Lunch Lady Bars are a cafeteria classic you can make at home! Chewy peanut butter oatmeal cookie bars are topped with chocolatey frosting for the ultimate nostalgic treat!
Did your cafeteria have Lunch Lady Bars when you were growing up? Okay, maybe your school didn’t call them Lunch Lady Bars, but if you were lucky enough to enjoy those chewy, sweet, salty, and chocolatey bars for lunch every day—well, you were pretty darn lucky! And now you can make them yourself and enjoy that childhood treat whenever the craving strikes.
Just like crispy cereal bars and frosted sugar cookies, Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars satisfy that craving we all get for nostalgic foods that bring us back to those carefree days when we were kids. Even if you’ve never had them before, trust me that you won’t be able to resist these chewy, peanut buttery snack bars. (Oh, and they’re always a hit at bake sales too!)
Easy Lunch Lady Bars Recipe
I guess every lunch lady has her own recipe for making these bars, because there are a few different variations! Some have layers of oatmeal cookie, peanut butter, and chocolate frosting, but I prefer this version, which combines the peanut butter and the cookie layer for a chewy peanut butter oatmeal cookie base. The result is a little bit like if you made your favorite oatmeal cookies and added a healthy dose of peanut butter to the mix.
You are going to flip when you try these! Unlike mushy Salisbury steak with shriveled frozen peas and bland cheese pizza, this is a cafeteria recipe you’ll actually want to eat!
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Unsalted butter – Let this soften so it’s easy to mix into the other ingredients.
- Granulated sugar
- Light brown sugar
- Creamy peanut butter – Use the traditional kind, not natural; because the oil and solids can separate in natural peanut butter, it doesn’t have a consistent texture, which means it can be unpredictable when you’re baking with it.
- Eggs – Here’s the best way to crack an egg.
- Vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour
- Rolled oats – Also known as old-fashioned oats.
- Baking powder
- Kosher salt
- Unsalted butter
- Unsweetened cocoa powder – Be sure to use cocoa powder, not hot cocoa mix.
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Whole milk
If you want to change up the flavors a bit, here are some ideas:
- Add a little bit of cinnamon to the cookie dough.
- Fold in chopped peanuts, chocolate chips, or butterscotch chips.
- Chop up some Reese’s peanut butter cups and scatter them on top of the frosting.
How to Make Lunch Lady Bars
Preheat your oven to 350ºF and lightly grease a 17x12x1 sheet pan.
2. Mix the Wet Ingredients
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugars together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla on medium speed until everything is well-incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
3. Finish the Dough
Slowly add the flour, oats, baking powder, and salt to the wet ingredients and mix until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Use a rubber spatula to spread the dough onto the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the bars are golden brown. Cool the Lunch Lady Bars completely before you frost them.
5. Make the Frosting
Combine the butter, cocoa, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Add milk a bit at a time until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.
6. Frost the Bars
Use an offset spatula to frost the bars, then cut them into squares and serve.
How to Store Lunch Lady Bars
These bars will keep for up to a week if they’re stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
You can also freeze them for up to 3 months—just be sure to wrap them individually in plastic wrap so they don’t stick together, or freeze them all on a sheet pan until the frosting is solid and then transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
Oats are a type of whole grain that are usually sold in three different forms: rolled oats, quick oats, and steel-cut oats. Rolled oats, which are also sometimes called old-fashioned oats, are the type used in this recipe. They’re made by steaming and then rolling whole oat groats (the inner kernel of the oat grain) into flat flakes.
Yes, you can use chunky peanut butter in this recipe as long as it’s not the natural kind. You’ll have bits of peanuts in the cookies if you use chunky peanut butter.
You’ll know the bars are done when they’re golden brown and the edges feel dry to the touch. Another way to test is to insert a toothpick into the center of the bars—if it comes out clean, they’re ready to come out of the oven.
These peanut butter Lunch Lady Cookie Bars need to be cooled before you frost them, so by the time you put the frosting on, you can cut them right away.
More Peanut Butter Recipes
- Peanut Butter Banana Muffins
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
- Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
- No-Bake Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Balls
Lunch Lady Bars
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup light brown sugar packed
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter softened
- 4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp whole milk
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 17x12x1 sheet tray.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and the sugars together until light, fluffy, and creamy. Add the peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla and continue to mix on medium speed until fully combined and smooth.
- Slowly add the flour, oats, baking powder, and salt and thoroughly mix until well combined.
- Spread the dough onto the prepared sheet tray. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
- For the frosting, add the butter, cocoa, sugar, and vanilla to a bowl and beat until smooth. If the frosting is too thick, thin it out with the milk until you reach the desired consistency.
- When cool, spread the frosting over the bars, cut into portions, and serve.