Tuesday, January 21, 2014

4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies (No Gluten, No Dairy, No Mixer, No Kidding!) via Cleo Coyle

Four simple ingredients, one fork, and one bowl yield this insanely easy peanut butter cookie that is also gluten-free and dairy-free. 

Does that sound too good to be true?

That's what I thought. This basic recipe is at least 20 years old. A friend of mine recalls her mom making them, which leads me to believe the recipe was either something that came from a peanut butter company or a popular magazine. Or maybe it was just something moms and home cooks invented that caught on.

You'll find this same recipe (or close variations) all over the Internet now, including the Food Network's site, Women's Day online and here at About.com, which lists the cookies as kosher (which also makes it a nice Passover dessert recipe). 

Gluten-Free Expert? Not me, but we have one...

If you've come here looking for more gluten-free recipes, we have an expert with us in my fellow crime-writing cook Daryl Wood Gerber, who also writes as Avery Aames. Click here for just one of Avery's many gluten-free recipes you'll find here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. She posts here every Wednesday and is very generous with her expertise.

As for peanut butter recipes with flour, this blog has a few, and another fellow author Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) recently posted one with the kick of hot sauce. To see it, click here.

Now let's get baking! 
~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle’s (way of making the classic…) 
Flourless, Dairy-Free
Peanut Butter Cookies

Cleo Coyle is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries.
To learn more click here.
My readers may recall my mentioning this recipe in my recent culinary mystery Billionaire Blend

Near the end of the book, my amateur sleuth, coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi, is hired to cater a party for a successful young company that's part of New York's "Silicone Alley," the term now used to describe the city's new center for high-tech companies. 

Billionaire Blend is a
culinary mystery.
To see the book's
 recipe guide, click here.

Clare is given the difficult task of pleasing a mix of junk food lovers and young foodies with dietary restrictions (e.g. gluten-free and dairy-free eaters).

If you ever find yourself in the same position, this insanely easy cookie could be the one to make everyone happy. No dairy, no gluten, and yet it's a classic that even junk food junkies will enjoy. 

Better yet, it's one you can make at midnight in your bathrobe and flip-flops with one fork, one bowl, and a few simple ingredients...

~ Cleo

To download this recipe 
in a PDF document you 
can print, save, or share,
click here.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies


1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup peanut butter** (
What brand you use
change your results, see my note below)

1 cup white, granulated sugar
   (+ a little extra for rolling)

**IMPORTANT NOTE: For this recipe, I used classic, creamy Jif, the number 1 bestselling brand in America (which now has zero trans fat). It produced a fantastic peanut butter cookie. Great texture and flavor. I can't promise the same results with homemade PB or natural spreads (see my notes on a brand vs. brand bake off below). Give your favorite peanut butter brand a try and see what you think. If the results are not stellar, try another brand. 


Step 1 - Make Batter: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Break the egg into a mixing bowl and whisk with a fork. Add vanilla extract and whisk again. Add peanut butter and sugar and beat ingredients again with your same trusty fork until smooth.

Step 2 - Form balls and coat with sugar: Dough will be very sticky. Dip clean fingers into a shallow bowl of sugar. (Sugar-coated fingers will prevent sticking.) Tear off small pieces of dough and drop them into the sugar bowl. Lightly roll them into balls that are a little smaller in size than a walnut. (Cookie balls do not have to be perfectly round.) Place them on your lined baking sheet, allowing plenty of room for spreading. 

Step 3 - Flatten the dough balls (as shown) with tines of a fork that you dip continually in the sugar bowl to prevent sticking. Make a classic cross-cross pattern as shown in my photos.

Step 4 - Bake the cookies for 10 to 14 minutes until they are golden around the edges. Do not over-bake. If the bottoms become scorched the cookies are inedible! 

TIP: To be sure the cookies are done (without burning), here’s what I do. Using a spatula, I gently remove one test cookie from the oven. I flip it gently on a paper towel. The bottom of the cookie should be golden brown but not dark brown. See my photo below.

Step 5 - Rest Warm cookies are delicate and will crumble easily. So allow the cookies to rest in the pan for about 10 minutes. They will firm up, and you’ll be able to handle them just fine.


As I mentioned above, I was skeptical of this recipe working and happily surprised when it did. But it's clear that different brands will give different results. The Jif (America's most popular brand) baked up cookies that tasted like a classic PB cookie, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Delicious flavor. The cookies made with Skippy Natural were off in flavor and texture. Those cookies were mealy. (My guess is the palm oil was the problem in the Skippy. Did you know many "natural" PB spreads often have less nuts than classic peanut butter? More on that below...)

One of our followers, Libby D., once suggested that I try Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter (it’s simply roasted peanuts and salt). So I’ll be testing that one next.

To read an interesting brand vs. brand
of Natural Peanut Butters 

at the Huffington Post, click here.

Keep in mind, Americans can’t always find specialized brands in their stores, and while I have not used Jif in years, I was happy to discover (for this recipe post), it now has zero trans fat. Many companies like Jif’s are getting rid of their "partially hydrogenated oil," which makes me happy, happy. 

What I learned from this post...

"Partially hydrogenated" oil is the bad guy. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you see "fully or completely hydrogenated oil" on an ingredient list, don’t panic. As the Mayo Clinic explains here, "partially" is the bad guy. To quote from the Mayo Clinic's post...

It sounds counterintuitive, but "fully" or "completely" hydrogenated oil doesn't contain trans fat....

To make it easy on yourself, just look for the amount of trans fat on the food label. Jif has zero, and that's what most concerns health officials.

For this recipe...

If you use a homemade or "natural" peanut butter "spread" for this recipe, your results may yield a cookie that’s perfectly fine for you. Let me know how it goes in the comments. If you find the texture mealy and the flavor subpar (as I did with the Skippy Natural), try another brand. I’ll continue to test brands (Smucker's Natural is next) and report back with an update. Until then, may you...

Click here to
get the free PDF
of this recipe, and...

Bake with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

Now a National
Bestseller in Hardcover

A Coffeehouse Mystery 

*Starred Review* -Kirkus

"Top Pick"  -RT Book Reviews

"...a highly satisfying mystery."
-Publishers Weekly

See the Recipe Guide
by clicking here.

* * * 

Coffeehouse Mystery
Free Title Checklist
(with mini plot summaries)

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
13 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 

* * * 

Haunted Bookshop
Free Title Checklist, 

The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 
The Haunted
Bookshop Mysteries

To learn more, click here.


  1. Oh boy, Cleo! What a fun recipe. I am sending my friends with gluten-intolerance over right now.

    As usual, everything about it is beautiful too.



  2. Fun, fun, fun! I look forward to your further experimentations.

  3. I've made these several times, always with Jif Extra Crunchy, and they turn out great.

    But chocoholic that I am, I also add chocolate chips. Seriously delicious.

    Our local grocery store sells peanut butter that you make yourself--just a hopper full of peanuts that you grind directly into a plastic container. Wonder how that kind would work. Hmmm.

  4. Wow that looks too easy to be true--will have to try these! Karen in Ohio, please report back on the homemade pb ok?

  5. Wow, how easy is that! My protagonist Jenna, in the Cookbook Nook mysteries, is going to love this. She's still iffy about recipes with more than 5 ingredients. LOL And perfect gluten-free. Definitely making these! Thanks, Cleo.

    Daryl / Avery

  6. I'm surprised this worked. I would have expected the batter to run. I love using finely chopped nut "flour" but I'm always careful not to chop them into a butter. Hah! Maybe that was wrong! They look fabulous, Cleo.


  7. Thanks for your kind comments, everyone. This is a classic recipe, but I do believe the type of peanut butter makes a big difference. I look forward to more experimenting with brand vs. brand baking. Until then...

    Have a delicious week, everyone!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. As soon as I saw this recipe I had to try it, and I did. Although instead of creamy peanut butter, I used chunky peanut butter and it turned out fantastic! This is definitely one recipe I’ll be keeping on hand. :D

  9. I always use Adams (a nothing-added-but-salt) peanut butter brand, and they seem to turn out pretty well. You might want to add a titch of brown sugar (I usually use brown sugar instead of white, anyway--I think it ups the chewy factor), because most standard brands have a bit of molasses in them.

  10. I make these with Peter Pan
    peanut butter and Splenda for my diabetic neighbor.

  11. It is important not to buy products that contain palm oil...the production of this ingredient is deadly for orangutans and destructive to the rainforest. I am glad you found a brand of peanut butter that does not contain palm oil.

  12. I just made these using Chunky Jif and Guittard Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, and they are AMAZING!

    Definitely seconding the "don't overcook", because the first tray I *did* overcook. But I watched like a hawk on the second. WONDERFUL!

  13. Any suggestions to make them more chewy. My batch was delicious, but crunchy.

    1. Candice - The cookies are indeed delicious. If you want them less crunchy then reduce the cooking time (under-cook them). The texture of the recipe will also change (sometimes quite dramatically) with the brand of peanut butter you use, as well. Finally, this is a quick-and-easy, 4-ingredient recipe that is gluten-free and dairy-free. You can always try a more traditional recipe, but you'll have to use shortening (butter) and flour. But first try another brand of PB (Jif should work), and under-cook them a bit. Thanks for dropping by, Candice, may you always cook with love and...

      Eat with joy!
      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter www.CleoCoyleRecipes.com

    2. Thanks. I did use Jif. I'll try reducing the cooking time.

  14. I used smuckers natural peanut butter and thought they came out great. Hubby liked them too and he's picky. I didn't measure the peanut butter but I feel like I used more than a cup. I kept adding until the batter was thick.

  15. I followed it just like it said (used jiffy) and OMG! Love it!