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.

Peanut Chewy Payday Bars - Like the classic candy bar and with a layer of marshmallow, too! Soft and chewy, salty-and-sweet all in one easy bar!

Peanut Chewy Payday Bars
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A three-layered bar full of that resembles a Payday candy bar, but better - thanks to the gooey marshmallows that are sandwiched in the middle layer. The melted marshmallows are flanked by a buttery shortbread-style crust and topped with a mixture of peanut butter, peanuts, and crispy rice cereal. Sweet and gooey meets salty and crunchy with an abundance of peanut butter, peanuts, and plenty of chewy texture. Although there are three layers, the bars can be made from start to finish in a half hour, and can be kept both vegan and gluten-free.
Serves: One 8-by-8 inch pan, 9 generous squares
  • 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)
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Related Recipes:

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.

The winner of the Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Sampler Giveaway is Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence

93 comments on “Peanut Chewy Payday Bars”

  1. These look like a peanut butter lover’s dream!

  2. I’m not a fan of nutty desserts either, but I do Love Rice Krispie treats (and peanut butter!). These look so chewy, and pulley, and sticky, and irresistible, I doubt that I’d mind the peanuts. That marshmallow filling is too tempting. :D

  3. oh my … these look like heaven in every bite! I love the layers of this bar!

  4. OMG girl!
    I am a lover of Payday
    I have to try these.
    Super good recipe my dear.
    I have been trying to figure out how to make a “nougat-like” recipe for years….

  5. I love Paydays and when I saw the name of these bars I was so excited. Seeing the bars themselves, I can’t wait to get in the kitchen and make them. These just look so good :)

  6. this is so crazy, i literally just dug into a stash of these that my aunt made for jason and i..she brought them to us when she visited and gave me her recipe that’s really similar to this! so awesome :)

    • Ok that’s crazy b/c honestly, I didn’t even ‘adapt’ this from anything. I went along just kind of ad-libbing based on what I had on hand, what my hot Aruba kitchen was capable of :) or what I was capable of in it – and this is what came out the other end!

  7. Oh. My. God. Averie! Paydays are my favorite! These…I have no words. I’m SO making them.

  8. I am bookmarking this recipe! I honestly don’t know if I have ever had a Payday bar, but you sold me with your description of peanut buttery, marshmallow goodness!

  9. That’s one of the best uses of peanuts I have ever seen! Like you, I don’t go for nuts in baked goods unless it’s part of a topping or coating, but these are the exception to my rule! :) my mom, she loves to pick the nuts out of cookies, brownies, ice cream, etc., and leave the rest! Gah!!

  10. Those bars are a real treat! I can see myself having a few of those (made with walnuts though: don’t eat peanuts) after my workouts! :)

  11. Ok , I really shouldn’t look at your blog so late b/c then I feel hungry again. I haven’t had a Payday in a long time! I love nuts in my baked goods but not in my cooking. Especially when the nuts are toasted first. Yum!

  12. I’m with you Averie, but these definitely look worth making an exception for! LOVE that perfect little marshamallow layer!

  13. OMG! This is so perfect. I was looking to put together a gift basket for my Dad as a thank you for taking care of our dog while we were out of town. I was planning on including some Pay Days and Pecan Logs (his absolute fave!!) but I will just make him a pan of these instead!

    Thanks for the awesome recipe.

  14. wow- these look delicious! love the marshmallow in the middle!

  15. I am so happy you made an exception…I love payday bars…we make these for Christmas every year specifically for me…now I can’t wait to try your recipe this year!

  16. These bars look pretty darn good :) I feel like the Payday is a candy bar that I love, but always forget about. Each Halloween, I’ll discover a Payday in a pile of candy and exclaim, “Ooo, a Payday!”

  17. Great recipe but marshmallows aren’t vegetarian!!

  18. Averie, you are amazing. These bars are amazing. If I made them, I’d inhale the entire pan all by myself because I love peanuts, I love rice krispies squares and I love salty-sweet combos. You’ve put them all together into one gorgeous, tantalizing dish. And your photos are so beautiful!

  19. I do like nuts in desserts and sweet and salty combos … but I don’t know what Payday bars are :-)

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  22. These are fantastic bars!
    I looooove marshmallow

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  24. So excited to make these this week! I would like to use homemade marshmallow fluff instead of the marshmallows. Do you think this will work?

  25. You NAILED it with the sweet and salty combo on the payday bars. I never really liked nuts in my desserts either until the past couple weeks when I started loving them! I can’t wait to get back to my kitchen post holidays.

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