Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars Saga: Part II

bars stacked

The chocolate peanut butter bar saga continues. If you read my recent post on vegan, gluten-free chocolate peanut butter date bars, you might have seen through my supposed satisfaction with said bars. Here’s the truth: I would definitely make those gluten free wonders again, but they don’t hold a candle to the food memory they were inspired by (truth hurts). I needed to recreate exactly what I tasted in that schoolhouse cafeteria, and my friends stepped up to the plate for recon.

Last week, I asked a bunch of old schoolmates if they remembered those cafeteria bars and if any of them had a copy of the recipe. Turns out that one of my best friends growing up thought her mom had a version. I saw an email from her in my inbox with the subject, “This is for real!!” Here’s what she sent:


Seeing this little slip of paper practically made me feel like Velma. Not only does it give me some kind of window into the lives of my teachers (it seems to be a lunch order form for faculty use), but it also shows me how fatefully some of these recipes get passed down. What if this little slip of paper had been lost? I suppose the consequences wouldn’t be too great, but in the minds of my classmates and I, it would be some kind of travesty.

graham crackers


I also learned from this slip of paper that the original recipe came from my first grade teacher, and perhaps not directly from the cafeteria.

This isn’t a family recipe, but it’s the closest thing I’ve got. My best bet at a true family heirloom recipe would be my grandmother’s perfect fudge, but even I can’t figure out how to translate that onto the page. No, and these bars made for about as formative a food memory as I’ve got.

pb mix

bottom layer

melted choc

top layer

But here’s what I’m sure you’re wondering–Were they everything I remembered? Actually…yes. They’re absurdly sweet (which explains a lot), and also strangely simple, but they brought me right back. I half suspected I would taste the bars and realize they had grown in my memory to an unwieldy proportion, and, tasting them, I would come crashing down to earth. Not so. Now if only I could share them with the old crew.

As you might notice from the recipe we uncovered, there are some crucial steps missing. I had to make guesses in regards to the chocolate proportions and the cooking directions, but I think I did pretty well.

bars stacked close

bars above

Formative Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Makes 9 x 13 pan of bars

½ lb. graham cracker crumbs
½ lb. butter, melted
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
1 lb. chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
⅔ cup butter (I replaced the butter-flavored shortening)

1. Crush graham crackers thoroughly, in food processor or sealed in a plastic bag. It should look like sand.

2. In wide sauce pot, slowly melt 1 lb. butter over gentle heat (no sizzling). Stir in peanut butter. When incorporated, add confectioner’s sugar and graham cracker crumbs and stir until combined. Press filling into an even layer in a plastic-lined 9 x 13 in dish.

3. Meanwhile, gently melt chocolate and remaining ⅔ cup butter in the microwave, stirring frequently and heating in 5- to 15-second intervals. (Alternately, melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler). Pour chocolate mixture over the peanut butter layer in the dish and smooth into an even layer.

4. Refrigerate for at least an hour, slice, and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Say goodbye.


  1. You could always make these with gluten-free graham crackers. . . (They may actually be called “graham-style” crackers, but they’re graham crackers. And they’re pretty delicious, although they taste more like a short bread cookie than traditional graham crackers.) I may give that a try!

    1. Oh, good thinking, Liz. Any tips on brands to try? I know you’ve probably gone through a lot of trial and error when it comes to gluten-free substitutions…

  2. The ones I’ve come across most often are Kinnikinnick S’moreables. But I will say, I made a crust with these for a chocolate cream pie, and it came out hard as a rock (though still tasty). I think because gluten-free products tend to have more fat, they might not require as much melted butter in the mix.

    1. Oh good tip. I’ve notice that gluten free things tend to rely on more fat to bind them together maybe. I wonder with this recipe if pulverized dried coconut might work too.

  3. You found them. How exciting!

    1. They’re so delicious!

  4. I am entirely enticed by these.

    1. Haha–me too. Why are they so good? I’m going to make some that are rolled in balls like little truffles, and/or some giant unapologetic cupcake-sized peanut butter cups. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. […] The “I Can’t Even Turn on the Oven” Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars […]

  6. I remember these. I’m going to try them

  7. […] These, much like the obsession-sparking Pecan Pie Date Bars, and the successful but overshadowed Chocolate Peanut Butter Date Bars, really don’t taste like dates at all, in my opinion. They […]

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