Peanut butter and jelly—the classic combo
When I was a kid, my mother would bake batch after batch of cookies during the weeks leading up to Christmas. A dozen varieties at least, usually more.
The assortment varied from year to year. But she always included these PB&J Thumbprint Cookies. How could she not? Everyone in the family clamored for them.
Try them and you’ll understand why.
Recipe: PB&J Thumbprint (Thimble) Cookies
For these cookies, we like to use crunchy peanut butter that is made from nothing more than peanuts and salt. But peanut butter with sugar added will certainly work—my mom often used that, and she preferred creamy rather than crunchy (both types work well in this recipe).
Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is the baker in our household. She slightly adapted this recipe from one that my mother used for years.
This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies—depending on how much dough you eat before baking! The recipe can easily be halved or doubled.
Prep time for the dough is about 15 minutes, plus baking time of about 12 minutes (you may need to bake multiple rounds).
The cookies will keep for up to a week if stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt (see Notes)
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed (see Notes)
- 6 ounces peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
- 1 large egg (consider using pasteurized; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon orange extract (may substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; see Notes)
- ~¾ cup jelly or jam for topping cookies (red currant jelly is excellent; or use strawberry, raspberry, or another flavor of your choice—see Notes)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour and salt). Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer), cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter and blend well. Beat in the egg and the orange extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix until well blended.
- Scoop out dollops of dough and form into balls about one inch in diameter (for scooping, we use a #60 disher; see Notes). Place cookies 1½ to 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Make indents in the top of each cookie (see Notes).
- Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until the cookies are just becoming firm (don’t overbake). Remove from the oven. Using a wide spatula, move the cookies to a wire rack for cooling.
- Spoon ½ teaspoon of jelly or jam into the top of each cookie. Serve and enjoy.
- Unfortunately, some people are allergic to peanuts—and if the allergy is severe, exposure can be deadly. Even being in the same room with peanut butter (or cookies made with it) can set off a bad reaction. So do be aware and make inquiries before serving these.
- If you don't have Kosher salt on hand, you can use plain table salt. In that case, though, I’d reduce the amount by about half since table salt is finer and more “condensed” than Kosher. So you’d use about 1/8 teaspoon—which amounts to a couple of pinches.
- You can substitute light brown sugar in this recipe, but I think dark brown yields the best flavor.
- Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella. So I suggest using pasteurized eggs for cookies. Although it’s unlikely that the eggs you buy will be infected, why take the risk? Especially since most of us can’t make cookies without tasting the raw dough.
- You can usually identify pasteurized eggs because they have a red “P” stamped on them.
- Some variants of this recipe use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract instead of ½ teaspoon orange extract. My mom always used orange extract, and we prefer that version (the peanut butter flavor shines through more). But do try the vanilla variation sometime—you may like it better.
- If you go the vanilla route, be sure to use high quality (pure) vanilla extract. Its flavor is so much better than the imitation kind.
- Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol for several months. BTW, the FDA requires that pure vanilla extract contain at least 35% alcohol. If the label doesn’t say “pure,” that means it’s made from synthetic vanilla. The artificial kind is usually derived from the sapwood of several species of conifers—or from coal extracts! How appetizing (not).
- The flavor of some imitation vanillas can be nasty. You don’t have to spend a fortune on pure vanilla extract, but getting decent quality does mean spending a bit more for something that’s not loaded with sugar or imitation flavoring. Do yourself a favor and get the real stuff.
- We find that a #60 disher (scoop) digs out just the right amount of dough for each cookie. (It’s called a #60 disher because the bowl is sized so that each scoop is about 9/16th of an ounce, or a little over 1 tablespoon. Thus, you’ll get 60 scoops per quart of dough when you use this size disher.)
- What’s the best way to make indents in the center of these cookies? Well, the classic way is to use your thumb (hence the “thumbprint” name). But we find it easier to use a spoon or the small end of a melon baller.
- These cookies are sometimes called “thimble cookies” because cooks are directed to make thimble-size indents in their centers. My mother, who loved to sew, did sometimes use a thimble to make the craters.
- The cookies will puff up as they bake, which can cause the indents in the center to disappear. If this happens, just take the cookies out of the oven for a minute and press them in the center again to recreate the indents, then continue baking until done.
- Any jelly or jam that you like will probably work in these cookies. Strawberry, raspberry, and apricot are all good choices. My mother often used red currant jelly, which is the best of all, IMO. But we like to use a variety of flavors when we make these cookies—it’s fun to have choices!
“Gosh, these take me back,” I said, biting into a PB&J Thumbprint Cookie.
“I always loved these when your mom made them,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs. “I’m glad she gave me the recipe.”
“They look nice with all the different colored jams, too” I said. “Maybe next year we should try even more flavors.”
“Next year?” said Mrs K R. “At the rate we’re going, these will be polished off by the end of the day.”
“Oops,” I said.
“I better make another batch—and double the recipe,” she said. “Family members are going to see these on the blog, after all.”
Right, as usual. Is that clamoring I hear?
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You are astounding. Love this.
Fortunately I am not allergic to peanuts so I have a green light to try this recipe out. Love the peanut and butter combination. I am baking cookies for friends and neighbors today an tomorrow. These would be a great addition to the line up.
Hi Candy, aren't these nice? Such a fun cookie! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Karen, the butter in this adds a ton of richness. This really is one of the best peanut butter-flavored cookies I've had - super good. Thanks for the comment.
My mom made thumbprint cookies with a big Hershey's Kiss. I ate a ton of PB&J sandwiches as a kid. Why on earth she or I never combined the two is beyond me!
True confession though? I love peanut butter and syrup more. Now I need to figure out how to top a cookie with that! :)
I love all the different coloured jams - a child's dream. I can just imagine the flavours of peanut butter and jam together. Rich, sweet and satisfying.
John, I always wondered what jelly is… is it actually jam or fruit preserve, or is it jelly?
Hi John , still have time to make PB&J cookies , I will have to double the recipe . My sister is mildly allergic to peanuts , I showed her this delicious recipe , she make pecan cookies and said she will use your recipe , instead of peanuts , she will use pecans . Tell :)
What gorgeous little cookies - the jam looks like gems. Love your banter, too!
I'm not family, but I'm clamoring! Always a good one and you make them look so perfectly pretty! Can't wait to try!
Hi Barb, peanut butter and syrup? Sounds like a fun combo! Maybe reduce the syrup to a glaze so it'll stick to the top of a cookie? Is that even possible?! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Suzanne, all those colors are fun, aren't they? This really is a lovely combo of flavors. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lizzy, jam and a lot of fruit preserves often have chunks of fruit in them. Jelly doesn't, and more important, jelly has a clear, translucent look to it, whereas jam is often more dense, almost cloudy. I believe jelly is usually cooked a bit more than jam, but I don't preserve things (yet!) so don't hold me to that. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nee, pecan butter sounds good! Love that idea. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Beth, they really are fun cookies, and I like how they catch the light. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Abbe, these are such a great cookie, aren't they? I'm always clamoring for them! Thanks for the comment.
It just wouldn't be the holiday season without thumbprints, John. How wonderful that you have you're Mother's cookie recipe. I had forgotten that these classic cookies were also called thimble cookies, so charming:) Thank you so much to Mrs. K.R. for sharing the recipe. I'd love one or two with my afternoon tea:) Thanks for sharing...
These look fabulous! And I love the Mrs Kitchen Riffs didn't scrimp on the jelly filling.
I know of someone who can't fly if the airline has served peanuts on a previous flight. That's scary. I'm lucky and I can make your gorgeous thimble cookies today!
I've been making thumbprint cookies since I was a kid. I don't think any of us ever tire of these classics, especially when you can vary the fillings to suit whatever mood you are in. These are perfect holiday cookies.
These cookies look so appetizing! Yum!
Hi Louise, my mother was a really good baker, and I'm lucky in that I have a bunch of her cookie recipes (what she did best, IMO). These are a pretty simple cookie, but great flavor. Perfect with tea! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amanda, when it comes to filling, Mrs K R never scrimps! I that that may even be her motto. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Maureen, severe allergy reactions really can be scary. And enough people (kids in particular) are sensitive to peanuts that one really needs to be careful. Thank goodness I can eat these! Because they're so worth having. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, we make these throughout the year, but they're best during the holidays, IMO. But everything tastes better at this time of the year, doesn't it? Thanks for the comment.
Hi sprinkles and sauce, these really are a terrific cookie - wonderful flavor! And I like the way they look. Thanks for the comment.
This classic combo always tempts us in a renewed way of trying out....such flavorful and glorious looking cookies...anything with peanut butter is a huge yes at home...so this certainly is for this weekend's bake list,thanks so much for this crunchy and delicious recipe :-)
These sort of remind me of the peanut butter cookies I used to make as a kid. We would make a criss-cross pattern on the cookie using a fork - adding the jam, makes them even more delicious! I see that you've commented several times cautioning about eggs with salmonella, but I've eaten eggs all my life and never had a problem.
Oh wow - these peanut butter and jelly cookies sound fantastic! Good golly - now am craving PB&J in a big way!
O.M.G. Why didn't this occur to me in the dozens of times I baked peanut butter cookies?!?!
So beautifully festive! They look like jewelled cookies with the vibrant jams. Nice to imagine you as a little kid eating cookies your mom made, John :)
You've taken my favorite thumbprint cookies and made them better. Thank you for sharing these John! I'll be making them soon!
Hi Kumar, there's a reason some combos become classic! And this is a particularly good one. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Fran, I am becoming a bit of a nag about pasteurized eggs, aren't I? And I'm not even getting sponsored for this (some bloggers are, I know). I've never had problems with eggs either, and don't expect to. I only used pasteurized eggs when I think I'll be tasting them raw - as in cookie dough. They cost very little more than regular eggs (which I use in most of my cooking) and to me it seems like cheap insurance. Anyway, I like peanut butter cookies with that criss-cross pattern too! And we make those as well. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Shashi, I know you're a peanut butter lover, so these have your name on them! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Geojour, next time you get the craving for peanut butter cookies, I'll bet I know which one you'll try! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nazneen, my mom made really good cookies! And I certainly enjoyed my share when I was a tad. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Monet, I hope you enjoy! And the orange extract is so worth trying - really big flavor difference. Thanks for the comment.
These won't stay more than a few hours in my house! Delicious!
Hi easyfoodsmith, yeah, they did last long at our house either! ;-) Awfully good! Thanks for the comment.
It's lovely growing up in a family where a lot of baking is going on. That's so good that your mother made such an effort during such a special time of year. These cookies look really good. My mother traveled to the west coast of the USA during the 1970's and came back with some incredible recipes (a lot of them involving peanut butter or pumpkin) and so she made cookies like this but without the jam centre - I'll have to show her your recipe or make some for her xx
Cute cookies! Totally irresistible.
There's something so festive about filled or thumbprint cookies, they look like celebration on a plate. I'd say they wouldn't last long in my home, gorgeous.
Hi Charlie, I was indeed a lucky child! The US is much more obsessed with peanut butter than much of the world, so there really are some great recipes for it floating around. Like this one! Thanks for your comment.
Hi Rosa, they're really so nice! And I love the colors of the different fillings. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Asha, they go way too quickly around here! And I agree they look rather festive. Thanks for the comment.
Lovely, I've never made anything like these before.
Now that's a holiday cookie! They're beautiful, but more importantly, they have peanut butter in them and that gets my attention every time. Great post, John!
Hi Caroline, they're really delish! A great way to use peanut butter in cookies. Thanks for the comment.
Hi BIll, pretty hard to resist peanut butter, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Love these! Pb cookies are always my fave and the addition of jam is perfect. I wouldn't have thought to use crunchy pb, but I bet it adds great texture!
I love these!! Thumbprints are my favorites around the holidays :)
I made thumbprint cookies this week (lime). I have to say I don't usually enjoy making cookies (tedious and fussy are words that come to mind) but I make an exception at the holidays. I become such a little baker elf! GREG
Love the hint of orange flavoring. I have some grape jam with orange essence that would rock these cookies! Thanks for the recipe!
Will this sound very weird if I say I've had peanut butter and jelly only once in my life? Anyhow, this how I'd prefer to taste it, looks wonderful, John!
Hi Laura, crunchy really does add a bit of texture - one of the reason why I like it! Worthy trying. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ashley, thumbprints are so tasty, aren't they? I love 'em! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Greg, lucky for me that Mrs K R loves to bake cookies! If I had to bake them, they'd never get done - I find them kinda tedious too, so I know where you're coming from. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Debra, that orange extract really is nice! We tried them back-to-back with orange and vanilla extracts, and much prefer the orange. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Gintare, not weird at all - not a combo everyone likes, and it's practically unknown in many parts of the world. But it's a combo I adore! ;-) And these cookies are way better than a sandwich! Thanks for the comment.
These are such an awesome idea! I absolutely will be making these very soon and probably eating them as well...hopefully not all of them, though. ;)
These little treats are perfect with hot tea and perfect for this weather we are having. My family would have fun eating these cookies as late night snacks. They look so good John! :)
Hi Kate, trust me, when you make these eating, follows quite soon afterwards!. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ray, this do pair well with tea - a really nice combo. Thanks for the comment.
One of my favorite cookies! My mom also made these every holiday season. :)
These are so cute John! And who doesn't love PB&J? YUM! Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe. Have a great week!
My good friend loves thumbprint cookies -- I may have to surprise her with a batch of these this year. :)
Hi Alyssa, I think loads of moms made these for the holidays! Great cookie, aren't they? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anne, I still like PB&J on toast from time to time! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Judy, your good friend will become an even better one if you give her these! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Love the idea of using peanut butter to make thumbprint cookies! I'm already behind on my holiday baking, so I need to get moving ;-)
Gosh, your homey cookies made me missed christmas and my home even better!
the jelly topping is sounds delicacy....
btw, my fae topping is manggo and durian jam!
Hi Amy, still plenty of time to get your holiday baking going. ;-) This would be la good one to start with! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dedy, I haven't had durian jam, but I have had mango - wonderful stuff! But mango anything is wonderful. Thanks for the comment.
These cookies look so good that I swear I gained five pounds just by looking at them! I have a special weakness for jelly in the cookie cookies.
Hi Minnie, alas, that's the trouble with this time of the year - everything looks so good, yet it does contain calories. Not fair, is it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I love peanut butter cookies. The jelly makes them even better! I love the way these cookies look and sound.
Thumbprints are some of my favorite holiday cookies, going to have to make a big batch tomorrow!
Hi Dawn, aren't PB cookies great? And I agree about the jelly! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pamela, I really love these cookies too. Have fun tomorrow! Thanks for the comment.
Much like your first comment to Mrs. KR, I, too, haven't seen these cookies in ages. Yours look perfect with the jewel-toned jelly on top. These are the kind of cookies that make the little ones' faces light up when they see them. Thanks, John, for the recipe and for bringing to mind some great memories.
Hi John, aren't these a really great cookie? Perfect for all those jams and jellies you've been making! Thanks for the comment.
These look fabulous John! I always make my PB & J sandwiches with strawberry jam....but I love the variations you used. And using a touch of orange extract is such an interesting twist and one that I can't wait to try! : )
Hi John,these cookies are one of the best PB&J cookies we have ever baked...came out so beautifully and the whole huge batch got finished off by the end of the day,thanks so much for sharing this delicious recipe...Have a Good Day!!! :-)
I loved seeing these here. My mother used to make these all the time for my brothers. Seems like boys are always big fans of peanut butter and jelly. I'll have to make some of these for the nephews this weekend when they come to stay.
My favorite cookies ever! Love these!
Hi Anne, strawberry is great! Some of the ones in the picture were made with strawberry jam. ;-) The orange extract is amazing - I think you'll like it. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristi, your nephews will adore you even more than they already do! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Asmita, aren't these great? Totally love them! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kumar, glad you enjoyed these! And thanks for letting me know you found them as delish as we do!
Thank you to your mom and Mrs. Riffs for the wonderful cookie recipes! I love saving everyone's favorites and try them. Love the classic Thumbprint cookies!
Hi Nami, these are really good! I'll bet your kids will love them. You, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Well when they pose for the camera that way--yes indeed it's food porn! lol
Hi Dawn, LOL! I never thought of it that way, but you're so right. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
John, these cookies are absolutely delicious! I can eat a dozen of these for my afternoon tea any time! Thank you for sharing your family recipe!
Hi Yi, alas, I can eat a dozen, too. And have. ;-) They really are good. Thanks for the comment.
I love the addition of jelly jam topping on pb cookies.. It looks delicious :)
Hi Sowmya, isn't that topping pretty? Delish, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh, Oh, Oh, Delicioso
Hi Kitchen Butterfly, yes. Yes they are. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
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