Salted Caramel and Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

I normally don’t like nuts in desserts, but I recant everything I’ve ever said after these.

They’re some of the best bars I’ve ever made.

To top it off, I don’t even really like pecan pie but the inspiration for the bars started after trying a rich, buttery, chewy caramel with nuts from See’s Candies, and I’ve always loved their chocolate-coated walnut chews.

The pecan pie bars combine rich, gooey, homemade salted caramel filling with chocolate, there’s texture and crunch from the nuts, and the soft, tender shortbread crust is the perfect base for it all.

The bars are thick, rich, decadent, filling, salty-and-sweet. They’re wonderfully satisfying, easy, no mixer is necessary and I always prefer making pie bars to actual pie. So much easier.

To make the shortbread crust, I used the same crust I created for The Best Lemon Bars and Peanut Butter Caramel Twix Bars. A bit of cornstarch keeps the crust tender enough so when you bite down, it isn’t rock hard, nor does it give way and crumble.

The crust is hearty enough to stand up to a literal pound of nuts, chocolate, and salted caramel sauce, while staying perfectly flaky and not tasting too dense or heavy.

Then I sprinkled on Trader Joe’s roasted salted pecans and chocolate chips. If your pecans are raw, toast them for 5 to 10 minutes in a 400F oven for added flavor and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

Making the salted caramel sauce is as easy as melting together butter, cream, brown sugar, and stirring in vanilla and salt. So easy and it’s done in the microwave in two minutes.

As the bars bake, the caramel sauce thickens and the finished bars are more caramely than traditional pecan pie filling, which I call ‘pie goo’. The bars have some goo, but there’s plenty of luscious, drippy, salted caramel.

The bars aren’t overly sweet, but they are ridiculously rich. They are worth all the cardio you’ll need to do.

They are good enough to forever change my mind about nuts in desserts and pecan pie.

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

The bars are one of my all-time favorites, even if you’re not a huge pecan pie fan. They’re thick, rich, decadent, filling, salty-and-sweet. The pecans add amazing texture, crunch, and are a great contrast to the soft, tender shortbread crust, homemade salted caramel sauce, and chocolate. The bars are wonderfully satisfying, easy, no mixer is necessary, and are easier than making pie. I used roasted salted pecans and if yours are raw, toast them for 5 to 10 minutes in a 400F oven for enhanced flavor and sprinkle with a pinch of salt before using them in the recipe. While the bars bake, the easy caramel sauce made in the microwave thickens and the finished bars are loaded with luscious, drippy, salted caramel.

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Ingredients:

Crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft (1 stick)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch salt, optional and to taste
Filling
8 ounces roasted salted pecans, halves or pieces okay; about 2 cups (I used Trader Joe’s roasted salted halves)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup whipping cream or heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside. I strongly urge lining the pan with foil for easier cleanup.
  2. Crust – In a large bowl, combine all crust ingredients and using two forks or your hands (I find hands easier), cut butter into dry ingredients until evenly distributed and pea-sized lumps and sandy bits form. The softer the butter is, the quicker and easier it is.
  3. Turn mixture out into prepared pan and pack down firmly with a spatula or hands to create an even, uniform, flat crust layer.
  4. Filling – Evenly sprinkle the pecans.
  5. Evenly sprinkle with the chocolate chips; set pan aside.
  6. In a large, microwave-safe bowl, combine 1/2 cup butter, brown sugar, whipping cream, and heat on high power for 1 minute to melt.
  7. Remove bowl from micro, and whisk until mixture is smooth; it’s okay if butter hasn’t completely melted.
  8. Return bowl to microwave and heat for 1 minute on high power.
  9. Remove bowl from micro, and whisk until mixture is smooth.
  10. Whisk in the vanilla and salt.
  11. Slowly and evenly pour the caramel sauce over the chocolate chips and pecans.
  12. Place pan on a cookie sheet (as insurance against overflow) and bake for about 30 to 32 minutes, or until caramel is bubbling vigorously around edges, with bubbling to a lesser degree in center. Allow bars to cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 3 hours, or overnight (cover with a piece of foil and/or put pan inside large Ziplock), before slicing and serving. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
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