Magic Cookie Bars

his is a supremely easy, wildly versatile, insanely tasty pan-cookie recipe. No one knows exactly when it was created or by whom, but when it was popularized in the late 1960 s, it quickly became the recipe moms knew by heart and kids clamored for.

With a handful of pantry staples like canned condensed milk and graham crackers, these bar cookies are crispy, sandy, creamy, gooey, sweet, chocolatey, and nutty. Consider this bar part-candy, part-cookie, and all delicious.


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces), or 1/2 cup coconut oil (4 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed cookie crumbs, such as graham crackers or a wafer-style cookie (about 5 1/3 ounces)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups baking chips (about 12 ounces), such as semisweet, white, or milk chocolate, or butterscotch, coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups toasted or un-toasted flaked or shredded sweetened coconut, or granola (about 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup pecans, almonds, peanuts, or other nuts, coarsely chopped (4 1/2 to 5 ounces)


  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Parchment paper
  • 8- or 9-inch square nonstick metal or glass baking pan
  • Medium microwave-safe bowl
  • Soft, heat-resistant spatula
  • Cooling rack
  • Sharp knife


  1. Prepare the pan: Coat an 8- or 9-inch square nonstick metal or glass baking pan with cooking spray. Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper as wide as your pan and leave the pieces as long as the sheet comes (the excess will create handles that you can use to lift the bars out the pan after baking). Lay one piece of parchment in the pan, with overhang on both sides. Tuck the paper into the corners of the pan. Spray the parchment paper in the pan with cooking spray. Place the second sheet on top, positioning it so that the excess parchment covers the other two sides of the pan and is tucked into the corners; set aside.
  2. Heat the oven: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Heat to 350°F if you are using a nonstick metal pan, or 325°F if you are using a glass pan.
  3. Make the crust: Microwave the butter or coconut oil in a medium microwave-safe bowl at high power until melted, about 3 (10-second) bursts. Add the cookie crumbs and mix gently with a soft, heat-resistant spatula to coat. Transfer the mixture into the bottom of the baking dish and pat firmly into an even layer that is about 1/8-inch thick.
  4. Add the condensed milk: Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crumb mixture (avoid spreading it with a spoon or spatula to maintain distinct layers). It will spread quickly and evenly over the mixture and will not sink in.
  5. Continue with the other layers: Scatter the chocolate or butterscotch evenly over the top. Sprinkle the coconut evenly over the chocolate. Scatter the nuts over the coconut. Gently pat the mixture down so the surface is even.
  6. Bake the bars: Bake until the chocolate has melted and the nuts have become a toasty light brown in color, 25 to 30 minutes. The layers will puff up and sink back when cooled. Let cool in the pan until the chocolate has re-solidified, and both the pan and the bars are completely cool, about 1 hour.
  7. Cut the bars: Grasping the overhanging parchment, gently lift the slab onto a cutting board. Carefully remove the parchment paper and discard. With a sharp knife, cut into either 9 large bars or 12 small bars.

Recipe Notes

  • Storage: These bars will keep in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
  • Alternative oils:  Coconut oil (not coconut butter) is a terrific alternative to butter in a cookie crust and widely available at most grocery stores.

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