Peanut Chewy Payday Bars
Normally I don’t like nuts in my desserts.
But I made an exception for these.
I love peanuts on their own and have to resist the urge to polish off a jar in a sitting and they are my favorite nut to blend for homemade nut butter. But there is something about having big, chunky, hard bits of nuts in desserts when I’m expecting something soft, comforting, and squishy that’s usually a dealbreaker.
But the peanuts work in these bars, which resemble a Payday candy bar. I like these much better than Payday bars because of the three distinct layers, especially the fluffy layer of marshmallows, absent from Payday bars.
Overall, the bars aren’t an overly sweet treat and are perfect for those who enjoy salty ‘n sweet combinations. There are three layers, but they’re easy and the bars can be made from start to finish in a half hour. Although there’s a very brief amount of baking, the recipe feels more no-bake than baked, and the recipe can be kept vegan and gluten-free quite easily.
Make the crust by combining six tablespoons of softened butter with flour and brown sugar and stir to incorporate the butter. The softer the butter is, the easier this will be. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture looks quite crumbly, sandy, and dry.
Transfer it to a foil-lined baking pan, and absolutely line the pan to make your life much easier. Press the crumbs down with your fingertips and then really pack it down using the back of a spoon or press down on it with the bottom of a drinking glass, helping it get nice and smooth.
Bake the crust for about ten to twelve minutes, or just until it has barely set and still pale and golden. If it’s slightly under-baked, that’s fine because the pan is going back into the oven.
Sprinkle three cups of marshmallows over the buttery crust and return the pan to the oven for about five minutes, or just long enough to soften and begin to melt the marshmallows. Keep a watchful eye on the marshmallows and remove the pan from the oven before the marshmallows start toasting and browning because these aren’t s’mores.
The final layer is a mixture of melted peanut butter, butter, and corn syrup, that’s stirred together before adding a splash of vanilla and one-and-a-half cups of both crispy rice cereal and roasted salted peanuts. Stir the cereal and peanuts into the warm and sticky peanut buttery broth and then pour it over the marshmallows.
These bars need to set up for at least four to six hours before slicing them. I made them at night and sliced into them the next morning and you could probably speed up the process by putting the pan into the refrigerator.
I love the diverse layers and flavors going on, from sweet and gooey to salty and crunchy. Each is notable and distinct. The buttery crust resembles a shortbread crust, crispy and firm without being dry or too sweet.
The marshmallow filling is the perfect squishy and sweet complement to the crust, providing plenty of oozing, cloud-like softness. Too often marshmallows get lost in layered bars because they are squished and flattened by the weight of the subsequent layers. I planned around that unfortunate phenomenon and used an ample amount of marshmallows so this layer would really stand out and be thick, puffy, and voluptuous.
The final layer is for peanut and peanut butter fanatics, and reminds me of a Payday candy bar. The melted peanut butter, butter, and corn syrup creates a beautiful brown sauce that’s both sweet with a touch of savory. The salty peanuts and crispy rice cereal added help soak up saucy peanut butter mixture and after the bars set up, there’s an abundance of crunchy and crispy texture, along with chewy and gooey.
I got over my issue with nuts in desserts as I sank my teeth into one of these babies.
- For the Crust
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (three-quarters of one stick)
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
- For the Filling
- 3 cups miniature marshmallows
- For the Topping
- 1 heaping cup creamy peanut butter
- ⅓ cup light corn syrup (light in color rather than dark)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter (4 tablespoons, half of one stick)
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1½ cups peanuts (I use Oh Nuts Roasted Salted Peanuts, honey roasted or similar may be substituted)
- 1½ cups Rice Krispies cereal (or vegan and gluten-free cereal)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil leaving overhang (you must line your pan), spray with cooking spray; set aside.
- For the Crust - In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and stir to combine. Keep working the butter into the flour and brown sugar and transfer the sandy and crumbly mixture into the prepared pan. Press mixture down firmly with fingertips, and then pack it down with the bottom of a drinking glass or back of a spoon. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until crust has set and pale in color; don't worry if it's a bit underbaked as pan will be going back into the oven in the next step.
- For the Filling - Evenly sprinkle the marshmallows over the crust and bake for about 5 minutes or until they have begun to melt and before they start browning (we aren't making s'mores); set pan aside.
- For the Topping- In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine peanut butter, corn syrup, butter and heat on high power to melt, about 1 minute; stir to combine. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Add the peanuts and cereal and stir to combine. Pour mixture over the marshmallows, smoothing it lightly with a spatula to create an even flat layer. Set pan aside to cool for at least 4 hours before slicing, or overnight; refrigerating the bars can be used to expedite the cooling process. Slice bars by lifting them out using the foil overhang and transfer to a cutting board. Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Recipe may be kept vegan by replacing the butter with margarine or Earth Balance, by using vegan marshmallows, and using a vegan cereal.Recipe may be kept gluten-free by using a gluten free flour blend for the crust and and using gluten free cereal of your choice. Take care all ingredients used are suitable for your dietary needs.
Combos Pretzel and Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Bars (No-Bake) – Ironically I made these here the last time I was in Aruba and they’re another salty ‘n sweet bar, using Combos pretzels and are full of peanut butter flavor along with generously drizzled semi-sweet melted chocolate. No-bake, fast, and easy
Pretzel Peanut Caramel Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Truffles (No-Bake) – Peanut butter cookie dough that’s spiked with pretzels and peanuts, and the little dough balls are dipped and coated with chocolate for an easy no-bake sweet and salty treat
Cinnamon Sugar Chocolate Pretzels (no-bake, vegan, GF) – These can be made from start to finish in ten minutes in the microwave and who can say no to chocolate-covered pretzels with sprinkles. Perfect at the last minute for parties or for a couch night in front of the tv
Chocolate Saltine Toffee – This has many different names, including Christmas Crack and Saltine Toffee, but chances are you’ve had it at least once in the past from a holiday dessert platter. It’s an old-time recipe and has recently become popular on Pinterest. I’ve had so many people write to me telling me they used to eat it as a child and are grateful to now have a recipe so they can make it. It’s crack-like in it’s addictive nature
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites (vegan, GF)- Fast, no-bake, and no mixer required for these peanut butter cookie dough bites with chocolate chips woven into the dough and a finishing chocolate drizzle
Vanilla Cake Batter and White Chocolate Chip Caramel Corn – I adore caramel corn, cake batter, white chocolate, and vanilla. They’re all rolled up into one salty ‘n sweet snack. Easy-to-make and perfect to set out for holiday parties
Peanut Butter Chex Mix, aka “Puppy Chow” (vegan, GF) – A classic snack that I never tire of and it can be made and successfully frozen in gallon-sized Ziplocks and doled out as desired
White Chocolate Vanilla Peanut Butter Puppy Chow (GF) – A twist on the above, using white chocolate and a favorite anytime sweet snack with a hint of savory from the peanut butter
Do you like nuts in desserts? Salty ‘n sweet combos? Payday bars?
As a general rule, I am not a nuts-in-desserts person, at all. But I made an exception for these.I definitely have more of a sweet tooth than a salty palate, but here in Aruba with the heat and constant sweating, salty foods taste extra good. And of course, the peanut butter and marshmallows don’t hurt.
As a kid, I never got into Payday bars as much as Snickers bars because Payday bars don’t have chocolate or nougat, and now I have a homemade and amped-up version.