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!
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.
- 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).