How To Make Classic No-Bake Cookies — A Foolproof Method

updated Nov 28, 2022
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No-Bake Cookies

This step-by-step recipe for classic no-bake cookies will set you up for success every single time.

Makes24 small cookies

Prep25 minutes

Cook40 minutes to 45 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

No-bake cookies — the kind made with oats, peanut butter, and chocolate — are a classic dessert and an easier option than homemade cookies from scratch. Mothers and grandmothers around the country regularly make this stovetop cookie, to varying results. I remember at least a few times eating failed no-bake cookies with a spoon because they never fully set.

The ingredients and method of this easy dessert recipe are pretty simple: Sugar, cocoa powder, butter, and milk are cooked together, and then oats and peanut butter are stirred in. When made well, no-bake cookies are soft and tender, but firm enough to pick up and pack. If you’ve struggled with no-bake cookies in the past, this step-by-step recipe is for you. We’ll walk you through how to master the process so they turn out right every single time.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Foolproof No-Bake Cookies

Here’s my secret to better no-bake cookies: Think of the process more like candy-making than cookie baking. Many no-bake cookie recipes give you indicators for what the sugar-butter-milk mixture should look like in the pan, or will ask you to cook the mixture for an exact number of minutes. But everyone’s stove is a little different, as is everyone’s interpretation of terms like “rapid boil.” That’s why I recommend using a candy thermometer, which ensures you’ll cook the mixture to the correct temperature. This might sound fussy, but it’s worth it to have consistently set cookies.

No-bake cookies are essentially bound together with fudge. For the fudge to properly set, the mixture needs to reach 230ºF before being removed from the heat.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

3 Tips for Flawless No-Bake Cookies

1. Prep your ingredients ahead. Making no-bake cookies takes all of about 20 minutes, and since the cooking happens in two parts (the boiling and the stirring in the final few ingredients), it’s tempting to get the sugar mixture cooking and then measure out everything else. This risks overcooking the sugar mixture. Take a few extra minutes (and dirty one extra bowl) to make sure all your final ingredients are measured out and ready to be added before starting to cook.

2. Cook the cocoa-sugar mixture to 230ºF. Before you add your butter and milk, whisk together the sugar and cocoa — the helps break up any lumps in your cocoa. Once the cocoa-sugar-butter mixture has liquified, clip on the candy thermometer and cook it to 230ºF. The mixture should take 8 to 10 minutes to come to a boil, and then 2 to 3 minutes once it starts boiling to reach this temperature.

3. Add the oats and peanut butter off the heat. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the measures of oats and peanut butter. Stirring helps create small crystals in the sugar that create that creamy fudge-like texture we’re after.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Shaping and Storing No-Bake Cookies

Scoop the finished cookie batter into spoon-sized rounds onto parchment paper, then let the cookies cool and set for 25 to 30 minutes. You can enjoy them right away, or store for up to five days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk
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Here's how to make foolproof no-bake cookies.

No-Bake Cookies

This step-by-step recipe for classic no-bake cookies will set you up for success every single time.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes to 45 minutes

Makes 24 small cookies

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 3 cups

    old-fashioned rolled oats (not thick cut)

  • 1 cup

    smooth peanut butter, such as Jif or Skippy

  • 2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup

    unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1/2 cup

    unsalted butter, 1 stick

  • 1/2 cup

    whole milk

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

Equipment

  • Baking sheets

  • Parchment paper

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • 4-quart pot

Instructions

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Line two baking sheets or a work surface with parchment paper.

  2. Measure oats and peanut butter into a bowl. Measure 3 cups oats and 1 cup smooth peanut butter into a medium bowl and have these standing by.

  3. Whisk together the sugar and cocoa powder. Place 2 cups granulated sugar and 1/3 cup cocoa powder in a large pot and whisk to remove any lumps.

  4. Bring the butter and milk to a boil. Add 1 stick unsalted butter, 1/2 cup whole milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.You can cover the pot to speed the process along, but it will take about 5 minutes to simmer and then quickly come to a boil.

  5. Boil for 1 minute. Once the mixture is boiling, boil for 1 minute — the boil should be thick and foamy and reach a temperature of 230ºF. You can stir the mixture with a heatproof spatula as needed while the mixture cooks.

  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the oats and peanut butter. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the oats and peanut butter, and stir vigorously to coat.

  7. Drop the cookies by the tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets. Use a small ice cream scoop or 2 spoons to drop tablespoons of the cookie dough onto the parchment paper.

  8. Cool the cookies for 25 to 30 minutes. Let the cookies cool until they are firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.