Caramel Cookie Bars

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You’ll love these incredible salted Caramel Cookie Bars — buttery shortbread bars with a creamy caramel filling and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Caramel Cookie Bars are widely popular on this site. Some other favorite caramel-filled treats: caramel oatmeal cookies, carmelitas, and caramel stuffed cookies.

Overhead image of Caramel Cookie Bars, ready to eat with milk and caramels on the side.

If you like butter and salted caramel, you are going to be obsessed with these bars! They’re buttery, soft and chewy, sweet and they have the perfect amount of sea salt to finish them off.

And if you aren’t into salted caramel or salty sweets, these bars are also delicious without the salt. They’re the perfect treat to bring to a party and I can almost guarantee you won’t leave with a single one left. That is, unless your friends are dieting.

So, let’s get started talking about how to make these delicious bars. Below I’ve broken down the steps for making Caramel Cookie Bars in picture form, and directly below the image is a description of what’s happening in each photo.

Process shots-- step-by-step images of making Caramel Cookie Bars.

How to make Caramel Cookie Bars

  • Picture 1: The butter has been creamed together with the granulated and powdered sugar. 
  • Picture 2: Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  • Picture 3: Finished cookie dough: press half into the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan and the other half goes into the fridge for later!
  • Picture 4: Here’s a view of the baked half of the cookie dough.
  • Picture 5: Combine heavy cream and unwrapped caramels; melt over low heat, stirring often until smooth.
  • Picture 6: Melt the caramels until smooth.
  • Picture 7: Pour the melted caramel over the cookie bar.
  • Picture 8: Smooth the melted caramel into an even layer on top.
  • Picture 9: Take the reserved dough from the fridge and crumble it on top of the caramel layer.
  • Picture 10: Finish baking the bars. Let cool fully before cutting into the bars; we like these straight from the fridge!

Now that we’ve gone over the quick overview of making these bars, I have a few tips to share and suggestions for ingredients next.

Caramel Cookie Bars tips

  • Make sure to use heavy cream, not half and half or milk. Otherwise, the caramel layer won’t set up properly.

QUICK TIP

What caramels to use: I’ve tried a lot of different caramels for these bars and my favorite (affordable) caramels are Werther’s® Soft (not original) caramels. They generally come in 4.5-ounce bags, so you’ll need 3 and 1/2 bags for this recipe. Here’s a visual of the bag (not sponsored). These caramels have a great flavor, melt easily, and are perfect for these bars.

What butter to use

Truly, any butter will work in these bars, but margarine or any kind of artificial butter will not work. Not only will they not bake properly, but they also won’t taste good. 

I do recommend unsalted butter even though we’re going after a salted caramel flavor. Why unsalted? We need to be able to perfectly control the amount of salt in Caramel Cookie Bars and the salt content in salted butter varies tremendously. It would be easy to end up with too much salt in the dough.

While any butter will work, I do recommend a good-quality butter since butter really is the star of the base and crumble. Land O’Lakes® is my favorite affordable butter for these particular bars (again not sponsored!).

Image of a stack of Caramel Cookie Bars.

More delicious desserts:

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Caramel Cookie Bars

5 from 2 votes
You'll love incredible salted Caramel Cookie Bars -- buttery shortbread bars with a creamy caramel filling and a sprinkle of sea salt
Print Recipe

Caramel Cookie Bars

5 from 2 votes
You'll love incredible salted Caramel Cookie Bars -- buttery shortbread bars with a creamy caramel filling and a sprinkle of sea salt
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword caramel cookie bars, cookie bars
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 24 bars
Calories 456kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (452g) unsalted butter softened (NOT melted)
  • 1 cup (209g) white granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (183g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 full tablespoon pure vanilla extract) (or 1 full tablespoon pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 cups (520g) white flour
  • 14 ounces (396g) unwrapped caramels (I recommend Werther's SOFT caramels)
  • 1/3 cup (76g) heavy whipping cream
  • Maldon sea salt for topping (optional)

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C) and prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking pan by lining with parchment paper, leaving enough of an overhang for easy removal. Set pan aside.
  • COOKIE BASE: Add butter (softened, but not melted), white sugar, and powdered sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and salt; mix until just combined. Add in all the flour and mix until just combined and a soft dough forms. Do not overmix.
  • BAKE: Press just a little over half of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. (Refrigerate the rest, tightly covered, until it is time to use it). Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. Remove from the oven.
  • CARAMELS: While the base is baking, combine the unwrapped caramels and heavy whipping cream in a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat. Gently stir until melted and smooth, about 5-8 minutes; pour over the cookie bar. Use a spoon to spread the caramel gently to cover the cookie base. Remove the reserved cookie dough from the fridge and crumble the remaining dough into bits and sprinkle it over the caramel.
  • BAKE AGAIN: Return the pan to the oven for an additional 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden brown around the edges; be careful to not overbake. Cool completely at room temperature and then cut into small squares. Store leftovers, tightly wrapped, in the fridge. (We like these best cold!) Sprinkle sea salt on top of bars right before enjoying, if desired.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 24g | Calories: 456kcal | Carbohydrates: 68g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 94mg | Potassium: 85mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 35g | Vitamin A: 548IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 2mg

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4 Comments

  1. Just stumbled upon your very awesome blog! It’s so bright and colourful and mouth-watering! Also, these look like pure cookie bar bliss. The simple oatmeal cookie jam bars are calling my name right now, actually! Must check those out. 🙂

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