No Bake Cafeteria Peanut Butter Bars


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I’ll be at Southern Living all day today and tomorrow filming a new series of webisodes I’m hosting for them called Quick Fix Suppers. To see behind the scenes throughout the day, join us over at the Behind The Scenes With Christy thread on the Front Porch by clicking here! Note: anyone can read our forums but you must register in the top right hand corner in order to join in the conversation. See ya on the porch!

My mother takes three of my nephews to school each morning and some interesting tales have risen up over the past few years from those fifteen minute car rides with three young boys. It’s amazing how much can occur in such a short span and how easy it is to see into a kid’s world based on what they talk about at the start of their day.

Recently, Mama read an ad in their local paper that the school needed crossing guards at certain spots near the campus and help kids cross the street. She mentioned in offhand conversation to my nephew Austin (10 years) that if she didn’t keep her youngest granddaughter during the day she’d take that job just to help out. Austin looked at her and remarked “Grandmama, you just like to help people, don’t you?”. Mama thought about it a minute and said “Well Austin, thats just what you’re supposed to do. Whenever you get a chance you are supposed to always help out other people, especially in your town, and there is always something you can do to help.”

Mama is right about helping people, but I think she also understands how good it makes us feel when we step up and help out. Just think about it. The last time you opened a door for someone, didn’t you perk up just a little bit yourself? Each time we reach out and help someone else, even in a small way, it boosts our heart just a little bit higher in our chest and makes our next smile come a little easier.

So many folks are trying to change the world in broad strokes these days and that is certainly commendable. But I think most significant change takes place on a smaller scale, and it can begin in your hometown – by helping a kid cross the street, opening the door for someone, or just looking around and offering a smile to someone who needs it. As the wisdom of our elders teaches us, “That’s just what you’re supposed to do.”

And now on to our recipe. Aren’t you lucky my soapbox was short today? You know how longwinded I can get!

These peanut butter bars are an old school cafeteria recipe from back in the days when the lunch ladies would come in at the break of dawn and set to making the day’s meals from scratch. They were our mothers away from home, always there to make sure we got enough to eat and offer a kind smile and hug whenever we needed it – and boy was their food ever good!

Peanut butter treats were usually in abundance since peanut butter was a government commodity, provided in large quantities to lunchrooms. This is a great recipe that requires no baking and ends up tasting like what a Reese’s cup aspires to be – all it needs is a sweet lady in a hair net to hum softly to it as she pats it into the pan.

This post is dedicated to all past and present lunchroom ladies. We sure do love you!

You’ll need: Creamy Peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar, brown sugar, butter (or margarine), and semi sweet chocolate chips.

You don’t have to have a whole tub of peanut butter like I have pictured here so don’t worry about that. My family just happens to think peanut butter is the best thing since…well peanut butter, so I tend to buy it in large quantities. This jar is like the “Bubba” of peanut butter.

Okay, I did this the easy way.

Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

Microwave until the butter and peanut butter are both melted, this will take about a minute or so.

Check it after 45 seconds and make sure though because microwaves vary so greatly.

This is our melted “stuff”. Now take a spoon and give it a really good stir.

Like this.

At first it will seem like a big old mess, but after several stirs it will all come together and leave the sides of the bowl.

Like this.

Don’t you just love getting to see what these things are supposed to look like? I think the photos work so well for everyone, whether you are a new cook or a seasoned pro, because by the time you are done reading the post you’ve already mentally made the dish, so getting in the kitchen and making it in real life seems much less daunting.

Now transfer your peanut butter mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 pan and pat it out into the pan with your hands.

Until it looks like this.

Time to crank up that microwave again! Pour the entire package of chocolate chips into a bowl and microwave them at 30 second intervals, stirring in between each, until completely melted.

Pour the melted chocolate chips over your peanut butter mixture and spread it all around until the top is evenly covered.

Now the hard part: waiting for this to harden.

You can do this at room temperature or you can do like me and place it in the fridge for about half an hour or so.

Cut into bars and serve.

Leftovers can be stored in your cookie jar on the counter or in the refrigerator, whatever cranks your tractor :) .

No Bake Cafeteria Peanut Butter Bars
  • ½ cup butter (or margarine, whatever you have)
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar (light or dark, again whatever you have)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups peanut butter
  • 2- ½ cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Place peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar in a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave until butter and peanut butter are melted, one to two minutes (time will vary by microwave).
  2. Remove from microwave and use a large spoon to stir all of the ingredients together (except chocolate chips) until they form a ball of dough that leaves the side of the bowl. Pat into a 9x13 pan.
  3. Pour chocolate chips into another microwave safe bowl and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until completely melted. Spoon over top of peanut butter mixture and spread evenly.
  4. Allow to cool completely at room temperature until chocolate hardens again or place in the refrigerator for faster hardening. Cut into squares and serve to some awfully happy people!

“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”

-J.M. Barrie

Submitted by April. Submit your quote by clicking here.



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  1. HudsonsBubbie says

    I must say that as a former cook in a high school, these did go over extremely well!! I used a pizza cutter sometimes or there was a great thing that looked like 5 pizza cutters in a row, it worked the best!!

    My Granny used to make these for us when we would stay at her house for a week or so! Every time I open my email, there is always something that reminds me of my Granny-It is such fun to go down memory lane! Everyone is so busy now that the days of going to Granny’s every week is a thing of the past ;-(

  2. Jan Jones says

    oh, my! homemade Reese’s in the MICROWAVE? this could be DANGEROUS!! I am looking forward to making this and perusing your other recipes. The pineapple cobbler sounds similar to my Mom’s Pineapple cheese casserole. I think I will make it today for a get together, since I am out of eggs, and it does not call for them. I make my own bisquick using whole wheat four to be A LITTLE more healthy.

  3. Denise says

    I will definitely be trying this. My hubby will love this and I’m all about easy. I love the idea of melting everything in the microwave. And most of the ingredients are around the house…just need to pick up some chocolate chips.

  4. Debbie Hard says

    The peanut butter layer of this has all the ingredients of my peanut butter icing I use for cakes, so I KNOW it’s good :) Gotta make this real soon! Thanks for sharing another GREAT recipe :) The pineapple cobbler was DELISCIOUS :)

  5. Linda says

    for a sweet spirit auction at my church I took this recipe and patted the peanut butter mixture into a deep dish fluted pie pan then topped it with the chocolate. Called it a homemade PB cup. ( I also made a huge gummy bear that was 2 ft. the kids went nuts)

  6. Hannah says

    I made these with a slightly different recipe. My dad and brother eat them all! I have discovered that you can use a mixture of chocolate and peanut butter chips to melt on top. I love the peanut butter chip addition because I’m not a huge fan of the clump of plain chocolate on the top. We take these to the rodeo when we go, they are now named “rodeo cookies” in my household.

  7. Tyler says

    Hi, I was so happy to find this recipe on your page. I had been looking for this recipe for some time, and the new ones all ad graham crackers. I wanted the old one. But, your post has me wondering…do you remember the old cinnamon rolls the lunch ladies also made. They were huge, soft, raised raise rolls, with a sticky , sweet sauce almost that saturated it. They were not caramel nor were the in small thin rolls. If so I would LOVE the recipe. I’ve wanted it since I left middle school…don’t want to say how long ago that is, but how i long for them.

  8. Linda Parada Albidrez says

    Oh my gosh, I thought I would never find this recipe! i went to Magnolia Elementary in Riverside California and we had these without the chocolate topping and boy were they good. Thank you so much, I will be passing on this recipe. Bless our lunch ladies.

  9. Alicia Clinton says

    Ok, this is on the list for tonight or tomorrow. I used to always bake a treat for my husband to take with him on the road working shows and got out of practice along with having a second baby, not sure where the time or tradition went. Thanks for getting me back on track. I’m sure my eldest and hubby’s crew will appreciate it!

  10. Jackie says

    I love this recipe. My husband makes a homemade cherry mash that is absolutely to die for to me. It is a recipe our son brought home to us from high school home economics class. Love to have him make it around Christmas time for give away. We love to do homemade cookies and goodies for gifts at Christmas. This recipe will be added to our collection of gifts.

  11. Tabatha says

    I have been looking for this recipe for years! I kept trying to explain to everybody what they were and they kept giving me the recipe for 7 layer cookies or peanut butter fudge…My Maw Maw used to make these for us and I am so happy I can make them for the kids! Thanks so much!

  12. Amy says

    I am going to make them tonight!! My kids don’t know what good school food is!! This was always a favorite for me at school lunch day! We had some awesome cooks when I was in school! So excited to give this a try! Thank You!!!

  13. Bruce Akins says

    For an extra spunk… Get some Peanut M&Ms and crush them up a little. Once crushed either sprinkle on top of the melted chocolate chips or either mix it with peanutbutter mix. Or any kinda crushed nuts.

  14. Kris says

    Just made the peanut butter bars? In the fridge cooling now. They are delicious since I had to try before refrigerating. I didn’t have semi sweet chips so I used dark chocolate chips and the rest of a good brand melting chocolate I had left from Christmas. When you live 25 minutes (one way) from a grocery store you learn to improvise. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  15. Linda says

    Although these are fabulous, they would not be allowed in our school, or most I know of. There is a NO peanut rule. There are four kids in our elementary that have severe peanut allergy.
    But I do make these at home and we all love them. As a change I add Rice Krispies to the recipe.

    • Aurora says

      I have a peanut allergy that I developed as an adult and as such was able to enjoy these as a child ( pre allergy) What I have found is that you can use soybean butter in place of the peanut butter for a peanut free version. Sunflower seed butter, or almond butter can work as well. However, I have found that the soybean butter tastes the closest to real peanut butter as I remember it. I use a certified peanut free soybean butter so these are safe for my kids to take to school in their lunches since their school recently had to go peanut free due to a large number of peanut allergic students and adult staff. Hope this gives you an option for your kids. My kids love them. We call them mom’s special peanut free peanut butter bars. :) :) :)

  16. Theresat says

    So happy I found this! I use to love these when I was in school, and found a recipe that I was going to make today that includes graham crackers… I thought it was a little different, so I Goodled one more time for this recipe just as I was finished crushing up the graham crackers, and yours came up! Exactly how it was when I was in school! Thanks!

  17. Debbie M says

    Can you hear the sound of crumpling paper??? It’s my old peanut butter bar recipe. Hands down this one is easier and better tasting!! Thanks, for passing this one on. Love your site, it’s a like having a new best friend!! May God continue to bless you and your family!!!

  18. Sonya says

    Hi Christy, I just wanted to clarify, do I add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar before I microwave, or after? The photos suggest before, and the written recipe at the end suggests after. Thanks very much! I love buckeyes so I can’t wait to make these!!

        • says

          Step one and two in the instructions offer the information ya need:
          1.Place peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar in a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave until butter and peanut butter are melted, one to two minutes (time will vary by microwave).

          2.Remove from microwave and use a large spoon to stir all of the ingredients together (except chocolate chips) until they form a ball of dough that leaves the side of the bowl. Pat into a 9×13 pan.

  19. Lee says

    Love your recipes. So glad I came across this one and am going to try to make it for a treat this week. Do you know how many servings this makes? I am going to try to make it in a 8×8 pan. Thank you :)

  20. Gina says

    hi, thank you for the recipe and the pictures. I just made these and found that the peanut butter layer has a crunch from the brown sugar. Was I supposed to melt the sugar with the butter first? I read a lot of the reviews and I didn’t see anyone mention anything about the peanut butter layer being crunchy. Thanks!

  21. Sarah Valarik says

    I just wanted to thank you for this great recipe! My husband has has talked about cafeteria peanut butter bars since we started dating . I’ve done several searches and never really found a recipe that he said was “the one”. I came across your recipe on pinterest not only are they easy and delicious but my husband was over the moon! He said they are exactly like the ones he had in grade school. He has requested these Instead of a cake for his birthday tomorrow…and every year from here on out. Great blog. You have. A new fan! Thanks again 😉


  1. […] They do taste like Reese’s. The chocolate is my least favorite part so these hit the spot. Check out the recipe I used here. These would be good for a Fourth of July Picnic. But you’ll have to keep them cool. They […]

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