3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
A few months ago, back when when we were still in the height of a great flour shortage, I posted the recipe for these 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies in my Instagram Stories. They were a hit! These 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies are simple, easy, and most of all, delicious. True to their name, these cookies contain no flour and only three ingredients: peanut butter, brown sugar, and eggs.
But truthfully, even before the shortage, I’ve had this recipe for 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies saved in the back of my baking to-do list forever and ever. I first encountered these cookies at famed bakery Ovenly in New York City. A friend of mine insisted that I try the peanut butter cookie she’d gotten with her coffee. I’d initially declined because I’m not the world’s biggest fan of peanut butter (Sorry guys—I’m just not that into it. It’s fine, just fine). However, when she pulled her cookie out of the bag, I was intrigued. The peanut butter cookie didn’t look like more traditional ones with the cross fork markings. Instead, it looked more like a chocolate chipless cookie. I took a bite and was impressed. No joke—it was the best peanut butter cookie I’d ever had!
Later, after trying some of Ovenly’s other delicious bakes (like a slice of their Brooklyn Blackout Cake… also yum!), I decided to purchase their cookbook. I saw this peanut butter cookie recipe and was surprised to find that 1) the cookies don’t contain any flour and are actually gluten-free and 2) they contained only 3 ingredients. Wild.
What do 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies Taste Like?
Had I known that the cookies contained only 3 ingredients, I would have been even more reluctant to try them. I would have worried that their minimal ingredients list meant that the cookies were too one dimensional—specifically that they’d taste like peanut butter and not much else.
But weirdly enough, that’s not the case at all! When baked, the peanut butter flavor softens. It becomes more subtle and takes on a slightly toasted flavor. The brown sugar adds to the effect too, giving the cookies subtle caramel toffee notes that match the peanut butter. Sounds delicious, right?
What is the Texture of 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies?
In the past, I’ve found most peanut butter cookies to be too dry and crumbly. But these 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies are more similar to my favorite kind of chocolate chip cookie, with crispy edges and a chewy center.
Why You Should Make These 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
Here are all the reasons why you need to make these very delicious 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies:
These 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies are based on a beloved recipe by popular New York City bakery, Ovenly.
I mentioned earlier that this cookie recipe comes from Ovenly, a popular bakery in New York City. In addition to these tasty peanut butter cookies, Ovenly makes delicious breakfast pastries (hello, blueberry cornflake muffins!), cakes for special occasions, and more. They are most famous for their “secretly vegan” chocolate chip cookies, which is beloved by the baking community on Food52.
These 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies come together really, really quickly.
It’s true—you don’t even need to pull out the stand mixer for this one. Making the dough literally takes 5 minutes. Maybe even less? All you need to do is whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, and peanut butter to make the dough. After that, use a cookie dough scoop to shape the dough into cookies and bake them. That’s it!
These 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies are flourless.
I was shocked to discover that these peanut butter cookies were flourless. But if you think about it in terms of baking theory and pastry techniques, it makes sense—peanut butter contains so much fat that it doesn’t really need that much flour for structure and gluten. When combined with a protein like eggs, it can easily hold its shape on its own!
These 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies are gluten-free.
No flour in the recipe means that these cookies do not contain gluten. They are 100% gluten-free and can be enjoyed by folks with gluten sensitivities and intolerances.
These 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies use ingredients that are easily substitutable.
This recipe is very, very forgiving and works with all sorts of nut butters, as well as different types of peanut butter brands and varieties. Be sure to check out the section below on all the different substitutions you can make to truly customize these cookies to your taste! You can also add in different extracts and finishing salts to make the cookies “bakery-style”.
These 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies store well.
These peanut butter cookies deepen in flavor overnight, resulting in more pronounced caramel and toasted nut flavors. And because peanut butter is naturally high in fat, the cookies take a while to get stale! Instead, they stay fresh and chewy in the centers for longer than the average cookie recipe.
3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies Ingredients and Substitutions
Now that I’ve convinced you to make these 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies, here’s your (very short) shopping list for the recipe:
3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies Recipe Shopping List
- dark OR light brown sugar
- large eggs
- peanut butter
And let’s talk about the ingredients:
This peanut butter cookie recipe uses 1 ¾ cups brown sugar.
Light versus Dark Brown Sugar
Brown sugar is granulated white sugar with a touch of molasses to give it its signature color and flavor. Because brown sugar contains molasses, it adds more moisture baked goods than granulated sugar otherwise would. Brown sugar is available in two varieties: light or dark. Dark brown sugar is my personal preference; because it contains more molasses, I find it to be more flavorful. However, you can use either in this peanut butter cookie recipe without altering its flavor too much.
Can I use white sugar instead of brown sugar for these 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies?
Yes, with reservations. Using white sugar in this recipe will cause the cookies to spread thinner. The cookies will also likely have a crisper texture. That’s because the molasses in the brown sugar causes the proteins in cookie dough to firm up faster, creating a chewier texture. White sugar does not contain any molasses, and therefore does not contain that same property. Furthermore, if you’re planning on storing the cookies for a while, the brown sugar will keep the cookies fresh and moist for longer. Brown sugar is “hygroscopic” and draws water more easily from the air. White sugar, unfortunately, is not hygroscopic. You can read more about the food science of it all in this Chowhound article and this Serious Eats article.
Can I use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar for these 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies?
Yes, with reservations. Coconut sugar is made from the nectar produced by coconut blossoms (not actual coconuts), which is then boiled and ground to create a granular substance with a texture similar to brown sugar. Folks like to use it as a substitute for brown sugar because its natural toasted brown color and caramelized taste is similar to that of brown sugar.
However, it seems that coconut sugar has the same neutral pH level as granulated white sugar. Using it in this recipe will result in the same different textures and appearance that would also occur if you used white sugar (see my answer to the question above, “Can I use white sugar instead of brown sugar for these 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies?”).
What else can I use instead of brown sugar in this recipe?
According to Ovenly’s cookbook, the original recipe for these cookies used 1 cup (12 ounces or 340 grams) honey instead of brown sugar. However, I have never tried this substitution for myself, so I cannot guarantee the results.
I’m also wary of this substitution because an Instagram follower of mine tried it and reported that she ended up with a very, very liquidy dough. The cookie dough stayed liquidy even after she’d chilled it for an hour! However, she also reported that she used the honey in conjunction with natural cashew butter. As a result, I suspect that this substitution only works if you use the honey with conventional processed peanut butter. Learn more in the section about peanut butter below!
This peanut butter cookie recipe uses 2 large eggs.
I don’t eat egg because of allergies and/or my diet. What can I use instead of egg?
I’m sorry, but I don’t 100% know. In general, my specialty lies in creating baking recipes with conventional ingredients. If you’re looking for eggless or vegan cookie recipes, I suggest checking out my friends Ashlae at Oh Ladycakes and Laura at The First Mess. Both of them specialize in vegan cooking and will be able to help you out better than I can!
That being said, it’s my gut feel that substituting the eggs in this recipe with a common egg replacer like flax eggs or 1-1 egg replacer is probably a bad idea. Why? This recipe literally only contains 3 ingredients. Swapping out the eggs equates to swapping out a good third of what makes the recipe work!
Why didn’t you recommend flax eggs or 1-1 egg replacer for this recipe?
In general, baking, unlike cooking, is much more rigid. Cooking a savory recipe instructs you to take whole ingredients like vegetables, meats, and condiments. These are ingredients that are perfectly edible and solid on their own; often times, all you need to do is cook and combine them together. However, baking often involves creating brand new, solid structures with ingredients that are completely different shapes and structures on their own. As a result, you really, really need a solid understanding of all the different chemical reactions that are causing baked goods to rise and set the way that they do.
What does that mean, exactly? Any changes—no matter how small and insignificant they seem—will have dramatic effects. And the bigger the change (like swapping out one of three ingredients in this recipe!) OR the more changes you make, the more unpredictable the final product will be. Learn more in this Bon Appetit article; Sarah explains the whole thing even better than I do.
So while I’m doing my best to accommodate everybody’s dietary and pantry restrictions, the truth is, there are many occasions in which my hands are tied by food science and chemistry. Like in this recipe! Because the cookies are made with only 3 ingredients, the protein and fat in eggs are responsible for SO much of the cookies’ structure and texture. Swapping it out with, say, something like flax eggs (that have nowhere near as much fat or protein as a regular egg) would likely be disastrous.
This peanut butter cookie recipe uses 1 ¾ cups peanut butter. Note that 1 ¾ cups is the volume amount of 1 (16-ounce) jar of peanut butter.
Can I use natural peanut butter instead for these 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies?
Yes! In the recipe below, I instruct you to use a processed peanut butter brand like Jif or Skippy. Unlike natural peanut butters, these brands often process their peanut butters by homogenizing them and adding sugar to keep them shelf-stable for longer. You can learn more in this Food & Wine article. According to Ovenly’s cookbook, these types of peanut butter work best for this recipe as they help the cookies keep their shape in the oven.
Natural peanut butter, on the other hand, is typically made with just two ingredients: peanuts and salt (though, there are plenty of salt-free varieties too). When stored, the peanuts naturally separate from their oil, leaving a thin layer of oil on top. This type of peanut butter needs to be stirred or shaken vigorously before serving.
Despite Ovenly’s recommendation, I’ve used natural peanut butter in this recipe many, many times. I didn’t notice a dramatic difference when I did. The cookies maybe spread out a little more? But truthfully, this was likely mitigated by the recipe’s chill time. The recipe instructs you to refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour, then freeze the cookie dough for at least 15 minutes before baking them.
Can I use crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth peanut butter for these 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies?
Yes! However, your cookies will look distinctly different from mine. They won’t be as smooth and will have noticeable chunks from the peanuts in the peanut butter.
Can I use powdered peanut butter for these 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies?
I’m sorry, but I don’t know. I’ve never used powdered peanut butter before, so I really don’t know how it works!
Can I substitute the peanut butter with another nut butter like almond or cashew butter?
Yes, with reservations. Both almonds and cashew have different fiber and protein levels than peanuts. As a result, swapping out the peanut butter with either will likely cause the cookies to spread out more and look slightly different. They’ll still be mighty tasty though!
That being said, I don’t recommend swapping out the peanut butter with another nut butter if you’re using honey in place of brown sugar in this recipe. A follower of mine combined natural cashew butter with honey and ended up with a liquidy dough that wouldn’t set. Remember what I said above about the perils of changing too many ingredients in a baking recipe?
Can I substitute the peanut butter with tahini?
Yes, with reservations. Tahini also has different fiber and protein levels from peanuts. As a result, swapping out the peanut butter with tahini will likely cause the cookies to spread more and look slightly different.
That being said, while I am a fan of using tahini in cookies (see: these black tahini cookies, and these vegan tahini chocolate chip ones), an Instagram follower of mine used tahini in this recipe and did not like the result. She reported that the cookies were too heavy, dense, and greasy. However, my friend Janice over at Kitchen Heals Soul tested a similar recipe to this peanut butter cookie one. Janice used tahini and appears to like the result. So it probably just comes down to a matter of personal taste. I know my tahini chocolate chip cookies were also a little controversial, with some folks wondering why I wanted a cookie to taste like hummus (lol).
At the end of the day, I suspect that the type of tahini you use plays a big role on whether or not you’ll like the tahini version of these cookies. Good tahini goes a long way. Check out my favorite tahini brands in this recipe for vegan tahini chocolate chip cookies!
Can I substitute the peanut butter with Nutella?
Probably, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Nutella has a LOT more sugar in it, even when compared with conventional processed peanut butter. Combining all that extra sugar with the brown sugar in this recipe might lead to a cookie that is overly (and almost inedibly) too sweet!
How to Make 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
Here are the basic steps to make 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies from scratch:
- Make the peanut butter cookie dough. (Work Time: <5 minutes)
Whisk together the sugar, eggs, and peanut butter to make the dough. That’s it!
- Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1 hour. (Chill Time: 60 minutes)
After making the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. I learned this trick from my friend Edd at The Boy Who Bakes. If you used a natural nut butter, this step ensures that the cookie dough is easy to work with and holds its shape when scooped. If pressed for time, check out the FAQ to see if you can skip this step!
- Form the peanut butter cookie dough into cookie dough balls. (Work Time: 5 minutes)
Once the dough has been chilled, form and scoop it into cookies. Like with any cookie recipe, I recommend investing in a cookie dough scoop to make the job go by quicker and easier. My favorite cookie dough scoop size for cookies is a 3-tablespoon scoop. Scoop the cookie dough onto a lined sheet pan—there’s no need to arrange them in position for baking yet. You’ll do that after you freeze them (see the next step).
- Freeze the peanut butter cookie dough balls while you preheat the oven. (Chill Time: 15 minutes)
Ovenly’s cookbook recommends that you freeze the cookie dough for at least 15 minutes before baking. I freeze the cookies while I preheat my oven (which usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes to heat to the right temperature, anyway).
- Bake the cookies! (Bake Time: 16 minutes)
Bake the peanut butter cookies for 16 to 18 minutes, or just until their edges are set but the centers are still slightly gooey.
3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies Recipe Troubleshooting and FAQ
FAQ: 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Technique
Why do you need to chill the peanut butter cookie dough twice?
Okay, TECHNICALLY, you don’t need to chill the cookie dough twice. If you used conventional processed peanut butter to make the cookies, you can skip the first chilling period—where you chill the dough in the refrigerator—and only freeze them for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven. Freezing the cookies before baking them helps them retain their shape in the oven.
However, if you used natural nut butter, you’ll likely need to refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour before scooping them. Natural nut butter makes a looser, more liquidy dough that doesn’t keep its shape when scooped.
How do you make this a small batch 3 ingredient peanut butter cookie recipe?
There are two ways to make this 3 ingredient peanut butter cookie recipe a small batch recipe.
The first is to follow the recipe instructions for making the cookie dough and scooping them into cookies. Bake as many as you want now, and freeze the rest for baking later. See more instructions on how to do that below.
The second is to divide the recipe quantities in half. Doing so results in 10 peanut butter cookies (as opposed to 20). Unfortunately, if you like using cup/volume measures, the peanut butter doesn’t divide evenly—this is a great opportunity to measure the peanut butter by weight with a digital scale. The ingredient quantities for the half batch are below:
- ¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons tightly packed (6.5 ounces or 184 grams) brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- ¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (8 ounces or 227 grams) peanut butter
If you are making these “bakery-style” (see below), you’ll also need to reduct the vanilla extract to ¼ teaspoon.
FAQ: 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Add-Ins
How do you make these 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies bakery-style?
Confession time: Ovenly’s original recipe is not actually three ingredients. Instead, they add two more ingredients—vanilla extract and flaky sea salt—to make it “bakery-style”. I’ve tried it, it’s delicious.
To make these cookies bakery-style, simply whisk in ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract after whisking the brown sugar and eggs together. You can also use ½ teaspoon almond extract (especially if you are using almond butter!) for a nuttier flavor. After scooping the cookie dough balls, sprinkle the tops of each with flaky sea salt. How much you want to use is up to you!
Note that Ovenly also uses a larger cookie dough scoop to shape their cookies. If you choose to go this route, increase the recipe’s Bake Time to 20 to 22 minutes. You’ll also end up with 12 large cookies as opposed to 20 cookies.
Can you add chocolate chips to these 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies?
Yes! Several of my Instagram followers added chocolate chips to these cookies with rave results. I would add up to 1 (12-ounce) bag of chocolate chips to this recipe. Mix the chocolate chips in with a rubber spatula after whisking the sugar, eggs, and peanut butter. You can also add roughly chopped chocolate (aim for ¼- to ½-inch pieces) in place of the chocolate chips.
FAQ: 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Storage
Can you freeze 3 ingredient peanut butter cookie dough?
Yes! Follow the instructions to refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1 hour. After the dough has been chilled, use the cookie dough scoop to portion the dough into cookie dough balls on a sheet pan. Loosely cover the sheet pan with plastic wrap and freeze the whole thing (with the cookie dough balls still in the pan) for at least 1 hour, until firm. Once firm, transfer to a zip top bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
When ready to bake, there’s no need to thaw the cookie dough balls! You can bake from frozen. Simply place on a lined sheet pan, placing each cookie dough ball at least 3 inches apart, and bake for 20 to 22 minutes.
Can you freeze the baked 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies?
Yes! Place the cookies in a zip top bag and squeeze all the air out of the bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and serve chilled, or microwave for a few seconds to rewarm.
Best 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe Tips
Best Ingredient Tip
- Ovenly’s cookbook recommends that you use a conventional, processed peanut butter like Jif or Skippy (Ovenly prefers the latter, but I’m a Jif girl myself). Why? These cookies retain their shape best with those types of peanut butter—learn more in the Ingredients section above.
Best Technique Tips
- The recipe instructs you to first whisk the brown sugar and eggs together, then add the peanut butter. Don’t dump everything in at once—if you do, it can be hard to make sure all the ingredients are mixing properly. At first, it will seem like there’s too much brown sugar and not enough eggs to moisten everything. Don’t panic! Just keep whisking, frequently tapping the whisk against the side of the bowl to help free it of any clumps. It’ll come together, I promise. Once it’s smooth, add the peanut butter and do the same thing with the tapping.
- I used this 3-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to form my cookies. Doing so will technically result in 20 cookies, but if you scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, you’ll end up with enough dough for an extra cookie (for a total of 21 cookies).
Best Baking Tip
- I like to bake the cookies one pan at a time. I find that doing so makes the best cookies, ensuring that none of them have overly burnt bottoms or raw centers. However, to save time, you can bake two sheet pans at a time. Position a rack in the upper-third position of the oven, and a second one in the lower-third position of the oven. Bake a pan on each rack, swapping their positions half way through the Bake Time.
Video Tutorial for 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe
Use the video player below to watch my Instagram Story tutorial on how to make this 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies recipe! The arrows to the left and right of the frame allow you to skip through the different recipe steps. You can also hit the “pause” or “enlarge” buttons on the upper right hand side of the frame to pause or enlarge the frames accordingly.
Alternatively, head to my Instagram profile to watch these Stories on mobile! The circles underneath my bio indicate saved Instagram Story highlights depicting various recipes. Clicking on one of the circles will play the videos you see above. You may need to scroll right to find this 3 ingredient peanut butter cookie recipe.
More Peanut Butter Recipes
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
- No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies (Vegan and Gluten Free)
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Layer Cake
- Peanut Butter Pumpkin Trifle
- White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
More Flourless Recipes
Other Popular Drop Cookie Recipes on Hummingbird High
- Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups
- Lavender Earl Grey Cookies
- My Best Snickerdoodle Recipe
- S’mores Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Vegan Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies
3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe
For the 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
- 1 ¾ cups tightly packed (13.15 ounces or 373 grams) dark OR light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 (16-ounce) jar peanut butter (around 1 ¾ cups, 16 ounces or 454 grams)
For the 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
- Make the cookie dough. In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and eggs until combined. Add the peanut butter and whisk until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Use a 3-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the cookie dough into balls, placing them in tight rows on a sheet pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 15 minutes.
- Prepare your oven and pans. While the cookies are in the freezer, prepare your oven. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.
- After 15 minutes, remove the frozen dough from the freezer. Place them at least 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans.
- Bake the cookies. Bake one pan at a time (keeping the other in the refrigerator) for 16 minutes, until the edges have set but the centers are still gooey. Cool the cookies on the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms of the cookies feel firm to the touch. Repeat with remaining cookie dough balls.
- Serve and store. Serve warm or at room temperature. The cookies can be stored, in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days.
This post was last updated on 9/4/2020.
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Over the past several years of running Hummingbird High, I kept a crucial aspect of my life hidden from my readers: I had a full-time, extremely demanding job in the tech world. In my debut cookbook, Weeknight Baking, I finally reveal the secrets to baking delicious desserts on a tight schedule.