Dulce de leche is translated as candy of milk or milk candy.
These (candy) bars are translated as one of the richest things I’ve made in 2013, and one of the best.
If you’re the type of person who complains about desserts being too sweet or too rich, stop reading now because these bars are both.
Dulce de leche is similar in texture and thickness to thick homemade caramel sauce, but rather than being made from butter, brown sugar, and cream like caramel sauce, it’s made by cooking sweetened condensed milk. It’s caramely, sweet, rich, and smooth.
I’ve always loved Seven Layer Bars (Hello Dolly Bars) and these bars are a riff on those. They’re a five layer bar made with shredded coconut, chocolate and white chocolate chips, and rather than sweetened condensed milk, I used dulce de leche.
I’m at my home in Aruba where I spend every December and August, and being only 10 miles from the equator, dulce de leche fits right in.
But coming up with these felt like an episode of Chopped. Here’s what went down in my head.
You must use: At least 1 of the 3 bags of shredded coconut that you’ve somehow accumulated. You must use an almost expired can of dulce de leche. You cannot use cocoa powder because there’s not enough left to do anything with. You cannot bake cookies or muffins because your oven sucks. You must use some of at least two of the partially-used bags of white/chocolate/peanut butter/butterscotch chips. You cannot make a no-bake bar because you make too many of those already.
Only one bowl is dirtied, no mixer used, and they take 5 minutes to get from cupboard to oven.
The base layer is a stick of melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and flour that’s stirred together and pressed into a pan. It’s not quick as thick as cookie dough, but nearly.
The brown sugar and butter caramelize while baking, intensifying and adding to the overall deep caramel flavor in the bars.
Then sprinkle on white chocolate chips, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, and top with half of one can of dulce de leche. You can buy dulce de leche in many grocery stores, including Eagle or Nestle brands, Williams-Sonoma makes one, or try La Salamandra online.
Make your own by submerging 1 unopened can of sweetened condensed milk into a boiling pot of water for 3 to 4 hours. Voila, dulce de leche.
If you absolutely don’t want to be bothered, you can substitute with sweetened condensed milk, but you’ll miss out on the lovely caramel flavor and thick, rich texture. Or you could try using half caramel sauce, half sweetened condensed milk.
Biting into the bars is a texture and flavor lovers’ dream.
The dulce de leche bubbles and caramelizes in the oven, turns thicker, and becomes bronzed.
The white chocolate chips underneath are creamy, melty, and complement the dulce de leche and the coconut. The coconut toasts slightly while baking, but doesn’t get crispy because it’s covered by the golden dulce de leche layer.
The brown sugar cookie dough base firms up and add some heft, firmness, chewiness, and structure to the softer, gooier topping layer.
I’m grateful for forcing Chopped onto myself because otherwise I never would have come up with these.
And I’m really glad I did. They’re worth running in the heat for.
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Dulce de Leche Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars
These rich, soft, gooey, five layer bars are a riff on Seven Layer Bars. They’re made with shredded coconut, chocolate and white chocolate chips, and rather than sweetened condensed milk, use dulce de leche. It’s thick, rich, caramely and available in many grocery stores, online, or make your own (see blog post). The recipe calls for half of one can, and the unused portion can be used as ice cream topping, smeared on toast, as a fruit dip, in your coffee or tea, or double the recipe and bake in a 9×13 pan, thereby using the whole can. The dulce de leche caramelizes and turns golden and bubbly, but keep an eye on bars and lower oven temp to 325F or tent pan with foil if yours is browning a bit too quickly or too much. The bars are a texture lovers’ dream, and they’re made in own bowl, no mixer, in less than 5 minutes. Cooling the bars overnight is recommended.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- pinch salt, optional and to taste
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (butterscotch or peanut butter chips may be substituted)
- 1 cup loosely packed sweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- half of one 14-ounce can dulce de leche (make your own
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside. Lining your pan is mandatory so bars don’t stick and for cleanup ease.
- In a medium microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
- Add the brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
- Add the flour, optional salt, and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.
- Turn mixture out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula and spreading mixture into corners.
- Evenly sprinkle with white chocolate chips.
- Evenly sprinkle with coconut.
- Evenly sprinkle with chocolate chips.
- Pour or scoop out about half the can of dulce de leche and evenly spread it with a knife or spatula over the chocolate chips. Take your time and use a light hand as to not disturb the underneath layers. It doesn’t have to cover all crevices because it spreads some as it bakes.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, or until dulce de leche is golden, bubbly, and bars show signs of being set around the edges. The coconut will look crispy at the edges. Because ovens, ingredients, and climates vary, use your judgment when your bars are done. Watch your bars, not the number on the clock. If at any time your dulce de leche layer seems to be browning too fast, turn your oven down to 325F and/or cover the pan with a sheet of foil.
- Allow bars to set up for at least 2 hours, or overnight (strongly recommended), before slicing and serving. The butter in the base, the natural coconut oil, and the milkfat in the dulce de leche all seep out while baking, but reabsorb as the bars cool over time. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 337Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 84mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 1gSugar: 35gProtein: 4g
Coconut White Chocolate Chip Blondies
Magic Eight Bars – Like Seven Layer Bars, but with 8
Peanut Butter Caramel Twix Bars (almost no-bake) – One of the favorite 2013 bars
Nutella-Swirled Peanut Butter Chip Blondies – Made these the last time I was in Aruba and they turned into a Pinterest hit
Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
Salted Caramel Pretzel Blondies
Browned Butter Caramel and Butterscotch Bars
Cookie Butter Funfetti Triple Chip Bars
Coconut Peanut Butter Magic Cake Bars
10-Minute Homemade Hot Fudge (GF) – Never buy storebought again
Have you tried dulce de leche?
Oh my goodness! I made a version of these bars with toasted coconut, chopped pecans, and leftover chocolate Halloween candies. Cut up 1/2″ size bites of milky way, snickers, kit kat, peanut butter cups, almond joy, and 3 musketeers. They were to die for! Thanks so much for posting this recipe! I forgot to bookmark it, ended up making some other dulce de leche bar that was 5 stars and they didn’t taste as wonderful as these. I’m going to make these again with leftover Easter candies. Mmmm…
Thanks for the 5 star review and glad you were able to use up your Halloween candy! Glad you loved these and will make them again with Easter candy!
I will say, I can occasionally be that person where food is too sweet and rich, BUT… my curiosity won and I read through the page to get to the recipe. I actually enjoyed reading what you had to say, so thanks for being interesting without being obnoxious. I just made these bars, except I had no white not-chocolate chips, so I looked through the cabinets and came up with my 4 year old’s leftover chocolatey Halloween candy, marshmallows, pecans, and candied ginger as my choices. The Halloween candy won out, as well as pecans, coconut, and semi sweet chocolate chips. I’m putting in the pecans because I know they will keep the non-nut eaters away. I also don’t feel like sharing with anyone. =) Thanks again for the excellent recipe! The smell of it when I checked it at 15 minutes was the most heavenly breath of oven air… Cheers!
I’m glad these turned out excellent for you! And were able to clean out your cupboards a little too :)
BTW, I have a bucket list of “Averie Recipes” to make before school starts … I have a LONG way to go!
I had this burning desire to make these the past few days but dulce de leche, let alone sweetened condensed milk is kind of hard to get here in Kenya. Anyway, I decided, screw that one missing ingredient, I’ll just replace it with Homemade Caramel Sauce! These were freaking amazing- the caramel had a sweet, gooey taste backed up by the slightly toasted caramel tones; the white chocolate chips sealed the deal…I wish I had used all white chocolate instead of 1/2 white, 1/2 semi-sweet but there’s always next time! So although these bars *may* have tasted better with dulce de leche- caramel sauce did the job for me. LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe.
Well dulce de leche and caramel sauce are pretty closely related, actually! D de L is milkier but it’s caramelized sweet milk; and caramel sauce is caramelized cream and butter. So I think your swap was an excellent one! So glad you made and enjoyed them and I love that you have a big list of recipes you want to make! Thanks for reading all the way from Kenya!!
I love these ingredients! Luckily, I’m not afraid of a little sugar!
Wow! These look fantastic. So gooey and sweet!
I have a lot of “Chopped” kitchen moments too! (It’s kind of fun…as long as I’m fueled with coffee.) These bars look deadly! *love*
they look amazing!
These look so delicious!! I love dulce de leche, love coconut, love chocolate…put it all together..! :)
Seriously can’t even tell you how much I want one of these right now!
I loooooooove dulce de leche! These bars look incredible, Averie!
Well thank you! :)
OK Ms Aruba these bars are very ooey and gooey.
That should be the next installment for your book: Ooey & Gooey Goodness!
LOL…there is a topic, but it’s not that. I wish though :)
SO ooey and gooey and caramel-yyyyyy!!!
Well, whether you’re in Aruba or Cali your pics are still stunning.
Thanks, Jenn! I really hate my pics down here but nothing I can do. The light is just weird and ultra golden in my house..but goes with the warm, caramely vibe I guess :)
These bars are perfection and all I ever wanted in a bar!!
I’m going to go buy dulce de leche by the gallon so I’ll have the excuse of having to use it up. These are INCREDIBLE. And I thought gooey bars, seven layers, etc. couldn’t get any better. I can’t decide if it is a good thing that you proved me wrong! :)
Now these are my kind of bar! They look amazing!
Absolutely amazing! I don’t have much of a sweet t0oth, but having grown up in Brazil with my Mom boiling the sweetened condensed milk in the pressure cooker to make “doce de leite” (that’s Portuguese… :-) this concoction of yours made me dream… and some of those in your round up collection are equally amazing!
Growing up in Brazil, then you know exactly what great dulce de leche inspired desserts are like, no doubt! I love that story about your mom – great memories for you I’m sure :)
Dude, how perfect are these bars? And dulce de leche – my ultimate weakness! I’ve only made dulce de leche once in the slow cooker (best method ever!) but I can’t make it again because once it’s made, I can’t stop spooning it on everything!
I have an extra half can (well now, almost none left – LOL) b/c I was just going at that sucker with a spoon :)
These sound like an even yummier version of Girl Scout Samoas! Pinned and added to my must make list.
Girl Scout Samoas = GREAT comparison! They taste a TON like that! I should have called them that (however I do have a recipe for Samaos bars but I think these are even closer in taste!) Thanks for the pin!
Dulce de leche will always remind me of Costa Rica – you could buy it in these solid hunks at the store. It was ubiquitous – more common than sugar even. And DELICIOUS. So much better than caramel or brown sugar or molasses or any combination of those three. There are a lot of “hacks” I’ve read online, but nothing can come close to the real thing.
Solid hunks, wow, I’ve never heard of that! I was in Costa Rica for a month, albeit not cooking and not going to the local grocery stores really intending to cook, but what I wouldn’t give to go back there now, and re-do the month I had there back in 2001. Feels literally, like a lifetime ago. It was :)
Too rich or sweet? Never!!! Just have a smaller piece. These bars look fantastic!
Awesome bars! I am drooling!
I always complain that desserts are too sweet or rich, but damn these look goid. Maybe I can manage a small square often.
You had me at “flooded with dulce de leche” – you can’t go wrong with that!
I love dulce de leche and start to panic when I’m down to my last can/jar at home. These bars look luscious!
Your killing me here! I don’t think it can get much better than this! <3
If someone really did find this too sweet or too rich I suppose they could just eat the dulce de leche. Which is the perfect balance of sweet and rich. GREG
You always crack me up – love it :)
I was literally day dreaming yesterday about being on one of those cooking shows, like chopped, where you are given such random ingredients to work with. I thought how I would never succeed on one of those shows, how fun to force yourself to do it! I might have to try this at home! The dulce de leche looks amazing baked on top of these bars!! Wowzers, defo worth running in the heat!!
Do it! Force some chopped on yourself – it’s a great way to clean out your pantry and make something you never would have anyway!
I’ve only used Dulce de Leche once in baking and I was in love, it’s so much better than caramel especially if you can find the stuff imported from Argentina. These bars look amazing, and I’m very envious that you have heat to run in!! :)
I am too rich and too sweet for my own good. These bars seem perfect for me. I cannot wait to try them.
Averie. These are the best bars ever. And hello, where was my invitation to Aruba? (Kidding. :))
I tried dulce de leche over the summer and fell madly in love. It is so good! The bars look incredible. Kind of like a 7-layer bar, but so much better! I love the cookies base and all the coconut! Pinned of course!
Thanks for pinning & knowing what you like in your desserts, and all the texture/flavor combos you use, I bet you’d love these! And yes 7-layer ish, but with dulce de leche!
Love sweet, rich desserts like this! My mom always gets full when we’re eating a heavy dessert, so I’ve started cutting her piece smaller and mine bigger :). Do you think caramel sauce would work in these instead of dulce de leche?
It would/could work but it won’t lend quite the same creamy factor. If you don’t have dulce de leche, I’d use half caramel sauce and half sweetened condensed milk, that way you’ll kind of get the best of both worlds. And I like your piece-cutting strategy :)
I’ve never tried dulce de leche but its easy to find here. I can imagine how yummy it is and what it does to magic 8 bars….these look rich, gooey and caramel-y. I’m staring out the window at our first few inches of snow and am thinking how much I’d rather be someplace warm where I can throw on shorts to go for a run rather than bundle up to go to the gym!!! I bought about 15# of kabocha yesterday and 2 football sized spag. squash. The browned butter was so good but I also loved the cinnamon-stevia sweet variety too. Enjoy Aruba!
Oh glad to hear you tried both the browned butter and the cinn/sugar/stevia squash combo. Im going thru squash withdrawals here. Been doing sweet potatoes and it’s not really the same but my choices are nothing or butternet that are like $5 per pound. So a normal little b-nut is $15. No thanks :) I need pina colada money. LOL
And yes with the dulce de leche about everything you said on Magic 8 bars!
So pretty and tasty looking! These look great!
I still haven’t gotten round to making dulce de leche! Must do.
I think you’re going to love it!