These caramel oatmeal bars – AKA caramelitas – have a layer of oatmeal cookie dough, chocolate chips and gooey caramel with even more oatmeal cookie on top. They’re loaded with so much deliciousness and perfect for anyone who loves caramel.
If you’ve never had a caramelita – then I urge you to try these addictive bars. They’re essentially an oatmeal cookie bar that’s stuffed with chocolate chips and pools of caramel. They cookie layer is slightly chewy with golden edges for just a little crisp. Then what could be better than caramel and chocolate? The same dough is used for both the base layer and the topping. It’s made in 1 bowl with no mixer, so it’s an incredibly easy recipe too.
To make the oatmeal layers, you’ll whisk together melted butter, light brown sugar and vanilla extract. Then stir in flour, baking, soda, a touch of salt, and the oats. Easy peasy. You can do the whole thing by hand. Then a little more than half the dough gets pressed into your lined pan and baked for about 20 minutes. This step is absolutely necessary, otherwise, the bottom layer can be raw.
After it’s baked, you’ll sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Then a layer of thick caramel sauce is poured over the chocolate chips. Last but not least, you’ll section off pieces of the reserved oatmeal cookie dough, flatten them slightly and place them on top of the caramel layer. Or simply sprinkle/crumble the dough on top. If some caramel is showing through, that’s totally fine and expected. It will expand as it bakes. Then pop the pan back in the oven to bake.
For the caramel layer, I used caramel sauce. Some recipes use wrapped Kraft caramels melted together with evaporated milk. I found the process of unwrapping all the caramels tedious, so I switched to caramel sauce. You want to ensure that the caramel sauce is thick – this helps to ensure that the sauce doesn’t just melt and seep through the bottom oatmeal layer.
A Note About Eggs: There’s no egg in this recipe – don’t worry, you didn’t read that incorrectly! The bars will still turn out chewy without the egg!
I made this recipe in a 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) pan for thicker bars. I wanted thick bars and I wanted a big batch.
For slightly thinner bars, prepare the recipe as directed and bake in a 10×15 inch (25.5×38 cm) jelly roll pan. The base layer will need to bake for about 10 minutes on its own. Then the top layer (after you’ve added the chocolate chips, caramel and additional oatmeal layer) will bake for about another 15-20 minutes, or until golden. If you plan to cut the bars into smaller pieces, for example for a Christmas cookie tray, I recommend using a jelly roll pan for thinner bars because they’ll cut more easily into small pieces. If using a jelly roll pan, I recommend lightly greasing the pan with cooking spray instead of lining it with parchment, as its hard to lift such a large batch of bars out of the pan using the parchment paper.
To make a smaller batch, half the recipe and bake in an 8×8 inch (20×20 cm) pan. The bars will be slightly thinner than as pictured, since the area of an 8×8 inch pan is slightly more than half of the area of a 9×13 inch pan. The base layer will need to bake for about 15 minutes, on its own. Then after you’ve added the chocolate chips, caramel and oatmeal – the bars will need about another 15-20 minutes.
Baking tips For Caramel Oatmeal Bars
- These bars can be made with either quick oats or old-fashioned oats. I prefer old-fashioned oats, but either will do. Make sure you’re not using instant oats or steel-cut oats (AKA Irish oats).
- After baking the base layer, let it cool for about 10 minutes before adding the chocolate chips and caramel. This reduces the likelihood of the caramel seeping through and melting into the base layer. If the caramel seeps through, you won’t get the pools of gooey caramel as pictured.
- Always add the chocolate chips first, then the caramel on top. The chocolate chips essentially act as a barrier, so that the caramel doesn’t seep into the base layer.
- If you want pools of caramel – like as pictured – choose a very thick caramel topping. Something that comes from a jar and requires a spoon
- Cool the bars 100% before slicing. If the bars are still warm, you’ll end up with a big gooey mess.
- You can also substitute the caramel sauce for dulce de leche – I’ve done both and they’re seriously delicious.
For more delicious cookie bars, be sure to try:
Caramelitas - AKA Caramel Oatmeal Bars
- 9x13 inch (23 x 33 cm) baking pan - see notes for alternatives
- 1 ⅓ cup unsalted butter (300 grams) melted
- 1 ⅓ cup light brown sugar (266 grams) or ⅔ cup brown sugar and ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour (219 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups rolled oats (200 grams) quick oats or old-fashioned oats work
- 2 cups chocolate chips (260 grams)
- 1 cup caramel sauce (240 ml) choose something thick
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees. Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper so that there's an overhang around the edges. Alternatively, line with foil and lightly grease.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract until evenly combined. Ideally, it won't look like the butter is separate.
- Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt. Then stir in the oats.
- Press about half of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan to form an even layer. Place the remaining half of the dough in the fridge. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden on top.
- Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top to form an even layer.
- Pour/ spoon the thick caramel sauce on top of the bars. I always use a very thick caramel topping and warm it up in the microwave slightly so that it's easier to pour.
- Section off small bits of the remaining cookie dough. Flatten them down and place on top of the caramel sauce to form an even layer. If some caramel shows through, that's ok. Alternatively, you can crumble to remaining dough overtop.
- Place the pan back in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden.
- Cool the bars completely - this will take about 4 hours.
- When ready to slice, carefully remove the bars from the pan using the overhang from the parchment paper/foil. Place on a cutting board and slice using a large sharp knife (not a table knife).
- Pan Sizes:
- This recipe was made in a 9x13 inch (23x33 cm) pan.
- For thinner bars, it can be made in a 10x15 inch (25.5x38 cm) jelly roll pan (keep all the ingredients the same). The base layer will bake for 10 minutes on its own. Then the top layer will need to bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden. If using a jelly roll pan, I recommend just greasing it and slicing the bars in the pan (instead of lifting them out with the parchment before slicing) because it's very hard to lift out such a large tray of bars.
- For a smaller batch, half the recipe and bake in an 8x8 inch pan. To half the recipe, you'll need:
- ⅔ cup unsalted butter
- ⅔ cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup oats
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- ½ cup caramel.
- Caramel Sauce: Choose something thick to minimize the risk of the caramel seeping through and melting into the base layer. Caramel can also be replaced with dulce de leche.
- Storage: Store bars in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge for up to 1 week. Bars can be frozen for up to 2 months. Then thaw in the fridge.
- Nutrition: Details provided are an estimate only and based on 1 bar, assuming the pan is sliced into 15 equal-sized pieces.