No Bake Cookies (without refined sugar!)

No Bake Cookies are definitely my favorite cookie from childhood. We ALWAYS made them at Christmas time and I’m sure I probably made them a few times throughout the year as well. It’s one of the first cookies I remember making all by myself. Even before I paid attention to what was processed foods versus ‘real foods,’ I always knew there was a TON of sugar in these cookies. And when I doubled my batch before Christmas time, I would always gasp a little as I poured FOUR cups of sugar into the pot. That’s A LOT of sugar! So, this year, I set out to make my childhood favorite WITHOUT refined, white sugar. I will tell you this about the results… After two batches, I have the flavor RIGHT ON. The ‘setting up’ part? Not so much. The chocolate isn’t firming up like I’m used to. As much as this is frustrating to me…it’s ‘fixable.’ I just popped them into the freezer and problem solved! They were nice and firm when I ate them last night, though a little cold…but I actually enjoyed it that way! It made for a nice little dessert. 🙂 Oh…and my kids LOVE them, too!

So, if you’re looking to make No Bake Cookies, but want a little cleaner recipe, this will work for you! I would just store them in the freezer until you’re ready to eat one (or two…or three)!


If I had more time (and more patience), I would keep playing with this recipe until I got it ‘right’…but after making two batches of cookies, I have to stop. There are only so many calories I can burn in a day to keep the weight off when I start making too many delicious foods. 🙂 We eat everything I make/bake/cook and I, unfortunately, don’t have an endless supply of money to keep trying new recipes over and over. (I will keep them in the freezer and eat them little by little.) This recipe will have to do until the next time I want another batch (probably next Christmas, if I’m being honest with myself). I’m excited to have come up with a little cleaner option, though. This gives me my ‘no bake cookie fix,’ yet I don’t have to consume crazy amounts of refined sugar in the process!

No Bake Cookies (without refined sugar!)
Serves: Approx. 40 cookies
  • 6 T organic butter
  • ¾ cup pure maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup milk (I used organic whole milk)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup natural peanut butter (peanuts & salt only)
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • ⅔ cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  1. Before starting, measure out the oatmeal, coconut, and peanut butter so they're ready to add when the time comes.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, stir together butter, maple syrup, cocoa, and milk.
  3. Bring to a boil, while stirring, for 1 minute.
  4. Add vanilla, salt, and then peanut butter. Stir until peanut butter melts.
  5. Take pot off the stove and stir in the coconut and oatmeal.
  6. Drop by teaspoonful onto waxed paper and let sit.
  7. Once they have cooled, transfer to the freezer until you're ready to eat them! (Alternatively, you could also roll these into ball-shaped cookies so they would hold together a little better.)

Note: I now use raw cacao powder instead of cocoa powder. It’s higher in antioxidants and less processed.

The taste of these no-bake cookies reminds me exactly of what I always enjoyed growing up, but I think the lack of white sugar is why they didn’t set up properly. (In the second batch, I used less butter and milk and that didn’t seem to make any difference.)

(Update: I’ve eaten a few of these cookies every day since I made them. They are so incredibly good…even right out of the freezer!)

We had to test a couple...  ;)
We had to test a couple… 😉

*Here’s a little funny story for you. Like I said before, I made these cookies very frequently as a kid, but there were usually several months between each time I made them. Anyway, I was in 4-H for a few years until I got too busy with running and basketball. I didn’t show animals… I was involved with the projects. Yep, that’s right, I’ve won Grand Champion trophies in both ‘gift wrapping’ AND ‘collections!’ 🙂 Back on topic, though… one evening, I was asked to bring in cookies for a club meeting, so I decided to make a batch of No Bakes. Since most of the ingredients at the beginning of the recipe are measured in cups, when I got to the salt, instead of adding 1/4 TSP salt, I added 1/4 CUP salt! Wow…those were some SALTY cookies! At the time, I didn’t know enough about baking to really think through the fact that that was WAY too much. ha! I think ever since then I’ve always double checked every ingredient as I add it in. 🙂

I’m also going to include another option for you, that I have not tried, but a friend tested for me and she said they set up well for her! So, if you’re going to be taking these cookies to a party where they need to sit out at room temperature, this is the recipe you’ll probably want to use. 

No Bake Cookies (using cane sugar)


  • 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (or cacao powder)
  • 6 T butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 3 1/2 cups rolled oats

Before starting, measure out the oatmeal and peanut butter so they’re ready to add when the time comes. In a large pot over medium-high heat, stir together butter, cane sugar, cocoa, and milk. Bring to a boil, while stirring, for 1 minute. Add vanilla, salt, and peanut butter. Stir until peanut butter melts. Take pot off the stove and stir in the oatmeal. Drop by teaspoonful onto waxed paper and let set up. Enjoy!

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LeAnn Nome

Hi there! Here's a little info about me: I've been married to my husband for over 10 years and I'm a stay-at-home mom to our three young kids (a six year old daughter and four year old twin boys). As you might imagine, they keep me quite busy! In early 2013, we decided that we wanted to be a healthier family. To do this, we cut out all processed foods from our home and we now eat only REAL, whole foods. (When we're on vacation or at someone's house, we're not quite as strict.) We also try to exercise every day. Our goal is to raise healthy, happy kids...while maintaining our own health and happiness along the way! I hope you will follow along with us in our journey.

19 thoughts on “No Bake Cookies (without refined sugar!)

  1. These were always a favourite (still are even at nearly 60) but soft would sort of ruin the memory (even if the taste is right). You might try replacing the maple syrup with a more solid sweetener – stevia maybe, and reduce the peanut butter a little. We never used peanut butter in these when I was a kid – it was margarine (yeah, I know not a natural product, but 50 years ago life was a lot different) and sugar – and it was both of those that contributed to the hardening of the cookie. Without those, it’s going to need something else (because butter doesn’t harden up the way margarine does, and neither does peanut butter) to help facilitate that hardening process. I don’t think Stevia will make them harden, but it’s more solid than maple syrup, so you have less liquid to contend with … unfortunately, where I live, it’s also expensive but you can grown your own for use in your kitchen. You can buy unprocessed sugars which are considered natural, but if the issue is that you (or someone in the family) can’t eat sugar period, then those might not be an option but as with most natural or organic products, they’re harder to find locally and usually expensive.

    1. Thanks for the input! Personally, I can’t imagine making these without peanut butter, but I know many people that don’t. And yes, I definitely think the granulated sugar plays a big role in their ‘setting up.’ I had a friend try the cane sugar version and she said that made a big difference. I suppose if you want them to sit out on the counter, then that would be the way to go. However, I’m really loving my maple syrup version. I just pull out a couple from the freezer whenever I want to eat them and they’re so good! Only takes about a minute to thaw out to the point that I’m ready to eat them. They’re cold, but the taste is so good that it doesn’t bother me one bit! 🙂

  2. I’ve been wanting a cleaner recipe for this childhood treat, thank you for posting. I wonder if it would set up better with thick raw honey. My Mom stored her cookies in the fridge. I recall how happy I felt to see that my Mom made them and it was so hard to stop at just one!

    1. You’re very welcome, Janet! I hope you like it! I’m not sure how raw honey would work–I’ve never actually used it in a recipe. I’m thinking it might affect the taste…but maybe not? If you try the honey, please let me know how it turns out! I’ve been eating several of these every day since I’ve made them (with the maple syrup). They are so good and I can eat them about 1 minute after they come out of the freezer! So good! I had a friend test out the cane sugar recipe and she said they set up well that way–so if you want to take them to a party where they’ll be sitting out on the counter, that’s the version I would recommend.

  3. I finally got around to trying it with cane sugar. Everything turned out well! They set up fine, too. We used to always think it was the boiling phase that determined how they set up. We would do 2 minutes boiling with no stirring. I did a little over 1 min with no stirring this batch. Not sure if that made a difference. I did use jif peanut butter too, though. I almost feel like the recipe is calling for too many oats. It is certainly more than the recipe I typically make, but nonetheless the cookies are good and I will be eating them 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Lauren!! I think that the lack of a granulated sugar (like regular or cane) makes a big difference in how they set up. I just ate a few more of the ones I put in the freezer (because I eat a few every single day…), and they still taste just as good as always…but it’s good to know that the cane sugar will help them set up more. If I were going to take them to a party where they would need be sitting out, I would use cane sugar. Thanks for letting me know! Interesting about the amount of oats–that was one of the few things I did NOT change from my original recipe. ha!

  4. Yum! I’ve wanted a clean version of these but haven’t yet tinkered with a recipe to make them myself. Now I don’t have to!

    1. I hope you like them, Emily! I love them (even if they don’t hold up quite like the original)…but I ate them straight from the freezer! They were so good!!

    1. I have not, but that would be a fun swap to play around with! Would love to know how they turn out if someone is willing to try. 🙂 I love using dates in recipes!

  5. I wonder if using coconut oil instead of butter would help them to set up. Coconut oil is solid at 70 degrees so that might help! Plus it’s very healthy for you. I will be trying it today!

    1. I used the coconut oil and the cookies set up fine. They don’t seem to be getting as hard as the regular no bake cookies. But they are holding together

      1. Thanks so much for the feedback, Stephanie! Good idea on the coconut oil…I hadn’t thought of that! I will definitely try your suggestion when I make them this Christmas. 🙂 Thanks again…and I hope you enjoyed the cookies!

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