Salted Caramel Pretzel Crunch Bars

salted caramel pretzel crunch bars cut into squares with a bite taken from one bar

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.

overhead image of salted caramel pretzel crunch bars with half cut into squares

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:

2 images of shortbread crust mixture in a glass bowl with hand mixer and shortbread crust dough in a glass bowl

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.

pouring salted caramel onto layer of shortbread topped with pretzels in a glass baking dish lined with parchment paper

Feeling these pour shots!

pouring melted chocolate mixture onto salted caramel layer in a glass baking dish lined with parchment paper

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. 🙂

salted caramel pretzel crunch bars cut into squares

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!

salted caramel pretzel crunch bars

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salted caramel pretzel crunch bars cut into squares with a bite taken from one bar

Salted Caramel Pretzel Crunch Bars

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 16 large or 20-24 smaller bite-size bars
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Shortbread, caramel, pretzels, and chocolate meet to create these completely addicting salted caramel pretzel crunch bars.


Ingredients

  • 10 Tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 Tbsp or 145g) unsalted butter, slightly soft (see important note!)*
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (141g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 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 teaspoons coconut oil
  • optional: sea salt

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: 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.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Glass Baking Dish | Aluminum Square Pan | Glass Mixing Bowls | Stainless Steel Saucepan
  3. Butter: 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.
  4. Chocolate: 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.

Keywords: salted caramel pretzel bars, salted caramel bars

42 Comments

  1. 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).

    1. 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! 🙂

      1. 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.

  2. 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!

    1. 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!

  3. 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? 

    1. Still set just the same, yes! 🙂

  4. 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!

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

  6. 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 😉

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

    1. 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 🙂

  9. 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.

  10. 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

    1. 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!

  11. I made these last night and Sally, you’re right on, they are A-mazing!! I did what you said and put everything in the refrigerator in between layers and it worked beautifully. This is definitely a keeper recipe, they disappeared in about 5 seconds at work today.

  12. These are incredible! However, I find that I can’t leave these out at room temperature for too long or they start to fall apart. The caramel begins to “ooze”. Is that what happens or I am doing something wrong when preparing the caramel?

    1. Hey Catherine! I’m so excited you enjoyed the pretzel crunch bars! The caramel shouldn’t be too gooey, but warm/humid weather could prevent it from staying set.

  13. Hi, Sally!
    In order to try out this delicious recipe, I made the salted caramel bit- but the colour came out a lot darker than yours and had a sort of burnt caramel taste! What do you think went wrong? Thanks!

    1. Hi Bethan! It sounds like the caramel was over-cooked. Remove from the stove a little earlier and make sure you are whisking as it cooks.

  14. Marla Wright says:

    Another great recipe! I love your salted caramel recipe and it’s a must for this recipe! I constantly let others know about your website. I have never been disappointed. Thank you Sally!

  15. Hello – Could you make these using cupcake liners and if so, how much dough would you put in each liner? Do you have to put them in the fridge for the chocolate to harden or you can just keep them on the counter. Thanks.

    1. Hi Michelle! Yes, you can use a cupcake pan instead– and yes, I recommend cupcake liners. About 1 heaping Tablespoon of crust dough in each. The chocolate can set at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It will set a little quicker in the refrigerator.

  16. I am only leary of this recipe because I hate coconut! What is the best substitute or does the coconut taste nut come through in the end product?

    1. Hi Judy, The coconut oil isn’t enough to give it a coconut flavor – but it’s enough to keep the chocolate a bit softer. You can use canola (but not olive) oil instead. Or try peanut butter if you enjoy that flavor!

  17. Hi Sally. I made the bars today and they are delicious. I would like my shortbread to be thicker though, would you recommend to double the shortbread recipe? (maybe 1 1/2?). Also how long would you bake it if it was thicker. Thank you

    1. You can certainly try making 1.5 times the crust – or bake it in a smaller pan! I’m unsure of the exact bake time needed.

  18. Sally, I can always trust your recipes to deliver great flavor and these bars exceeded my expectations! The crisp crust, gooey salted caramel and chocolate bars are divine. They were a big hit with my family and friends.

  19. I made these but not too pleased. The pretzels are soggy, the crust falls apart if you cut them to put on a plate and they just need a little more flavor

  20. I just made them and the flavor is good, the caramel is a little oozy but they are incredibly sweet. So much so that I don’t think that I am going to keep them.

  21. Linda Antisavage says:

    Followed your detailed instructions exactly and every layer came out perfect. Your caramel sauce is so delicious and my bars set up beautifully. I let it sit overnight in frig after the final chocolate layer so cutting was a bit difficult in the morning. After awhile at room temperature it cut much easier. You are a wonderful teacher Sally!

  22. Marcia Hoover says:

    I’m really looking forward to making these. Can you say whether the set caramel is hard or soft? Specifically wondering if those with fragile teeth may have a hard time eating them.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marcia, the caramel doesn’t set too hard to bite into. It’s quite soft. Hope you love them!

  23. Wondering if using Crisco shortening to melt with the chocolate bar is okay. I do that when making chocolate dips and it later helps chocolate set up nice. How much ?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mary, see the recipe notes for our recommendation!

  24. Hey all this is a yummy recipe but it has some flaws, I followed the recipe but the caramel sauce doesn’t set enough to be out of the fridge. I put them in containers for our kids school lunch and it was a major mess. I think trying a different caramel recipe might work better. Thanks.

    1. I use Sally’s salted caramel sauce in all of my favorite dessert recipes calling for caramel. It always sets up beautifully when left to cool fully on the counter before cutting. Though I have yet to try this recipe. If you need prefer a thicker sauce, try adding less whipping cream when making the caramel. I do that when making caramel apples.

  25. Hi Sally,

    Can I melt the chocolate over a double broiler and forgo using oil or butter or will it still not be thin enough?

    Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Liz, we’d still recommend using the coconut oil or butter to keep the chocolate nice and soft and easy to spread. Hope you enjoy these!

  26. Hi! Can I use gluten-free flour and gluten-free pretzels in this?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kristi, we haven’t tested a gluten-free version of these bars, but we’d love to know if you give those substitutes a try.

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