookies.

The best kind of peanut butter to use

I always, always recommend only baking with creamy, processed peanut butter, such as Jif, Skippy, or Peter Pan. Natural-style peanut butter with oil separation is simply too greasy for nearly all baking recipes; using it can result in cookies that spread too much and that can become crumbly.

If you’d like to use a nut butter alternative, see the recipe notes below on some recommendations.

Tips for measuring peanut butter

Peanut butter can be sticky and hard to get into and then back out of a measuring cup when baking. I have a few suggestions for making it easier!

  • Weigh your ingredients – You know I’m a big advocate of this and have an entire post dedicated to why you should weigh ingredients when baking; all you need to do is scoop it out of the jar and plop it in your bowl – no messing around with measuring cups!
  • Use an adjustable measuring cup – An adjustable measuring cup allows you to set the amount to measure, fill it up, and dispense it into the bowl. This is a great tool for sticky ingredients like peanut butter, honey, molasses, etc.
  • Grease your measuring cups – Last but not least, you can coat your measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray to help it slide right out after it’s been measured.

Peanut butter cookie dough balls rolled in a bowl of sugar.

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • Preparing your pans – Whether you use cookie sheets or rimmed baking sheets, be sure that your sheets are ungreased or lined with parchment to keep the cookies from spreading and absorbing too much grease.
  • Can you use butter instead of shortening? In a word, no. Shortening keeps the cookies from spreading too much, keeps them from being crumbly, and ensures that they are nice and soft. Replacing it with butter would significantly alter the texture of the cookies and I beg you not to do it. They do now make butter-flavored shortening that I’ve used from time to time if you’re worried about the flavor.
  • Peanut Butter – It is important to use traditional, processed peanut butter (i.e. Jif, Skippy, Peter Pan, etc.) in this recipe. Using natural peanut butter that has oil separation will be much too greasy and cause the cookies to spread and become crumbly, so I do not recommend using natural peanut butter.
  • Nut Butter Alternatives – You can use other nut butters such as almond butter, cashew butter, etc. as long as they do not have oil separation (see the note above). A great almond butter substitute that works exceptionally well in all baked goods I’ve tried it with is Barney Butter.
  • Avoid crumbly cookies – The three most common reasons peanut butter cookies end up crumbly are (1) too much flour; (2) using the wrong kind of peanut butter, and (3) they are overbaked. Be sure to either weigh your flour or spoon it into your measuring cup before leveling (the scoop method often results in too much flour), use the correct type of peanut butter (see above), and take the cookies out when the centers still look soft and underdone. They will set as they cool.
  • Fun Extras – You can jazz these cookies up a bit if you’d like! Try rolling in colored sugars for a festive look or add some mix-ins – try a ½ cup of chopped peanuts, mini chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, or any other mix-in you like to pair with peanut butter!
  • Make-Ahead – You can prepare the cookie dough and refrigerate for up to 3 days before baking. When ready, let it sit on the counter for about 30 minutes before scooping and proceeding with baking.
  • Storage – These cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
  • Freezing Instructions – These cookies freeze exceptionally well! You can freeze the balls of dough in a ziptop plastic bag for up to 3 months. Remove from the freezer, let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then roll in sugar and make the crisscross pattern on top, then bake as directed, adding an extra minute. You can also freeze the baked cookies by wrapping them individually in plastic wrap, then place them in a ziptop bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

An overhead photo of baked peanut butter cookies.

Variations on classic peanut butter cookies

While regular ol’ peanut butter cookies are fantastic on their own, these variations deserve a spot in your recipe box, too:

  • Monster Cookies – Peanut butter cookie dough PLUS oats, chocolate chips, M&Ms, and Reese’s Pieces!
  • Peanut Butter Blossoms – A holiday classic! Place the sugared balls of dough on a cookie sheet and press a Hershey’s kiss into the center when they come out of the oven.
  • Peanut Butter Cup Cookies – Take that ball of dough, pop into a mini muffin pan, then press a mini peanut butter cup into the centers when they come out of the oven.
  • Salted Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Chip Cookies – A riff on my favorite chocolate chip cookies, these have a peanut butter dough base, are super thick and soft, and loaded with peanut butter chips, milk chocolate chips, and chopped peanut butter cups.

A plate piled high with peanut butter cookies.

If you make this recipe and love it, I would so appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a rating below. Thank you so much! ❤️️

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

Servings 36 cookies
Prep 22 minutes
Cook 8 minutes
Total 30 minutes
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Author: Michelle

This classic recipe for peanut butter cookies comes straight from my mom's recipe box, and they are the BEST peanut butter cookies. They are easy to make and stay wonderfully soft.

Ingredients:

  • cups
    all-purpose flour
  • ¾
    teaspoon
    salt
  • ¾
    teaspoon
    baking soda
  • ¾
    cup
    creamy peanut butter
  • ½
    cup
    vegetable shortening
  • cups
    packed light brown sugar
  • 3
    tablespoons
    milk
  • 1
    tablespoon
    vanilla
  • 1
    egg
  • Granulated sugar
    (for rolling cookies)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until well blended, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat just until blended. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture gradually, mixing just until combined.
  4. Put the granulated sugar in a small bowl. Scoop a tablespoonful of dough and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Roll the dough into the sugar and place on the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Dip the tines of a fork into the sugar and make a crisscross pattern on the cookies, flattening them slightly.
  5. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes:

  • Preparing your pans - Whether you use cookie sheets or rimmed baking sheets, be sure that your sheets are ungreased or lined with parchment to keep the cookies from spreading and absorbing too much grease.
  • Can you use butter instead of shortening? In a word, no. Shortening keeps the cookies from spreading too much, keeps them from being crumbly, and ensures that they are nice and soft. Replacing it with butter would significantly alter the texture of the cookies and I beg you not to do it. They do now make butter-flavored shortening that I've used from time to time if you're worried about the flavor.
  • Peanut Butter - It is important to use traditional, processed peanut butter (i.e. Jif, Skippy, Peter Pan, etc.) in this recipe. Using natural peanut butter that has oil separation will be much too greasy and cause the cookies to spread and become crumbly, so I do not recommend using natural peanut butter.
  • Nut Butter Alternatives - You can use other nut butters such as almond butter, cashew butter, etc. as long as they do not have oil separation (see the note above). A great almond butter substitute that works exceptionally well in all baked goods I've tried it with is Barney Butter.
  • Avoid crumbly cookies - The three most common reasons peanut butter cookies end up crumbly are (1) too much flour; (2) using the wrong kind of peanut butter, and (3) they are overbaked. Be sure to either weigh your flour or spoon it into your measuring cup before leveling (the scoop method often results in too much flour), use the correct type of peanut butter (see above), and take the cookies out when the centers still look soft and underdone. They will set as they cool.
  • Fun Extras - You can jazz these cookies up a bit if you'd like! Try rolling in colored sugars for a festive look or add some mix-ins - try a ½ cup of chopped peanuts, mini chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, or any other mix-in you like to pair with peanut butter!
  • Make-Ahead - You can prepare the cookie dough and refrigerate for up to 3 days before baking. When ready, let it sit on the counter for about 30 minutes before scooping and proceeding with baking.
  • Storage - These cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
  • Freezing Instructions - These cookies freeze exceptionally well! You can freeze the balls of dough in a ziptop plastic bag for up to 3 months. Remove from the freezer, let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then roll in sugar and make the crisscross pattern on top, then bake as directed, adding an extra minute. You can also freeze the baked cookies by wrapping them individually in plastic wrap, then place them in a ziptop bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Nutritional values are based on one cookie

Nutrition:

Calories: 111kcal
Fat: 5g
Saturated fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 4mg
Sodium: 100mg
Potassium: 54mg
Carbohydrates: 13g
Sugar: 8g
Protein: 2g
Vitamin A: 10%
Calcium: 12%
Iron: 0.5%

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[photos by Whitney Wright]