Combos Pretzel and Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Bars

Salty ‘n sweet combinations taste especially good in the heat when I crack a sweat just brushing my teeth.

It’s a good thing that I’ve been replenishing my sodium stores with these.

These salty ‘n sweet, peanut buttery, caramely, crunchy little bars have hit the replenishment spot.

They have so many of my favorite elements rolled into one, there’s tons of texture, and they’re no-bake.

They’re as easy as making homemade caramel sauce in the microwave, infusing it with peanut butter, and then pouring the salted caramel over two of my favorite ingredients: cereal and pretzels.

Corn Pops happened to be in stock and on store shelves here in Aruba (never know what you’re going to get from one day to the next) and then I saw the Combos while I was in the checkout line and knew I had to do something with them. Either separately or together and I opted for together.

Does anyone else want to admit to trying to open up Combos like an Oreo, and rather than licking off frosting, licking off cheese? Okay, I’ll admit to that but probably shouldn’t.

Corn Pops and Combos. That screams either childhood memories of foods that only Grandma would give me or cold cereal and pretzels for dinner in my dorm room.

You could probably make these bars in a dorm room as long as you have a microwave and since all the other ingredients, for better or worse, are shelf stable for about 9 years, you’d be the most popular student on your floor.

They’re a little bit too easy to make, actually.

Everything tastes better with a copious chocolate drizzle and I not only need to replenish my sodium stores, but also my chocolate stores, daily.

Chocolate has a way of balancing sweet food and balancing salty food.  It complements caramel, and it brings out the best in peanut butter. Heck, chocolate always brings out the best in me.

As the bars set up and cool in the pan, the salted caramel and peanut butter sauce sinks to the bottom and when you flip one over, you can really see what kind of treat you’re in for.

Isn’t that just a sticky, glistening, beautiful mess?

When biting through the layers, from the crunchy ‘n sweet Pops to the crunchy ‘n salty Combos to the firm chocolate, you’ll be in texture heaven, especially if you love crunchy foods and enjoy lots of texture going on like I do.

The soft, gooey, slightly salty caramel and peanut butter sauce envelops the cereal and pretzels and serves to glues the bars together and is definitely worth getting sticky hands for. That’s what napkins are for.

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Combos Pretzel and Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Bars (no-bake)

Makes one 8-by-8-inch pan, about 9 squares

3 cups Corn Pops cereal

2 cup Combos pretzels (one 7-ounce bag, I used Cheddar Cheese flavor)

1 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter

2/3 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted for drizzling

Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside. In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, add the peanut butter, corn syrup, sugars, and microwave on high power to melt, about 30 seconds. Stop and stir to combine and heat in 10-second bursts until mixture has melted and can be stirred smooth. Add vanilla, salt, and stir to combine. Add the cereal, Combos, and stir to coat. Pour the mixture into prepared pan and smooth it with a spatula; set aside.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, add the chocolate chips and heat on high power to melt, about 1 minute. Stop and stir to combine. Heat in 10-second bursts until chips have melted and can be stirred smooth. Drizzle chocolate over the bars with a spoon. Place pan in the freezer for 1 hour to allow bars to set up, or allow them to set up at room temperature for at least two hours, before slicing and serving. Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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Some of my favorite salty ‘n sweet recipes:

Cinnamon Sugar Chocolate Pretzels (no-bake, vegan, GF)

Chocolate Saltine Toffee

Candy Corn Cookie Dough Pretzel Bites (no-bake)

Vanilla Cake Batter and White Chocolate Chip Caramel Corn

Buttery Toasted Captain Crunchies (Vegan & GF options)

Peanut Butter Chex Mix, aka “Puppy Chow” (vegan, GF)

White Chocolate Vanilla Peanut Butter Puppy Chow (GF)

Do you like salty ‘n sweet combos?

I definitely have more of a sweet tooth than a salty palate, but here in Aruba and cracking a sweat doing nothing, salty foods taste extra good. And of course, gooey desserts with caramel and peanut butter don’t hurt.

If you have any easy, salty ‘n sweet, or just plain good snacky recipes, feel free to link them up.

Thanks for the Capresso 12-Cup Stainless Steel Coffee Maker Giveaway entries

Thanks for the Capresso 12-Cup Coffee Maker Giveaway entries

   

71 Responses to “Combos Pretzel and Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Bars”

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    sally @ sallys baking addiction — August 23, 2012 at 3:28 am

    Averie, my dearest! Leave it to you to make what could be… the best no bake dessert i’ve ever seen. Seriously. I love love love salty sweet and pretzels with my chocolate (DUH!). The CHEDDAR CHEESE combos in this take the cake, though. They are my favorite kind! It’s like how Liz once added Doritos to brownies before. OR like potato chips in cookies! (I still have to try that!) Cheese/chocolate/PB/caramel/crunchy pretzels/and sweet crunchy Pops. What a killer combination. Were they hard to remove from the pan? I made caramel no bake dessert sort of like this last year and I couldn’t remove them from the pan at all. I used nonstick spray – not foil or anything.

    I honestly feel like I could eat that entire pan. Esp after a long run… nothing is better than salty/sweet. I may request you send me some for after my half marathon lol ;)

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 7:32 am

      the whole time I was making these, shooting & editing them, was thinking of you the ENTIRE time. Crunchy, salty ‘n sweet, with pretzels. Pan removal – I line all my pans with foil and then spray that and so no, not a biggie, it just peels right off. Anything also with peanut butter in the sauce, b/c of the fat and the oil in it, makes it less prone to sticking (but also less prone to setting up) which is where the corn syrup comes in and that’s soooo sticky. This is just a foil saves your life recipe b/c of absolutely effortless cleanup. I think without foil you’d be fine, too, but I need to be able to lift the whole thing out of the pan for photography purposes and make clean cuts :)

      Reply

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    Aimee @ ShugarySweets — August 23, 2012 at 3:39 am

    I love combos. One of my favorite gas station snacks EVER! These bars look awesome! Great combo of flavors (haha, pun intended)!!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 7:29 am

      gas station snacks are pretty much awesome – I will admit to that :)

      Reply

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    Paula — August 23, 2012 at 4:12 am

    My stepdaughter started college Monday so I think I’ll pass this on to her! I love a little salt with caramel and chocolate. I always chuckle a little (in amazement) when I see a recipe with so many different things going on–mainly because I don’t think I could come up with such a combo on my own. That kind of creativity always makes me want to try the recipe…and I definitely want to try this! I can really see how all the flavors will be so good together.

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 7:28 am

      Salty ‘n sweet almost means there has to be crunch. And these days, rice krispies or crushed up Ritz crackers although fine, needed more of an edge – and I ‘shop locally’, meaning I buy what’s local and in the stores :) You never know what you’re going to get from amazing papaya to cheesy Combos from one day to the next!

      Reply

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    Heather (Where's the Beach) — August 23, 2012 at 5:46 am

    Now you’re just teasing me! I used to LOVE those Combos the ones with PB. How fantastic would those bars be with the PB filling too. I do like salty/sweet. Nice balance of flavors.

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 7:26 am

      And if only they had those here BUT the cheesy factor was quite awesome in this application!

      Reply

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    Katie — August 23, 2012 at 5:49 am

    This is a total blast from the past!! I used to eat combos for lunch every day in middle school. My mom gave me enough money for the hot lunch, and I always opted for combos and coke. Not the healthiest “meal”, but I was a teenager, and I didn’t care. I definitely tried to eat them that way!

    These bars look great! The corn pops look like peanuts, which would also be awesome with the peanut butter filled pretzels too. You’ve done it again!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 7:26 am

      thanks my friend – these are such a midwest, h.s. or jr. high cafeteria, dorm room, or 20something single girl dinner – between the cold cereal and the combos, there is plenty of memories involved…and your memory sounds eerily similar to my own!

      Reply

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    vanillasugarblog — August 23, 2012 at 6:05 am

    I love making with combo’s
    Just made the ice cream with them

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 7:24 am

      Omg yes you did! Forgot about that and how good it would taste right now!

      Reply

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    Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust — August 23, 2012 at 7:08 am

    You can make caramel in the MICROWAVE? I’m in awe of you Averie! Totally making that.

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 7:24 am

      You can make just about anything in the microwave if you do it right! Trust me, it’s so hot here, I have no dishwasher and I have a stove and oven that takes forever to heat up and in the process heats up my house for like 6 hours and so I am quite creative with the ole microwave :)

      Reply

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    Anna @ On Anna's Plate — August 23, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Now this is a combo (ha) that I never would have thought of. Wowza!!

    Reply

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    marla — August 23, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Averie, these bars look GREAT!! Especially with all that extra chocolate on top :)

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      It aint gonna make the food sites if it doesn’t at least have that going for it. All that orange and yellow food was not really….the best to look at :)

      Reply

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    Suzanne — August 23, 2012 at 8:15 am

    YOU ARE KILLING ME! YUM YUM YUM YUM! And there goes my “healthy eating” plan……lol

    Ill be making these for the grandbabies!

    Reply

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    Hayley @ The Domestic Rebel — August 23, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Oh. My. Goodness. Averie, this is easily the craziest yet coolest desserts I’ve ever seen. I never would have thought to pair cheese pretzels with caramel and peanut butter and chocolate, but holy cow, it looks INCREDIBLE! I can taste it now–salty, but not overpoweringly so, and sweet and sticky from the caramel and peanut butter…heaven in my mouth! I’m glad you went for it when you saw the Pops and Combos because I never would have thought of this and I’m glad you did!

    Reply

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    Liz (formerly VeggieGirl) — August 23, 2012 at 8:34 am

    I laughed when you said you could probably make these in a dorm room, since Corn Pops and Combos were always found in frat houses on campus, hahaha :D

    Reply

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    katie @ KatieDid — August 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

    combos were the only snack food I’d buy on pit stops during road trips as a kid. Always cheese. Sometimes the pretzel ones. Oh my you have me craving them now in all their artificial cheesy goodness.

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      all their artificial cheesy goodness = YES and it’s a beautiful thing :)

      Reply

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    Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy — August 23, 2012 at 8:44 am

    holy cow those look amazing!!! I love the flavor combination – sweet and salty and fabulous!

    Reply

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    Meagan @ Scarletta Bakes — August 23, 2012 at 8:57 am

    It’s like you made these just for me. I have been going NUTS for salty/sweet stuff – combos brings me back to the olden days when I used to sneak them for an after school snack. Now I’ll be sneaking these bars. Just amazing.

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      We can trade – you make me the horchata cookies (nice job on FG, they were killin’ it!) and I’ll make these for you. I get the better end of that trade :)

      Reply

      • Meagan replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 1:03 pm

        Deal. What’s FG? I’m going to buy my new Magamix this weekend based on your reco!!

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    Laura (Tutti Dolci) — August 23, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Salty-sweet combos are the best!!

    Reply

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    kelley {mountain mama cooks} — August 23, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Averie- this looks like delicious little crack squares. I could do some serious damage. SERIOUS DAMAGE.

    Reply

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    j3nn — August 23, 2012 at 10:22 am

    WOW! I LOVE sweet + salty, especially salty. These look like a dream bar. I’m drooling! Nice food fantasy for sure. :)

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      Oh god that’s right, you are in the throes of food elimination and the GAPS. Girl, I don’t even know how you read blogs in the middle of it all! HUGS!!

      Reply

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    bakerbynature — August 23, 2012 at 10:30 am

    You amaze me with all these crazy-good flavor combinations!!!

    Reply

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    Laura Dembowski — August 23, 2012 at 10:50 am

    The sauce on the bottom of those bars looks out of this world :) And I am once again thrilled to know I’m not the only person who dissects my food before consuming it! Though I’m not typically a sweet and salty kind of girl, I just posted a sweet and salty treat on my blog. Here’s the link if you want to look: http://piesandplots.net/caramel-cheerio-treats/ They’re no bake too!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      Well as a blogger I like to WRITE about the food; what it tasted like, the texture, the flavors, paint a picture. Not like talk about my dog or my kid or my shoes — all lovely but ya know!

      Reply

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    Meghan — August 23, 2012 at 11:33 am

    I could do some serious damage here girl! :) Definitely a sticky, beautiful mess! Love the sweet & salty combo!

    Reply

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    Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts — August 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    My husband would love these! He is a huge sweet and salty fan, and Combo’s are his favorite snack!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      well you can make his day in about 10 mins with a pan of them :)

      Reply

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    Christina @ The Beautiful Balance — August 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    WOW! Such an original recipe, I don’t think anyone would think to turn Combos into a dessert!

    Reply

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    Jackie @ The Beeroness — August 23, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    This totally kicks “Microwave Mug Cakes” ass. Microwave caramel is brilliant. I made beer toffee with stout infused chocolate and pretzels and I still can’t stop thinking about it. This looks just as good.

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      yes it does re the mugcake – they are fine (Ive made one and posted about it before) but this is just 100x better! Your beer toffee? Omg delish!

      Reply

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    Marina@Picnic at Marina — August 23, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Yes, sweet and salty is for me as it balances sweetness to the point that I can eat…:) I don’t remember actually when I last had caramel or something with it! I like those corn pops, need to visit that section of a grocery store, haven’t been there in a very long time!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      Lol – when you are in a foreign grocery store and you see English and American packaging, the eye and the hand just gravitate to picking up those items I think!

      Reply

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    Michele Sparrow — August 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Blast from the past! Corn Pops were a staple in our house growing up! I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Combos, though. They look great! I mean, cheese and pretzels rolled into one little snacky bite? Yep! Sounds great. Those bars look awesome. I love the combo of salty and sweet; it’s just so good. Sadly, with the corn allergy in our house, we will have to forgo trying it ourselves, but maybe for a potluck?! :-)

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      you’ve never heard of combos? they are like the ultimate 2am snack after a late night or a gas station/road trip snack….they come with all different kinds of filling from cheese to PB to ranch, etc Highly processed and oh, so good :) You could totally swap the corn pops out for rice krispies or golden grahams, cheerios, etc…will be just fine!

      Reply

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    Liz (Little Bitty Bakes) — August 23, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Ohhh yeah!! You took sweet ‘n salty, and outside-the-box type recipes, and you really went there! Love that :) And I used to LOVE Combos!! I gotta go find some!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      your doritos creation STILL speaks to me, girl…I need to try it!

      Reply

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    Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers — August 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    I have to tell you I am so glad we are not neighbors! I would be at your house everyday looking for sweet handouts! These bars look amazing! I need to make them, just so I can try one! Do you think you could freeze them? Probably not with the corn pops. I just know it would be so dangerous having a big batch of these in my house!!! I have no self control!!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 23rd, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      I stored them in the freezer here in Aruba – no problem whatsoever. I store 99% of what I make in the freezer without issue, ever. Go for it!

      Reply

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    Blair — August 23, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    ..I am so grossed out by that combination.

    Reply

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    sarah — August 24, 2012 at 4:21 am

    Combos are my secret addiction! These look really awesome. I have to say, ninety nine poinr nine percent of the time i like sweet over salty, probably thanks to the existence of chocolate, but my sweet salty favorite combo is yogurt covered pretzels.

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 24th, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      yogurt covered pretzels are so good and if you love combos, hope you try these!

      Reply

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    Jen @ Savory Simple — August 24, 2012 at 5:03 am

    Sweet and salty is the best! I haven’t had Combos in years but I can remember the flavor so clearly.

    Reply

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    Bree — August 24, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Averie these look divine!

    Reply

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    Elizabeth@ Food Ramblings — August 24, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I’m in love…seems so wrong but so right :)

    Reply

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    Stephanie @ Macaroni and Cheesecake — August 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    You. are. a. genius!!! I LOVE combos and using them in these salty/sweet treats are just amazing!

    Reply

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    Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) — August 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Sweet and salty combos are my favourite!

    Reply

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    Hannah — August 25, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Averie! These are absolutely ridiculous, and I mean that in the best way possible. I’ve done the pretzel-and-peanut butter sweets before, but never thought about cheesy pretzels! Oh, now I’m so curious but I can already see how the flavors would meld into something wonderfully addictive. I’ll have to get vegan cheese crackers (Eco-Planet makes some that are sort of like cheese nips) and do a modified version. :)

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 25th, 2012 at 8:50 am

      they do meld into something wonderfully addictive! And yes they are ridiculous on so many levels :)

      Reply

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    Christine (The Raw Project) — August 25, 2012 at 8:27 am

    These look crazy good, awesome job. I’m a total fan of salty and sweet on sweltering days too, especially after a long run.

    Reply

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    luvwhatyoudo — August 25, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    I don’t know the last time I ate combos. Do they still make the pizza version? I bet these bars are as good as they look!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — August 25th, 2012 at 7:33 pm

      YES they do – and I had them in my hand but put them back!

      Reply

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    Hannah — August 26, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    You are a wild temptress of all things sweetly magical.

    Reply

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    Sabrina Rose — July 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    You are a sweet genius. I can’t wait to make these!

    Reply

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