An updated take on the classic holiday cookie – healthier flourless peanut butter cookies made with only seven ingredients and no refined sugar.
Last month, when I asked what type of holiday cookies you all wanted to see healthified on the blog, there were a number of requests for peanut butter cookies.
This is hardly surprising given that peanut butter is basically the gateway nut butter.
After all, most of us got hooked on the stuff before we could form full sentences (unless you have a peanut allergy obviously). Then eventually as our palates evolved—i.e. we started shopping at Whole Foods—we learned that there was a magical world of nut butters just waiting to be spooned into our mouths.
But peanut butter will always have a special place in my heart even if I now pledge allegiance to almond butter and rarely eat peanut butter (the horror).
The smell alone transports me straight back to grade school. While I have never been a huge fan of peanut butter and jelly, I’ve always enjoyed a good peanut butter sandwich or slathering the stuff between a few crackers or on apple slices topped with raisins—a classic and easily my favorite way to eat it.
Unless it’s just straight up on a spoon with a few dark chocolate chips. That also never disappoints.
When it comes to holiday cookies, I have fond memories of baking both peanut butter thumbprints and chocolate kiss blossoms, but I wanted to keep this cookie super basic yet still delicious.
And that’s exactly what I did my friends.
Minus the trademark fork tine hashmarks but you can’t always have it all.
Full disclosure: it took me four tries and a ginourmous jar of peanut butter to get the recipe exactly right. Sure, the first three batches were equally delicious (OK actually the first one was a total flop much to my dog Archie’s delight, as they became his new treats), but I just wasn’t happy with something about each of them.
The first ones were way, way too oily and didn’t rise at all—basically little peanut butter biscuits hence why they made the perfect dog treat.
In the second batch, I tried using a smashed ripe banana to sweeten the cookies but the consistency was off, as was the overall flavor. Strike two.
For the third batch, I switched to coconut sugar and added a tablespoon of coconut flour. These were pretty good actually, but far too crumbly and still on the oiler side.
By the fourth time, I decided to incorporate my all-time favorite grain—OATS.
Soft. Chewy. Moist.
Peanut butter cookie perfection.
And seriously LEGIT when eaten slightly warm from the oven with a small schmear of peanut butter on top — like OMG x 20.
I used honey instead of sugar and found that it worked really well to bind everything together while the oats kept the oily natural peanut butter in check. The final product is peanut buttery, light and fluffy, a little bit chewy, and not too sweet.
Peanut butter is a good source of protein and the whole grain rolled oats make these cookies little energy powerhouses. Perfect before a workout or to refuel after a tough one. The oats are also high in fiber, which helps them release energy into the body slower than a refined grain or flour meaning you’ll feel fuller and have less of an energy crash after eating them.
In fact, these cookies are so healthy and light that they would totally be A-OK for breakfast or a snack anytime of year. Yep. You’ve got my full support on this one.
I’ve said it before but I feel the need to mention it one more time (because hi, I am a nutrition nerd and dietitian)…Remember that honey is still sugar. It’s actually 40 percent fructose, which is can be unhealthy if consumed in excess so as with all treats try to practice mindfulness (meaning don’t eat them all in one sitting).
And since it is the holidays, if you did want to up the sweetness a tad, you could always increase the honey or try adding a bit a coconut sugar, but I don’t think it needs it and neither did my taste testers. There’s also always the option to add chocolate chips, which would certainly boost the richness and sweetness.
The key step in this recipe is taking time to either stir the peanut butter really, really well and then chill it overnight before using it in the recipe and/or chill the dough for at least 30 minutes prior to baking.
This will help keep the natural oils from oozing out of the cookies prematurely and I highly recommend this over using a more processed peanut butter brand like Skippy or Jif (my childhood favorite!).
So while it took a lot of time and a lot of peanut butter to get to these cookies, it was worth the effort. Plus, my entire apartment has smelled like a peanut butter jar for the last week and I am definitely NOT mad about that one bit.
Though our dog has been acting much, much more interested in what I’m up to in the kitchen because dogs totally understand peanut butter at a guttural level, too.
Peanut butter IS the jam.
On to the cookies!
7-Ingredient, Healthier Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
gluten free, refined sugar free, vegan option*
Yield: 18 cookies | Prep time: 5 minutes + 30 minutes to chill dough | Cook time: 10-12 minutes
2/3 cups + 2 tbs gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup natural peanut butter (unsalted and preferably chilled**)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup local raw honey
1/4 tsp sea salt (unless using salted peanut butter then omit)
1 tsp baking soda
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk egg with vanilla and honey. Add peanut butter and mix until well combined.
- In a separate bowl toss oats, sea salt and baking soda together then add to mixing bowl with peanut butter and other wet ingredients.
- Using a spatula stir oats and peanut butter mixture until all ingredients are well distributed throughout the dough.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line a cookie pan or rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Spoon about two tablespoons of dough into the palm of your hand and roll between palms to form a small ball and place on prepared baking sheet. Continue this process until all the dough has been used.
- Gently press down the tops of the dough to flatten the cookies. The dough will not spread much, if at all, so flatten to your desired thickness. If you choose not to flatten them, it will still work just fine but the cookies will be much thicker and more muffin-like in texture (still delicious!).
- Bake for 10-12 minutes and allow to cool on the cookie sheet for an additional 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
- Enjoy, friends!
*To make these vegan, substitute a flax egg (1 tbs flaxseed meal + 3 tbs filtered water) for the egg and use 1/3 cup coconut sugar instead of honey.
**Natural peanut butter can be on the oiler side so by taking care to stir it really well and also chill it prior to using it in this recipe, it will produce a much sturdier cookie.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope you love these simple peanut butter cookies! If you make them, I’d love to see your spin on them so please tag me on social media @honestlynourished and use #honestlynourished so I can give you a virtual high five and hug.
Next week, we’re headed to the Southeast to visit my family in South Carolina for the holiday. Looking forward to getting to my parent’s beautiful mountain home and not leaving for the entire week! What are you all doing to celebrate the holiday season?
What memories of peanut butter or peanut butter cookies do you cherish from your childhood? How has your nut butter obsession evolved over the years? Share below, friends!