The idea of a peanut butter pie first entered my psyche when I watched The Joy Luck Club. It was sometime in the mid 90s, and I watched it perched on the bottom of the stairs, behind my mom’s back, because I was supposed to be in bed.
Two of the characters, a mother and a daughter, are discussing the ingredients for peanut butter pie, which the daughter is making for her ex-husband. It’s a beautiful human moment that says so much about relationships and cultural intersections, portrayed through the making of this humble pie with very American ingredients.
That blip of a scene in the movie may have been the beginning of my lifelong tendency to daydream about desserts.
A PEANUT BUTTER PIE WORTH OBSESSING OVER
Despite my obsession with peanut butter pie, I didn’t actually try it until years later. That experience must have been underwhelming because I don’t recall much about it, except that it came from a Baker’s Square pie case.
Fast forward many years and many tastes of peanut butter pie later. Now, I’ve come up with my own “perfect” version—it’s silky and mousse-like with lots of peanut butter flavor.
I also use a crunchy chocolate cookie crust and a ridiculous amount of whipped cream on top. As if that weren’t enough, I’ve added chopped peanut butter cups and drizzles of more peanut butter and chocolate.
This pie is pure decadence and made for peanut butter lovers.
HOMEMADE PEANUT BUTTER PIE
The amount of peanut butter in this filling is about double what many recipes call for. I upped it because I wanted the peanut butter to be more than a suggestion.
Not only does the additional peanut butter add flavor, it also makes for a much richer filling — but one that still melts in your mouth.
Choose a smooth peanut butter that isn’t the natural type with the oil separation on top—the silkier, the better. I find that some brands have a coarse texture that isn’t the best for achieving that mousse-like pie filling. Peanut butter that isn’t homogenized can sometimes cause texture and emulsion issues, so I always bake with commercial brands. My go-to is the Natural Creamy Butter from Jif.
Similarly, a lot of recipes rely on store-bought frozen whipped topping to give the filling a mousse-like texture but I have found that texture is a little foamier than what I am looking for.
Instead, I use homemade whipped cream. I prefer this I because it’s just one ingredient (and therefore easy to make myself) and basically unprocessed. This said, whatever you prefer works!
If you do end up using store-bought whipped topping, go ahead and reduce the powdered sugar in the filling to 1/3 cup since store-bought whipped cream is already sweetened.
HOW TO MAKE THE CHOCOLATE COOKIE CRUST
I think a bittersweet chocolate cookie crust is the best compliment for the filling and I specifically turn to Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers to achieve the crust. Their flavor profile is a lot like Oreos without the cream filling. Plus, they’re basically made for icebox cakes and pie crusts—do you know anyone who eats them any other way?
Since the crust is already so dark when you bake it you can’t rely on visual cues for doneness when you pre-bake it. Instead, gently press on the crust with a finger (it will be hot and my hands are made of asbestos, so tread lightly) and if it is firm and yields only slightly, it’s done.
These wafers can sometimes be tricky to find—not every grocery store carries them—so you can easily swap out equal weight of chocolate graham crackers (including Teddy Grahams) for the crust.
MAKE-AHEAD PEANUT BUTTER PIE
You can make and assemble the crust and filling in advance and refrigerate the pie, as long as it’s well wrapped, for about two days.
You can also freeze it for up to month wrapped well in plastic — or 2 weeks if your freezer tends to contribute odors and flavors to foods! Before serving, just defrost the pie in the refrigerator (or serve it frozen — see below!). Once it’s defrosted, top with whipped cream.
FROZEN PEANUT BUTTER PIE
If you want a textural twist, try freezing this pie (before topping it) and serve it semi-frozen. It has the texture of semifreddo and somehow feels even more light and mousse-like.
MORE BEST PEANUT BUTTER DESSERTS!
Peanut Butter Pie Recipe
If for some reason you have any extra chocolate or peanut butter drizzle, save it and use it on ice cream!
For the chocolate cookie crust:
- 9 ounces (255g) chocolate wafer cookies (such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers)
- 6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar, packed
- Pinch of kosher salt
For the peanut butter filling:
- 1 cup (8 ounces) heavy whipping cream
- 8 ounces (227g) softened cream cheese
- 1/2 cup (58g) powdered sugar
- 1 cup (227g) creamy peanut butter, such as Jif
For the topping:
- 1 cup (8 ounces) heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 4 large chocolate peanut butter cups (about 3 ounces)
- 1/4 cup (57g) peanut butter
- 1/3 cup (57g) chocolate chips
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2 Make the crust: Place the cookies in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they become crumbs. Pulse in the salted butter, sugar, and salt until combined and the mixture feels like wet sand and clumps when pressed together.
3 Bake the crust: Spread the crumbs into a 9-inch pie dish and press firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan. (Depending on the depth of your pan you may need fewer crumbs; just remove a few tablespoons if it feels like too much and proceed.)
Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or it is dry to the touch and feels firm. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack before filling.
4 Make the filling: Beat 1 cup of the whipping cream to a stiff peak—you can use a hand mixer or a stand mixer for this. Scrape the whipped cream into another bowl and set aside.
In the same mixing bowl that you beat the cream, beat the cream cheese and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar together until creamy and combined. Add the peanut butter and beat until smooth and creamy.
The mixture may not look totally emulsified at this point, but it will smooth out once you fold in the whipped cream. Stir 1/3 of the whipped cream into the peanut butter to lighten the mixture. Fold in the remaining 2/3, in two batches.
5 Fill and chill the pie: Spread the filling into the baked and cooled crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days.
6 Assemble the toppings: When ready to serve, whip 1 cup of cream with 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar to a medium-soft peak. (Double this amount if you want tall swoops of cream on the pie.)
Chop up the peanut butter cups.
Place the chocolate chips and peanut butter chips in separate microwave-safe bowls and stir a teaspoon of oil into each. Melt in the microwave in 30 second bursts, and stir until smooth.
7 Assemble and serve: Dollop the whipped cream on top of the pie and smooth it into a thick layer. Drizzle with melted chocolate and peanut butter, and sprinkle with chopped peanut butter cups.
Once topped with whipped cream, serve immediately. Leftovers keep for 4 days in the fridge, although the topping may deflate and weep a little.
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