Cafeteria Peanut Butter Bars

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Peanut Butter Bar

When I was in grade school, there were few things that rivaled the excitement of french dip sandwich day. No, not because of the french dip sandwich, but because the sandwich came with a peanut butter bar. Even the snooty snoot girls who thought school lunch was gross would line up for a cafeteria peanut butter bar.

If you attended school in the Davis School District, you know what I’m talking about. If not, maybe you were lucky enough to have peanut butter bars also. Maybe it is something universal. Something you learn in your third year at The Lunchlady Academy. I guess I should say they once learned, past tense.

Now, it seems, the school lunch peanut butter bar is a thing of the past. Things have changed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of making school lunch healthier. However, naming your new healthy dish “whole grain fish wedge” just isn’t going to excite, well, anybody. No lie, that was the name of a food on the school lunch menu. I’m really not sure what that was supposed to be. A fish stick? A fish pie? Fish don’t have wedges, but I guess chickens don’t have nuggets, so why am I complaining.

Let’s just try to wipe our minds clean of that creatively named school lunch and return to the peanut butter bars, shall we?

I have had the unfortunate experience of buying peanut butter bars at the grocery store bakery and few times. Disappointment is not a strong enough word for what I experienced. Loathing, anger, violent ideations. I had to seek counseling. They were terrible. Blech. Those bakers didn’t go to The Lunchlady Academy, I guess.

Luckily, I got a hold of a recipe that does cafeteria peanut butter bars proud. There are a few key points in doing this right.

The first thing is that you must not overcook the base. If it is browned, then as it cools it will become crunchy. And cafeteria peanut butter bars are not crunchy. You want to set the base, and no more.

Second, and something that most store-bought peanut butter bars neglect, is the fluffed peanut butter layer beneath the chocolate icing. It is the difference between owning a Ferrari and a Yugo. Well maybe the difference between a Lincoln Towncar and a Cadillac. (There is a little familial joke in that one :) )

Third, when you are putting on the  chocolate frosting you want to make sure you put little scoops of frosting all over the whipped peanut butter and don’t just dump all the frosting in the middle. The less distance you have to spread, the better. Otherwise, the whipped peanut butter starts to move and mix in with the chocolate frosting. It will still taste good, but won’t be as purdy.

The base layer of this recipe is fairly thin. If you like a thicker bottom layer, you can always double the cookie recipe. You will need to cook it longer, however. Just remember not to over bake!

If I could give this recipe more than 5 stars, I would.

Peanut Butter Bar

Cafeteria Peanut Butter Bars

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: 1 baking sheet (1/2 sheet pan)

Cafeteria Peanut Butter Bars


    For the Cookie Base
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I prefer chunky in this portion of the recipe, but smooth works as well)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • For the Whipped Peanut Butter Layer
  • 1 additional cup creamy peanut butter
  • For the Frosting
  • 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


    For the Cookie Base
  1. Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy
  2. Preheat oven to 325
  3. Add eggs, vanilla and peanut butter and mix until well incorporated
  4. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to butter, sugars and wet ingredients.
  5. Stir until just combined.
  6. Spread on a greased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for approximately 10 minutes. The edges of the cookie should turn just slightly more tan. They should not be browned or they will be too crispy.
  8. Let cool
  9. For the Whipped Peanut Butter Layer
  10. Whip additional 1 cup creamy peanut butter until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.
  11. When completely cooled, spread the whipped peanut butter over the cookie base.
  12. For the Frosting
  13. In a medium bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder.
  14. Cream butter and gradually add sugar and cocoa powder
  15. Slowly add in milk until consistency is spreadable, but still holds a soft peak
  16. Add vanilla.
  17. Place a scoop of chocolate frosting on several spots on top of the whipped peanut butter. This helps so you aren't dragging the frosting around and messing with the whipped peanut butter layer.
  18. Carefully spread the chocolate frosting almost to the edge of the bars.

Recipe Source: Peanut Butter Bar  and Chocolate Frosting

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  1. Shawna Morrissey says

    These are one of my favorite treats. I remember making this recipe when I was a teenager and accidentally doubling the butter but nothing else. When I took the pan out of the oven, the whole cookie layer slipped out of the pan and all over the oven floor. Then there was smoke and smoke alarms and lots and lots of cleaning. Obviously I could really have benefited from Lunchlady Academy. :)

    Thanks for posting this recipe. I’m definitely making this one with my kids in the summer.

    • AnitaAnita says

      Apparently that type of thing runs in the family. I have lots of experiences like that. Except I just pretended that I didn’t do it, so I would have to clean it up :)

  2. kaylyn lefevre says

    Think I could sub almond flour for the white flour……I guess that would make it just like whole grain fish wedge…hmmm.

    • AnitaAnita says

      I’d give it a try! They probably won’t hold together as well, but you might try adding more egg to see if it would bind better. Let me know how it works!
      And just don’t call it whole grain peanut butter wedge

  3. Jamie D says

    Oh man Anita!!! You are killin me!!!! PB Bar/French Dip lunch day was my FAVORITE!! I’d line up for 2nds if they just so happened to announce they had a few. I seriously need you to ship me some if these :) pretty please! I’ll keep funding that Disneyland trip!!

    • AnitaAnita says

      I’m actually just blogging to make you jealous. That is the only reason. I thought how can I lure Jamie back home ???

  4. Lisa says

    Yay! I have been looking for an amazing peanut butter bar recipe. I will be trying these soon. Definitely my favorite thing about school lunch! Thanks!

  5. JoHanna says

    When I make these I add some granola in with the oats and they’re pretty good. The granola makes them a little chewy which we like at our house.

  6. lori says

    loved these! can’t wait to make them for friends and family. Do you know if they freeze well? Hoping to make a couple of batches for an event.
    Thanks for blogging.
    Please email me. your reply.

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