Ever made homemade peanut butter cups? Alex and I wanted a little sweet treat project, so we set about to make our own version of this classic candy. We wanted peanut butter cups that had just the right crisp snap when you bite the chocolate, just the right gooey peanut butter interior, and a little hint of sea salt for savory sweet action. After he tasted them, Alex exclaimed: “WOW! They’re way better than Reese’s, and even better than Justin’s peanut butter cups!” High praise. Want to see if you agree?
What’s in homemade peanut butter cups?
In creating this peanut butter cup recipe, we wanted a treat that was just sweet enough really let the peanut butter flavor shine. For this no-bake dessert, we used the following ingredients:
- Unsweetened peanut butter
- Pure maple syrup
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Semisweet chocolate
- Chunky sea salt, for garnishing the tops!
Make sure to buy pure maple syrup for this recipe and not pancake syrup. Many pancake syrups contain lots of corn syrup, whereas maple syrup comes from maple trees. Make sure to read the ingredients list to make sure you’ve bought the right thing!
How to make peanut butter cups
Making homemade peanut butter cups that are truly perfect is not an easy task. In testing this recipe, Alex and I made PB cups that were too bitter or too thick, had peanut butter that spilled out the sides, or had lumpy and dull chocolate. For some reason, we just couldn’t get them right! Then, we decided to try tempering the chocolate. It worked beautifully, making the perfect glossy chocolate that had a perfect crunch at room temperature.
How to make peanut butter cups? Here are the basic steps:
- Temper the chocolate (see below).
- Mix up the filling: peanut butter, maple syrup, powdered sugar, allspice and vanilla extract. Shape it into small disks that will just fit into to mini muffin cups.
- Pour a little chocolate into the bottom of the cups, then add the filling disk and fill the cup.
- Top with a little flaky sea salt and wait for the cups to harden (about 20 minutes).
How to temper chocolate
What is tempering chocolate? Tempering is a way to melt chocolate that makes it smooth and glossy when it dries. It makes a crisp snap when you bite into it, and stays hard at room temperature. Have you ever noticed that a white powder that can forms on the surface of some chocolate over time? That’s the cocoa fat separating out. Tempering chocolate avoids all that!
So how to temper chocolate? It’s a precise process BUT, it is so, so so worth it. It will make your homemade peanut butter cups…perfect. Here’s what you need to know about the basic steps:
- You’ll need a digital thermometer. (If you don’t want to use a thermometer, this is a good resource.)
- Here’s the basic concept: Melt 2/3 of your chocolate, then stir in 1/3 of the unmelted chocolate, which brings down the temperature. Then reheat the entire mixture until it’s glossy and perfectly melted.
- See below for all the details! The instructions in the recipe below explain the exact temperatures to use. It might feel like overkill, but it was this that helped us to truly perfect our homemade peanut butter cups recipe.
- What if the tempering doesn’t work? No problem. If you find the chocolate is soft and melty at room temperature even after tempering, just store these peanut butter cups in the refrigerator!
Can I use another type of chocolate?
This recipe uses semisweet chocolate, and the timing may be different for other types of chocolate. Milk or dark chocolate may work to this recipe, but we can’t say for sure if your homemade peanut butter cups would turn out the same as ours.
The conclusion: how these peanut butter cups taste?
The resulting homemade peanut butter cups are so, so good! They’ve got a satisfying crisp snap, just the right amount soft peanut butter filling, and a few flakes of sea salt on top to accentuate the sweet. WOWZA! We will be making these for years to come. Let us know if you try them in the comments below!
This homemade peanut butter cups recipe is…
Vegetarian and gluten free. For vegan, you can try substituting vegan chocolate at your own risk — but we cannot speak to how to temper vegan chocolate!
These homemade peanut butter cups are truly perfect! This recipe shows you how to temper chocolate to get a glossy sheen and make a mouthwatering peanut butter filling.
- 1/3 cup unsweetened peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 ounces high quality semisweet chocolate baking bar*
- Chunky sea salt, for the garnish
Step 1: Make the peanut butter filling:
- In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter, maple syrup, powdered sugar, allspice, and vanilla until fully combined into a sticky mixture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Divide the mixture into 18 even pieces, about 1 scant teaspoon each, onto the parchment paper. Then roll each peanut butter piece in your hands into a ball and flatten the top so it forms a disc. Make them as even as you can (see the photo).
- Test the size in a mini muffin cup to make sure that the peanut butter disc is just narrower than the size of the circle at the bottom, so that the chocolate will fully cover it. Set aside the peanut butter.
Step 2: Line a mini muffin tin with 18 mini muffin wrappers. Temper the chocolate (works well with 2 people! It sounds complicated but only takes about 5 to 10 minutes):
- Break the chocolate bars into small pieces.
- Start a small saucepan of barely simmering water.
- In a heat-proof bowl that is completely dry that will fit over the pan of simmering water, add about 2/3 of the chocolate pieces (we used a small metal bowl). Make sure not to get any water into the chocolate, since it will cause the chocolate to seize up! (There are fixes for siezed chocolate but it’s not pretty.) You’ll hold the bowl with the chocolate above the other saucepan with boiling water to create a double boiler (or you can use a double boiler if you have one!). Place a towel on counter next to the stove so that you can transfer the bowl to the counter as necessary and avoid any water getting into the bowl.
- Hold the bowl of chocolate over the simmering water. Allow the chocolate to melt a bit, then gently stir with a spatula until the chocolate fully melts and warms to 115°F. Use a quick-read digital thermometer to check the temperature often; the chocolate will heat quickly at the end.
- Once the chocolate is at 115°F, immediately remove it from the burner onto the towel. Add the remaining 1/3 of the unmelted chocolate (called seed chocolate) and stir constantly until it melts and the chocolate temperature falls to 84°F. Be very precise about the temperature, checking with the candy thermometer every so often.
- Here’s the important part: When the chocolate is 84°F, return the bowl of chocolate to above the pan of simmering water, and bring it back to 90-91°F. Keep checking with the quick-read digital thermometer until it is 91°F, then remove from the heat immediately.**
Step 3: Place the tempered chocolate into the mini muffin tin:
- Working as quickly as possible, place about a heaping 1/4 teaspoon in the bottom of each mini muffin cup. Use the measuring spoon to spread the chocolate into a thin circle on the bottom. Bang the pan onto the counter a few times so that the chocolate evenly spreads.
- Continuing to work quickly, place the peanut butter discs into the centers of the chocolate, being as exact as possible.
- Then, pour about 1 teaspoon of chocolate onto the tops of all 18 cups so that the chocolate fills in around it to make a chocolate cup. If the chocolate looks like it’s starting to firm up, you can return it to above the hot water and stir for just a minute to heat it back up. Keep working to evenly divide the remaining chocolate between the cups. Then bang the pan several times against the counter so that the chocolate spreads evenly and the tops are level.
Step 4: Refrigerate for 3 minutes, then remove the tray and sprinkle the top of each cup with a tiny bit of sea salt. Continue to refrigerate for about 15 to 25 minutes until the chocolate is hardened. Store refrigerated.
*We’ve customized these tempering instructions for semisweet chocolate: the timing may be different for other types of chocolate. If you want to use vegan chocolate, do so at your own risk: we cannot speak to how to temper vegan chocolate! *DO NOT GO OVER 93°F or the chocolate will have to be fully re-tempered. To retemper the chocolate, you’d have to heat back up to 115°F and add extra seed chocolate, following the same instructions. So, try to be very precise about the temperature to ensure the most consistent chocolate!