Carmelitas

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Carmelitas are oatmeal bars stuffed with gooey caramel and rich milk chocolate—every bite is a total treat!

If you love bar dessert recipes, try these 7 Layer Bars, Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars, or Magic Cookie Bars.

Carmelitas stacked on top of each other.

The Best Carmelitas Recipe

Carmelitas are my absolute, hands-down favorite dessert. Imagine Oatmeal Jam Bars and Cookie Bars had a baby- delicious, right? It’s no secret I’m obsessed with all kinds of desserts (hi Chocolate Cake), but if you ask me for my favorite, these always win.

These bars aren’t only delicious, but they also hold many good memories for me. These are the bars my mom and I would make every single year for Christmas, for neighbor gifts, while I was growing up.

Since Carmelitas are my favorite dessert bar, I’m pretty picky about how they turn out. I’ve tweaked my mom’s recipe over the years to make them just right! The crust is even throughout, the chocolate layer is thick, and the caramel is soft and gooey. The layers are perfectly balanced, and once these have cooled, you’ll get a bite of the best Carmelitas!

All the ingredients in this recipe prepped out for easy assembly.

Ingredients

  • Caramels and Heavy Cream: Melt these together to make the gooey caramel layer in the middle. Grab high-quality SOFT caramels for the best flavor and texture. Werther’s Original soft caramels are my favorite! While unwrapping individual caramels can be a bit of a chore, it’ll definitely pay off in taste! 
  • Butter and Brown Sugar: These give the bars a rich flavor and help hold everything together. Use softened butter so it’s easy to mix.
  • Flour, Oats, and Baking Soda: These create the thick and chewy crust and crumbly topping. Stick with old-fashioned oats for the best texture.
  • Vanilla Extract and Salt: Vanilla adds flavor, while salt brings out the sweetness of the bars. A little salt helps make all the flavors pop.
  • Chocolate Chips: These melt into a rich chocolate layer that goes perfectly with the caramel and oats.

QUICK TIP

Add the caramels directly into the pot once you unwrap them because they start to soften and will stick to whatever surface they are on.

The caramels prepped into measuring cups for these carmelitas.

How To Make Carmelitas:

  1. Prep: Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 9×9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Caramels: Unwrap caramels and melt with heavy cream over medium-low heat until smooth; set aside. Stir often to prevent burning.
  3. Batter: In a bowl, mix butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, baking soda, vanilla, and salt until a thick dough forms.
  4. Base Bake: Press half of the dough into the prepared pan and bake for 8 minutes.
  5. Layering: Sprinkle chocolate chips over crust, then pour melted caramel on top.
  6. Second Bake: Crumble remaining dough over caramel layer and bake for until golden. Watch carefully to avoid over-browning.
  7. Cooling: Cool for 1 hour before cutting into bars. For clean cuts, chill in the fridge before slicing.

The oat base being mixed together and spread into a pan.

Carmelitas Tips

  • Parchment Paper: Line the baking pan with parchment paper to prevent sticking and make cleanup easier. Leave an overhang of parchment paper to easily lift out the entire slab of bars for cutting on a cutting board.
  • Chocolate: I love milk chocolate chips, but if you prefer less sweetness or like dark chocolate more, go for semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips instead.
  • Measure Flour Carefully: Don’t press down the flour in the measuring cup, and make sure it’s level on top. Too little flour can make the bars greasy, and too much can make them dry.
  • Even Crust: Press the oatmeal mixture firmly and evenly into the pan to ensure the bottom of the bars is consistent.
  • Caramel Spreading: Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the melted caramel evenly over the chocolate chips so it’s the same thickness all over.
  • Oatmeal Crumble: When sprinkling the remaining oatmeal mixture over the caramel layer, try to spread it out evenly for balanced flavor in each bite.

The chocolate chips and caramel being added into the par baked oatmeal base for this carmelita recipe.

VARIATIONS

Ways To Change Up Carmelitas

  • Mix Up The Chocolate: Try using different kinds of chocolate like white, dark, or semi-sweet, or even a mix of a couple kinds of chocolates. Butterscotch morsels would also be delicious!
  • Make It Nutty: Add chopped pecans or walnuts to the oat mixture for a crunchy texture and nutty flavor.
  • Peanut Butter: Drizzle peanut butter or cookie butter over the caramel layer before adding the chocolate chips for a fun flavor (like these Cookie Butter Bars).
  • Salted Caramel: Sprinkle a little sea salt over the caramel layer to give you a salted caramel flavor. Make sure you don’t over-do the salt because there is already add some salt in the cookie dough.

The crumble oat topping being added to the bars and it all being baked.

STORAGE

  • Cooling: Let Carmelitas cool completely before cutting. They’re tasty chilled too!
  • Storage: Keep bars in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 to 5 days.
  • Freezer: Stack bars with parchment paper between each layer in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 2 months.

One of the caremlitas being held up showing the gooey and delicious inside.

More Delicious Caramel Desserts:

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Carmelitas

4.86 from 14 votes
Carmelitas are oatmeal bars stuffed with gooey caramel and rich milk chocolate—every bite is a total treat!
Carmelitas stacked on top of each other.
Print Recipe

Carmelitas

Carmelitas stacked on top of each other.
4.86 from 14 votes
Carmelitas are oatmeal bars stuffed with gooey caramel and rich milk chocolate—every bite is a total treat!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Vegetarian
Keyword carmelitas
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Setting Up 36 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 12 -16 bars
Chelsea Lords
Calories 177kcal

Equipment

  • 9x9-inch baking pan (or use 8x8-inch pan for thicker bars)

Ingredients

  • 11 oz. unwrapped Werther's original SOFT caramels, (3 full cups measured before unwrapping) (Note 1)
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1-1/4 cups white flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats, (do not use quick or steel oats)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/4 cups milk chocolate chips (Note 2)

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and line a 9x9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang for easy removal later.
  • CARAMELS: In a pot over medium-low heat, combine the unwrapped caramels and heavy cream. Stir with a wooden spoon until completely smooth, then set aside to slightly cool and thicken.
  • BATTER: In a large bowl, mix together the room temp butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, baking soda, vanilla extract, and salt using electric hand mixers until a thick dough forms. Divide the mixture in half and press half of it into the prepared pan.
  • BAKE BASE: Bake the base for 8 minutes, then remove from the oven. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the crust. Pour the melted and slightly cooled caramel over the chocolate chips, gently smoothing it into an even layer.
  • BAKE BARS AGAIN: Crumble the remaining oatmeal mixture over the caramel layer (don't press it down), then bake for another 13-18 minutes until the edges are lightly browned and the top is set.
  • LET STAND: Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for at least 1 hour before cutting into bars. These bars are best enjoyed within 2-4 days when stored in an airtight container.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Use soft, individually wrapped, high-quality caramels; Werther's is my top choice. Either weigh unwrapped caramels to get 11 oz or measure to get 3 full cups. Once unwrapped, immediately add the caramels to the pot, as they begin to soften and may stick to any surface they touch.
Note 2:  I love milk chocolate chips, but if you prefer less sweetness or like dark chocolate more, go for semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips instead.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 177kcal

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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The BEST EVER Carmelitas -- oatmeal bars with a thick layer of milk chocolate and creamy caramel. These bars can be prepared in 20 minutes or less!! via chelseasmessyapron.com #carmelita #carmelitas #dessert #baking #holiday #bar #easy #quick
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31 Comments

  1. I just had lunch, am full, but yet suddenly am finding myself crazy hungry and drooling over these bars! They look and sound phenomenal!!! Pinned!

  2. nbd, you just combined all of my fav ingredients into one recipe. Pinned for my next dinner party and by dinner party I mean me, myself and I…tomorrow.

  3. 5 stars
    These were absolutely incredible! Ive been loving all your recipes this holiday season.
    These were so easy and my family went nuts for them! Have you ever substituted applesauce or anything else for a portion of the butter?

    1. I am so happy to hear this! Thanks Elizabeth! I haven’t tried any substitutions for the butter, but if you do let me know how it goes! 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    I helped my sister make Carmelitas since I was in my teens, I’m 64 now. They were my dad’s absolute favorite, my families also. They are fantastic to freeze, for it doesn’t take them long to start to thaw out. A few differences in our recipe to yours….we use semi sweet morsels, for the caramel we use ice cream topping mixed with a little flower to thicken and we add crushed walnuts with the caramel and morsels. I’ve already changed the ice cream topping flavor and also used pretzels instead of nuts for those allergic to them. Any way they are DELICIOUS..!! THANKS!

    1. I’m sorry I am not very experienced with gluten free flour and baking so I don’t really know. Wish I could be of more help

  5. 5 stars
    I did double your recipe, with Werther’s soft caramels, put in parchment paper lined glass 9 x13 pan. So, so good, a definite keeper.

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