Caramel Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars
Peanut butter and jelly is one of those flavor combinations that I have always loved. Really, who doesn’t love PB & J?
PB & J sandwiches may be accused of being a little on the boring side. So why not make PB & J dessert bars.
These are not boring.
I noticed that she had a recipe for PB & J Oat Bars and that got my wheels turning.
Her recipe inspired me to start working on my version of Caramel PB & J Bars.
My version doesn’t contain eggs, peanut flour, added oil, or whole wheat flour and I used the jelly I had on hand which happened to be peach.
And oh yes, I used more sugar than Heather did. Surprise, surprise.
I love the big jelly
I also had a little jar of caramel sauce hiding out in the fridge that caught my eye and I decided to drizzle that in before I baked these.
That was one of my better impulse moves in the kitchen because it added richness, sweetness, and just a gooey-ness that worked oh so well.
Move over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and please make room for PB & J bars.
Caramel Peanut Butter & Jelly & Bars (Gluten-Free, Vegan; See Below)
Base & Top Layers
1/4 c butter, melted (margarine or Earth Balance to keep vegan)
3/4 c peanut butter, melted
1 1/4 c brown sugar, packed
2/3 c white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (increase to taste, I used 2 tsp)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 c oats (whole rolled, not quick cook. Use certified GF oats if desired)
1/2 c jelly (jam, preserves; use whatever flavor you have on hand and like. I used apricot)
1/4 c caramel sauce, optional (I used caramel ice cream topping; or try homemade Caramel Sauce. Increase the caramel sauce amount to 1/3 c to 1/2 c if you love caramel or omit if you don’t have any on hand)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350F. In a large microwave-safe bowl, add the butter and microwave to melt it, about 60-75 seconds. Add the peanut butter and microwave again for about 30-45 seconds. Stir to combine. You will have a very runny liquid.
Add the sugars, cinnamon, vanilla extract and stir to combine. You will have a fairly thick paste.
Stir in the oats. It will seem crumbly and messy and may not appear to combine well; that’s ok.
Use between two-thirds or three-fourths of the batter mixture (just eyeball it) and press it into a foil-lined and spayed 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 pan. Press firmly and really pack it down to create the base layer. The dough will begin to combine and pack in easily thanks to the peanut butter and butter.
Spread the jelly over the top of the base layer.
Drizzle the caramel sauce over the top.
Take remaining batter mixture and crumble lightly over the top.
Bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. The jelly and caramel that’s peeking through and on the edges will be bubbling. The bars may still look underdone, but that’s ok because they will continue to set up as they cool. Allow to cool very well before slicing.
Store extras on the countertop, refrigerator, or in the freezer for long term storage.
Optional add in’s to the mix before baking: Raisins, nuts, chocolate/white/peanut butter chips to the mixture. I’d suggest starting with 1/3 to 1/2 c of add-ins and going from there based on taste preference.
Optional after baking: Drizzle top with melted peanut butter and/or more jelly and/or more caramel sauce, add whipped cream before serving.
Note: To keep vegan, use a vegan caramel-inspired sauce or google “vegan caramel sauce” to make your own at home
Scott proclaimed these the best dessert I’ve ever made. Because I knew we were going to be in Aruba for December, I had to make this recipe in mid-November. And he’s still talking about these bars almost a month later.
At least he’s consistent because all of his favorites have:
He loved the Caramel Apple Bars (GF with Vegan adaptations)
And the Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars (Vegan, GF) were a hit.
What I really liked about the PB & J Bars is that the base layer got crispy and dense and that was balanced with the squishy jelly-caramel layer.
You can use any kind of jelly you have on hand and you don’t have to add the caramel, but if you have it on hand, it’s a nice touch.
And it’s a creative way to use up your condiment collection that takes over the bottom shelf of your fridge. Sound familiar?
The top layer was a classic crumble topping layer.
I have a thing for crumbles.
Even though the the bottom and top layers have a different texture to them and feel differently in your mouth when you’re chewing them, the dough mixture is the same.
It comes down to whether you pack it down or crumble it lightly over the top before baking. Not having to make separate doughs was a time saver I liked.
And if PB & J is your thing, I can guarantee you’ll like these.
They’re like PB & J sandwiches. Only better.
1. Do you like the combo of PB & J?
I love PB & J, yes.
2. Do you have a favorite type of jelly/jam or a favorite type of nut butter?
If I would have had strawberry or grape jelly on hand, I would have used that.
I may have omitted the caramel sauce addition had I used grape jelly because I think caramel goes better with apple, orange, apricot, mango or those types of jellies and jams.
Then again, maybe not. Caramel sauce and caramel goes with pretty much anything for me.
Fave nut butter for me is TJ’s Sunflower Seed Butter, their new Speculoos Butter, or good old fashioned peanut butter will always be a fave.
Have a great week!