Peanut Butter Cookies – A 1940s Recipe

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a small 4-½ x 6 inch leather bound book engraved “Cooking Recipes”, purchased at an antique mall in Sugar Creek, Ohio.  The pages are edged in gold and there are 10 index tabs for food categories.  

The real gold in this book, though, is the collection of handwritten recipes.  There aren’t a lot of recipes – just 25, 22 of which are desserts.  The book itself could have been from the 1930s, but I believe the recipes are from the 1945-1950 era.  This is based on a lot of recipes calling for shortening, for using the word “oleo” rather than margarine in most recipes and the attention given to oven temperatures.  I believe it’s post-World War II because of all of the sugar-laden desserts.

The handwriting is clear and ingredients are listed correctly, although most of the recipes give no idea of how the item is to be prepared, what kind of pan to use or how long to bake.  That’s why I’ve decided to make each of the recipes, using the products specified, and adding my own instructions.  I like to think that the woman from the 1940s kitchen (who would have been about my mother’s age) would enjoy having someone fuss around with these recipes again and turn out some delicious food for the family.

This is the very popular peanut butter cookie kids have been eating for generations.  Our book writer got this recipe from her friend, Shirley, and probably made the cookies a lot for her own family.  My version is half of the original recipe and makes about 2 dozen 3-inch diameter delicious, peanut-buttery cookies.

I have a small collection of vintage oven thermometers and although I love to see them displayed, I’m so grateful I have an oven with a reliable thermostat to do my baking.


  • Servings: Approximately 2 doz. 3-inch cookies
  • Print
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1-½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • Dash salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Cream shortening, granulated sugar and vanilla.  Add egg, brown sugar and peanut butter.  Mix until smooth.

Whisk together the flour, soda and salt.

Add to creamed mixture and mix until well blended.

Form a measuring tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on ungreased baking sheet.

Press a cross-hatch pattern on top of the cookie with a fork dipped in flour.

The unbaked cookies will be 2 inches diameter.  Place cookies 2 inches apart on the sheet and bake @ 375 degrees F for approximately 10 minutes until golden brown.

Remove immediately to a wire rack to cool.

Yield:  Approximately 2 dozen 3-inch diameter cookies

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Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

13 thoughts on “Peanut Butter Cookies – A 1940s Recipe”

    1. I also used Crisco. I had gotten away from using Crisco in cookies at all – preferring butter or even margarine – but this is how the recipe was written and it’s the way the cookies were made for years and years. Lillian

  1. Peanut Butter cookies and milk, one of my favorite treats. I make a gluten free recipe for hubby, but it is not the same as the old tried and true old fashion peanut butter cookie. Wish I was there to taste one.

  2. I love that about old cookbooks—the assumption that the cook has a good deal of knowledge about food preparation. I often get annoyed with newer cookbooks with endless pages of fussy instructions. But I guess they have to do it. Great thermometers!

  3. Oh, yum! Now I have the sudden urge to go make peanut butter cookies. Not tonight, though. Need to catch up on e-mail and the children are in bed so I would have to eat them all. That would not be good.

  4. Lillian, they look great. I think I can still smell them. This recipe is different from Mom’s but the cookies look the same. YUM! It is really difficult to stay away from your recipes. Maybe I will sneak a small batch in this weekend.

  5. These cookies look so scrumptious. A must try… there is nothing better then MOM’S recipes. .Thanks for sharing.

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