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Carmelitas — For the serious caramel lover, these soft and chewy layered bars are dripping with caramel and stuffed with chocolate! Easy one-bowl, no-mixer recipe that everyone loves!
The Best Carmelitas Recipe
These oatmeal caramel bars are like the bubblegum with the squishy, squirty center that oozes when you chomp down. Except it’s rich, creamy, buttery caramel that squirts in your mouth when you bite down here.
They’re like the softest oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, with a streusel-crumble topping, and more melted caramel than you have napkins for, and that’s beautiful.
I’ve been wanting to (re)make these bars for years, and I’m so glad I did. They’re a no-mixer, layered bar and are an adaptation of my early 2012 Caramel and Chocolate Gooey Bars.
In this version, I tinkered with the flour and oat ratio, increasing the flour and decreasing the oats slightly, so the bars hold together better.
Even after the bars are fully cooled, they’re soft, gooey, messy, and full of intense caramel flavor. The butter and brown sugar in the crust-topping mixture caramelize while baking, adding even more caramel flavor.
If you’re easily bothered by desserts that are ‘too sweet or too rich’, I wouldn’t recommend these because they’re both.
However, adding a pinch of salt helps balance the sweetness. I included places in the recipe where you can add salt, to the crust-topping mixture, and/or to the caramel sauce, creating salted caramel sauce.
The semi-sweet chocolate is a great balance to the sweet caramel and chocolate is always welcome in any dessert I’m having.
The oats provide a light amount of texture and chewiness to the otherwise buttery-soft bars, just oozing with caramel everywhere. They aren’t called carmelitas for nothing.
What’s in Carmelitas?
These oatmeal caramel bars are a cinch to make and require very few ingredients.
- Brown sugar
- Vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour
- Old-fashioned oats
- Baking soda
- Caramel squares
- Heavy cream
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips
How to Make Carmelitas
The crust and topping are made with the same mixture. It’s a buttery, brown sugar, vanilla-infused oatmeal and flour mixture.
Half is pressed into the pan and baked for 10 minutes as the crust, and the other half of the big buttery crumbs are crumbled over the top.
The filling is just caramels and heavy cream melted together. I melted in the micro, but use the stovetop if you prefer.
After baking the crust for 10 minutes, sprinkle with chocolate, drizzle with caramel sauce, and crumble the reserved oatmeal-brown sugar mixture over the top.
Return the pan to the oven and bake until the center is bubbly and the edges are just set and lightly browned.
What Kind of Caramels Should I Buy?
I used Werther’s Baking Caramels. I love these caramels because the wax paper just slides right off making unwrapping 30+ caramels a quick and easy job, rather than caramels with pesky cellophane, which is a huge strugglefest.
Can I Use Caramel Sauce Instead?
I haven’t tried using jarred caramel sauce, but I have a feeling a thick, higher quality jarred sauce would be fine. If anyone tries Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Sauce, let me know how it goes. That would be my first choice if I wasn’t melted caramels with cream.
Can I Use Instant Oats Instead of Rolled?
No! You must use old-fashioned oats (aka rolled oats) in this recipe. Instant or quick cooking oats are too powdery and won’t give you the right consistency.
Can I Double This Recipe?
Yes, simply double the ingredients and bake in a 9×13-inch pan.
How to Store These Bars
Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Can I Freeze These Bars?
Yes! They can be frozen for up to 4 months. To thaw, place on your counter overnight.
Tips for Making Carmelita Bars
It’s very important to allow the bars to cool completely before slicing. It can up to take 4 hours, or overnight, at room temp.
You can speed it along by placing pan in the fridge, but I made them in the evening, cooled overnight, and they were set by the next morning. However ‘set’ is a relative term. You can see they’re still plenty drippy and gooey.
If you slice the bars before they’ve cooled completely, you’ll have a literal hot mess with molten caramel and melted chocolate all over. They’ll taste fine (as long as you don’t burn your mouth on hot caramel), but you’ll have no chance for clean cuts or pretty bars that stay intact.
Plus, I think bars like this taste better the next day after the flavors have married. The caramel and chocolate also has a chance to soak into all the nooks and crannies of the oats.
- 3/4 cup butter, melted (1 1/2 stick; I use unsalted butter but salted may be used)
- 3/ 4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole-rolled old fashioned oats (not instant or quick cook)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 35 caramel squares, unwrapped (I used Werther’s Originals Baking Caramels which are slightly bigger than cellophane-wrapped caramels; if using those, I recommend using a couple more)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used a combo)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Lining your pan is highly recommended for ease of cleanup due to the stickiness of the caramel; set pan aside.
- In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, add the butter and heat on high power to melt, about 90 seconds.
- Add the brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
- Add the flour, oats, baking soda, optional pinch salt, and stir until combined. Mixture will be quite thick.
- Add half of the mixture to the prepared pan (just eyeball it), and smooth it with spatula or the back of a spoon, to create an even, smooth, flat layer; set remainder aside.
- Bake for 10 minutes. While it bakes, make the caramel sauce.
- In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, combine the caramels, cream, salt, and heat on high power in 60-second bursts to melt caramels, stirring after each burst. It will likely take about 4 to 5 minutes total to melt; heat until mixture can be stirred smooth. Alternatively, combine caramels and cream in a medium saucepan, and heat over medium-low heat to melt, stirring nearly continuously, until mixture can be stirred smooth.
- After 10 minutes, remove pan from the oven and evenly sprinkle with the chocolate.
- Slowly and evenly pour caramel sauce over the chocolate.
- Evenly crumble reserved oatmeal-brown sugar mixture over the top.
- Return pan to oven and bake for about 15 to 18 minutes (I baked 16 1/2), or until edges are lightly browned and center is bubbling slightly.
- Allow bars to cool completely in the pan before slicing and serving, giving the molten caramel time to firm up. This can take up to 4 hours, or overnight, at room temperature. You can speed it up by placing pan in fridge with a sheet of foil over the top to prevent fridge smells. If you don’t wait for bars to cool completely, they’ll be a literal hot mess. They’ll taste fine (don’t burn yourself), but they won’t slice neatly with clean cuts.
To store: Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Recipe adapted from my Caramel and Chocolate Gooey Bars.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1114Total Fat: 40gSaturated Fat: 25gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 440mgCarbohydrates: 192gFiber: 2gSugar: 170gProtein: 5g
More Caramel Dessert Recipes:
Peanut Butter Caramel Twix Bars – They’re like a marriage of Peanut Butter Twix and Tagalongs, in bar form, and they’re irresistible!
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