These peanut butter and jelly bars are a fun spin on a classic. Super chewy peanut butter cookie dough with a layer of strawberry jam in the middle, and even more peanut butter cookie dough on top. Not too sweet and totally addictive.
I’ve wanted to make a peanut butter and jelly themed dessert for a long time. I knew it had to have a lot of peanut butter flavor, couldn’t be too sweet, and had to remind me of my favorite sandwich. So after some rigorous recipe testing (and taste testing), these peanut butter and jelly bars meet all the requirements. They’re ridiculously soft and chewy with a delicious peanut butter flavor and a layer of jelly/jam in the middle. You can use your favorite flavor of jelly, but strawberry is my preference.
The idea for these bars is actually very similar to a fruit crumble/crisp bar. The base doubles as a crumble topping, and the middle is a juicy fruit filling. Only instead of an oatmeal crumble base and topping, it’s chewy peanut butter cookie dough. Then instead of making the fruit filling with fresh berries, we’re spreading on a layer of jam. The bars are soft, tender, and not too sweet with a delicious peanut butter jelly flavor.
The Perfect Peanut Butter and Jelly Treat
To get started, you’ll first make the peanut butter dough. You’ll beat together the butter, peanut butter and sugars until smooth – and then mix in the eggs and vanilla extract. Carefully mix in the dry ingredients – and then your dough is good to go. Note: The peanut butter dough is very thick, and the recipe makes a lot. You will need a very big bowl for this recipe.
Then it’s time to assemble the bars:
- Reserve about 1 ½ – 2 cups of peanut butter cookie dough for the topping. Then press the rest of the dough (about ⅔ of the batter) into the bottom of a lined 9×13 inch pan.
- Spread a layer of jam/jelly over top.
- Mix the remaining peanut butter cookie dough with 2 extra tablespoons white sugar and 2 tablespoons flour. This makes the topping a little crunchier and makes sure it bakes up beautifully golden brown.
- Pinch off pieces of the remaining peanut butter dough and place on top of the jam layer. You don’t need to cover all of the jam layer – I like the appearance of a little jam showing through. Then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of chopped peanuts on top.
Then pop them in the oven to bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden.
Baking Tips & Questions
- Crunchy peanut butter works too for this recipe, however, I find the bars are a little drier with crunchy peanut butter.
- Do not use whipped, natural or homemade peanut butter – the bars can end up either too dry or too oily since natural and homemade peanut butters are not stabilized and will separate.
- Some people may prefer the flavor of slightly more jam in the middle (using closer to 1 ¾ cups instead of 1 ½ cups). However, a thicker jam layer makes it harder for the bars to set.
- This recipe can be halved and made in an 8×8 inch pan – the bake time will be about 40 minutes. There is not quite enough batter to make them in a 9×9 inch pan, however.
- Metal pans make the edges a little crispier than ceramic pans. If baking in a ceramic pan, increase the bake time by about 5 minutes.
- Cool the bars fully (at least 4 hours) before slicing. Otherwise, the jam will be warm and completely ooze out.
These peanut butter and jam bars are chewy, salty-sweet, and really encompass the flavor of a classic peanut butter and jam sandwich – but in a delicious dessert bar form. But if you’re more of a peanut butter and chocolate fan – then I’d try these peanut butter blondies
Peanut Butter and Jam Bars
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened but not melted
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup white sugar
- 2 cups smooth peanut butter* Jiffy, Skip or Kraft work perfectly
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups strawberry jelly* or your favorite flavor of jam/jelly - you'll need an 18 oz jar
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang around the edges, or line with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
- Whisk together the 3 cups all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
- In a very large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar and ½ cup white sugar. Beat in the peanut butter.
- Mix in the eggs and vanilla extract.
- With the mixer on low speed, beat in the flour mixture about ½ at a time. The dough will be very thick and sticky.
- Press about ⅔ of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan (you should have about 1 and ½ to 2 cups of batter remaining for the topping).
- Spread the jelly over top of the peanut butter layer.
- Mix the reserved peanut butter dough with the 2 tablespoons white sugar and 2 tablespoons white sugar.
- Pinch off pieces of the peanut butter dough, and place on top of the jam layer. You do not need to fully cover the jam layer.
- Sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes (likely closer to 50 minutes for a glass/ceramic pan), or until golden on top.
- Cool for at least 4 hours in the pan. Once the bars are completely cooled, lift them out of the pan using the overhang of the parchment/aluminum foil. Place on a cutting board and slice into bars.
- Do not use homemade or natural peanut butter - it can separate and make the bars either too oily or too dry. Also, this recipe was developed using peanut butter that has sugar. Crunchy peanut butter is ok - I find the bars are a little drier using crunchy peanut butter.
- Use your favorite variety of jam/jelly. I prefer strawberry, raspberry or grape. An 18 oz jar of jam/jelly is 1 ½ cups. S
- This recipe can be halved and made in an 8x8 inch pan. The bake time will be about 40 minutes. There is not quite enough batter for a 9x9 inch pan.
- Store bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Nutrition information is based on 1 bar, with the pan cut into 15 bars.