Delicious Homemade Peanut Butter Cup Brownies ( + Gluten-Free Option)

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If you are looking for the perfect dessert recipe that combines the irresistible flavor combination of chocolate and peanut butter, you’ve just struck gold! 

These homemade peanut butter cup brownies are simple to make and absolutely delicious!

Have you ever seriously considered what makes the combination of peanut butter and chocolate so addicting? I certainly have!

Here’s a deeper dive into this flavor obsession:

The Food Science Behind the Incredible Combination of Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Gregory Ziegler, a Penn State University professor of food science (who actually studies chocolate- why can’t that be my job?!?), gave an interesting explanation of this phenomenon which he called “dynamic sensory contrast.” Gregory said that our taste buds are pleased when foods have contrasting textures, such as the smooth chocolate of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that melts in our mouth paired with the slight crunch of the peanut butter center.

An article on Mic.com about the science of our obsession with pairing peanut butter with chocolate cites Gregory saying that this sensation of dynamic sensory contrast, otherwise known as “the ice cream effect,” can even cause us to eat more. This likely goes without saying, but the term “ice cream effect” refers to the basic principle that people most always still have room for ice cream even when their bellies are already filled with a big dinner beforehand.

Ziegler also went on to say, “[Chocolate and peanuts are] complementary because they produce flavor through the Maillard reaction. That’s the reaction you get whenever you roast nuts, grill steak or bake bread.” 

According to Wikipedia:

The Maillard reaction (/maɪˈjɑːr/ my-YAR; French: [majaʁ]) is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor. Seared steaks, fried dumplings, cookies and other kinds of biscuits, breads, toasted marshmallows, and many other foods undergo this reaction.

Ziegler explained that the Maillard reaction “produces these flavors that have a unique pull to people.” He also asserted that the salt in the nuts lends “an attractive contrast” to the sweet chocolate. We all know the sweet and salty combination is one of the best!

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close-up of peanut butter cup browniesHistory of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Now that you understand more about the food science of this flavor match, let’s dig briefly into the history of Reese’sPeanut Butter Cups.

According to Times Record News:

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wasn’t an accidental creation. It was invented by a struggling dairyman named Harry Reese.

Reese worked on a dairy farm owned by Milton Hershey, the Hershey chocolate king, and in 1928 Harry began toying with the idea of mixing peanut butter and chocolate in cups. He founded the H. B. Reese Candy Co., and eventually sold out to Hershey for $23.5 million.

Facts about Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

In case you’re curious, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups remain one of the most popular candies in the U.S. 

According to YouGov, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is the 3rd most popular food and snack brand, as well as the 9th most famous. It is described by fans as “good quality, original, classic, delicious and family-friendly.”

Here are some additional stats:

  • 82% of Americans have a positive opinion of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • Only 7% of Americans have a negative opinion of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • 10% of Americans have a neutral opinion of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • 98% of Americans surveyed have heard of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (how’s that for brand recognition?!?)
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are more popular among the Baby Boomers demographic than any other generation
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are slightly more popular with women than men

Now that we’ve established a good understanding of the origin and popularity of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, let’s take a quick look at why we are such big fans of brownies as a favorite dessert option.

Facts about Brownies

  • December 8th is National Brownie Day, but there is also a National Have a Brownie Day on February 10. (I’m more than happy to celebrate one of my favorite desserts twice in one year!)
  • The origin of the brownie is uncertain, but there are three popular theories: a baker forgot to add flour to a cake they were baking, a chef added melted chocolate to biscuit dough by accident, and a homemaker was baking for guests but didn’t have baking powder so she improvised by making “flattened” cakes.
  • The traditional brownie includes only five ingredients: butter, sugar, chocolate, eggs and flour. 
  • The first brownie was actually not chocolate. It was instead a “blondie” that was sweetened with molasses.
  • The first chocolate brownie recipes that we published, one of which was called Bangor Brownies, appeared in two American cookbooks in 1904.
  • The record for the world’s largest brownie was set at the Hudson Valley Chocolate Festival and Holiday Crafts Show in Suffern, New York, in 2001. It weighed 3,000 pounds and included 750 pounds of chocolate chips, 500 pounds of butter, 850 pounds of sugar, 3,500 eggs, and 500 pounds of flour.
  • The Most Expensive Chocolate Brownie is called the “Brownie Extraordinaire” and can only be found in the Crystal Menu of Brulee in Atlantic City, USA. It is also a part of Tropicana Resort and Casino’s Deluxe Proposal Package and costs $15,000.

Who doesn’t love brownies? Also, who doesn’t love all of the mouth-watering Tasty videos?!? You’ll love this one with six different variations of brownies for some extra brownie inspiration!

 

You are now thoroughly educated on everything from the food science of the peanut butter and chocolate to the history and popularity of both brownies and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I’m sure you’re finally ready to get to the recipe I promised you: Homemade Peanut Butter Cup Brownies!

How to Make Homemade Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

(see printable version of Peanut Butter Cup Brownies recipe below for list of ingredients)

First, you will need to preheat the oven to 350°F. While the oven is heating, line an 8” x 8” pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Next, mix all of the ingredients included in the chocolate layers in a large mixing bowl. Be sure to add the flour (all-purpose wheat flour or your favorite gluten-free substitution), cocoa powder, and salt last. Lightly fold in the flour and cocoa powder until just mixed. (If you over-mix, the brownies will turn out cake-like).

Now mix the peanut butter layer ingredients, making sure to save the flour, baking powder and salt for last. Again, stir until just mixed.

Then, spread peanut butter layer on the bottom of the pan. Top it with the chocolate brownie layer, spreading out the batter for both layers evenly.

Finally, bake at 350°F for 22 minutes. The brownies should still be soft and gooey, but will set as they cool. And finally, enjoy!

A few things to note:

  • There are recipes for similar brownies using actual Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (just spread them out evenly), as well as boxed brownie mixes. These are great if you are in a time crunch but homemade is ALWAYS better, right?!? Just in case, two of my favorite gluten-free brownie mixes are Krusteaz Gluten Free Double Chocolate Brownie Mix and King Arthur Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Mix. And you can never go wrong with Reese’s Creamy Peanut Butter!
  • The only ingredient that should need to be swapped out to make these brownies gluten free is the flour, although it never hurts to check every label.
  • Fudgy brownies have less flour and no baking powder at all. Melting the butter rather than creaming it also gives you a denser, “gooey-er” outcome. Cake-like brownies contain more flour and baking powder, as well as less butter. Also, instead of melting the butter with the chocolate, the softened butter is creamed with the sugar. This process of creaming incorporates air into the mixture which can cause the brownies to rise a little higher. Chewy brownies get their texture from including an extra egg and a possibly even a combination of different chocolates (both semi-sweet and unsweetened). Feel free to get creative and make adjustments to this recipe according to your tastes!

And last but not least, here are some of our favorite brownie baking supplies we recommend:

Recommended Baking Tools for Brownies

For a printable version of the recipe, see below:

Yield: 9 servings

Homemade Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

close-up of homemade peanut butter cup brownies

You're sure to enjoy these homemade Peanut Butter Cup Brownies, regardless of whether you make any gluten-free substitutions!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Total Time 37 minutes

Ingredients

  • non-stick cooking spray
  • For the Chocolate Layer:
  • ½ c. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ t. vanilla extract
  • ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • For the Peanut Butter Layer:
  • 1/3 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • ¼ c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ t. real vanilla extract
  • ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/8 t. salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. While the oven is heating, line an 8” x 8” pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients included in the chocolate layers in a large mixing bowl. Be sure to add the flour (wheat or gluten-free substitution), cocoa powder, and salt last. Lightly fold in the flour and cocoa powder until just mixed. (If you over-mix, the brownies will turn out cake-like).
  3. Mix the peanut butter layer ingredients, making sure to save the flour, baking powder and salt for last. Again, stir until just mixed.
  4. Spread peanut butter layer on the bottom of the pan. Top it with the chocolate brownie layer, spreading out the batter for both layers evenly.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 22 minutes. The brownies should still be soft and gooey, but will set as they cool.
  6. Enjoy!

Notes

For a gluten-free option, simply substitute your preferred gluten-free flour blend for the all-purpose flour listed in the recipe. My favorite gluten-free flour blend is King Arthur Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

9

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 423Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 96mgSodium: 206mgCarbohydrates: 52gFiber: 2gSugar: 36gProtein: 7g

Nutrition information is not guaranteed.

We hope you enjoy this recipe for homemade Peanut Butter Cup Brownies! We’d also love to hear from you- what are your favorite recipes that combine peanut butter and chocolate?

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