Let’s just take a moment of silence to gaze at these beauties and ponder the mysteries of the universe.
For some reason I can’t quite explain, I start craving Rice Krispie treats a few times a year. I start dreaming of crunchy, sticky squares of childhood goodness, and despite knowing that I don’t even like them, I can’t get them out of my head.
Yes, you’re reading this correctly: I don’t like Rice Krispie treats and yet my brain tricks me into thinking I just need to make them one more time- just try again, Chelsea, they won’t be relatively flavorless, sticky, and underwhelming. Make Rice Krispie treats, they will be so full of texture and flavor and marshmallowy goodness. Add browned butter, use crispy brown rice cereal instead; toast the marshmallows, quadruple the vanilla, add extra pinches of sea salt- I promise, they’ll taste good.
Well, they don’t, and you can’t convince me otherwise.
Turns out, I just needed to swap out the Rice Krispies for a crunchier cereal and suspend it in a peanut butter-based fudge before I could fall head-over-heels in love with a cereal bar. I know, I’m a heathen.
But I’m not mad about it.
In fact, I’m kind of giddy about these easy, no-cook cereal bars. The base is essentially plain Cheerio’s- though, I opted for an organic version of an oat-based o-shaped cereal instead of the General Mills version- smothered in a concoction of peanut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt (kind of like this freezer fudge). An extra layer of choclatey goodness is swirled on top for good measure, and the whole pan just hardens up in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to slice and eat these babies.
I’m not sure why Rice Krispie treats call to me, or why they are so darn disappointing every time I make them, but these peanut butter cereal bars are everything my heart desires and more. They’re crunchy, a little gooey, full of my favorite chocolate-peanut butter combo, and ultra satisfying after a long day at work. These cereal-suspended-in-peanut-butter-bars are soft and melty at room temperature (like in the photos), but get gloriously firm in the fridge. Both ways are wonderful, though I might be liking them more cold? That solid block of crunchy peanut buttery goodness is too good to resist. But, the melty bits are great too. Ugh, I can’t decide.
By the way, I’m guessing your kids could make these all on their own. There’s no heating or fancy methods- just stir, press, and chill. As a bonus, no one would get tangled in a web of stringy, melted marshmallows, or wind up grumpy because they wasted yet another box of cereal trying to please some innate childhood desire to eat cereal snacks. Not that I’d know anything about that.
- 1 cup all-natural creamy peanut butter (the kind that's just peanuts and salt)
- 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups oat-o cereal (like plain cheerios or any other unsweetened/barely sweet cereal you love)
- 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1. Line an 8x4" loaf pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- 2. Put all ingredients except cereal and cocoa into a bowl and stir to combine. Scoop out 1/2 cup of the peanut butter mixture and set it aside. This will become the chocolate topping.
- 3. Stir in cereal, mixing well to coat every piece in peanut butter. Scoop cereal mixture into prepared pan, and use a spoon to press down firmly until you've formed a thick, compressed layer.
- 4. Pour the remaining peanut butter mixture back into the empty bowl, and add cocoa powder. Stir, then pour over the pan of cereal, spreading it out to the edges. For the pictures, I reserved 1 Tablespoon of the 1/2 cup of peanut butter to dollop and swirl on top after I poured on the chocolate.
- 5. Transfer the pan to the fridge for at least an hour, or the freezer for 20 minutes, until bars have hardened. Slice into 8 and serve; store leftover bars in the fridge for up to a week.
- These bars keep their shape best when chilled. I do not recommend leaving these at room temperature for more than 15-20 minutes, or they will start to soften too much and will fall apart when you pick them up. Chilled, they are perfectly fudgy, crunchy, and hold together extremely well.
Looking for answers to all the mysteries of the universe? They’re right here, deep in the swirls of peanut butter.