Sweet, salty, crunchy, crispy, and caramelly, these Cajeta Peanut Butter Cookies truly have it all. A classic peanut butter cookie recipe gets gussied up with the addition of goat’s milk caramel and roasted peanuts for a modern, Mexican-inspired twist on the American favorite.

silver serving platter of cajeta peanut butter cookies on a red and green tablecloth.

Why I Love This Recipe

My dear friend Nicole Presley just released a gorgeous new cookbook, ¡Viva Desserts!: Traditional and Reinvented Sweets from a Mexican-American Kitchen and I simply couldn’t wait to share the recipe for these glorious peanut butter cajeta cookies with you!

cajeta peanut butter cookies on a round plate next to Viva Desserts cookbook by Nicole Presley.

If you’ve been looking for an easy way to refresh your holiday cookie platters with some new, exciting flavors, this updated take on traditional peanut butter cookies is just what you need. Made with just 12 ingredients and only about 20 minutes of active time, these salty-sweet beauties are the stuff of dessert dreams.

Chewy peanut butter cookies are laced with crunchy roasted peanuts before baking, then are topped with thin drizzles of the popular Latin American goat’s milk caramel known as cajeta for one of the most Muy Bueno-tasting cookies I’ve ever tried!

They have the perfect balance of sweet and salty, chewy and crispy, soft and crunchy, Mexican and American flavors. In short, they’re the best peanut butter cookies around. Now, let’s go make a batch, shall we?

Ingredients & Substitutions

As promised, Nicole’s simple caramel peanut butter cookies recipe requires just 12 simple ingredients, most of which are probably in your pantry already. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Granulated Sugar & Brown Sugar – If you didn’t already know, brown and white sugar play different chemical roles in cookie making, so you need them both. Either light or dark brown sugar will do great here. Feel free to swap in less processed versions like organic cane sugar and muscovado sugar if you prefer.
  • Butter – Nicole’s recipe calls for salted butter, but you can easily swap in unsalted and add about an extra 1/2-teaspoon of salt with the dry ingredients. You’re also welcome to use plant-based butter if you are dairy-free.
  • Almond Extract – While most American peanut butter cookie recipes call for vanilla extract, I love that Nicole uses almond extract to really double down on the nutty flavor. Feel free to use vanilla instead if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Eggs – Let them come to room temperature before you start making the dough; this will ensure that they mix in easier, which helps to prevent the overproduction of gluten strands that can make cookies tough or dense.
  • Creamy Peanut Butter – Either natural or conventional peanut butter will work here.
  • Flour – Regular all-purpose flour is perfect for these cookies. You’re also welcome to use cake flour for a more tender crumb, or a gluten-free cup-for-cup all-purpose flour blend if needed.
  • Baking Soda & Baking Powder – You need both kinds of leaveners for the perfect cookie texture.
  • Salt – I used regular table salt for these cookies, but if you’re using a different variety, make sure to use a conversion table for proper measurement.
  • Salted Peanuts – Adding chopped roasted peanuts to the mix gives these peanut butter cookies some serious panache.
  • Cajeta – If you can’t find this goat’s milk caramel at your regular grocery store or local Mexican supermercado, you can either shop online, make your own, or swap in dulce de leche, or your favorite regular caramel sauce.

How To Make Cajeta Peanut Butter Cookies

This simple peanut butter cookie recipe comes together with just about 20 minutes of active kitchen time. Here’s how:

Step 1: Prep. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Step 2: Wet Ingredients. Cream butters and sugar until fluffy and pale. Add almond extract and eggs, mixing well to combine. Add peanut butter and mix until uniform.

Step 3: Dry ingredients. Sift dry ingredients together, then add to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

Step 4: Add Peanuts and stir until well combined.

Step 5: Chill Dough. Cover and chill dough for a minimum of 1 hour and up to overnight.

Step 6: Roll Dough into 1 1/2-tablespoon balls.

rolling peanut butter cookie dough balls in sugar.

Step 7: Shape Cookies. Drop each ball of cookie dough into a bowl of granulated sugar and move to coat completely, then place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Use tines of a fork to press down either edge of the cookie, making a pattern like a ribcage.

using a fork to flatten the cajeta peanut butter cookies before baking.

Step 8: Bake cookies in preheated oven for 14 to 15 minutes (less for softer, more for crispier). Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Step 9: Pipe Cajeta into the ridges of each cooled cookie. Enjoy!

baked peanut butter cookies cooling on a rack before adding cajeta.

Optional Variations

While I think Nicole’s Cajeta Peanut Butter Cookies are pure magic, there is always room for you to customize recipes to your needs and preferences. Here are a few optional variations to try:

  • Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies – Swap in your favorite cup-for-cup GF all-purpose flour blend.
  • Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies – Use plant-based butter, swap in your favorite egg replacer (e.g. JUST Eggs), and use plant-based cajeta to make these cookies vegan-friendly.
  • Nut-Free Cookies – Want PB cookie vibes without peanuts? Swap in sunflower seed butter and roasted, shelled sunflower seeds for the peanut products.

Expert Tips

  • Freeze dough after step 6 for cookies on demand! I like to bake off just half of my cookies, saving the other half of the cookie balls in the freezer. That way, when a sweets craving strikes, I can pull out just enough cookie balls to bake off to satisfy my sweet tooth. It’s also a great trick for when you have unexpected visitors.
  • No piping bag? No problem! Swap in a zip-top sandwich bag with the corner cut off or fold up a piece of parchment paper for a simple makeshift solution.
  • Don’t skimp on the creaming step. Creaming butter and sugar together doesn’t just mix two ingredients, rather, it also helps to create small air pockets in the butter to help leaven the cookies. Make sure you keep beating until the mixture is light, fluffy, and pale before adding the eggs and extract.
overhead shot of peanut butter cookies on a pewter serving platter before adding dots of cajeta.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you make fork-marks on peanut butter cookies?

Imprinting the cookies with a fork not only adds a bit of decorative flair to your cookies, but also helps to flatten the dense dough so the cookies can bake evenly. The little ridges also add a place for crisp texture to emerge, not to mention tiny wells that can be filled with creamy cajeta.

Do I have to refrigerate the peanut butter cookie dough before baking?

YES! Not only does the refrigeration step give your flour more time to rehydrate (which yields better consistency), but it also helps prevent the extra fat in the peanut butter cookies from causing too much spreading.

Do I need to add cajeta?

These peanut butter cookies are fabulous with or without cajeta. You can also use your favorite caramel sauce in place of the cajeta.

If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #muybuenocooking.

silver serving platter of cajeta peanut butter cookies on a red and green tablecloth.

Peanut Butter Cajeta Cookies

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Sweet, salty, crunchy, crispy, and caramelly, these Cajeta Peanut Butter Cookies truly have it all. A classic peanut butter cookie recipe gets gussied up with the addition of goat's milk caramel and roasted peanuts for a modern, Mexican-inspired twist on the American favorite.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cajeta

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Cream butters and sugar until fluffy and pale. Add almond extract and eggs, mixing well to combine. Add peanut butter and mix until uniform.
  • Sift dry ingredients together, then add to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. 
  • Add peanuts and stir until well combined.
  • Cover and chill dough for a minimum of 1 hour and up to overnight. 
  • Roll dough into 1 1/2-tablespoon balls. 
  • Drop each ball of cookie dough into a bowl of granulated sugar and move to coat completely, then place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Use tines of a fork to press down either edge of the cookie, making a pattern like a ribcage.
  • Bake cookies in preheated oven for 14 to 15 minutes (less for softer, more for crispier). Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
  • Pipe Cajeta into the ridges of each cooled cookie. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies – Swap in your favorite cup-for-cup GF all-purpose flour blend.
  • Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies – Use plant-based butter, swap in your favorite egg replacer (e.g. JUST Eggs), and use plant-based cajeta to make these cookies vegan-friendly.
  • Nut-Free Cookies – Want PB cookie vibes without peanuts? Swap in sunflower seed butter and roasted, shelled sunflower seeds for the peanut products.
Calories: 281kcal, Carbohydrates: 31g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.3g, Cholesterol: 34mg, Sodium: 221mg, Potassium: 141mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 19g, Vitamin A: 260IU, Vitamin C: 0.02mg, Calcium: 30mg, Iron: 1mg

Photography by Jenna Sparks