We all have that one holiday recipe that we make again and again and again. You know the one. It’s a treasured family recipe that only gets made once a year. As the holidays creep closer, you eagerly anticipate the moment your mom, dad, wife, husband or whoever is in charge of making it pulls the recipe out of storage. You sit in the kitchen while it’s baked, and this year you promise that you’ll pace yourself. You want to stretch out the yumminess for as long as possible. But inevitably, it disappears a day or two later and you’re left with a delightful memory on your taste buds and a desperate yearning for the next holiday season.
My grandma’s sweet and crunchy peanut butter crisp bars are that recipe for my family (followed closely by our sugar cookies.) My grandma was a teacher, and she got the recipe from a colleague. But over the years it became HER recipe. Now my mom makes it, and my brothers practically pounce as soon as it’s ready.
It’s a no bake recipe and couldn’t be any easier. The only problem is that it’s not gluten free. The only gluten-full ingredient is rice krispies. But I found an easy way to make it gluten free that doesn’t change the taste and only slightly changes the crunchy texture so that I can enjoy it, too. I simply substituted gently crushed rice chex for the rice krispies. You can make her original recipe or my gluten free version, and I promise you’ll get the same amount of joy.
The most important thing about this recipe is prepping all the ingredients in advance, because once you start heating the ingredients on the stovetop you have to work fast. The first step is lining a 9 x 9 or 11 x 7 pan with parchment paper and then preparing the peanut crisp base. My advice for crushing the rice chex is to measure out 2 1/2 cups into a ziploc bag and gently crush. Then pour into a measuring cup. That should be about 2 cups but you might need to add a little more depending on the size of your chex pieces.
Once you’ve pressed the base into the pan prepare the frosting. This recipe calls for sifted powdered sugar, and it’s very important that you don’t skip that step. I’m sometimes guilty of not sifting when a recipe calls for that, but in this case if you don’t sift the powdered sugar your frosting will end up lumpy. There’s just enough frosting to cover the top. Consider doubling the recipe if you want a thicker frosting. But the frosting is sweet so I recommend making the original recipe first before doubling it!
Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before cutting into bars. My grandma’s original recipe called for 4 dozen bars, but I’m not patient enough to cut them that small. Instead I cut mine into 16 bars. But my mom always divides them into 48 tiny squares! No matter how many servings you cut the bars into, be sure to store them in the refrigerator.
I hope this becomes a treasured recipe for your family, too. If you try it, tag me @rosesandwhiskers on Instagram and use the hashtag #rosesandwhiskers.
Grandma's Peanut Butter Crisp Bars
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 2 cups gently crushed rice chex cereal for gluten-full, substitute rice krispies cereal
Frosting (see recipe notes)
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar sifted
- Line a 9 x 9 or 11 x 7 pan with parchment paper. Prep all of your ingredients in advance, including sifting the sugar. See recipe notes if you're using rice chex cereal.
- Combine the sugar and corn syrup in a medium sauce pan and stir constantly over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. You'll know it's dissolved when the mixture is smooth and easy to stir and no longer feels grainy.
- Remove from heat and mix in peanut butter. Then gently stir in rice chex or krispies. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. (See recipe notes.)
- In a small sauce pan, mix the butter and brown sugar until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and add in vanilla and milk. Whisk in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread the frosting evenly across the top of the peanut butter mixture. (See recipe notes.)
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before cutting into bars. Tightly cover and store in the refrigerator.