Special K Bars are the ultimate no-bake dessert! You can make them in 15 minutes, and fans of peanut butter and chocolate will LOVE them!
These Special K Bars (also known as scotcheroos) will FLY off the platter at your next get-together. The combination of peanut butter and chocolate, plus the crunch from Special K cereal make them irresistible.
They’re ideal for a potluck or a picnic, especially when the weather is warm. They require no baking in the oven, and just about 15 minutes to assemble.
My family makes these chocolate peanut butter bars at Christmas time as part of our Christmas cookie making (just like these Toll House Cookie Bars). So whether you make these in December or in July, they are a popular dessert any time of the year!
Want something even easier? Don’t miss this Corn Flake Candy. It’s also no-bake and has a similar flavor, but no chocolate!).
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Origin of Special K Bars
The original recipe for these bars is called scotcheroos, which are made with Rice Krispies cereal. The recipe was printed on the back of a Rice Krispies box in the mid-1960s.
Over time, the recipe was tweaked and Special K cereal became a popular substitute for the Rice Krispies.
Special K is a toasted rice cereal (so are Rice Krispies, as you can surmise from the name) so it makes sense that they are used instead. I’ve tried them both ways and I’m partial to Special K!
- Line the pan with parchment paper. Since the bars are chewy, they require a little muscle to cut. It is MUCH easier to lift the bars out of the pan to cut them.
- After the corn syrup and sugar to a boil, take the pan off the heat immediately. This will prevent the bars from becoming too hard when they cool.
- Do not use natural peanut butter for this. Use that kind that you don’t have to stir.
- Spray a plastic baggie with cooking spray, put your hand inside, and use that to spread the peanut butter mixture into the pan. It won’t stick and you can do it quickly!
- Take care not to overheat the chocolate chips. Heat them just until melted. If they get too hot, they will form a white film on top when the chocolate hardens. It’s harmless but not very pretty!
You’ll need 7 ingredients for these bars:
- Sugar and corn syrup combine to make them sweet and chewy.
- You can use either crunchy or smooth peanut butter. Do not use natural peanut butter. I used Skippy; JIF also works well.
- Special K cereal adds crunch! You can substitute corn flakes or Rice Krispies, if you’d like (either one of those would make them gluten-free).
- Vanilla extract enhances the chocolate and peanut butter flavors.
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips combine with butterscotch chips to make the topping.
How to make Special K Bars (no-bake)
Line a 13×9 inch baking dish with parchment paper. The bars can be difficult to cut if they’re in the pan. The parchment will allow you to remove the bars from the pan before cutting, which makes cutting them SO much easier.
Place the corn syrup and sugar in a saucepan, and cook on the stovetop just until it reaches a boil. Do not allow it to boil too long, which can cause the bars to become too hard later.
Then, stir in the peanut butter and vanilla.
Next, pour the Special K into a large heat safe bowl (use the largest bowl in your kitchen!) and pour the peanut butter mixture on top. Stir it gently to avoid crushing the cereal.
Quickly transfer the cereal mixture to the parchment-lined pan. Be careful—the mixture will be hot. Spread the mixture into an even layer.
I spray a sandwich-sized zip-top bag with cooking spray, and place my hand inside to press the mixture down evenly.
Place the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave in 30 second intervals. Stir the chips each time to ensure even heat distribution. You will notice that the chips will melt as you stir them.
Do not microwave the chips longer than necessary. You want to microwave them just enough to melt them, but no longer. Heating the chips too much can damage the chocolate and you’ll get an white film on top of the bars when they cool. The film is perfectly safe to eat, but just not as attractive.
Pour the chocolate mixture over the peanut butter mixture, and spread it evenly using an offset spatula.
Let the Special K Bars cool on the countertop until the chocolate hardens (about 1 hour, or longer if your kitchen is warm).
You could also place them in the refrigerator to speed along this process. Do not cut them before the chocolate hardens, or the chocolate will get smeared everywhere.
Finally, lift the parchment paper out of the pan, and cut the bars with a sharp knife. I find that a large kitchen knife is best for this.
The only thing left to do is dig in!
Frequently Asked Questions
There is one difference between Special K Bars and scotcheroos: the cereal. Special K Bars use Special K cereal, and scotcheroos call for Rice Krispies.
If you don’t have butterscotch chips, replace them with more chocolate chips. I personally love the flavor that the butterscotch chips add, but the bars are still delicious with just chocolate chips.
Your hands are your best tools! Place your hand inside a plastic zip-top bag (spray the bag first lightly with cooking spray) and press down on the peanut butter layer to put it into one even layer. I find this is much easier than using a spatula, and the mixture won’t stick to your hand thanks to the plastic bag.
Place the pan into the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then cut the bars into squares.
Special K Bars can get hard if the sugar mixture reaches a higher temperature than is necessary. Heat the mixture only until it starts boiling, then take off the heat.
They do not need to be refrigerated. Store them in a covered container at room temperature. You can also store them in the fridge, though they will be chewier.
How to store Special K Bars
Special K Bars should be placed in a covered container and stored at room temperature. They can also be stored in the refrigerator, though this makes them chewier.
Place a layer of wax paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap between the layers of bars, if you are stacking them.
Also, take care that the container where they are stored is not near a heat source (like next to the oven or on top of the dishwasher), as the heat can cause the chocolate to melt.
Special K Bars are good for up to two weeks. They will start to get a little harder after one week or so.
Can Special K Bars be frozen?
To freeze Special K Bars, cut the bars and stack them in layers, with plastic wrap between the layers, in a freezer safe dish. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Defrost overnight at room temperature.
More no-bake cookies recipes
When you don’t want to turn on the oven, no-bake cookies are the way to go!
Grandma’s Rum Balls are one of my favorite no-bake cookies—you can definitely taste the rum!
Boiled Cookies have a similar flavor to Special K Bars—they’re loaded with peanut butter and chocolate, and also sport the addition of marshmallows, coconut, and walnuts. Kids LOVE them.
Corn Flake Candy is also very similar in flavor to Special K Bars, but without the chocolate on top. It’s dropped by the tablespoon-full into clusters, and can also be dyed green and shaped into Christmas wreaths.
Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Fudge is a peanut butter lover’s DREAM! Just five ingredients, too.
These aren’t technically cookies, but Marshmallow Popcorn Balls are such a fun snack. No baking required!
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!
Special K Bars (No-Bake)
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1½ cups peanut butter (creamy or crunchy, but NOT natural peanut butter)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 cups Special K cereal
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup butterscotch chips
- Line a 13×9 inch baking dish with parchment paper.
- Place the corn syrup and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture just reaches a boil. Remove from the heat. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla.
- Measure the Special K cereal into a large bowl. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the top and stir gently to combine, working quickly.
- Transfer the mixture to the baking dish lined with parchment paper. Spread the mixture evenly in the pan (be careful—it’ll be hot). I use my hand inside a sandwich sized zip-top bag (spray the bag first with cooking spray) to spread the mixture into an even layer.
- Place the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, just until melted. Pour the chocolate mixture over the top of the bars. Use a spatula or offset spatula to spread the chocolate evenly.
- Let cool for at least 1 hour, or until the chocolate has hardened, before cutting. Alternatively, place the bars in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to cool.
- To cut into bars, lift the parchment paper out of the pan like a sling. Place on a large cutting board and cut into 24 bars with a sharp knife.