Peanut Butter Bars with Sneaky Beans

March 22, 2013

I know the name of this recipe sounds so weird, but hang in there, okay?  I’m clearly not the best at naming recipes and normally just use descriptive titles.  I’m just not a cutesy person.  I’m not into pink or frilly (shiny is a whole different story!) and coming up with adorable names does not come natural.  I’ll work on it, I promise.   Until then, you’re stuck with sneaky beans.


This recipe has been a long time coming for me.  In middle school and high school, the cafeteria served these super delicious peanut butter bars.  They had a fudgey chocolatey top, thick and sticky peanut butter filling, and a firm slightly cookie-like bottom.  I knew I could easily recreate that fattening deliciousness if I loaded up on butter, but I really didn’t want to do that.  Instead, I skipped all butter in the topping and crust (except for the peanut variety, of course) and used whole wheat flour.


But the sneaky beans?  Those are blended right into the peanut butter.  At this point you’re either A. running in fear or B. totally intrigued.  I don’t think there is a middle ground when it comes to beans in desserts, except for the unsuspecting roommates, boyfriends, coworkers, children, etc. who don’t even know they’re there.  Promise, promise, promise me that if (when!) you try out these bars,  you’ll puree the heck out of the beans.  You don’t want any traces of bean bits or weird peel to take away from the creamy, creamy peanut butter texture that beans naturally have when blended up– and please don’t try to use a can of refried beans 😉 Those would not mix nicely with PB!


Peanut Butter Bars with Sneaky Beans
Serves: 24

  • (Crust)
  • 2 c white whole wheat flour (or GF mix)
  • ½ c sugar
  • ¾ – 1 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp butter flavoring (optional)
  • (Peanut butter filling)
  • 1 can white beans (I used pinto), well rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp almond or other milk choice, if needed
  • 2 heaping c creamy peanut butter
  • 1 c powdered sugar
  • ½ c oat flour
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave
  • (Chocolate topping)
  • 1 c semi sweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ – ½ c peanut butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and spritz a 9 x 13” baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Combine the crust ingredients. Start with ¾ c applesauce and work up to 1 c, if necessary, to incorporate all of the flour. A crumbly batter is preferred, but not necessary.
  3. Press the dough into the prepare pan. Poke all over with a fork and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.
  4. Using a food processor, blend the beans very well, adding milk if necessary to get a smooth and creamy texture. This will take anywhere from 5 – 15 minutes, depending on the size and quality of your food processor. You want no bean pieces to remain.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the bean puree and all other peanut butter filling ingredients. Stir until well combined.
  6. In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the chips for about 30 seconds. Stir until mostly smooth and add the remaining peanut butter. Stir until smooth, microwaving in 15 second bursts, if necessary.
  7. Allow the crust to cool slightly (a little heat will help spread the PB). Drop the filling by spoonfuls and spread evenly. Pour chocolate over top and spread evenly.
  8. Let cool on the counter for ~ 30 minutes. Cover loosely and chill in the fridge for ~ 2 hours before cutting and serving.

The more peanut butter you add to the chocolate topping, the more fudgey and less set it will be. The texture of this crust will be firm with a little chew. You can sub up to 1 c rolled oats for the wheat flour and a GF flour mix will work here. Store in fridge for best results.


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    Alex @ Cookie Dough Katzen Mar 28, 2013

    I love making desserts with hidden healthy foods. I made something similar to this but it was a bit of a flop- bean muffins. They were good but not very pretty! I think next time I’ll have to use flour like yours.

    jeanie Mar 27, 2013

    These sounds great too! You are on a roll with the stellar and sneaky recipes!

      Kelly Mar 27, 2013

      Ha, thanks!

    Sara {Home is Where The Cookies Are} Mar 27, 2013

    I am not freaked out at all by these! Peanut butter and chocolate SPEAK to me – sneaky beans or not! One of my favorite sneaky bean sweets I’ve ever made was an orange creamsicle bundt cake with white beans. . . . yum! Again – not afraid! Love it. 🙂

    Heather @ Kiss My Broccoli Mar 25, 2013

    Yep, you can put me in the “totally intrigued” category for sure! Especially since I’ve made a few of my own “beanie bites” in the past! Sorry, couldn’t help it…I SOMETIMES have a knack for cutesy naming! 😉 But seriously, they look absolutely amazing!

    Reeni Mar 25, 2013

    My school had some yummy peanut butter bars too! They had graham crackers on the bottom. I would never even know beans were in these! I’m all for sneaking some nutrition into desserts.

    a farmer in the dell Mar 25, 2013

    I love that you snuck beans in here! these look to die for lady!

    Erica {Coffee & Quinoa} Mar 25, 2013

    Believe it or not, I have yet to try beans in any baked goods! I am intrigued, though, and with all the peanut butter, these have to be absolutely delicious.Can’t wait to try!

      Kelly Mar 25, 2013

      They really help add a fudge-like texture and the flavor covers pretty well. Definitely time to try out a bean-filled baked good!

    sally @ sallys baking addiction Mar 25, 2013

    what in the world! there are white beans in this? holy moly! i’ve sneaked beans into a sweet dip before, but i’ve never baked them into dessert. i bet the PB does a fine job masking the flavor. 🙂

      Kelly Mar 25, 2013

      It does a great job of hiding the bean flavor and actually gives it a little bit of a fudgy texture once it’s set up in the fridge!

    Natalie Mar 25, 2013

    this looks like a great bar and i love the sneaky beans you added, some good fibre up in there!

    Kayle (The Cooking Actress) Mar 25, 2013

    Oooh these look delicious and I love that the beans are all sneaky and hiding in the pb 😉

    Ashley Bee Mar 25, 2013

    My roommate made brownies with sweet potato and black beans hidden in them and they were fantastic. Plus all natural flavors! It’s a great way to get kids to eat their veggies–and my veg-hating boyfriend was also none the wiser 😉

    Nicole @ Young, Broke and Hungry Mar 24, 2013

    I’m all over sneaking beans into recipes. You usually can’t taste them at all. I’m gonna have to try this recipe tonight when I crave something sweet without bursting my fat jeans.

    Em @ Love A Latte Mar 24, 2013

    Love love love that there are beans in this!!! I made peanut butter cookies recently with chick peas! Great recipe 🙂

      Kelly Mar 25, 2013

      Josh has come to be VERY distrusting when I make baked goods, always wondering what kind of bean I’m unknowingly tricking him into eating 😀

    cleaneatingveggiegirl Mar 22, 2013

    I have heard of people using beans in desserts (brownies and cookies) and have been so intrigued by the idea. I REALLY need to try it because I love the idea of having an added protein factor. Your addition of peanut butter is perfect, too! PB is the best. I am sure that these would be great with almond butter, too!

    Julia Mar 22, 2013

    I’m in! These bars look incredible! I’ve made brownies using black beans and garbanzo beans…it’s crazy how well they turn out in treat recipes! Up next: your handy dandy peanut butter bars!