Salted Caramel Buttery Crumb Bars

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Salted Caramel Buttery Crumb Bars — These salted caramel bars feature a buttery shortbread base and an addicting crumb topping I simply can’t get enough of! Such an easy one-bowl dessert!

Salted Caramel Buttery Crumb Bars - Easy, soft, buttery bars that just melt in your mouth! The salted caramel makes them so irresistible!!!

Shortbread Caramel Bars with Crumb Topping

I love streusel or crumble toppings, and the bigger the crumbles, the better. They’re easier to pick off. Throw in salted caramel, and you’re in for a wonderfully buttery and caramely treat.

These caramel bars are easy to make and you probably have everything on hand to make them now. It’s such a simple ingredients list: butter, sugar, flour, dash of vanilla, and caramel sauce.

The crust and topping are the same mixture, which is a nice time saver. The crust is firm with some chewiness and the crumbles on top add tons of awesome texture. As the bars bake, the caramel sauce intensifies in flavor, and it tastes richer, more buttery, and has a more intense caramel flavor in the finished bars than straight out of the jar.

I was tempted to sprinkle chocolate chips over the caramel filling, but I’m glad I didn’t. Allowing the caramel flavor to shine on its own, and allowing it to perfectly complement the shortbread, was a smart call. Every once in awhile, I don’t miss chocolate.

Sinking your teeth down through all the layers and getting a taste of the caramel filling in the middle is the best. Soft, chewy, and gooey all in one bite.

These caramel crumb bars turned out to be one of those sleeper hits that I didn’t have super high expectations for because the ingredients are so simple, but they turned out to be just that, a sleeper hit. I loved them so much that I needed to promptly donate half the pan.

Salted Caramel Buttery Crumb Bars - Easy, soft, buttery bars that just melt in your mouth! The salted caramel makes them so irresistible!!!

What’s in These Caramel Bars?

To make the shortbread caramel bars with crumb topping, you’ll need: 

  • Unsalted butter
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Granulated sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • All-purpose flour
  • Salted caramel sauce

Salted Caramel Buttery Crumb Bars - Easy, soft, buttery bars that just melt in your mouth! The salted caramel makes them so irresistible!!!

How to Make Shortbread Caramel Bars

To make these salted caramel bars, you’ll first need to cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add in the flour and vanilla and mix until just combined. 

Press one-third of the shortbread mixture into an aluminum foil-lined 8×8-inch pan. Be sure to really pack down the dough. Bake the crust for 20 minutes.

Once out of the oven, pour the salted caramel sauce over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the caramel sauce, then return the bars to the oven. Bake until the top is barely golden browned and there are subtle signs of caramel bubbling.

Once the crumble caramel bars come out of the oven, drizzle them with more salted caramel sauce, then let cool completely before slicing. 

Salted Caramel Buttery Crumb Bars - Easy, soft, buttery bars that just melt in your mouth! The salted caramel makes them so irresistible!!!

Can I Chill These Bars to Make Them Cool Faster? 

Technically, yes. However, baked goods tend to dry out when placed in the fridge so I recommend letting these caramel bars cool on your countertop if possible. 

Can I Freeze Shortbread Caramel Bars? 

Yes, these can be frozen for up to 6 months. 

Salted Caramel Buttery Crumb Bars - Easy, soft, buttery bars that just melt in your mouth! The salted caramel makes them so irresistible!!!

Tips for Making Caramel Bars with Crumb Topping

You can use Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce or store-bought. Just don’t use thin, runny, ice cream sundae sauce. Use a nice thick sauce.

The shortbread dough shouldn’t feel super sticky after you’ve mixed it together. If it seems sticky, add an extra tablespoon or two of flour to make it less so. 

When you take the baked shortbread crust out of the oven, it should still be pale in color and not at all golden. It’s going to be topped with caramel sauce and returned to the oven, so it doesn’t need to be golden brown yet. 

Salted Caramel Buttery Crumb Bars — These salted caramel bars feature a buttery shortbread base and an addicting crumb topping I simply can't get enough of! Such an easy one-bowl dessert!

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4.46 from 48 votes

Salted Caramel Buttery Crumb Bars

By Averie Sunshine
These salted caramel bars feature a buttery shortbread base and an addicting crumb topping I simply can't get enough of! Such an easy one-bowl dessert!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Cooling Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: 9 servings
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Ingredients  

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks, softened
  • ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • heaping 1/2 cup salted caramel sauce, homemade or storebought, or regular caramel sauce + more for drizzling

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  • To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large mixing bowl and electric mixer) combine the butter, sugars, and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, fluffy, and well combined, about 3 minutes.
  • Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until well combined, about 1 minute.
  • Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute. Dough shouldn’t be overly sticky. If yours is sticky (mine was because I baked on a humid day), add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour, or as needed, until dough comes together without feeling sticky, however don’t over-do it or dough could become crumbly.
  • Turn out one-third of the mixture out into prepared pan (err on the side of going over one-third if you’re eyeballing it and unsure), pressing and hard-packing it with your fingers to form a smooth, even crust layer.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. While crust bakes, refrigerate remaining two-thirds of dough.
  • After 20 minutes, remove pan from oven, and evenly pour heaping half cup salted caramel over crust.
  • Evenly crumble reserved dough over the top (it looks like a lot but some sinks down into the caramel layer while baking).
  • Return pan to oven and bake for about 25 to 32 minutes, or until top is barely golden browned and there’s subtle signs of caramel bubbling.
  • Remove pan from oven, lightly and evenly drizzle with salted caramel, and place pan on a wire rack to cool for at least two hours before slicing and serving.

Notes

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 375kcal, Carbohydrates: 44g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 13g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 54mg, Sodium: 19mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 23g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

More Caramel Desserts:

Salted Caramel Maple Pecan Pie Bars — All the flavor of pecan pie minus the work – so easy!! Salted caramel makes everything better!

Salted Caramel Maple Pecan Pie Bars 

Carmelitas — For the serious caramel lover, these soft and chewy bars are dripping with caramel and stuffed with chocolate!

Carmelitas

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars –  You’ll never want plain pecan pie again! Caramel and chocolate makes the bars taste amazing!

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

Caramel Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Gooey Bars — Keep the napkins handy for these soft, gooey bars dripping with the best caramel-peanut butter sauce! 

Caramel Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Gooey Bars - Keep the napkins handy for these soft, gooey bars dripping with the best caramel-peanut butter sauce! So good!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Crumble Bars — These caramel apple cheesecake bars feature a buttery crust that’s topped with cheesecake and spiced apples. After they’re done baking, the bars are drizzled with salted caramel sauce!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Crumble Bars 

Salted Caramel Magic Bars — I have a thing for Magic Bars or Seven Layer Bars as they’re sometimes called. The salted caramel helps balance the sweetness of the other ingredients.

Salted Caramel Magic Bars

Vanilla Bean Caramel Blondies — These very soft, slightly chewy, buttery blondies are topped with the most amazing vanilla-spiked caramel glaze.

Vanilla Bean Caramel Blondies

Salted Caramel Candied Pecan Carmelitas — Biting through the layers of the chewy oatmeal crust, the chocolate chips, the crunchy pecans, the salty-and-sweet caramel sauce that’s gooey and wonderful, and the crisp topping is pure heaven.

Salted Caramel Candied Pecan Carmelitas

About the Author

Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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Please note: I have only made the recipe as written, and cannot give advice or predict what will happen if you change something. If you have a question regarding changing, altering, or making substitutions to the recipe, please check out the FAQ page for more info.

Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. 5 stars
    These are so good. I’ve made them gluten free for family members and as written. I’ve made the caramel sauce and used purchased caramel sauce. It never fails to be delicious, and it’s pretty simple and quick, especially if you buy the caramel.

  2. 5 stars
    These are so good. I’ve made them gluten free for family members and as written. I’ve made the caramel sauce and used purchased caramel sauce. It never fails to be delicious, and it’s pretty simple and quick, especially if you buy the caramel.

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad these turned out so well for you and that you’ve had luck making them GF as well as doing both homemade and purchased caramel!

  3. I make these and they seemed a little greasy. Do you pack down your flour when measuring? I do not and I am wondering if that is the difference.

    1. It’s a recipe with 2 sticks of butter baked in a relatively small pan, plus salted caramel sauce…so yep, they’re on the greasier side.

      I don’t pack flour ever.

  4. I made these this week and my topping melted together instead of staying crumbly like a streusel. But it was still incredibly delicious– just a little less pretty.

  5. These are soooo amazing! I always have to double the recipe because they don’t stick around!! I always make them with the caramel sauce from your site too! Thanks for making such amazing recipes!!! <3

    1. Thanks for the five star review and the nice compliments, I really appreciate it! I’m glad you enjoy the recipes I post!

  6. Thoughts on whether or not cherry pie filling would work in place of the caramel sauce? No drizzle of course. I’ve made these several times (LOVE). Just out of homemade caramel sauce but do have a can of cherry pie filling. :)

    1. Hmmm good question. It would have a completely different flavor but it could work. Depending on the size of the can, you may not need all of it.

  7. 5 stars
    Made this tonight & it came out PERFECT. Used an extra 2 T of flour, as suggested, since we’re high humidity here in Florida. I used my homemade go to caramel recipe & WOW! I’ve tried plenty of caramel bar recipes before & this one’s “the ONE”. Thank you so much for this recipe!!

    1. Thanks for the five star review and glad these came out perfectly! I am glad this is ‘the one’ for you and that you are so pleased!

  8. I made these for a work event and won first place in a dessert contest! I used caramel sweetened condensed milk in the center with sea salt sprinkled on top before the crumb layer. Once done, I drizzled the top with salted caramel ice cream topping. It was apparently a hit!

  9. I followed the directions exactly and I was not very impressed. I used slightly more than 1/3 of the dough for the crust and I ended up with at least 1/3 of unused dough. It tasted dough-y and not very streusel-y. Not sure where I went wrong.

    1. I’d double the recipe if you’re baking in 9×13. Not sure if baking time will change, likely not by much if it does.

  10. I am planning on making these today but want to add peanuts, maybe on the top for final bake. Any advice on doing so?

    1. I love peanuts and peanut butter but this is one dessert where I don’t think they will enhance it due to their really crunchy texture and the soft butteriness of the bars – feel they will distract so I wouldn’t advise. If you still want to use, maybe sprinkle on in last 10 mins of baking

  11. I saw this recipe a few weeks ago, and pinned it for later!  One of my co-worker’s husbands is in the hospital, so when they put up a meal sign-up sheet, I KNEW I had to make these (she and her hubby are both caramel fanatics!).  I decided to make a double batch and bake in two 8×8 pans side by side, so I could share with my own family as well!  I had no time to make the homemade caramel (someday!) but I used store-bought caramel sauce and added sea salt — AMAZING!!!  I also added some sea salt on top, because for me, I like my sweets a little salty for balance.  I think next time I make these, I will add some salt into the dough, because for me it seems to cry out for it.  That, or maybe I’ll use half salted, half unsalted butter next time.  Regardless, this was simple, fun to make, and addictively delicious!!!  Thanks!

    1. Thanks for trying the recipe and glad it came out great for you! Good idea to make a double batch – one to share and one to keep for your family! Salt is such a personal thing and so just salt to taste based on what you prefer.

    1. If you were to try in a 9×13, yes you’d want to double the recipe. I have not tried it personally though.

  12. Haven’t made yet, bu t plan to make tonight. Will  useNestle dulce la lechera caramel and it is quite thick. Should i try and heat the caramel before spreading or should it be alright straight from the can?

    1. You’ll have to use your judgment as to whether to heat it or not as well as with the salt since everyone’s palate and preference for salt is different.

  13. Decadent bars! Simple to make, I even made the homemade caramel sauce the evening before. So delicious, thank you.

    1. Thanks for trying the recipe and glad it came out great for you! And glad you made the homemade caramel, too!

  14. Never thought I’d be saying this, but this had way too much better. I use KA flour, added a tablespoon, cooked a few extra minutes, and it’s still a greasy mess. So much potential, though! Next time I’m going to try decreasing the butter just slightly and add another T of flour. Maybe have the crumble spend extra time in the fridge, too.

    1. All brands of butter, flour, and climates vary and sounds like in this case perhaps a tiny bit less butter and a tiny bit more flour would have done the trick. Thanks for trying the recipe and with baking, sometimes you do have to make small tweaks based on all the variables.

  15. made these today for teacher appreciation! will give them tomorrow :) from what i’ve tried so far though, they are delicious. the caramel is the hardest part for me, however. it’s so thick and difficult to drizzle – i don’t know how you managed to do so on the top layer of yours!

    1. Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you! Drizzling for photography purposes is an exercise in patience, and practice :)

    1. Thanks for trying the recipe and 2 sticks is the correct amount. That is a lot of butter for a recipe this size, but it does work. Sometimes flour and how absorbent (or not) that it is can play a role in baking. I use King Arthur brand all-purpose flour and swear by it.

  16. Hi! I tried your recipe today and followed it exactly (adding a bit more flour, but I must have needed more), but I found my dough was so buttery that the streusel bits melted! It seemed just way too buttery to look like the shortbread-looking photos. I used the amount in the recipe (2 sticks), but I’m wondering if I did something wrong!

    1. I use King Arthur brand flour and find it’s truly the best for baking, especially in recipes like this. There’s a bit more gluten so dough comes together much better. With other brands, you may indeed need more flour AND it’s also summer and humid and in general with baking, you’ll need more flour when it’s humid than when it’s not. I would say switch brands of flour to KAFlour and be heavy-handed in this warm weather and I think you’ll see the crumbly bits stay intact. Thanks for trying the recipe.

  17. I made these today and they are really lush! However I’m not sure I got the quantities quite right as the dough was very crumbly (still yummy though). We measure in weight not volume in the UK as I’m sure you know. Would it possible to give me your recipe in ounces or grams as trying to convert as I went along proved rather complicated! 

    1. I don’t have measurements in any other way than what I wrote. Sorry that it’s complicated for you! If the dough was very crumbly, there’s a chance the flour was over-added but then again it’s hard to say. Thanks for trying the recipe and glad it still tastes yummy!

  18. I just made these and they are so delicious. I had store bought caramel sauce on hand but when I make them next time (there will definitely be a next time!) I will make caramel. 

    1. Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you and that you’ll even make them again with homemade caramel! (If you have a Trader Joes by you, their caramel is almost as good as homemade and way easier :))

  19. Even as a staunch chocoholic, I doubt I’d miss it in these bars either! Those gorgeous crumbs in the topping… The sweet caramel sauce… I feel like I need to go run 10 miles right now because of how many I want to eat! ;)

  20. Made this tonight. OMG, It’s ooey-gooey good! I used Nestlé La Lechera Dulce De Leche Caramel Sauce but plan to make your homemade caramel sauce soon.

    I made a mistake that you mentioned not to do in the instructions: my dough was too sticky. But I didn’t realize quite how sticky it was until I had already started pressing it down, so I just continued on. This meant that later it wouldn’t crumble, so I just put an even layer on top instead. It all worked out in the end and was still yummy.

    I have one question: After the crust bakes for 20 minutes, what should the texture and color be? Crisply browned? Or still soft?

    1. Glad it all worked out and they’re great!

      After 20 minutes for the curst, you just want it to be set, with almost no color because it’s going back into the oven for another half hour or so and overbaking the first time could result in bars that are way too dry.

  21. Made these this morning and just ate one, so good!! I used a jarred caramel sauce (no whipping cream on hand) and just cracked some sea salt over the caramel. Loved them!

  22. These look delicious. I haven’t had a crumb bar in a while and I would be all over this salted caramle version. I always get the salted caramel sauce from Trader Joe’s and in fact I have one in my fridge right now – it would be so good in these bars!

  23. These bars are a dream come true for me! Salted caramel and big pieces of crumble, dangerously delicious looking! Pinned.

  24. So, I have this bar cookie that’ a hit with my family. Literally. When I show up at any family holiday event they first ask if I baked anything and THEN they say Hi. I’m definitely adding this one to the bar cookie rotation- it’s totally going to be the Next Big Thing. I know it!

  25. You had me at salted. And buttery. And crumb. And oh, the bars look delicious, too. Lovely lovely share, Averie, I’m totally drooling!

  26. I love recipes where the crust and the crumb are the same mixture, it makes those three layer bars way less complicated! I did something similar with a double apple crisp recently. I love how huge those streusel chunks are, they’re certainly the best part of any streusel dessert hands down.

    1. I love crust/crumble multi-taskers so much, too! And the huge streusel chunks are definitely the best :)

  27. If there’s salted caramel, I’m in! This looks divine. I can almost taste the crumbles drizzled with (a whole lot of) salted caramel sauce ♥_♥

  28. That’s it. I will be trying salted caramel after seeing these. Your photos are beautiful…so much so that I just about licked my computer screen. Is it bad that I want one of these for breakfast right now?

    1. Caramel for breakfast? I’ve done it quite a bit :) And yes, you’ve gotta try salted caramel! The saltiness really brings out the sweetness and is just a perfect complement!

  29. These are amazing Averie! Love the salted caramel! And if you didn’t miss chocolate on these, they must just be unreal – of course all your desserts are!

  30. Seems so delicious. Thank you so much for sharing these bars. You helped me a lot. I was wondering what new sweet thing to try.

  31. Just this morning I was looking at the Pumpkin Caramel sauce I impulse-bought at Trader Joe’s last week and thinking, “it looks so good, but what shall I do with it?” Question answered. First, though, I want to savor the cream cheese chocolate chip cookies I made from your killer recipe a few days ago. I can’t get over how incredible those are! Your recipes have taken over my to-bake list.

  32. I mean, if drooling over amazing pictures caused me to gain weight, I’d surely be gaining right now!! I’m just loveing these bars, Averie!

  33. I have a standing promise to myself to immediately make anything that requires 2 sticks of butter! These look amazing!

  34. Oh yes, crumbs must be as big as possible! These bars look so good, I think I just gained five pounds from staring at my screen!

  35. Oh my gosh, yes please. Give me 10. I just made caramel (twice) in the last two days. Now I know what to do with it!! (Well, besides the spoon method. :) )

    1. The spoon method always works well for me personally :)

      And twice in 2 days? You must have a project in mind! I’m sure it won’t go to waste, spoon method or other :)

  36. These look amazing as always. Love the caramel with the shortbread, a marriage made in heaven! Pinned :D x

  37. I too love crumbly streusel toppings! Throw in some salted caramel and, well, I’m sold! Love these bars.

  38. So great when something that you don’t have high hopes for turns out to be great! These look fantastic, so much crumble on top!

  39. oooh I love all those buttery crumbs…again I wish I lived nearby to get those donated treats…so yummy…your title continues to grow…”the Queen of cookies and bars!!!!”

  40. Love this dessert and will be making a 1/2 batch, only for myself, since I just hate throwing out any food. Pinned!

  41. Absolutely delicious. I wish I could eat these photos! But since I can’t, I will just pin them :)

  42. Hi Averie,

    You manage to make me drool at 7am yet again! :p

    I know you probably want family time or just time to relax…but can you imagine the insanely awesome “salted caramel” cookbook you could create? Sometimes I wonder if you would do a nutella-based one in the future, but this year you have come out with stellar salted caramel recipes!

    Anyway take care. Enjoy your weekend. Hugs!!

    1. I am DONE with cookbooks, probably forever. They have exhausted me and I’ve given my life for the past 4 years to writing books and I just…am done :) I need my family time and my me time back. But that is sweet of you to hold out hope :) I’m glad I had you drooling at 7am, too!

  43. Dear Averie, you never stop to amaze me! Butter and caramel and salt and CRUMBS! HUGE CRUMBS! all in one = perfection! Making these beauties for a Saturday get together!

      1. I tried these, they turned out so good, I made them Monday evening and I couldn’t even save a bar to photograph next morning, we had some friends over and we just devoured these with Haagen Dazs Caramel Cone ice cream!

  44. It’s amazing that they have such a short ingredient but look so decadent and fancy! Sometimes less really is more!

  45. Ha! You’re right, almost identical. And I was, no joke, THIS close to drizzling caramel on top. Looks amazing Averie!!

    1. Your post popped up in my feed an hour or two after I published mine and I thought oh my feed of my own post must have been slow today b/c I had just barely glanced at your title seeing salted butter caramel..all the same words. And then I was like wait…that’s not mine! Lol Well at least you stuck with the pecans and I stuck with the drizzle :) Wish we could do a taste-test…haha!

  46. These are way too easy to make. The flavor of the caramel shining against the crubs must be crazy good. I know they’d fall apart, but one of these when the Caramel is still a little warm – omg!

  47. I love the term sleeper hit, Averie! Never heard of that before, but makes total sense. These bars look delectable! Love the salted caramel combined with the crumbly topping!

    1. They use that to refer to movies that no one expects to be that good. It was perfect for my expectations vs. outcome of this recipe!

  48. I’ve never had salted caramel outside of a mocha, but I would love to give it a try! I make caramel a lot, so next time I’ll have to make the salted caramel and then make these bars. I’m a sucker for a good dessert bar.

  49. I had to laugh at “I loved them so much I had to donate half the pan”
    I do that ALL the time. Or donate them to the garbage and cover the garbage with coffee grounds to avoid temptation ;) And iI would definitely do that with these babies! Love those big crumbles!! Pinned!

    1. Oh girl I NEVER throw out food but I re-home it to my daughter’s school, athletic team, coaches, teachers, friends, neighbors, etc. I’m so old school I can’t throw it out. But I also can’t eat it all myself! Love your coffee grounds trick! LOL

      Thanks for pinning! :)

  50. These look so good and so easy! A short bread type of dough and no caramels to unwrap. I can see why you had to donate some–too many of these hanging out on the counter could easily lead to some sugar overload. These also reminded me of caramelitas –another dangerously good bar!!

    1. They’re an amped-down version of Carmelitas. Those things are just epic..the chocolate, the oats, just so much going on. Sooo much butter, soooo much caramel. These are ‘lighter’ if you can call a 2 stick of butter recipe lighter :) and I didn’t feel quite as bad pounding them down as with Carmelitas, but since I don’t need to do any more cardio, a donation was in order!

  51. I think almost everything is better with chocolate, but it was a good call leaving it out here. Clearly the caramel is the star. Love the looks of these.

  52. I love sleeper hits! You never realize it until you take a bite and then wham! You do need to donate half the pan. Otherwise, those bars will haunt your every waking moment!
    They’re sure haunting mine. That crumb top looks amazing. Wow.

    1. Oh so glad you understand about the sleeper hits. Like you don’t expect them to be anything special until you find yourself straightening the rows every chance you get!