The best 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting recipe

If you think a dollop of peanut butter makes everything better, this 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting recipe is for you. This no-fuss recipe contains all the flavor of a regular buttercream frosting, but we took things to the next level by adding rich and creamy peanut butter. It not only tastes great, but we also love how easy it is to pull off. It doesn't take a culinary degree or experience at a bakeshop to whip up this delightful frosting, either. All you need is an electric mixer with a whisk and about five minutes.

We were pretty thrilled when this sweet-and-creamy frosting reminded us of the filling of a Reese's peanut butter cup, especially when we piped it onto moist chocolate cupcakes. It didn't hurt that the recipe is allergen-friendly, too. The base recipe is naturally gluten-free, and we'll include a few tips and tricks to help you make it dairy-free and vegan. So what are you waiting for? Grab your apron and get ready to make the easiest frosting of your life.

Gather the ingredients for the 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting recipe

The ingredients list for this 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting recipe is short and sweet. All you need is creamy peanut butter, unsalted butter, and powdered sugar. If you want to add an optional fourth ingredient, you can toss in a teaspoon of vanilla extract into the mix. The vanilla adds a layer of depth to this frosting, but it tastes great without it.

Since the ingredients list is so simple, it's really important to use high-quality butter for this frosting. King Arthur Flour recommends using American-style grade AA unsalted butter, the type in their test kitchen. It's 80 percent fat and has a rich, buttery flavor — perfect for buttercream frosting! You could also choose a European-style butter for its higher fat content (82 to 86 percent). They advise against using whipped butter, and we definitely agree in this case. You'll be whipping the butter in the first step, so no need to pay extra for a pre-whipped product.

You'll find the full list of ingredients, including quantities and step-by-step directions, at the end of this article.

Use this cool trick to make 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting easier to make

Of course you'll need peanut butter for your 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting, and we recommend you get the good stuff. When we pick up peanut butter at the grocery store, we almost always reach for jars labeled "natural peanut butter." Unlike conventional peanut butter, these brands contain only two ingredients: peanuts and salt. It doesn't need added oil because the peanuts release their own oil when they're pureed. Unfortunately, those oils don't stay in suspension and separate over time in the jar. You don't see that separation in conventional peanut butter because hydrogenated oil is added to keep the mixture emulsified.

That might make you more likely to reach for a jar of the conventional stuff, but we found a cool hack that makes natural peanut butter easier to work with. Instead of storing the jar upright, turn it upside down. The peanut oil wants to rise to the surface, so flipping it over allows gravity to force the solids and oil to interact. Mixing the two together will be so much easier. It also helps to store the peanut butter in the pantry, although you'll have to store it in the fridge if you don't plan to finish the jar within a month of opening.

Butter makes this 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting taste so good

This 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting is technically a buttercream frosting, a type of frosting made with butter, powdered sugar, and sometimes eggs and heavy cream. It works by whipping air into the butter, fluffing up the fat molecules to make them light and airy. The sugar also lightens the texture, but it mostly just sweetens things up so you don't know you're eating a stick of butter on top of your cupcake. French buttercreams also add eggs and heavy cream to create a more nuanced, complex flavor, but we didn't think those ingredients were necessary in our 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting.

It is possible to make this frosting without butter, but it won't have the same rich flavor as the butter-made product. To create a vegan or dairy-free version, you can use shortening or margarine instead of butter. Keep in mind that shortening can impart a slight chemical flavor to the frosting, which you may or may not be able to taste after the addition of sugar. If you want to use margarine, be sure to choose a brand that contains at least 80 percent fat, or it won't whip up correctly.

Can you make 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting with other nut butters?

We used crunchy peanut butter on our first attempt at this frosting because that's what we had in the fridge. While it tasted okay, the texture left a lot to be desired. So we tried it a second time with creamy peanut butter, and it turned out much better. The creamy peanut butter had a smoother texture after it was incorporated into the butter. Crunchy peanut butter, on the other hand, contained little chunks of savory peanuts that we found distracting. They also made it harder to pipe the frosting onto our cupcakes.

Although we haven't tried this recipe with other types of nut butters, we don't see why it shouldn't work! Give it a try with your favorite variety. Almond butter frosting would be really good with vanilla cupcakes, and cashew frosting could be phenomenal with a carrot cake-style dessert. You could also try seed butters like sunflower seed butter for a nut-free frosting.

What's the best tool to use to make 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting?

While it is possible to whip this 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting by hand with a wire whisk, we don't recommend it. Fine Cooking explains that buttercream is basically an emulsion, or a combination of oil and water that don't normally want to mix together. Both of those components come from the butter: Butter is 80 percent fat and the rest is mostly water.

The easiest way to create this emulsion (and keep your arm from falling off in the process) is to use an electric whisk. A stand mixer with a whisk attachment is a great way to go, and the bowl is large enough to double the recipe without any trouble. If you're making a single recipe, the bowl may be too large, so you'll want to scrape down the sides to incorporate any butter or sugar that gets thrown to the side during the mixing process. You can also use a regular bowl and mix the ingredients using an immersion blender with a whisk attachment or an electric hand mixer.

Whip the ingredients to create this 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting

Now that we've reviewed the ingredients and the best way to mix this 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting, it's time to get cooking. Not that we'll need to cook anything: This no-cook recipe is ready in about five minutes. Start by placing the room-temperature butter and peanut butter in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat the mixture with a whisk attachment for about one minute, until it's light and fluffy.

You could stop here if you're avoiding sugar, but the frosting won't be very sweet. The addition of powdered sugar also lightens up the frosting, making it delightfully airy and creamy. So we'll add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract (if using) and beat the frosting for an additional minute. If you need to, scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the sugar.

Give the frosting a taste and add extra powdered sugar, if you like. The frosting might be perfect at this point, or it might be too thick for your liking. You can always add a tablespoon of cold water, milk, or heavy cream to lighten it up a little bit.

Spread or pipe the 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting onto your favorite baked goods

One of the great things about this three-ingredient peanut butter frosting is that it's easy to make in advance. Once it's finished, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where it's good for up to a week. Before using it, remove it from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. You may find that you'll have to whip it with a whisk or hand mixer before using it, as it can fall flat during the storage time.

When you're ready to decorate, spread the frosting on your favorite baked goods using an offset spatula. You can also use a piping bag, which might be easier to use for decorating cookies or cupcakes. If you're using a decorating tip (like a star tip), place it in the bag before you start loading up the frosting. Then, fold the top half of the bag down and hold the bag in one hand while you fill it with the other. Beginners might find it easier to set the piping bag into a large drinking glass to hold it steady, leaving both of your hands free. Fill the bag about halfway full and twist the bag closed to push the air out before you pipe it onto your cupcakes.

How did our 3-ingredient peanut butter frosting taste?

This three-ingredient peanut butter frosting might be simple, but it's just as delicious as more complicated frosting recipes. The texture was perfect: soft, creamy, and smooth, and it piped onto our cupcakes without any problems. The flavor was also an incredible sweetened-up combination of rich butter and savory peanuts. In a lot of ways, it reminded us of the filling of a Reese's peanut butter cup.

Combining this peanut butter frosting with chocolate cupcakes was a no brainer, but that's not the only way to use this frosting. Have some fun with PB&J combinations like jelly-filled cupcakes or peanut butter and jelly cookie sandwiches. We also used the frosting as a sweet dip for fruit like apples or bananas and as a topping for ice cream, and it didn't disappoint in either instance. We're pretty sure this delicious frosting would taste good on just about anything, so have some fun with it.

3-Ingredient peanut butter frosting directions

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 0 minutes

Serves: 16 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar

(Optional additions)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Place the room temperature butter and peanut butter in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a hand mixer or the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, beat the mixture for one minute until it turns light and fluffy.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract (if using) and beat for an additional minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the sugar is incorporated.
  3. If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon of water, milk, or heavy cream and beat until the frosting is light and creamy.
  4. Spread or pipe the frosting onto your favorite baked goods. It goes especially well with chocolate cookies, cake, cupcakes, or brownies.
  5. Store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Before using, allow the frosting to come up to room temperature. If it has fallen flat in storage, whip it with a whisk or hand mixer before frosting.