Thick, Chewy Carmelita Bars
This is the fool-proof recipe for carmelita bars! AKA the most amazing bar cookies, with layers of soft caramel and chocolate sandwiched in an oat cookie crust. Guaranteed to earn rave reviews from everyone, every time!
Carmelitas. If a cookie bar can change lives, this might be the one. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but most people who try these are inclined to agree. They’re just that good.
Let’s examine the evidence:
- Chewy, buttery oat cookie crust;
- Soft, gooey caramel;
- A generous layer of semisweet chocolate;
- Easy to make, no mixer required.
Case closed? Case closed.
I try to share these widely whenever we make a batch, because it’s just too dangerous to have a large quantity sitting on the countertop here.
Fortunately, they are quite sweet and rich, so you can slice the bars fairly small and distribute them widely. This is very likely to make you very popular. 😉
What you’ll need to make carmelita bars
Here is the rundown of ingredients you’ll need:
- Flour: I usually use all-purpose but a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat also works well.
- Old-fashioned rolled oats: don’t sub instant or quick-cooking oats, they will break down in the dough and lend a completely different texture.
- Brown sugar: light or dark is fine.
- Soft candy caramels: I usually use one full bag of Kraft candy caramels for this recipe. They’re a minor pain to unwrap but melt well and have a nice consistency when baked inside the bars — soft and chewy but not impossible to slice.
Shopping tip: Kraft caramels can typically found in the grocery store near other candies — M&Ms, peppermint patties, that kind of thing — often on a bottom shelf. Werther’s makes a similar soft caramel that also works well, but do not use the hard candy caramels. They will re-solidify once the bars cool and be impossible to eat!
- Chocolate chips: semisweet is my go-to, but carmelitas are amazing with dark chocolate, as well. The bars are very rich to begin with, so I don’t recommend using milk chocolate unless you really want to emphasize the sweet factor!
- Butter: I usually use unsalted, but salted is fine if you prefer and keep it on hand.
- Heavy cream.
- Baking soda, salt, vanilla extract.
How to make carmelitas
- First, prepare the crust. Stir together a buttery oat mixture and press about half of it into a square baking pan, packing it tightly. I highly recommend lining the pan with parchment or foil. This makes the bars exponentially easier to remove, and the pan so much easier to clean. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
- While the bottom cookie layer bakes, start the caramel sauce by melting the unwrapped caramels together with cream in a small saucepan.
- When the crust comes out, sprinkle chocolate chips on top, then drizzle the caramel sauce over the chips. Things are looking tasty!
- Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture on top of the caramel. Don’t worry about some gaps — it’s normal, as you can see below.
- Finally, bake for 18-20 minutes, until the crust is golden and the caramel is hot and bubbling.
Patience is a virtue
Be very sure to let the bars cool fully before trying to remove them from the pan, slice, and serve. This can take up to 4 hours at room temperature, or 1-2 hours if you speed up the process by popping the pan in the fridge.
Waiting this long can be painful, yes, but so is slicing into the bars and having hot, molten caramel ooze out everywhere. They’ll taste fine but be a literal hot mess. Best avoided.
How to store carmelita bars
Carmelitas keep well tightly covered at room temperature for at least 3-4 days. (I’ve never had a batch last longer than that.) They can also be kept in the fridge, and some people prefer the texture slightly chilled, so feel free to experiment.
Once fully cooled and sliced, they can be stacked if necessary.
Can you freeze carmelitas? Yes! Carmelita bars can be frozen. Be sure the bars have cooled completely, then stack as needed with sheets of parchment between each layer and store in an airtight container or zip-top bag, tightly sealed, for up to 2 months.
More easy caramel desserts
- Caramel-Stuffed Molasses Cookies
- Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Salted Caramel Pretzel Ice Cream
If you try these carmelita bars, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
Thick and Chewy Carmelita Bars
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar light or dark
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt divided
- 35 small candy caramels such as Kraft or soft Werther’s
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 and 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×9” baking pan with parchment or foil, if possible, for easy removal and clean-up. Set aside.
- Melt butter in a medium bowl or saucepan. Stir in the vanilla, then sprinkle the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt on top. Stir well until the mixture is even. Scoop roughly half of this mixture out into the prepared baking pan, and press it firmly into a thin, even layer that covers the bottom of the pan, corner to corner. Bake for 8-10 minutes, just until lightly golden.
- Meanwhile, unwrap caramels and combine them with the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until the caramels are completely melted and smooth, then stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remove from heat.
- After removing the crust from the oven, sprinkle it with chocolate chips, then pour melted caramel evenly over the chocolate. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture evenly on top. Don’t worry if there are some gaps where the caramel peeks through.
- Bake for another 18-20 minutes. The top should be light golden brown, and the caramel will be very hot and bubbling. Remove and allow to cool completely, 3-4 hours at room temperature, or 1-2 hours in the fridge, before lifting out the bars, slicing, and serving.
- Caramels: I usually use one full bag of Kraft candy caramels for this recipe. They’re a minor pain to unwrap but melt well and have a nice consistency when baked inside the bars — soft and chewy but not impossible to slice. Kraft caramels can typically found in the grocery store in the same aisle with other candies — M&Ms, peppermint patties, that kind of thing — often on a bottom shelf.
- Yield: The photos here show bars that were sliced from a 9×9” pan into 16 squares. The bars are rich and a bit decadent, so you can definitely cut them into smaller pieces to stretch the serving size.
- Storage: Bars keep well tightly covered at room temperature for 3-4 days.