The secret to soft peanut butter cookies

The first cookies I ever baked from scratch were peanut butter. I remember how amazing they tasted straight out of the oven — with a glass of cold milk, of course! (I also remember how hard and crunchy they were the next day — regardless of what kind of container I stored them in, but we'll get to that later.) 

The idea. 

Last Friday, I decided to bake cookies with my almost 2-year-old daughter. Naturally, I just had to try making peanut butter cookies. I remembered them being pretty simple back when I was in high school and I knew we had peanut butter. I pulled out my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book to see if we had all the ingredients required. 

One of the first ingredients I checked for was brown sugar — we barely had any left and it was hard. I looked at the ingredient list again. It said we could substitute 1/4 cup of honey instead of the 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar. 

The excitement. 

I was excited to use honey in the cookies. I have a big jug of honey a friend gave me. It's from a beekeeper in North Dakota and tastes better than any store-bought honey I've ever had.

My daughter enjoyed watching as I mixed the ingredients together with our electric hand mixer. I know it's kind of old school to use a hand mixer, but I like the control it allows me compared to a big stand mixer.

She had fun helping add some of the ingredients to the mixture. I'd get it ready, and then hand the measuring cup or spoon to her so she could dump it into the mixing bowl. It was a lot of fun for both of us.

Another thing I was excited about was the opportunity to use the new cookie scoop my mom gave us for Christmas this year. It's the Medium Cookie Scoop from OXO, and it worked really well. 

I'm kind of obsessive compulsive sometimes, so the fact that the cookie scoop made it easier to have consistently-sized dough balls was a big time saver. My daughter even helped me with the scoop, but she was a bit distracted by the desire to eat cookie dough. Who wouldn't be? I didn't let her eat the dough from the bowl, but I did let her have some off one of the beaters after we were finished mixing everything.

The recipe. 

Peanut Butter Cookies
(modified from the recipe in the 12th edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book)

Prep: 25 minutes
Bake: 8 minutes per batch
Oven: 375 degrees
Makes: about 24 cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • granulated sugar

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined. I used Skippy creamy peanut butter.

2. Add the sugar, honey, baking soda and baking powder. Beat until well combined — remember to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. I always make sure the mixture looks as edible as possible before adding the next ingredient(s). Add in the egg and vanilla and beat again.

3. Add the flour and beat until well combined. 

4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. I used my medium cookie scoop to make this part a lot easier. The scoop made the dough into little balls, so there was minimal hand-rolling necessary. 

5. Put some additional granulated sugar into a small bowl.

6. Roll dough balls in the sugar bowl to coat them.

7. Place at least 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. I put 8 dough balls per cookie sheet so they wouldn't spread out and run together inside the oven. 

8. Using the tines of a fork, flatten the dough balls by making crisscross marks.

9. Bake in 375 degree oven for 7 to 9 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. I baked mine for 8 and a half minutes, rotating the cookie sheet 180 degrees after the first 4 minutes so they would bake more evenly.

10. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. 

The secret.

After the cookies came out of the oven and cooled a little, we each ate one with a glass of milk. They were the best tasting peanut butter cookies I'd ever made. I was even more excited Saturday afternoon when I ate another cookie and realized they were still soft. I brought a few cookies to work this morning to share with my coworkers and (drumroll, please) they're still soft!

I think the honey was the secret that made all the difference. It's the only ingredient that was a change from any other time I've baked peanut butter cookies. I also thought the flavor of the cookies was amazing — they didn't have that distinct brown sugar flavor peanut butter cookies usually have.

It made sense to me that the cookies would stay soft since they were made with honey instead of brown sugar — it doesn't take long for brown sugar to turn into a hard clump when you store it, right?

Anyway, I consider this first experience baking with my daughter a success, and look forward to our next batch of cookies! I recommend using a cookie scoop if you want your cookies to be consistent in size and shape (it's also fun to use, makes your hands less sticky and makes rolling the dough balls go a lot quicker).

As for the honey, store-bought honey would probably be better than brown sugar, but I think the fact that I used honey from a beekeeper instead of some mass-produced honey from a grocery store made a big difference. 

Check out your local farmers' market or craft shows to get some local honey for your own cookies. Another resource for local honey is the Minnesota Honey Company — they have honey from 25 local beekeepers. You could also check out The Beez Kneez — you can order honey and get it delivered to your home!

If you try out this modified peanut butter cookie recipe (or one of your favorite recipes using honey instead of brown sugar), please feel free to post a comment below or send me an email. I'd love to hear your soft cookie success stories!

Let's go bake some cookies!

This blog is truthful and based on personal experience with the products or items mentioned. It doesn't have sponsors, and no one paid to receive positive reviews of their products. All of the links provided are for your convenience and are not "affiliate links" — Valerie doesn't receive payment or kickbacks if people purchase products based on her recommendations.

Valerie Moe is the Senior Graphic Designer for Minnesota Parent magazine. She lives in Bloomington with her husband and their 23-month-old daughter. You can comment below or contact her directly here.