These Carmelita bars have sweet, crumbly oatmeal cookie layers sandwiching a creamy caramel and chocolate chip filling for the perfect combination of gooey, melty, and crispy in every bite.
❤️ Why You’ll Love this Recipe: It’s an easy-to-make bar cookie with a gooey caramel and chocolate chip middle. The combination is wonderful and crowd-pleasing all year long.
What are Carmelitas?
This recipe comes from a new cookbook, Raised in the Kitchen, by my good blogging friend, Carrian Cheney from Oh Sweet Basil. It’s a collection of everyday recipes that your whole family will love. Classic recipes that everyone should know how to make.
Plus, the recipes are great for little hands to help with! The cookbook is filled with tips on getting kids into the kitchen to learn to love to cook. Kids love building and baking these decadent bar cookies.
Carmelitas are a popular bar cookie at church potlucks in my area. I’ve been meaning to share a version for Barbara Bakes, so I was happy to find it in Carrian’s book.
I made these bar cookies during a sleepover with my grandson. He’s always been my buddy in the kitchen and looks forward to baking with grandma. And boy did he love what we made! These cookies are a winning recipe for kids and adults.
How to Make Carmelitas Cookies
There are three layers to these bar cookies: the top and bottom are made with oats and brown sugar. They stay softer in the center and like a cookie, the edges are a little crisper.
In the center is a creamy chocolate chip and caramel layer. But don’t be intimidated by making caramel, this is a fun short-cut recipe that starts with Kraft caramel candies!
Speaking of caramel, you’ll want to unwrap the caramels and have all your ingredients ready before you start. These bar cookies come together quickly.
Note that the recipe uses one and a half bags of caramels, so there’s half a bag left for a chef’s snack while you cook. My grandson loved that he could snack on a caramel or two while we were baking.
How to Know that the Bars are Done
You’ll be able to tell when the bars are done cooking because they pull away from the edges.
When you remove them from the oven, the caramel needs time to set up again. So you do not want to cut these while they’re hot. If you can make them the night before you’re serving them, they’ll be easier to cut.
It’s hard, but you definitely want to let the carmelitas rest in the pan until cool before slicing and serving.
Can I Freeze Carmelitas?
Certainly. You can freeze a whole batch or individual bar cookies. Wrap them tightly in plastic or a zip-top bag and keep them in the freezer for up to three months.
You can defrost the cookies on the counter before serving.
More Bar Cookie Recipes
If you love soft homemade bar cookies, give these other recipes a try next:
- Pineapple Coconut Bar Cookies are filled with a zesty pineapple crud and topped with crispy coconut flakes.
- Tropical Magic Cookie Bars have a graham cracker crumb crust and layers of gooey, soft and chunky tropical flavors.
- Chocolate Chip Coconut Oatmeal Bars are soft, fudgy and filled with colorful M&Ms.
Crust and Topping
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ⅓ cups butter, melted
- 1 ½ (11-ounce) bags Kraft Caramels, unwrapped
- ½ cup evaporated milk
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on each side for easy lifting later. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. (I used nonstick aluminum foil.)
In a large bowl, mix together flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add melted butter and mix until combined well. Spread half of the mixture in prepared pan, pressing down to cover the bottom. Bake 10 minutes. When 10 minutes are up, remove from oven but do not turn off oven.
While oat mixture bakes, place unwrapped caramels, evaporated milk, and cream in a saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently until caramels are melted and mixture is thoroughly combined.
Sprinkle chocolate chips over baked mixture and then pour melted caramel evenly over the chips. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture over caramel and bake 15 minutes.
Let cool completely in pan on wire rack. Use foil to lift out of pan and cut into bars when ready to serve.
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Disclosure: I received Raised in the Kitchen as a gift, but the opinions expressed are always my own.