A Midwest holiday tradition! Easy, no-bake creamy peanut butter filling covered in rich chocolate that resembles the nut from the buckeye tree.
Hey all! So I spent the week in Chicago as a surprise to my father – he thought he was getting a package, but instead he got me. Thankfully, he was okay with the trade off.
I couldn’t have picked a worse week to go, though – it was like I landed in the arctic circle! Thankfully, he was okay with just hanging around his place and popping out for the occasional meal.
And I brought treats with me, like some sort of sugar-delivery Santa. One container of Cranberry Bliss Fudge and a container of this Midwest tradition: Buckeye Balls.
Have you heard of Buckeye Balls? When I moved to New England, I discovered that people had NO IDEA what I was talking about.
Eventually it came to light that most people knew what they were, just by a more literal name of “Peanut Butter Balls”. It made me feel better to know that other people appreciate these easy, no-bake treats.
I used to make these with my family every single Christmas. It was the one recipe us kids were allowed to do ourselves, and it always turned the kitchen into a big, peanut buttery, chocolatey mess. It was amazing.
As I got older though, the idea of the original recipe made my stomach churn a little bit: ½ cup of butter, a pound of powdered sugar, some shortening in the chocolate… eek. I went on a mission to make them as healthy as I could and still retain its creamy, decadent texture.
Over time, I’ve put more effort into utilizing the bag of coconut flour and coconut sugar that I have in my pantry. They’re both so useful in so many things, but they’re not a 1:1 substitution for most things, which means I just have to do quite a bit of trial and error.
I tried using both the coconut flour and sugar and discovered that the sugar just made things grainy, which is the exact opposite of what I’m going for.
Eventually I realized that just using a liquid sweetener like honey or maple syrup maintains the creamy texture, and you can use a lot less than you would with solid sweeteners. Thankfully (noticing a trend here?), I finally got the quantities right for this recipe and they work like a dream.
As for the chocolate, I could definitely have gone the route of trying to use raw cacao powder and coconut oil, but it all came back to the texture – it just wasn’t smooth enough.
So, I kept the chocolate coating simple – just use good chocolate. This is key, and I’m not just trying to sell you on spending more money (trust me, that’s not my goal in life). You have to use a good chocolate in order for these to be a success. Sub par chocolate will just make them… sad. And you don’t want sad dessert, now do you? Of course not.
Okay, there’s another key to these – the design of the chocolate coating. If you want them to be truly traditional buckeye balls, you have to leave a small circle of peanut butter exposed on the top so that they look like that poisonous nut.
I’m not gonna lie – I’m not sure WHY we always wanted to make a food that looks like a nut that could kill you, but I’m still on board with it. They’re just so freaking good.
If you’re like me, you’re going to pop one of these in your mouth every time you walk past your fridge, and then suddenly the container is empty.
Glass containers where you can see the amount left are essential here to help you with your self control – don’t say I didn’t warn you!
After you’ve made this recipe, please consider coming back to share your experience with others by leaving a comment below with a star rating!
Classic Peanut Butter Filling
- 1 ½ cups peanut butter, creamy
- ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar, or more, as needed
- pinch salt
Healthier Peanut Butter Filling
- 1 ½ cups peanut butter, organic or otherwise
- ¼ cup honey, maple or agave syrup
- ½ cup coconut flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 12 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate
- 1 tablespoon Coconut oil or vegetable shortening, if needed to thin chocolate out more, a little at a time
Peanut Butter Filling
- Cover two baking sheets with wax or parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients together - you can use a spoon or spatula to start, but you'll need to use your hands to really combine it eventually.
- Use a small cookie scoop (or just measure out 2 teaspoons for each) to scoop out an even amount of dough and roll them in the palms of your hands to form a ball. Place balls an inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Place baking sheets in fridge.
- In a double broiler (with a small amount of water in the saucepan that doesn't touch the bottom of the top pan), bring water to a simmer.
- Add chocolate and stir constantly until chocolate has melted.
- Turn heat down to the lowest setting and remove your peanut butter balls from the fridge.
- Using a candy dipper or a spoon, dip each ball into the chocolate until either completely covered or where only a small circle of peanut butter is exposed on top (this is the traditional process). Transfer to prepared baking sheet to cool.
- Leaving the completed buckeye balls on the baking sheets, place back in fridge for at least 30 minutes to set completely.
- Place in airtight containers (with parchment paper between layers) until ready to serve. Enjoy!