Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

Salted Caramel Pretzel Crunch Bars

Shortbread, caramel, pretzels, and chocolate meet to create these completely addicting salted caramel pretzel crunch bars! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Haaaaappy Friday!

There’s gotta be dessert on Friday, though I may have been eating way over my limit all week. I just got back from Phoenix last night. One of my fave spots was Citizen Public House in Scottsdale. They gave us a platter of nearly every single dessert on the menu and one of them happened to be a semifreddo peanut butter PUSH POP with chocolate brownie stuffed inside. Um, yes. Did you see that on my insta story or Snapchat? (Can’t remember which one I freaked out over that on!) And it was better than it even sounds.

Shortbread, caramel, pretzels, and chocolate meet to create these completely addicting salted caramel pretzel crunch bars! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

But since it’s the weekend and I know you’ll be baking (we’re kindred spirits), here’s a new dessert to try. I may have freaked out over these as much as the peanut butter push pop ordeal. Imagine that.

Think of these salted caramel pretzel crunch bars as a homemade twix bar but with crunchy pretzels stuffed inside. And the caramel is salted. And the chocolate is semi-sweet. And there’s sea salt on top. So really this is a homemade candy bar skyrocketing into the same top-notch delicious land that only apple pie and carrot cake reside in.

Here are the layers we’re working with:

Shortbread crust for salted caramel pretzel crunch bars on sallysbakingaddiction.com

The shortbread-ish crust is just like shortbread, but with an egg yolk added. The egg yolk helps prevent any sandiness texture and really helps create a solid (and soft) base for the layers on top. It’s really easy and while you’re mixing, it will be super crumbly. If you get your hands in there, it will all come together like pie crust or dough. See above left (crumbly) and right (togetherness).

You’ll press broken pretzel pieces into the top of the shortbread dough and bake for about 20 minutes. This is the only bake time for these bars. Next? The salted caramel. Easily the best part of these salty sweet bars. Have you ever tried my salted caramel sauce before? I hardly talk about it. Sense the sarcasm. I love the stuff!

The salted caramel is just sugar, butter, cream, and salt. Takes a few minutes on the stove. It’s surprisingly simple; just make sure you don’t walk away from the pan while you’re *supposed* to be stirring. Your sugar will burn, smoke, resemble tar, and set off the fire alarm. This exact scene didn’t happen in my kitchen last weekend or anything.

Salted caramel for salted caramel pretzel crunch bars on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Feeling these pour shots!

Chocolate for salted caramel pretzel crunch bars on sallysbakingaddiction.com

The chocolate is the easiest part. Melt it with some coconut oil on the stovetop or in the microwave. The coconut oil keeps the chocolate on the softer side so the bars are easier to cut. I like to use pure chocolate baking bars (found in the baking aisle) but chocolate chips work too– see my recipe note. You can even melt down chocolate chips with a little peanut butter to truly make this the best dessert to ever grace any of our kitchens.

The one thing about this recipe? You have to wait for each layer to cool before adding the next. Hot caramel will melt the baked crust. And melted chocolate poured on hot caramel will create a mess too. You won’t be able to spread it and the two layers will morph together. Still tasty, but not what we’re going for! All I do is place the layers in the fridge for 45 minutes as I go. Do something else around the house, come back, etc. You can even start the night before– see my make ahead tip. 🙂

Shortbread, caramel, pretzels, and chocolate meet to create these completely addicting salted caramel pretzel crunch bars! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

For clean cuts, use a super sharp knife and wipe it off with a paper towel between cuts. Slice the bars as large or small as you want. I liked a smaller bite-size version as I was testing this recipe. Because you can fit the whole thing in your mouth and grab 4 more in your hand as you exit the kitchen. This exact scene also didn’t happen last weekend or anything.

Not feeling the pretzels? Add nuts instead. I’m thinking pecans for a turtle-like dessert experience. Enjoy!

Shortbread, caramel, pretzels, and chocolate meet to create these completely addicting salted caramel pretzel crunch bars! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Salted Caramel Pretzel Crunch Bars

Ingredients:

  • 10 Tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 Tbsp or 145g) unsalted butter, slightly soft (see important note!)1
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (141g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) salted caramel sauce (the full recipe)
  • 1 cup (50-60g) chopped pretzels
  • 6 ounces chopped semi-sweet chocolate (or 1 cup (180g) semi-sweet chocolate chips)2
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • optional: sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper with enough overhang on the sides to easily remove the bars from the pan. Set aside.
  2. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the flour, sugar, salt, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until crumbly. Get your hands in there to make the dough come together. Press tightly into prepared pan. Press pretzel pieces evenly on top. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before adding the caramel (I stick it in the refrigerator to speed this up).
  3. Prepare caramel and wait for it to cool until it slightly thickens. Pour/spoon over crust. Allow to cool and set completely before topping with chocolate. Again, I stick it in the refrigerator to speed it up.
  4. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave in 15 second increments, stopping and stirring until completely melted. Pour over cooled caramel. Top with sea salt. Stick in the refrigerator to cool completely.
  5. Lift the parchment paper out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Make ahead tip: There are many ways to start ahead on this recipe. You can prepare and bake the crust through step 2 a day or 2 ahead of time. Store in the refrigerator until ready for the caramel. You can also prepare the caramel a day or 2 ahead of time. Warm it just until it is spreadable (but not totally liquid), then pour over crust and allow to set. Continue with step 4. Prepared bars can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then bring to room temperature before enjoying.

Recipe Notes:

  1. Butter that is too soft could ruin the crust. I always let butter sit out of the refrigerator for only about 10 minutes when making this crust. It's still a little firm and cold, but that is what you want for a shortbread-like crust.
  2. If using chocolate chips in the chocolate layer, melt down with 1 teaspoon of oil so it thins out and is easy to pour and spread. Careful melting in the microwave. Stop every 15 seconds to stir until melted. You can even melt it down with 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter for an extra dose of delicious.

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

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Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.

KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Glass Baking Dish | Aluminum Square Pan | Glass Mixing Bowls | Stainless Steel Saucepan | Copper Saucepan

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Shortbread, caramel, pretzels, and chocolate meet to create these completely addicting salted caramel pretzel crunch bars! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

105 comments

  1. These look so delicious I have to try this recipe!
    Xo, Kelsey
    petiteinherpearls.blogspot.com

  2. Perhaps when I have been a good boy and I deserve a treat. This will be what I make (:

  3. This looks seriously good. The photography keeps impressing me. And the recipe looks amazing as well. I love that you are very specific when it comes to recipes. I feel like i
    I know what I am doing in the kitchen.

  4. This recipe is a winner for the entire family. Can’t wait to make it. Thank you.

  5. Holy Moly – you are sooooo speaking my language with the sweet & salty thing going on in these delightful morsels. I LOVE the idea of substituting nuts for the pretzels too – can’t wait to give them a try – thanks so much for sharing!!!

  6. I am in the process of making these now. I don’t know what I did wrong but my shortbread was not crumbly. It was creamy. I weighed my ingredients and think I followed the directions. I even added extra flour but not too much as I didn’t want it to be dry. one change was that I added vanilla bean paste instead of liquid vanilla. It was still creamy when I put it in the oven. I will see when it comes out

    • The vanilla bean paste wouldn’t make the difference. After mixing the dough with your hands, it comes together and definitely becomes a little creamy. How are the bars?

      • Unfortunately, NC was hit by Hurricane Matthew the day after I made the shortbread and caramel. I kept them cold while I waited for the electric to come back on (3 days later), but I just coated them with the chocolate and will taste them tomorrow. Can’t wait. I did try the shortbread before putting on the caramel and the flavor was awesome.

      • I bet they’ll be just fine. Thoughts out to anyone affected by it!

  7. I love you sense of humor!

  8. I’m drooling over these bars! The combination of flavors sounds incredible!

  9. Holy caramel! And that salt. Fo shooooo!

  10. Hi Sally, your recipe inspired me to make caramel bars with a terrific twist! I replaced vanilla in the shortbread with orange extract, added some chopped orange candied peel to the dough. Instead of pretzels, I topped the dough with roasted almond slivers and finally topped with rich dark chocolate. Used the salted caramel of course!

  11. So yummy. These look awesome. I am def going to make them and keep them to myself. Lok

  12. Hi Sally! I made these last night (put it all together, then had it ready and waiting for me in the morning. I mean, um, no I totally didn’t eat 2 bars before I’d even had breakfast) and they are phenomenal!
    However, I had a little bit of a problem with the texture of the shortbread crust. When I was mixing the dough, it never went to a crumbly stage–it got mixed and then went to a strangely whipped-like texture that was quite wet and soft. When it came time to press the dough into the pan, it was more like I ‘spread’ the dough around, almost like peanut butter. The resulting shortbread is tasty and somewhat crisp but very crumbly, and the crumb itself is soft like cake crumbs. Do you think it’s likely this happened because I overmixed?

    I used a Kitchenaid mixer with the paddle/scraper attachment. I know I measured all of the ingredients correctly (used a scale and matched your gram amounts).

    • I had the exact same problem. I could barely spread mine either. It was no where near firm. Just creamy and smooth. So i couldn’t finish the recipe off.

    • It’s a common issue with shortbread (or shortbread-ish bases!)– and the culprit is usually butter that is much too soft. You want butter that is only out of the fridge for, maybe, 10 minutes. So still a little firm and cold. That will soft the issue! 🙂

      • Oh wow, I totally missed that the butter should be slightly soft and not room temperature!! I am just so used to room temping everything. That definitely explains it.

      • I had the same issue even though I made sure to only leave the butter out 10 minutes. Im baking them now so hoping for the best!

  13. salted caranel treats make the world go ’round

  14. Hello! I made these this evening, and the flavor combination is out of this world. However, I followed the instructions and took my time with cooling, etc. for each layer, yet when I cut them, the caramel oozed out the sides and things kind of squished down. Obviously, still edible and delicious, but they don’t quite have the presentation quality of your’s. Any suggestions/thoughts on why this happened? Thanks!

    • Hmm. Maybe the caramel could have boiled a little longer next time? Just so it becomes a little more solid. If you try them again, do that. It will help!

  15. Hey Sally,

    This recipe was a huge hit this weekend (as are all your other recipes I’ve made). A friend of mine said “Another win for Sally!!” when I shared the recipe with her! What are your thoughts on using dark chocolate instead of semi-sweet? Would it still set the same? 

  16. I am really wanting to make these squares and I just might have an upcoming opportunity, so I’m super excited! Quick question though: is the salted caramel recipe the same as the one in your cookbook? Much appreciated!

  17. This is s question.,
    Can the shortbread pastry used in you’re Salted caramel apple slices be used for this dessert?  I love that pastry!

  18. Sally, these are a winner! Your salted caramel is soooooooo delicious! I doubled the bar recipe because my daughter needed to take something to a Halloween party, and I wanted some for my snack. I gave a few to my bf for a treat. He texted me “OMG babe, these are so good!” Thank you for your delicious recipes!

  19. These came out SO delicious! Cutting them was so hard though. My chocolate cracked everywhere when cutting, even after chilling then overnight. I want to make them again- any suggestions on helping everything stay out and cut clean? 🙂

  20. Wow they look yummy! Can u substitute pretzel with nuts(ground nuts) 

  21. I made these with bittersweet chocolate, and the richness was out-of-this-world. This is a very sophisticated dessert!

  22. Hi! Is it safe to double this recipe and bake in two pans?

  23. These bars are my absolute favorite to make and eat! Can’t go wrong with pretzels and caramel

  24. I won my office’s bake off with these today! Your recipes always come out great so even though I had not tried this particular one before I knew I could trust it would make a good showing 😉

  25. My shortbread and caramel turned out great. After I put the chocolate on and cooled them, when I tried to cut them in squares, they cracked instead of cutting down the line of the knife. Do you have any suggestions.

  26. These look awesome. I am def going to make them and keep them to myself. 

  27. The taste on these is out of this world! I am OBSESSED with your salted caramel recipe-my first time making caramel was definitely a success! However, my shortbread is a bit crumbly; my butter was definitely cold and I measured it correctly, but may have over creamed the butter or over-mixed the batter, would this affect the shortbread texture? I know my oven also goes a little wonky sometimes with the temperature-so it may have been under-baked. Any tips would be much appreciated!

    • Hi Emily! If the crust is too crumbly, it could be overbaked. An easy fix for next time! Though, I should warn you, it will be slightly crumbly no matter what 🙂

  28. Just wanted to say that my mother in law informed me that these were the “best thing I ever made.” Thank you so much for this and every awesome recipe!! I did two pretzel layers (on top of shortbread and again on top of caramel) and it was great, although I needed more chocolate to cover the rough surface of broken preztels.

  29. Hi Sally,
    Made this for a party. WOW, yummy, out of all the desserts, it went first. My problem was, when I cut it, the chocolate was harder than the caramel and it gushed out the sides.  Should I have cut it before the chocolate hardens ?

    Thanks, Elise

    • I try to not let the chocolate get *too* hard before cutting. So almost fully set. If you make them again, try it that way instead!

  30. Good Evening Sally!

    I’m really craving Salted Caramel Shortbread bars. Would I use this shortbread recipe and combine it with your salted caramel recipe? I’m hoping to find a recipe where the shortbread holds together and melts in your mouth with the caramel and is slightly chewy. Do you have any suggestions for which recipes to use to achieve this?

    Thank You,
    Jacquelyn

    • Absolutely– I would simply leave out the pretzels and chocolate. Is that what you’re going for?

      • Sort of…i was hoping to do a layer of shortbread on bottom, caramel in the middle and then crumbling shortbread on top. Would i still use this recipe?

      • I would, yes. Though there likely won’t be enough crust to crumble on top, so I would 1.5x the recipe (doubling would be too much).

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