Monday, August 29, 2011

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Balls

Old fashioned peanut butter balls are a rich dessert, both in its heritage and its taste. A classic Christmas confection, peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar are rolled into balls and dipped in chocolate. If you remember these from your childhood, one bite will take you right back.

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Balls

In the Deep South, we don't typically do buckeyes, the peanut butter and chocolate confection from Ohio, that is partially dipped so that the result is patterned after the nut of the buckeye tree. We do peanut butter balls down here. The concept, of course, is the same, we just completely encase our peanut butter balls in chocolate. Raise your hand if you have memories of these peanut butter balls at Christmastime. I certainly do.

Mama made these every Christmas for as long as I can remember and back in the day she used the recipe for chocolate chips melted with the edible paraffin wax over a double boiler to make them. As a young gal I always thought it was odd to be consuming wax, but hey, they were so tasty that it really didn't make much never mind to us kids. You can just use your favorite chocolate candy coating, whatever you usually work with, though I have to admit, nothing really seems to work as well as the old paraffin method did.

While I realize that it's not Christmas quite yet, I recently made these for my grandson's pirate-themed birthday party - calling them cannonballs - and of course they were a hit as always, though I think they were more of a hit with the adults than the kids! Might have a bit to do with that whole nostalgia thing.

These are a little different from the no-bake, cafeteria peanut butter balls out there that contain some form of cereal, oatmeal, graham cracker, or other form of binder. Those are delicious too, but I prefer the creamier insides, and this is the way my Mama made them, so it's the way I make them too. Hard to break that tradition I guess.

Here's how I make them.

Cream together, by hand, the peanut butter and the butter, then mix in the powdered sugar a little at a time until well mixed. Use a small 1-tablespoon cookie scoop or just pinch off dough to form balls, rolling them into about 1-inch size. I love my scoopers, but I just pinched these off. Place onto wax paper or parchment covered baking trays and store in the refrigerator to firm up, for about an hour.

Melt the chocolate and the shortening in the top of a double boiler. Drop peanut butter balls, one at a time, into the chocolate and toss with a fork to cover. If you want to make Buckeyes, dip the balls so that you leave just a little bit of the peanut butter ball underneath showing at the top - toothpicks are handy for this job. Lift them out, letting the excess chocolate drain off, and transfer to wax or parchment paper to set. Repeat until you've done all the balls.

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Recipe: Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Balls

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 30 min | Yield: 4 Dozen or more

  • 1-1/2 cups of creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 (1 pound) box of powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 (12 ounce) package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of vegetable shortening (like Crisco)

Cream together, by hand, the peanut butter and the butter. Mix in the powdered sugar a little at a time until well mixed. Use a small scoop or pinch off dough to form balls, rolling them into about 1-inch size. Place onto wax paper or parchment covered baking trays and store in the refrigerator to firm up, for about an hour.

Melt the chocolate and the shortening in the top of a double boiler. Work in batches, leaving remaining balls in the refrigerator, and quickly, dropping peanut butter balls, one at a time, into the chocolate and toss with a fork. Lift out, let excess chocolate drain off, and transfer to wax or parchment paper to set. Dough will make several dozen, depending on what size you roll them.

Cook's Notes: A double boiler works better for dipping than microwaving, but take care not to get water in your chocolate. It will seize up on you if you do. Don't try to substitute the shortening with butter, margarine, oil or whatnot. It will not work. Can substitute your favorite chocolate candy coating for the chocolate chips and shortening. If you're feeling retro, the original recipe calls for melting 2/3 cup of grated cooking paraffin with the chocolate chips, instead of the shortening. You can usually find boxes of paraffin near the canning supplies. Also can substitute a mixture of creamy and crunchy peanut butter, and even add in some chopped peanuts, if you prefer.

Peanut Butter Snowballs: Exchange out the white chocolate or candy coating for the chips. If using coating, omit the shortening.

Crunchy Variation: Substitute crunchy peanut butter and add in 1 cup of a rice cereal, like Rice Krispies.

Tip: When dipping, work in small batches, keeping the rest of the balls refrigerated. Work quickly, dropping a ball into the chocolate, roll it to cover, then lift and gently tap the fork on the side of the bowl to knock off excess chocolate. Pass the bottom of the fork across the edge of the pot as you transfer the ball. Let the ball slowly slide off of the fork onto the parchment paper. If you're adding any sprinkles, coconut or decorator sugars, do that here before the chocolate dries. The pooling that sometimes forms as the balls set can be trimmed off when the balls dry if desired.


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Posted by on August 29, 2011
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  1. I think I gained 3 pounds just reading this one! Yummy....I have made something very similar called "Buckeyes." I love, love peanut butter and chocolate together!

  2. Mary,
    Great post! I had to stop making these every year because I would just about make myself sick eating so many of them. I use the paraffin wax method, just like your Mama. I will be making a batch as it gets close to Christmas so I can do a post about them. I'm scared. Please hold me!

  3. LOL Eva - yeah these are rich though so you really can't eat too many at once.

    Ssshhh Jackie... {whispers} but I do too teehee... don't tell nobody now ya hear?!

  4. I have made the buckeyes using the paraffin wax, and I have substitued butterscotch chips, because my dearest was allergic to chocolate, and they were very very good.

  5. I love old fashioned peanut butter balls and buckeyes. Mary do you remember when they used to use parrafin wax with the chocolate to make pb balls. That was the first recipe I ever saw for pb balls it was from a elderly lady I knew.

  6. I sure do Tina - that's actually how my mama made them! If you look in the Cook's Notes at the bottom you'll see mention of how to do them with the paraffin. You just sub grated paraffin in for the shortening used in the recipe.

  7. I love these....too much. I have been making them since as long as I can remember just the way you do. For halloween I dip them in white chocolate, press a brown m&m on top and when dry put some red icing squiggles....eyeballs! lol
    I would like to offer a tip on dipping the balls. I use a very study clear plastic fork with all the tines broken off except one. Don't use the flimsy white ones as they are not strong enough. When I drop the ball in the chocolate, I flip it over and stab it with the one tine and then drop it onto wax paper. It easily slides right off the plastic tine, then put a drop of chocolate over the hole that is created.
    I started making cakeballs a few years ago and tried many things to dip those little things and this has worked best. I made 500 cakeballs and 200 peanut butter balls for my granddaughters wedding last weekend and they all turned out great! There was lots of wedding cake left because everyone gobbled up the peanut butter balls.

  8. I always leave my peanut butter balls in container and on counter the first few days because I like them creamy inside....after day 2 or 3 then I put in fridge!

  9. I couldn't wait for Christmas to make these, no way! I loved them and my family had them ate in no time. I've never constructed a "homemade" double boiler before so I was worried I might mess it up or seize the chocolate somehow but it worked perfectly.
    Thank you for sharing and teaching yet another cool little cooking technique. I had fun making these :)

  10. I was not able to roll these...more like drop them..have them in fridge now but not sure if I should just start over and add more sugar. Suggestions. Followed recipe but didn't get the same consistency.

    1. Hi Pamela! If you scroll up to the pictures in the text of my post, you'll see the consistency of the bowl of dough and also the rolled balls definitely made with this recipe!

      If you didn't have that texture, I'm wondering if you may have been short on the full pound of powdered sugar, although there could be other factors too as well, like too warm butter or textures from brands of creamy peanut butter or even butter! If your dough didn't look like that picture, you definitely should add more powdered sugar.


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