Chocolate-Frosted Peanut Butter Bars | Aka: Lunch Lady Bars

These Peanut Butter Cookie bars are reminiscent of a retro dessert that used to be served at many cafeterias across the US! They’re incredibly soft, rich in peanut butter flavor, with bite from some added oats, and covered in a smooth and rich chocolate icing. My favorite thing about this recipe (besides how good they are) is how many they make. They bake up in a sheet pan, and because they’re rich, you can cut them fairly small, so it’s the perfect dessert to feed a crowd. I often take them to parties and potlucks because of this (as long as I’m sure it’s a function that’s safe for peanut recipes!)

peanut butter cookie bars on a cooling rack

Ingredients and Equipment List

  • Peanut Butter – you can use creamy or chunky peanut butter. I’ve never tried this recipe with a natural peanut butter (if you do, let me know!) But standard brands like Skippy and Jiff work great.
  • Butter – unless you have an allergy or food intolerance, I recommend real butter (salted).
  • Sugars – you’ll use a combination of granulated white sugar and light brown sugar.
  • Oats – quick oats give these bars extra chew. If you don’t have quick oats, I like to pulse my old fashioned oats in the blender a few times to break them up just a bit.
  • Cocoa Powder – cocoa powder is used in the icing, and you’ll want to used unsweetened.
hand holding a peanut butter cookie bar

Instructions

These cookies are incredibly quick and easy to whip up. It’s simply a basic cookie dough, frosted with the icing while it’s still warm.

  1. Make Dough: This is standard cookie making procedure here. You’ll cream together butter and sugar, then add peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla.
  2. Whisk together your dry ingredients and add those until combined.
  3. Stir in the oats.
  4. Press into a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake.
  5. Now, right here there’s an optional step: If you want to go full send, you can also drizzle on some melted peanut butter on top of the warm bars so there’s a layer of peanut butter underneath the chocolate icing. I used to always make them that way, and it’s deliciously indulgent, but I think they’re equally fantastic (and a little less rich) with out the PB layer so I usually skip that step these days.
  6. Mix up your frosting and spread on top of warm bars.
  7. Wait until they’re cool to slice!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can these be made ahead of time? YES! They are are actually extra great made ahead of time (dare I say better on day 2?) Since they’re super soft they just seem to get better. You can cover the cooled pan in foil or plastic wrap and cut on day 2, or keep the sliced bars in an airtight container. I would also imagine they freeze well, though I haven’t tried that.
stacked peanut butter cookie bars on cooling rack

Chocolate-Frosted Peanut Butter Cookie Bars {School Lunch Peanut Butter Fingers}

5 from 24 votes
Unbelievably soft and chewy peanut butter cookies in bar form, topped with a rich chocolate glaze, just like the ones you remember! Made in a sheet pan to feed a crowd.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Cooling Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings36

Ingredients

For the Cookie Base

  • 1 cup real butter 2 sticks at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cups peanut butter chunky or smooth
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoons table salt
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 cups quick oats
  • ¾ - 1 cup peanut butter optional, see notes in recipe below

For the Fudge Frosting

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • cup butter softened; make sure it’s really soft, you can microwave it if you need to - even melted is ok!
  • cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a rimmed cookie sheet (standard half-sheet pan) lightly with non-stick spray, or line with parchment paper, and set aside.
  • Cream butter and sugars for 3-4 minutes, until creamy and slightly fluffy. Add  peanut butter and vanilla and beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time and beat between each addition. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and add mixture to dough. Beat to combine. Add oats and mix until incorporated.
  • Press dough into prepared pan into a flat layer. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until puffed and set, but not browned on the edges. The center should be puffed and set, but still soft. The edges of the cookie bars should be puffed and kind of cracked like a baked cookie looks.
  • Optional Step: Some people like to drizzle on a layer of melted peanut butter onto the warm bars so there's a layer of peanut butter under the icing. If you'd like to do that step, I just microwave 3/4-1 cup of peanut butter until it's melted and smooth and can easily be drizzled over the top of the warm bars. You'll want to spread it gently so you don't tear your cookie layer.
  • When cookies are just about done, prepare frosting. Whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Add butter, boiling water, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth and glossy.
  • When cookie crust is done baking, pour warm frosting over the top and spread into an even layer. Let bars cool before cutting in.

Notes

The nutritional information was calculated according to cutting the sheet pan into 36 bars.
These are best made 1 - 2 days ahead of time.

Nutrition

Calories: 303kcal, Carbohydrates: 48g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 18mg, Sodium: 186mg, Potassium: 167mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 32g, Vitamin A: 72IU, Calcium: 27mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cookie bars, peanut butter, school lunch peanut butter bars
Calories: 303kcal
Author: Sara Wells
Cost: 7
Did You Make This Recipe?Snap a picture, and hashtag it #ourbestbites. We love to see your creations on our Instagram @ourbestbites!
woman in denim shirt holding a salad bowl
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

Read More

Join The Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Questions & Reviews

  1. I grew up on that recipe (as well as for school lunch). It’s always been my go to! I love it but was interested to see that yours is exactly doubled from my recipe! Guess I can now get twice the yumminess from a sheet cake now 🙂

  2. Man they never served anything like this where I went to school but I will for sure be making these to pack for my daughters lunches this school year. =0)

  3. Thank you! I have been looking for this recipe. Favorite part of school lunch. I just need to find the recipe for those chocolate cookies dusted with powder sugar.;)

  4. ha! to echo what everyone else said, these are totally school lunch peanut butter fingers! my great grandma was a davis county utah lunch lady, and her recipes is very similiar. our recipe has a boiled icing instead though. we are going camping tonight and i think i will try your version out.

  5. Two of my favorite things (peanut butter and chocolate). I would make these today since I’m getting ready to go to the store, but I’m also going out of town for four days starting tomorrow morning. I will make these when I get back home. Yum!

  6. So I gotta say that I am so glad you posted this recipe! It has been a family favorite since I was a little girl. My grandma worked for an elementary school in Bountiful, UT and that is where she got the recipe. We always called them Butterfingers. So Sara, this recipe came from school lunch and my grandma!

  7. Everyone keeps commenting on how these taste like something served at school lunch…well I wish I had gone to a school, like that!! These look better than anything I ever ate at school:)

  8. OMG! My mouth is watering just looking at these pictures! Tomorrow is my birthday… maybe I’ll make this instead of getting cupcakes!

  9. I LOVE your new format. I can now print JUST the recipe and not everything on the page. GREAT JOB.

    Carol

  10. I make goodies for our ward mission meeting every Wednesday, and this is what will be made tonight. What a great recipe!

  11. I wish my monitor was “scratch and sniff”….and I will never know how you dont weigh 750 pounds, with all these incredibly awesome recipes you keep posting.

  12. I love these too–big hit every time I make them! I also do the chocolate chips on top, as opposed to the frosting–but I am a milk chocolate girl. 🙂 YUM-O!! I’ll have to try your frosting sometime–when I find myself with a little extra time, and no choc. chips. 😀

  13. How did you know I was trying to find a recipe for tonight that made a lot and was chocolately but less common than chocolate chip cookies? These will be perfect! Thank you! A sweet friend of mine, the one who actually introduced me to this blog, makes peanut butter bars like this and I’ve been missing her, so this will be a fun way to pretend she around again. 🙂

  14. These look amazing!! I love anything with peanut butter and chocolate! Topping them with ice cream and hot fudge sounds right up my alley! You ladies are amazing!!

  15. Yum! I have everything for it right now to make it. I consider it healthy since it has oats in it and peanuts are protein!

  16. When did you guys start OBB Our Best Picks? So fun!!! I just bought a couple of those pans from Gygi’s about two weeks ago!
    And, no, there are not enough recipes here for chocolate or peanut butter, and definitely not enough cookies.

    1. You know, it’s always been sort of hiding there! We’re trying to get it all finished up (as in, filled up with all of our fave things) and then we’ll point out that it’s actually there! lol

      1. I don’t think I can stop myself from clicking over there and getting that purdy turquoise immersion blender today 🙂

  17. I am a strong believer that you can never have too much peanut butter + chocolate, or cookies! And to have them all in one is just divine.

  18. My grandma used to make these…except instead of the frosting, she just threw some semisweet chocolate chips on top right when it came out of the oven. Once they melt, spread and eat! Probably not as tasty as the frosting recipe here…BUT, it works great to make this super quick/simple recipe even more so (plus less dishes)!

  19. Oh wonderful 🙂 We have a ward pot luck this Sunday. These would be a perfect dessert!!

  20. These are A-MAZING! My recipe for these came from a Ward Cookbook, which gives credit to Stephanie Wilkey. But they taste just like the peanut butter bars that they used to serve us for school lunch. Whoever or wherever they came from they are super delicious!

  21. You’re right–these do look amazing. And dangerous. In my opinion, that’s the best combination. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  22. Mmmm!! I have hot fudge stuff in my pantry! This will be a must have treat for today! Anything to use Ice cream for in an excessive heat warning!! Thank you for sharing this.

  23. I remember these being served with our school lunches when I was a kid. I got my recipe from my Grandma, and it is very similar to yours. These are always a big hit & one of my most requested recipes!!!

  24. This exact recipe has been in my family for years.. It came from the school lunch lady in springville Utah along long time ago! We love it!