These PB and J Bars are for the big kid inside of all of us. Two layers of soft, buttery peanut butter cookie with a sweet layer of strawberry jam in between, they are everything I grew up loving about PB&Js (and quite frankly, still do), turned into a pick-up-with-your fingers, lick-them-once-you’re-finished dessert affair.
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If it’s been a while since you’ve had peanut butter and jelly together, let me tell you something right now: it’s even better than you remember.
A few weeks ago, a friend brought me some strawberry jam, and I decided to use it for what may be jam’s ultimate purpose: an old school PB and J. HEAVEN.
In addition to making me feel like a kid again, I was reminded of the beautiful simplicity of this notorious combo: salty and sweet. Fruity and nutty. Sticky and creamy.
Peanut butter and strawberry jam might not be fancy-restaurant worthy (or even unfancy-restaurant worthy), but it’s the kind of well-rounded flavor experience that never ceases to surprise and delight.
Since I still had plenty of my friend’s jam left in my refrigerator, I started to look for other recipes using strawberry jam.
I’ve made a few strawberry jam desserts in the past (See: Strawberry Lemon Cream Cheese Bars and Banana Blueberry Bars), but each of those felt more about the other filling ingredients than the jam itself.
On the fresh strawberry side, these healthy Strawberry Oatmeal Bars are another favorite strawberry dessert, but I was hungry for something different.
Shortbread jam bars crossed my mind as well, but I wanted a dessert that felt a bit more ooey-gooey.
The answer to my Strawberry Jam Bars craving: peanut butter!
Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookie Bars—A Classic Recipe with a Twist
I sincerely hope that I never feel too old or too “foodie” to enjoy an old-fashioned PB and J, especially when it’s in the form of a jam-stuffed peanut butter cookie bar.
In addition to being comforting and nostalgic, these PB and J bars boast modern updates.
They are made with white whole wheat flour, which is so light and mild, you’ll never suspect these jam bars are whole grain.
The recipe has enough butter to make the bars taste like a true treat, and the rest of the moisture and tenderness comes from nonfat Greek yogurt.
Finally, to give the PB and J Bars a “grown-up” edge, I sprinkled the top with roasted, salted peanuts.
This last touch gives the bars a bewitching salty-sweetness and extra pop of texture.
- Peanut-Free Strawberry Jam Bars. For a peanut-free version, try swapping the peanut butter and peanuts for almond butter and chopped toasted almonds.
- Try Another Jam Flavor. You can also use any flavor of jam you love, not just strawberry. I plan to try a blackberry or raspberry and almond version next!
- To Make Gluten Free. Replace the all-purpose and whole wheat flours with a 1:1 GF all-purpose blend.
As you may suspect, these peanut butter jelly bars taste wonderful snitched right from the container, especially when you should be eating lunch instead. (They are kind of like a sandwich, right?)
That said, if you can muster up enough patience, the extra minute you’ll need to warm one up in the microwave and top it with vanilla ice cream will be very, very worth your while.
Recommended Tools to Make Strawberry Jam Bars
- 8×8-inch baking pan (this one is the best!)
- Offset spatula (great for spreading jam, frosting, and leveling all kinds of batters too)
PB and J Bars
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup strawberry jam or raspberry jam or other jam
- 1/3 cup salted peanuts coarsely chopped
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Coat an 8×8-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Line with parchment paper, leaving some overhanging on two sides like handles, then coat with spray again.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, Greek yogurt, and sugar on medium speed until pale yellow and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low, then add the vanilla, egg, and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are well combined.
- In a small bowl, stir together the white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until the flour disappears.
- Portion two-thirds of the dough into the prepared baking pan and spread over the bottom into an even layer with a knife or offset spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Break small pieces of the remaining dough evenly over the jam (you’ll have some bits of jam showing through). Sprinkle the chopped peanuts over the top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the bars are golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes in the pan, then, using the parchment paper handles, lift the bars onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.
- Store leftovers well wrapped at room temperature or in the refrigerator for about 5 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Vary it up: For a peanut-free version, try swapping the peanut butter and peanuts for almond butter and chopped toasted almonds. You can also use any flavor of jam you love, not just strawberry. I plan to try a blackberry or raspberry and almond version next!
- To make gluten free, replace the all-purpose and whole wheat flours with a 1:1 GF all-purpose blend.
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