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Credit: Image: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn
Recipe Review

We Tested 4 Famous Peanut Butter Cookie Recipes and Found a Clear Winner

updated Sep 13, 2022
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I always forget how much I love peanut butter cookies until I sink my teeth into a really good one. The crispy edges mixed with the chewy, peanut-y center is the stuff of dreams, and when dunked into a glass of cold milk — well, just don’t even try to talk to me until I’m finished.

But finding a recipe worthy of such praise isn’t as simple as picking the first one you see. With so many different ways to make a peanut butter cookie, results can vary drastically. Some rely on flour to give them a sugar cookie-like texture, while others go gluten-free to create a rich, blondie-like center. The type of peanut butter, the oven temperature, and the way they’re shaped all have an impact, too.

I was determined to find my new forever favorite — the one I’d be confident would turn out perfectly every time. So I chose four of the most popular peanut butter cookie recipes and baked them in a side-by-side taste test.

Not only did I come away with my new go-to, but I also learned more about what makes a good peanut butter cookie than I ever thought possible, and gained a newfound appreciation for the classic baked good.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

Meet Our 4 Peanut Butter Cookie Contenders

To keep this taste test as fair as possible, I excluded any recipes that called for add-ins like chocolate chips or raisins. From there, I considered what factors I wanted to test: flour versus flourless, butter versus shortening, mixing by hand versus an electric mixer, and classic cross-hatching versus a mounded shape. This led me to four recipes that varied greatly in their approaches, from King Arthur Flour, Bon Appetit, Alton Brown, and Ovenly.

King Arthur Flour’s classic recipe calls for shortening instead of butter, which I was hoping would make them extra chewy. It’s also really popular, racking up five stars from more than 140 reviews. Bon Appétit’s recipe kicks things up a notch with toasted nuts, browned butter, whipped eggs, and a steamer situation in the oven.

Alton Brown takes a much different approach: His recipe calls for just a handful of ingredients, comes together in one bowl, and is both gluten- and dairy-free. And Ovenly’s famous cookie features tiny ripples and flaky sea salt, and instead of being flat, it’s tall and dome-shaped.

How I Tested the Cookies

Each peanut butter cookie recipe was baked on the same day and compared in a side-by-side taste test. I followed each recipe exactly as written and didn’t take any creative liberties. I wanted it to be a fair test, so I tried to keep all outside factors to a minimum.

I also grabbed two of my roommates to taste the cookies to see what they thought. At the end of the day we all shared similar opinions and the results were pretty clear. There was one recipe that stood out and really blew the others away, and the winning recipe has now become my new go-to peanut butter cookie recipe.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

1. The Ones I’ll Never Make Again: King Arthur Flour’s Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies were my least favorite of the bunch. The flavor was good — like a classic peanut butter cookie — but the texture was dry and gritty. I actually thought I had made a mistake when mixing the dough, so I made a second batch and paid close attention to each ingredient to make sure I wasn’t measuring anything wrong, but they still turned out dry.

While the recipe does state that the dough will be “quite stiff,” I found it to be so dry that it was difficult to work with. I ended up having to add several tablespoons of water just for the dough to come together.

I prefer chewy, dense peanut butter cookies, and these are definitely not that. I thought that the shortening would make them soft and chewy, but that was not the case. They lacked the decadent, blondie-like texture I look for in a good peanut butter cookie. I will not be making this recipe again.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

2. The Biggest Disappointment: Bon Appétit’s Best Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies were by far the most difficult to make, and honestly, I wasn’t impressed. The recipe has you brown butter, whipped eggs, and toasted nuts, which I was hopeful would make for a superior cookie, but none of the upgrades assisted in better flavor or texture. All in all, they were a bit dry, crumbly, and didn’t taste any better than a standard PB cookie.

Were they edible? Absolutely. Were they worth the two hours it took to make them? Definitely not. I appreciated that this recipe tried to do something different, but it just didn’t pay off for me.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

3. The Simple-yet-Delicious Runner Up: Alton Brown’s Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

This is the perfect example of a low-effort, high-reward recipe. The cookies came together in just one bowl, didn’t require an electric stand mixer, and were seriously delicious. They were perfectly salted with just a hint of vanilla, and the brown sugar gave them a subtle caramel flavor that paired nicely with the peanut butter. They were (as the name implies) very chewy, and I appreciated that they weren’t the least bit crumbly.

The cookies also spread nicely as they baked and there was no need to chill the dough. They looked perfectly cracked with beautiful fork patterns and had a gorgeous golden-brown color. For how little effort it took to make these cookies, I consider them a huge success. If you’re looking for a classic recipe, this is a great place to start.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

4. The Clear Winner: Ovenly’s Salted Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies were by far the best of the bunch. They were moist, chewy, and unlike any other peanut butter cookie I’ve ever had before. The texture was like eating a chewy blondie, only in peanut butter cookie form. They were pleasantly dense with a rich, decadent center. The flaky salt on top balanced the sweetness and provided a nice crunchy texture, and the brown sugar and vanilla added a nice caramel-y flavor.

They only took a handful of ingredients to make, didn’t require a mixer, and used no flour at all. They made me wonder why I ever put flour in my peanut butter cookies in the first place and made me rethink what a peanut butter cookie could be. I can honestly say these were the best peanut butter cookies I’ve ever had, and they are 100% worth the hype.

Do you have a favorite peanut butter cookie recipe? Let us know in the comments!