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How to ruin a batch of Reese’s Peanut Butter Bars

I feel like this whole dairy-free, gluten-free experiment is definitely challenging me in my cooking. I’m finding plenty of recipes that are DF/GF, but when I try to adapt a recipe to make it DF/GF, I don’t have a good track record. In fact, it seems like most of them have ended in failure.

But at least I’m learning a lot of things that don’t work. 🙂

After my allergy ordeal yesterday, I needed a chocolate fix and I knew just what would do the trick: these amazing-looking Reese’s Peanut Butter Bars. So I excitedly set to work making them, my mouth watering all the while.

I tried substituting coconut oil for the butter, crushed corn puffs for the graham cracker crumbs, and raw sugar for the powdered sugar. I think the corn puffs would have subbed just fine, but the coconut oil and the raw sugar pushed this recipe right over the edge into flopdom.

Oh well. They are still semi-edible, so we’re slowly working our way through the pan. I guess there’s one benefit that they didn’t end up tasting like the original recipe: at least it’s easier to have self-control! 🙂

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  • Angelica says:

    I had the WORST time when I first started trying to make things gluten free. Its been almost 3 years and flopdom is still no stranger. Good luck!

  • Jen says:

    When I am not using my GF flour blend, my philosophy with GF DF baking is to start with a DF recipe since those are already adjusted for liquids and fats. GF recipes tend to need less fats and more liquid, as a general rule.

  • J says:

    On the bright side they look really good.

    I just got done two days ago making bread, I got side tracked and they happened to rise too much. As soon as I put them in the oven, pancakes. I could have cried. Instead. I cut them into small squares for stuffing mix. Ugh! Then made two more loaves and paid attention!

  • Eldie Wood says:

    I would try canola oil for the butter and put the raw sugar into a blender first, powdered sugar is just a finer version of sugar. I have a friend that makes spud fudge and she gets a healthy version of powdered sugar. This recipe may be worth a second try, once again, crumble over ice cream and destroy the evidence.

  • Susan says:

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
    -Thomas Edison


  • Catherine says:

    Perhaps following the recipe the first time and then trying to substitute one thing at a time might result in better results 🙂 also, baking is a lot less forgiving than cooking when it comes to substitutions and chemical and structural reasons for certain ingredients. Better luck next time!

  • Laura says:

    Well they look good, were they grainy? Bless your heart for trying! 🙂

  • Laura F. says:

    Hang in there! It gets easier I promise! And be thankful you can eat eggs. GF/DF and egg free is hard and most things flop! I was in Barnes and Noble the other day and found a good gf cookbook on the clearance table close to the front door. It is called Recipes for Gluten-Free Kids, fun eats from breakfast to treats. It was $5.98 or $7.98 but has some really good “normal” dishes that are gf and gives a tip with the recipe if you need to adjust for DF. Good luck!

    • Crystal says:

      What are you doing commenting here?!? I am not sure how you even are having time to breathe these days, but I’m so, so thrilled for the success of your business launch. WOOT! Jesse went the other night and said police were directing traffic. Crazy!!!

      {Oh and thank you for the recommendations!}

    • Jamie says:

      Hands down, that books is the BEST book I’ve EVER used for gluten-free baking success. Totally worth picking up!

  • Wow those look yummy. I would definitely eat it. If there is chocolate, I will eat. 🙂

  • Laura F. says:

    One more thing! Spectrum butter (dairy free) works really well for baking. Sometimes Green Acres has it, but so does Food For Thought. I am sure Wholesale Grocers does too, but I have not looked there yet for it.

  • Robin M says:

    I have made a very similar recipe to the original before, and OMG, are they good.

    Try, try, and try again. 🙂

  • Theresa says:

    Kinnikinnick makes graham crackers that are gluten free and dairy free. Fleishmann’s makes some stick margarine that is dairy free. I used to buy it at the Marketplace at Central and Rock. Earth Balance makes a dairy free spread and also a soy/dairy free spread, which is what I use a lot when I don’t sub coconut oil.

  • Becky Slaymaker says:

    I don’t have to cook DF but I have been GF for 10 years come February. It takes awhile to get the hang of it, just like it does with regular cooking. Please email me if I can help in any way. It does get easier! I have no suggestions for the substitutions for butter. Sorry! But, really, as you learn more, it will get better. FYI, Tinkyada and Dr. Schar have the best pastas. Dr Schar makes great crackers, and good substitions for hamburger buns, and decent bread. Glutino makes good crackers, as well.

  • Theresa says:

    Keep at it though! Practice makes perfect! 🙂

  • Brynn says:

    I admire you for even trying!! You have been so busy lately, I can’t imagine how you even find time to bake! I am a lover of chocolate and peanut butter…an easy quick fix for my hubby and I is to dip a few chocolate chips into the peanut butter jar! A *healthier* fix is to spread (slather generously) a banana or apple slices with Nutella and peanut butter. Yummy with some milk!! Not sure if gf though 🙂

  • Amy says:

    Don’t feel bad. I made this just like the recipe said with no substitutions and my family wouldn’t eat them. I don’t know. They just didn’t taste right. Sigh. And if teenage boys won’t eat them there is something wrong. LOL.

    • Kari says:

      I made them too. I was just a little short on graham cracker crumbs…but not by much. I thought they were ok, but my husband wasn’t impressed. Looks like I’ll have to eat the rest of the pan myself. Although, I must admit, with all the butter and sugar in them, I’m glad we didn’t like them too much because we definitely don’t need to be consuming that much of them!

  • Karen says:

    I enjoy reading the comments. Always getting new info and ideas. Thanks.

  • I highly recommend the blog “Gluten Free on a Shoestring.” She also has a cookbook by the same name. She cooks and bakes 100% gluten free and quite often, she indicates other substitutions that can be made.

  • Jenn says:

    I suspect it’s the sugar that did you in. But I have also run into more trouble using coconut oil with gluten free baking. Sometimes the thing actually boils in the oven. Now, we’re also egg free and like Karen says, that’s just another level to the complexity, and could be creating the Amazing Boiling Brownie Effect, but maybe not. I’ve had GF/DF/EF recipes that otherwise work suddenly not work when I use coconut oil. So anyway, I’d try another butter substitute. I’ve had good luck with Earth’s Balance sticks and we love their soy free spread on toast.

    • Lana says:

      The egg free thing is what made your brownies ‘boil’. I was only egg free for a couple of years and without eggs the fats don’t bind to the other ingredients and the fat rises to the top and ‘boils’.

    • Rebekah says:

      It could also be because coconut oil has a much lower melting point.

  • I usually use coconut oil for DF baking but sometimes it just doesn’t work. So for some of my recipes I use Spectrum Organic Palm Oil Shortening. I think it behaves more like butter or margarine in a recipe.

    One other thing, when my son first went dairy-free, I made the mistake of giving him lots of things with soy. It turns out that his reaction to soy was worse than dairy (I understand this is common). So now we avoid soy as well.

  • Heather Leiby says:

    Crystal, one of the blogs I follow mentioned GF today I thought of your GF/DF quest and wanted to post the blog for you.

  • Amy says:

    Well, they look good.
    I read yesterday (in the comments) you were planning to use corn puffs. I would try the gluten free rice krispies next time, and if you need raw sugar to be used, you can “powder” it up by whirling it in your vita-mix.
    Still, chocolate, peanut butter and any kind of sugar…How bad could they be? I’d eat them!

  • Hannah says:

    They actually look really tasty. I guess the saying “looks can be deceiving” is indeed correct.

  • Jan says:

    After 8 years of gluten free here, I promise, it WILL get easier! 🙂 At one point we were gluten, dairy, soy, egg, corn, and all sorts of thing free then went from there to grain free and now back to just gluten free. Anytime you sub coconut oil, it’s a good idea to use 3/4 less than the amount called for. Same with subbing any oil for margarine/butter.

    Also, for those who can’t have eggs, THE best egg substitute I found was one my friend gave me – mix one cup of boiling water with 1 TBSP ground flax seed. Let it stand a bit and it gets to the texture of an egg white. Use 1/8 to 1/4 cup of this mixture to replace each egg. You can’t whip it like meringue of course, but it’s fabulous in breads and brownies and such. It keeps in the fridge about two days.

    Converting granulated sugar to homemade powdered sugar is a cinch with a mini-coffee grinder. I always sifted mine too to give it a finer texture. (It will also grind grains like millet, quinoa, etc – sift and use. WAY cheaper than buying the little packs.)

    Sorry if this is long – I could talk about allergies and cooking all day. It’s consumed a lot of my life with children. 🙂 Just hang in there and keep on experimenting. Soon, it will be old hat.

    (PS – if it’s not too self promoting… I just posted a reese cup knockoff recipe to my blog yesterday that might help your craving. If it IS too self-promoting, feel free to edit that part out.)

  • Marlene says:

    Powdered sugar is pulverized sugar and corn starch. I have tried making it in our blender, and it really just isn’t the same. This is one of the very few foods I buy when need be! Good luck, and keep trying!! I am loving these GF posts. While no one in my family requires a GF diet, it is just a healthier way to eat and there are guests who walk through our door who require special diets . . . so I’m so thankful for all you share, Crystal! Keep up the good work!

    • Wendy says:

      You’re right. There really is no good subsitute for powered sugar. I hope no one tries the blender thing that was suggested.

  • Stephanie says:

    My husband would never forgive me if I didn’t point out you should say 0 and 10 instead of 10 and 0! 🙂 The picture still looks yummy, though… 🙂

  • Sara says:

    I have to recommend the cookbooks by Her recipes are great…even to those of us who don’t have to eat GF. I hate it when stuff flops because it seems like futility…thanks for keeping a great attitude and pressing on! 🙂

  • Amy Moore says:

    My friend made these earlier in the week and we were joking that you would subsitute an ingredient and mess it up somehow! I look at baking as a science, but I know you are free with the substitutions. We guessed that you would use raw sugar, but you really changed a lot. Thanks for making us laugh 🙂 I guess after reading your blog daily for 4 years we have come to know you well.

  • You have encouraged me so much Crystal, I hope that this comment in a very small way can encourage you. Hang in there! I’ve cried over more than my share of (dairy-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, corn-free) flops. But over time it HAS gotten easier. And I just wanted to encourage you that you will develop a sixth sense for what works, and what doesn’t. Honestly, I have trouble making “gluten-y” foods for other people (especially desserts!) because I’ve grown so accustomed to the bizarre ingredients and combinations that make up allergen-free meals. So don’t give up! You can do it!! 🙂

  • Courtney says:

    Have you tried any of the Pamela’s brand gf mixes? The cake and brownie mixes are delicious (haven’t tried the cookie mixes yet) and they could not be simpler to make. Yes, they are a little bit on the pricey side – but for us, the convenience of being able to bake gf goodies so easily is worth it. Plus, Amazon often has them on sale.

  • Aurelia says:

    A gluten free blog I would recommend is elana’s pantry although I have not looked to see how many of her recipes are also dairy free. Maybe check with her what she typically recommends to replace butter. She’s big into cooking with coconut.

    Hope this helps. I really enjoy your blog and find you a very inspiring godly woman…you Rock!

  • Julie says:

    Keep at the DF/GF baking. It does get a bit easier. But still, after almost 10 years of baking/cooking this way, I still have plenty of flops in my baking, especially when I am trying something for the first time or substituting. One of the best ways to learn is to make mistakes….or at least that is what I am telling my kids!!

  • Naomi says:

    My guess would be the coconut oil is not your problem, but probably the raw sugar. I’ve subbed coconut oil for butter w/ no problems in the past.

    • Crystal says:

      The coconut oil was too overpowering and ruined the flavor, in my opinion. But the raw sugar didn’t help, either! 🙂

      • robyn says:

        crystal is your coconut oil raw/virgin and cold pressed? the only time (in the past 3 years) i’d had a mis-hap with coconut oil is when i used expeller-pressed. i’ve never had a problem with the unrefined stuff, but the expreller-pressed is nasty in my opinion.

  • jessica says:


    We’ve been GF for about 3 yrs now. A big part of it is trial and error because some products/ recipes will work better for some families than others, and u have to find what works for your family. That being said try Jules GF flour her mix is sort of expensive but she has daily deals. has free shipping still today. And it can be used in equal exchange in most recipes. Additionally if you have an Asian grocery near u , u may find it easier and cheaper to make her nearly normal mix at home. she has a bunch of recipes follow her on FB. I made this recipe before we moved it was a life saver. but since moving it has become more cost effective to buy it outright from her. u should keep your eye out for her Thanksgiving ebook. since this will be your 1st holiday season. so use this time to experiment , find what works for your family so when holidays show up you have a couple of tried and true recipes. and remember you may come across 1million recipes, but u don’t have to try them all. find things that are time, expense and kid friendly and be content with them.

    On another note I have to ask y u didn’t use powder sugar for this recipe? Usually it’s sugar and cornstarch so it should be gluten free. If health is the issue u can do as some one said and put it in the blender. then add the cornstarch to get a similar texture.

    if u are avoiding butter due to dairy have u considered using margarine? or does that still have dairy? A note from my personal experience if u use coconut oil u will need less than what the butter in the recipe is calling for. Due to how liquidy it is when it melts… also a book that u may find helpful if u can find it in a library ( I cant, and cant bring myself to pay 20+dollars for it), is Babycakes. it is a restaurant in NY, mostly Gf food and they use agave and coconut oil in most recipes. well they have a GF cookbook out.

    if u r really brave at forging through new territory: U can try the paleo diet. last month Amazon had a bunch of free Paleo cookbooks. they have some decent desserts too. FYI: Paleo is GF . I buy up all the cookbooks when they are free read at my leisure and then go to town on recipes that sound interesting. some flop for one reason or another- but u wont know until u try. So don’t give up.

  • Katie says:

    Breaking in to allergy-free baking can make you want to cry, that’s for sure. We were GF/EF for years until my children grew out of their allergies. I have thrown away more attempts than I care to think of. After awhile you do start to think of the science of food. For example, am I using this ingredient to help the food thicken, or rise? Then you can pick an appropriate substitute. My favorite replacement for graham cracker crumbs was Kellogg’s Corn Flake Crumbs. They tend not to “mush” together as well as graham cracker crumbs due to the lack of flour, but for peanut butter bars they work great! These come already processed in a box, but you could certainly make your own in a food processor. Of course, you could make your own peanut butter fudge and pour melted chocolate on top. It’s already GF and you would only need to sub the butter. 🙂 Hang in there and keep trying! It won’t be long before you master the ins and outs of altering recipes to your allergy needs.

    • T says:

      Kellogg’s corn flakes have gluten–I believe they have malt–I looked the other day, but don’t remember the exact ingredient I noticed. I haven’t been able to find a tasty sweetened gf corn flake yet. We had one at our local Kroger and then they pulled it from the shelf. Kellogg’s seems to be the one cereal company that has not come around to gf yet. So far Post and GM are producing some gluten free cereals. Thank goodness! I missed breakfast cereal. Maybe not the most wholesome breakfast, but it does make a quick, lower cal dessert on occasion.

  • I’ve had amazing success with substituting coconut oil for butter but remember to make sure your other ingredients are room temperature or the coco butter will harden. You might need to reduce the amount as well. Earth balance sticks are super cheap at Walmart (less than $2) and work identicle to butter. You can also use pureed prunes in chocolate recipes instead of butter.

  • Bethany says:

    Just wondering what kind of chocolate did you put on the very top – looks like regular chop chips melted? my husband has recently become allergic to dairy and it is really HARD when he loves chocolate so much!

  • I experienced a similar flop. When I traded all of the butter in brownies for plain yogurt plus switched all the flour to white whole wheat. The recipe couldn’t take it and although it tasted good it was very crumbly so we ended up using it as a topping on ice-cream.

  • ksholt15 says:

    Did you know that coconut oil only needs to be 3/4 of the amount of butter/oil called for in a recipe? And you can make your own graham crackers, that might help a little, too.

  • Lora says:

    I had a similar allergic reaction many years ago, and the doctor advised my parents to restrict my diet to non-allergenic foods for a short time. I remember a repetitive menu featuring lamb and white rice, but I can’t remember what else I was allowed to eat. Eventually, it was determined that I was allergic to citrus fruits (unfortunately).

  • Rachael says:

    This recipe is one of our family favorites, except we call them “indigestion bars.” I guess you avoided one additional side effect! If you take a break from the GF/DF, I’d recommend trying them again–they are so awesome!

  • Kelly says:

    First of all, I’ve been following your site for a few weeks and it has already been so helpful and encouraging! My husband and I are revisiting Financial Peace University and getting serious about our budget after several years of slacking off. We have also managed to cut our grocery budget in half this month! For a family of 5, that is a great accomplishment! Thank you for your help and the encouragement from your blog.

    Second of all, I’ve been eating gluten-free and for nearly 5 years, and now I am also preparing gluten-free food for 3 children ages 7 and under. There is a blog I followed closely when I first started and still rely on heavily, I think you would like it! To this day, I’ve never tried one of her recipes and been disappointed. She is both health conscious and frugal in her ingredient choices. I can’t recommend it enough! Her site is I hope it is helpful! (And more delicious than your Reeces Peanut Butter Bars.) =)

  • Sheila says:

    My daughter can’t have the protein in milk, so we can’t use regular margarine. I found a brand called Nucoa that doesn’t have the milk protein, not sure about lactose. It comes in sticks and we use it for baking and it works fairly well.
    Hope you find what works!

  • Karen says:

    You may want to check out this website. I’ve used it extensively since becoming GF/DF and I’ve never had one of her recipes fail.

  • Heather Abbott says:

    What if you used gingersnaps instead of graham crackers for gluten free version?

  • Andrea Q says:

    Gluten and dairy free will never taste like the gluten-filled things most of us are used to having. Instead of trying to modify old favorites, I’ve had the most success with trying completely new recipes (that are similar to things we like) and following them exactly. I can’t afford flops.

  • Jen says:

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned, since I did not read through the comments. However, I have had friends make their own powdered sugar by putting regular sugar through a blender or food processor. I’m sure you could try it with the raw sugar.

  • T says:

    We have a problem mostly with milk fat in my family and possibly an intolerance to the caseine (it is neither a protein allergy nor lactose intolerance), however, I can get away with subbing margarine for butter in my recipes with no resulting issues in my family. When the offending foods are not life threatening, I think it is okay to do this–my personal opinion of course. I am gf/df because my kids have behavioural issues with the gluten and stomach issues with the dairy. I see no behavioral or stomach issues when I use the the margarine. Personally, I find it very difficult to be a pursist when it come to dairy free eating/cooking/baking. I can do much better with the gluten free aspect of it. Caseine somehow sneaks into so many products that say dairy free. It is trial and error too. For example dairy free whipped topping makes us all have terrible stomach disrupt, but country crock margarine does not bother us.

    Good luck and keep trying.

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