Soft and Puffy Peanut Butter Coconut Oil Cookies
I could not get the last cookies I made with coconut oil out of my mind. They were some of the best cookies I’ve ever had.
But they didn’t include peanut butter. So I changed that.
I have been in love with baking with coconut oil. I won’t go into my full diatribe again about how it doesn’t make your baked goods taste like tanning oil. It makes food taste tropical vacation-scented, but not like you’re eating a straight up bottle of Hawaiian Tropic. The smell of coconut oil is stronger than the actual flavor it imparts, which is present but not overwhelming.
The flavor of peanut butter definitely dominates these cookies, which is what I was hoping for. The previous coconut oil cookies have been very different; namely White Chocolate and Brown Sugar-Molasses. It was time to pair my beloved peanut butter with coconut oil. The result is a soft, puffy, and very lightweight peanut butter cookie with hints of coconut in the background.
Looking at them, you’d think they were heavy bricks because they’re made with peanut butter and coconut oil, neither of which are exactly lightweight. But a secret ingredient keeps them deceptively soft, light, and almost airy. If they were any airier they’d be cakey, but thank goodness they’re not. I only want cakes to taste cakey, never cookies or brownies.
Make the cookies by combining peanut butter, coconut oil, light brown sugar, an egg, vanilla, and cream until very light and fluffy, about five minutes. It’s important to use coconut oil that’s softened to the consistency of softened butter. The same consistency you’d use for creaming butter, sugars, and eggs in traditional cookies.
If your coconut oil is rock hard, microwave it in a small bowl for five or ten seconds, or just until it begins to soften. Conversely, if it’s runny or melted, place it in the freezer momentarily until it firms up. A tiny amount of runniness is fine; it’s an oil and that happens. But do not use melted or purely liquid coconut oil because you can’t effectively cream a liquid; it would be like trying to cream liquid butter. Doesn’t work.
I used light brown sugar, which is less robust than dark brown sugar, used here. Either will work but I didn’t want molasses-laden dark brown sugar to compete with the peanut butter, so chose light brown. I used 1 tablespoon of vanilla, because I love it and this dough is bold and can stand up to it, but if you prefer less, add to taste. I used Homemade Vanilla Extract, full of vanilla bean flecks and specks.
Please don’t write to tell me that brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added. I’ve been told that about 500 times. I am making a taste claim about dark brown sugar, not a health claim. You cannot get the flavor from white sugar that brown sugar lends.
I always use creamy peanut butter for baking, and always storebought, never Homemade Peanut Butter. Homemade is thinner and doesn’t have the same structural integrity as good old-fashioned Jif, Skippy or Peter Pan. Baking with natural peanut butter is a recipe for flat-as-pancake cookies that spread like crazy and I don’t recommend it.
Add the flour, corn starch, baking soda, salt, and mix to just incorporate. Cornstarch is the secret ingredient that keeps the cookies so soft and light. I used it in Soft Batch Dark Brown Sugar Coconut Oil Cookies and in my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies. It does the job of both softening and tenderizing dough, and cookies made with it bake up extremely soft. If you’ve ever made Pudding Cookies and love how they always turn out super soft, it’s because one of the first ingredients in pudding mix is ‘modified food starches’, code for cornstarch.
The same is true of cake mix cookies, like Strawberry Cake Mix Cookies or Mounds Bar Chocolate Coconut Cake Mix Cookies. The cornstarch in both pudding and cake mix helps cookies stay soft, light, and fluffy.
In the past it’s always done a great job of making my cookies soft, but between the coconut oil and peanut butter, these cookies are the lightest, puffiest, and fluffiest of all.
Because brands of coconut oil vary, as well as moisture content in brown sugar, coupled with different climates and personal taste preferences, add the flour as needed. The dough shouldn’t be sticky or tacky, a little loose and oily is preferred to dry and crumbly. It should have a Play-Doh like consistency, and if pinched and squished, it’ll stick together and to itself, but not to your hands. Like Play-Doh, you can just push any tiny dough pebbles in the bottom of the mixing bowl onto the master dough ball and they will stick.
I used my medium 2-inch cookie scoop and made 18 mounds, about two heaping tablespoons of dough each. I didn’t flatten them, shape them, or touch them in any way. I let the tops stay ‘feathered’, which is the impression the wire-release mechanism on the cookie scoop makes.
Place the dough mounds on a large plate, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days before baking. The dough is too warm, limp, soft and is unsuitable for baking until it’s been chilled. If you bake with warm, soft, dough your cookies will spread. However, of all the coconut oil-based cookies I’ve made, these spread the least and stayed very puffy and flattening the dough mounds just slightly before chilling the dough is recommended. After chilling and the coconut oil solidifies, shaping the dough is much more challenging.
Bake the cookies at 350F for 8 to 9 minutes, and if you like really gooey, super soft cookies, or your dough wasn’t extremely cold, these could be 7-minute cookies. My dough was rock hard coming out of the refrigerator after two days chilling, and I allowed it to sit on baking sheets at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. I baked for 8 minutes, rotating trays midway through.
Pull them from the oven when the tops are just barely set. They’ll be glossy, pale, and appear underdone, but they firm up as they cool. Baking any longer than 9 minutes and you run the risk of the bottoms browning too much and as the days pass, they’ll be prone to drying out and turning cakey. Everyone’s ingredients, oven, climate, and personal preferences are different, but they taste best when they’re not overbaked.
The edges and bottoms are chewy with soft and lightweight interiors. It’s paradoxical that two heavy ingredients like coconut oil and peanut butter produced such puffy softies, but it’s true. When I handed these to the family and they tried them, I was met with looks of confusion. They were expecting really heavy cookies, and instead bit into these lightweights. Scott loves lighter cookies whereas I’m a dense slab girl, so he especially liked these.
There’s no white sugar and no butter used, so the intensity of the peanut butter flavor really shines. If you don’t like coconut, I’d still try them anyway. They’re definitely peanut butter cookies, with hints of coconut in the background. But if you’re dead-set against it, make these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies (GF), still my favorite peanut butter-based cookie.
Pairing my beloved peanut butter with coconut oil was one of those things I just had to try.
And I’m so glad I did.
Soft and Puffy Peanut Butter Coconut Oil Cookies
There’s no butter and no white sugar used in these soft, puffy, and very peanut buttery cookies. They’re made with coconut oil, which smells stronger than it tastes, and although you can ‘taste it’, it’s much milder and more subtle than coconut flakes. The peanut butter flavor really shines through. If you’ve never tried baking with coconut oil and replacing it one-for-one with butter in cookies, these cookies are a great place to start. A bit of cornstarch is the secret ingredient that helps the cookies bake up soft, light, slightly chewy, and very thick and puffy.
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (use Jif, Skippy, Peter Pan or similar; not natural and not homemade peanut butter)
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened (softened to the consistency of soft butter; not rock hard and not runny or melted, see below)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (yes tablespoon, not teaspoon), or to taste
1 to 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (see below)
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine peanut butter, coconut oil, egg, sugar and beat on medium-high speed to cream until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Note – Coconut oil should be the consistency of soft butter like you’d use to cream with sugar and eggs in traditional cookies. If coconut oil is rock hard, microwave it in a small bowl for 5 to 10 seconds or just until it begins to soften. If coconut oil is runny or melted, place it in the freezer momentarily until it firms up. A tiny amount of runniness is fine; it’s an oil and that happens. But do not use melted or purely liquid coconut oil because you can’t effectively cream a liquid; it would be like trying to cream liquid butter.
- Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla and beat to incorporate, about 1 minute.
- Add 1 cup flour, corn starch, baking soda, optional salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. If your dough seems quite wet, sloppy, or isn’t combining, add up to another one-quarter cup flour, one tablespoon at a time, for a total of 1 1/4 cups. The dough shouldn’t be sticky or tacky, and a little loose and oily is preferred to dry and crumbly. It should have a Play-Doh like consistency, and if pinched and squished, it’ll stick together and to itself, but not to your hands. Over-flouring the dough will cause the cookies to be prone to cakiness and dryness.
- Using a medium cookie scoop, form mounds that are 2 heaping tablespoons in size; or divide dough into approximately 18 equal-sized pieces. Place dough mounds on a large plate, and slightly flatten each mound. Get the dough mounds in the exact shape you want to bake them in because after chilling, flattening or re-shaping the dough is difficult. Cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours; up to 5 days. Do not bake these cookies with dough that has not been properly chilled because they will spread.
- Preheat oven to 350°F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat, parchment, or spray with cooking spray. Place dough on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart; I bake a maximum of 8 per sheet.
- Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until tops have just set, even if slightly undercooked, pale, and glossy in the center. They firm up as they cool and I recommend the lower end of the baking range. The cookies in the photos were baked with dough that had been chilled for 2 days, left at room temp for 30 minutes to warm up slightly, then baked for 8 minutes, with trays rotated once at the 4-minute mark.
- Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes before moving. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.
Adapted from Soft Batch Dark Brown Sugar Coconut Oil Cookies
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Soft Batch Dark Brown Sugar Coconut Oil Cookies – After making these cookies that are richly flavored with dark brown sugar and hints of molasses, I fell in love with coconut oil once again and it inspired today’s recipe
Coconut Oil White Chocolate Cookies – The flavors of coconut and white chocolate are tailor-made for each other in these soft and chewy cookies with vanilla undertones. My first true baked cookie experience with coconut oil and after these, I was hooked
Puffy Vanilla and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies – Soft, light, puffy and the PB flavor comes from peanut butter chips rather than actual peanut butter, creating a dough base that’s easily adaptable for other cookies
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies (GF) – The BEST PB Cookies I’ve ever had. There’s NO Flour, NO Butter, and NO White sugar used! Soft, chewy & oozing with dark chocolate. Crazy good!
Brown Sugar Maple Cookies – Soft and chewy, dense, and sweetened with brown sugar, which caramelizes while baking, creating wonderful depth of flavor. The maple extract adds another layer of flavor
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies – Based on the Cooks Illustrated Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, I also added peanut butter and oatmeal, creating a soft and moist cookie, with plenty of chewy texture. Because the cookies call for melted butter, no mixer is required and the higher ratio of brown to granulated sugar keeps them just as soft on day 4 as on day 1
Sugar-Doodle Vanilla Cookies – These cookies are much more than the sum of their simple parts and ingredients. They’re soft, extra chewy, easy, and full of vanilla flavor. The batch size is only 11, perfect when you don’t need huge batches of cookies laying around
Thick and Soft Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies – Richly and intensely chocolate-flavored cookies with NO Flour, NO Butter, and NO White sugar used. They’re thick, dense, soft, chewy and almost brownie-like
Homemade Peanut Butter (vegan if plain peanuts are used, GF) – Ready in 5 minutes and you have not lived until you’ve made your own. Just eat it, but don’t bake with it
I wrote a Peanut Butter Cookbook
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