One of my favorite things to do around Halloween is to figure out a way to incorporate leftover candy in a baked good. I worry that I’ll run out of ideas for such a specific task, but so far, I love every variation. Last year I made M&M Reese’s sea salt chocolate chip cookies, the year before that we had brown butter blondie dark chocolate brownie candy swirled bars, and this year I’m excited to share these loaded peanut butter cookie bars.
Chocolate and peanut butter is a classic, and always delicious, combination, but looking back at the recipe archives I’m surprised that I haven’t included many peanut butter-chocolate recipes here. I loaded these bars with peanut butter M&Ms, Reese’s cups, and Snicker’s bars, but you can make them your own and add whatever leftover candy you have! Though I stuck with the peanut butter-based chocolates, basically any leftover chocolate candy would work well.
When I was developing this recipe I looked high and low for other peanut butter cookie bars, with little success. Maybe I was using the wrong search terms, but it just didn’t seem like the bars I was envisioning were out there or easy to find. I came across lots of no-bake peanut butter bars that tried to emulate the filling in a Reese’s cup, but I knew that I wanted a thick, delicious cookie bar to be the base for chopped up candy, rather than a gooey, powdered sugar-filled filling. These loaded peanut butter cookie bars turned out exactly as I hoped they would. They are soft and chewy and with peanut butter and chocolate in every single bite. They are completely addicting.
I’m tempted to buy extra Halloween candy just so I know I will have enough to make these again on November 1st.
Loaded Peanut Butter Cookie Bars
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup peanut butter M&M’s
3/4 cup chopped Snickers bars
3/4 cup chopped Reese’s
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, pour the melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and egg (make sure the butter isn’t still so hot it will cook the egg). Mix until combined.
Add the peanut butter and mix again until there are no streaks of peanut butter in the batter. Add the flour and mix just until it is combined. Try not to overmix.
Pour all of the candy into the bowl (I save a few M&M’s to add to the top) and gently fold it into the batter with a rubber spatula. Again, you don’t want to mix it too much at this stage or your bars will become less tender.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and even out the top with your spatula. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. When you test it with a toothpick make sure you aren’t just pulling out peanut butter from the candy, which can look like uncooked batter. Let the bars cool in the pans for about 20 minutes, then lift the parchment paper out of the pan and place the bars on a wire cooling rack to cool completely before cutting them into squares or triangles to serve. If you aren’t serving right away, don’t cut them into pieces (the edges will get dry if they are left out too long). You can store the bars in an airtight container for about 1 week.
If you make this recipe, I’d love to see it! Tag me (@hopewoodhouse) on Instagram or leave a comment below so I can follow your baking adventures!