This crowd-pleaser comes together in a snap and is perfect for parties, potlucks, bake sales, and holiday cookie platters. Six simple ingredients never tasted so good. See recipe notes for excellent gluten-free adjustment.
One of my all-time favorite cookies is my grandmother’s recipe for six layer bars–six simple ingredients, layered in a pan, and baked to decadent perfection.
The resulting bar cookies are equal parts sweet, salty, crunchy, and creamy. Well suited to a holiday dessert platter or cookie swap, there’s no need to wait for a special occasion to make them.
My grandmother occasionally made them for an after-school snack. I can almost picture sitting at the kitchen table, milk in hand, watching her cut the bars.
I was intrigued by the name and the layering concept. Curiously, I also remember that she never presented this homemade treat as though it were any more special than the peanut butter she would spread over a celery stalk another day. Everything has its place, right?
As the name suggests, the bars are assembled in six layers, and the taste and texture are nothing short of magical. The final drizzle of condensed milk also seems to magically hold the bars together.
My grandmother used to melt the butter in the baking pan and then sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs over top. I have found that mixing these two ingredients together first, and then pressing into the pan makes for a sturdier base that’s less likely to crumble. I also use a touch more of the crumbs than she did. Both are adjustments she heartily approved of.
The middle layers consist of shredded coconut, chopped nuts, and chocolate chips. Family and friends who don’t like coconut have raved about these bars. (I mention in case you have a non-fan in your house.)
Pulverizing the graham crackers into crumbs takes a minute or two in the food processor. For a convenient shortcut, however, you can purchase graham cracker crumbs.
There’s very little preparation involved. Simply layer the ingredients in a 9×13-inch pan and pop in the oven.
I tend to stick with the classic six layers, although you could make these into seven layer bars by using half chocolate and half butterscotch or peanut butter chips.
Lining the pan with parchment paper or greased foil makes it easy to lift the cooled bars out of the pan to cut.
When cut into the stated yield of 24 bars, the portion is fairly generous and extremely satisfying. You may cut into smaller or larger bars, as preferred.
Stored in an airtight container, the bars will keep for several days at room temperature and may be refrigerated for longer storage. We enjoy the texture of the chilled bars, so I always store them in the fridge. Conveniently, the bars freeze well, too.
Magic Six Layer Bars (only 6 ingredients!)
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 28 min
Yield: 24 bars
A handful of sweet, salty, crunchy, and creamy ingredients layer quickly over a crisp graham cracker crust for an irresistibly easy treat that’s perfect for potlucks, cookie platters, and sharing with friends!
1 cup (114g) chopped pecans (could substitute walnuts or use a mix)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (regular, not low-fat or fat-free)
Preheat the oven to 350℉. Spray or grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. (Alternatively, you may line it with parchment paper if you’d like to easily lift and remove the bars from the pan before cutting.)
To make the graham cracker crust: Place the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a mixing bowl and stir with a fork until the crumbs hold together when squeezed with your hand. Transfer the crumbs to the prepared pan and firmly press them into an even layer. (You can use your fingers or the flat bottom of measuring cup.)
Adding the layers: Sprinkle the coconut evenly over the crumbs, followed by the chocolate chips and then the nuts. Pour the condensed milk evenly over the top, spreading gently with a rubber spatula to make sure the bars are evenly covered. (Do not mix the layers.)
Bake: Bake for 26-30 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden and the top is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool completely. (Pro tip: For a hint of salty-sweet flavor, lightly sprinkle the finished bars with flaky sea salt.) Once the bars have cooled completely in the pan, remove them using the overhang from the parchment paper, if using, slice into bars, and enjoy.
Storage: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days or refrigerate for longer storage. The bars freeze well, too.
*Gluten-free adaptation: I recently tested this recipe with gluten-free graham crackers crumbs, and with a small adjustment, ended up with a fantastic outcome. I needed more crumbs (I used a full 8-ounce (226g) package of Suzie-Uie crumbs; I believe other brands like Kinnikinnick would work as well–note that package sizes vary) to achieve a sturdy base. The crust was wetter and more difficult to spread, and I found that reserving a scant quarter cup of the crumbs and then dusting them over the crust as I spread it made the mixture easier to evenly distribute over the pan.
*For seven layer bars: You may use 1 cup each chocolate and butterscotch or peanut butter chips.