If you’ve never had a Caramelita before, you’re missing out! These decadent cookie bars are made with a slightly crisp oat cookie bar layer and are filled with melty, gooey caramel and chocolate!
These are an incredible hybrid of cookie bars, oatmeal cookies, and caramel sauce and I think you’re going to love them! Be sure to check out the recipe video at the bottom of the recipe card!
Continuing a long-standing tradition of stuffing dessert with other dessert, today I’m sharing these chocolate and caramel stuffed cookie bars, AKA Caramelitas.
I made a few batches of these Caramelitas a couple weeks ago for a bake sale fundraiser (for the dog rescue that Zach and I volunteer with) and they were a hit. It took every ounce of self-control from me to not eat them before I could wrap them and get them out of the house, and even Zach (who always prefers my savory recipes, like my taco dip, and usually snubs the sweeter treats) was tempted and kept stealing the scraps.
These are easy to make, let’s get started.
How to Make Caramelitas
For how deliriously rich and decadent these Caramelitas are, they’re surprisingly easy to make. You start by making your oat-cookie dough, which is just 7 ingredients (no mixer required).
Half of the dough is pressed into the pan and baked while you prepare your caramel filling, which is simply made of caramel candies and heavy cream that’s been melted together.
Originally, the plan was to make a completely from-scratch caramel filling with no store-bought caramels involved. Well, to make a long story short, none of my homemade caramel variations worked. Actually, they worked, but they didn’t yield the gooey, melty caramel center that you want in a classic Caramelita. For this reason, I recommend keeping things simple and sticking to melting down store-bought caramels.
Once the first cookie layer is finished baking, you’ll sprinkle it with chocolate chips, drizzle those with caramel, and then top everything off with the rest of your cookie bar mixture (careful not to touch the caramel when you’re adding your top layer, it’s hot!) and then bake everything again until golden brown.
Tips for Making Caramelitas
- Melt your butter before you begin and allow it to cool for several minutes. If it’s too hot it can make your cookie dough too greasy and difficult to work with.
- I used milk chocolate chips for this recipe, but you could substitute semisweet or dark chocolate chips instead. White chocolate could also work but would make them quite sweet.
- Pecans or another favorite nut would also be a great addition to these Caramelitas! Sprinkle chopped nuts over the chocolate chips before pouring your caramel.
- I used a metal 9×9 baking pan for this recipe. If you don’t have a metal one, a glass one will work but it will take longer to bake. I don’t recommend using an 8×8 pan.
- Use parchment paper to line your baking pan when making your Caramelitas and use enough that it hangs over the sides of the pan. I know I talk about this with a lot of my recipes (like my homemade brownies) but it not only makes cleanup a breeze, it also will allow you to easily lift these finished cookie bars out of the pan and slice them once they’ve finished cooling. Oh, and about that cooling…
- Please, be patient! Let your Caramelita bars cool completely — for at least 1-2 hours — before lifting them from the pan, slicing, and serving. It’s tempting to dig in right away but I promise you you will have a huge mess on your hands if you do (and possibly some mild caramel-induced burns…). I don’t recommend putting your Caramelitas in the refrigerator to cool faster because that actually makes the chocolate/caramel center too firm, and you want the center to be soft and gooey and refrigerating the bars kind of ruins that.
My video for these Caramelita Bars is at the bottom of the recipe! If you enjoy watching my cooking videos, I’d love it if you would consider subscribing to my YouTube channel <3
- ¾ cup unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled (170g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (157g)
- 1 cup old fashioned oats (100g)
- ¾ cup tightly packed light brown sugar (150g)
- ½ teaspon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 35 caramels unwrapped
- ½ cup heavy cream (115ml)
- 1 ⅓ cups milk chocolate chips (225g)
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line a 9x9 metal baking pan* with parchment paper -- use enough so that parchment paper hangs over the edges, this will make it easy to lift the bars out of the pan and cut them later on.
- Combine your melted butter and vanilla extract and stir until combined. Set aside.
- Prepare your dry ingredients by stirring together flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt until well-combined.
- Add butter and stir until ingredients are combined.
- Press half of your oat/butter mixture evenly and firmly into the bottom of your prepared 9x9 pan and transfer to your 350F (175C) oven to bake for 8-10 minutes (until just lightly golden).
- Meanwhile, prepare your caramel filling by combining unwrapped caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until caramel is completely melted and mixture is smooth, then remove from heat.
- Once your first layer of the Carmelita is finished baking, remove from the oven and sprinkle evenly with milk chocolate chips.
- Pour caramel evenly over chocolate chips, and then scatter remaining oat mixture over the top of the caramel, you don't have to completely cover the caramel, gaps are OK. I like to gently press the oat mixture into the caramel but be careful not to touch the caramel as it's hot!
- Return to 350F (175C) oven and bake for another 18-21 minutes or until top is golden brown.
- Allow to cool completely, at least 1-2 hours, before removing from the pan and cutting and serving (if you dig in too soon you'll have a major mess on your hands, you need to allow some time for the caramel to re-set).
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Have you every compared these to the dream bars from Potbelly sandwich co? They look so similar and I’ve been searching for that copycat recipe for years. 🙂
Hi Emily! Unfortunately I am not familiar with them so I can’t say this is a copycat, but I can tell you these are REALLY REALLY good and you won’t be disappointed. 🙂
Can I use caramel sauce instead?
Hi Leslie! Unfortunately my experience with using caramel sauce here is that it’s too thin and bakes out, which is why I use the actual caramels.
Hello!! How r u? I made these with chocolate instead of caramel following the same steps and they are just as nice! They came out REALLY yum!!😋(after i finished eating 1 square i drank lots cause they came out very sweet😁)
That sounds amazing, Shakeila! Thank you for sharing!
So I wanted to bake something using a butterscotch sauce I made the other day that turned out more grainy than I’d like for ice cream (apparently not uncommon for butterscotch sauce, probably should have just stuck to my usual homemade caramel sauce but I like trying new things)… So I decided to try using it in this recipe in place of the caramel sauce. Mine don’t have that gorgeous molten caramel ooze pictured in this recipe, but they sure turned out delicious! I also used the 8×8 pan you advised against because I don’t have a 9×9 and that was the next closest size in my kitchen. Maybe they took a few minutes longer to bake or are thicker/gooeyer, but I’m ok with it! 😄 I definitely want to try this as written using caramels for the sauce and a 9×9 pan sometime soon though. Yum!
I am so glad you enjoyed them, Kelly! Sometimes a little experimentation is a good thing. 🙂
Hi….your recipe calls for 35 caramels. How many bags would that be? I have bags of Kraft caramel bits…11oz (311g) that i would like to use up. Could this be done? Thanks
Sugar Spun Run
Hi, Janis! According to the Kraft website, it looks like 1 (11oz) bag should contain 39 caramel squares. I have not used the caramel bits but they should work fine. 🙂
I made these Caramelitas tonight for. A co-worker. As always I nailed this recipe. Thanks for sharing your recipes. I know my co-worket gonna luv them. Merry Christmas
Sugar Spun Run
I am so glad that you enjoyed the Carmelitas, I hope that your co-worker does too, Patricia! Happy Holidays to you! Thanks for commenting. 🙂
how to store and how long do these last?
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days 🙂
These look amazing! We don’t have the same type of caramels where I life, do you have a caramel recipe from scratch that would work?
Can’t wait to make them😍
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Imre! You could try making the caramel from our millionaire’s shortbread and see if that works. We haven’t tried this ourselves, so we’re not 100% sure how they’d turn out. If you do try it, would you let us know what you think?
I have a quick question, if I don’t have the caramels on hand could I make the caramel from your Millionaire’s Shortbread and use that?
Hi Sylvia! I haven’t tried it, but it seems like it would work. If you do try it, let me know how it turns out. 🙂
I made a pan of these for our Saturday get together and ended up having to make a second pan before we even got there due to the rave responses of everyone just hearing the ingredients. This recipe comes together super quick, easily hand mixed, and smells heavenly. Everyone LOVED this recipe and it will be on repeat for future get togethers! Thank you!
I am so glad everyone enjoyed the carmelitas so much, Diana! 🙂
An excellent video! These look amazing.
Thank you so much, Ann! I hope you love them. 🙂
Looks wonderful. Gonna make today! Thank you.
I hope you enjoy them!
Sheenam | Thetwincookingproject.net
Sam this looks sooooo good!!
Thank you so much! 😃
How long in a glass 9×13 pan. I don’t want to over/under cook
Look so good! Plan to make these for my husband’s birthday, next week. Thanks for the recipe.
Thank you Lori! I hope everyone enjoys them! 😃
OMG – melty caramel and chocolate.
I made a pan of these (from another recipe) about a year or so ago. If you’ve never had one, they are VERY rich. I ended up bringing them to work and they disappeared by early afternoon.