One of my favorite TikTok creators, B. Dylan Hollis, recently posted this video recipe for “Magic Peanut Butter Cookies,” which have only three ingredients: one cup of peanut butter, one egg, and a half cup of sugar. I sent the link to my friend who is too cool to have the clock app.
“How very validating for your cookie recipe,” she shot back, not at all condescendingly.
Recipe for 3-ingredient cookies
The recipe she was referring to isn’t mine at all but rather this one, which is slightly different from the Hollis recipe in that it uses one cup each of sugar and peanut butter and still just one egg. It’s a favorite among clean eaters and gluten- or dairy-sensitive folks. You can use any nut or seed butter in place of peanut butter, making it also a favorite among the daycare parent set. Once I made a batch of these cookies with the nearly sinless SunButter and served them at a playdate with mixed results among the picky toddlers.
Here’s how it works: You mix together the three simple ingredients (nut butter + sugar + egg), roll into balls, plop them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (I use a cookie scoop for uniformity, but you can skip it), and then crisscross them with a fork like any classic peanut butter cookie. I bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or so, but over at Lifehacker Lower prefers to keep them un-crisscrossed and bake them at 375 in “blob” form. Every oven can be a bit different, so do watch them after about eight minutes to make sure they’re not getting too brown.
Hollis was kind enough to email me about why he chose to include this recipe in his repertoire of usually midcentury experimentations. He said he didn’t think this recipe would “work” and that the “sight of a melted sheet of peanut butter would be comical to the audience.”
While most peanut butter cookie recipes have a ratio of two parts flour to one part peanut butter, this one “works,” Hollis says, because of the modern emulsifiers in commercial peanut butter, which means these cookies hold their shape perfectly. They are densely, richly nutty and not too crumbly. They keep nicely and even travel pretty well.
Variations on a theme
I’ve been making these cookies for years. I usually sneak in a splash of a not-very-exotic fourth ingredient: vanilla extract. Whether you use non-recalled Jif, another creamy, emulsified peanut butter, or a more natural peanut butter, you can add some flakey salt on top for a sweet and savory flavor combination.
Hollis is convinced the natural oils in other nut butters would lead to the melty disaster he was hoping for in his video. But in fact, I’ve had success with natural nut butter brands like Adams—leading me to wonder how “natural” they really are. Lower mentions in the Lifehacker recipe that she chills dough when using natural nut butters to prevent spreading.
My favorite thing to do, especially around the holidays when I do a lot of baking and share with friends, is buy a few “fancy” nut butters and make the recipe from those. There are flavored peanut butters, like pumpkin spice around the holidays, but also hazelnut and cashew butters that have really interesting flavors. For my child who won’t eat anything for dessert that isn’t chocolate, I can throw in some cocoa powder or use one of those chocolatized nut butters.
Whether you choose to use the half or whole cup of sugar is a matter of taste and audience. Hollis guesses it’s an Americanization, since the Canadian KRAFT brand peanut butter packaging still contains the recipe with the half cup iteration.
“People love even-ratio recipes,” Hollis says. Where’s the lie?
Since enough people in my life have dietary restrictions, having a go-to recipe that can be both gluten-free and dairy-free is a huge win. But the bigger win is having this quick, easy, three-ingredient cookie recipe on hand that requires no thinking, only needs ten minutes in the oven, and really is better than the more complicated ones in my recipe books.