Ultimate Magic Cookie Bars

Soft-baked graham cracker cookie bars with butterscotch, coconut, chocolate, and pecans. An ultimate version of the classic magic bar/hello dolly bar.

stack of 2 ultimate magic cookie bars

Welcome to Day 7 of Sally’s Cookie Palooza! So are you sick of cookies ye…

Ha! I can’t even finish typing that sentence. Of course you aren’t.

Well, we actually are taking a short break from cookies today. Cookie bars are on the menu and you’re absolutely going to love them.

ultimate magic cookie bars

Traditional Magic Bars, also known as Hello Dolly Bars or 7 Layer Bars, are a layered dessert bar with a crumbly graham cracker crust, then topped with layers of butterscotch, coconut, chocolate, and nuts. Everything sticks together from gooey sweetened condensed milk that caramelizes on top when baked.

In short… magic bars are everything you love all in one.

cookie palooza logo image

And today? I made them even better. That’s right. I went off the beaten path and made a traditional magic cookie bar… thicker, softer, overloaded, and downright ultimate!

You’re welcome.

ultimate magic cookie bars on a white plate

So here’s what you’re going to do.

  • Stop what you’re doing right now and start preheating your oven.
  • Don’t make a graham cracker crust. Make a graham cracker butterscotch cookie crust.
  • Layer that cookie crust with chocolate, coconut, and pecans.
  • Flood the glorious layers with sweetened condensed milk.

Oh I can’t even handle it!

ultimate magic cookie bars in a baking pan lined with foil

So… the crust. It might just be my favorite part about this recipe. It’s like a thick graham cracker with a super soft texture. If you’re anything like me, you crumble graham crackers up into your yogurt. No? Just me?

You’ll make the same graham cracker cookie bar that you made here. (Have you made those? Do it.) Add some butterscotch chips to it and pre-bake it for a quick 5 minutes while you get the other ingredients ready.

On top of the pre-baked crust, layer 1 cup chocolate chips, 3/4 cup shredded coconut, and 1/2 cup chopped pecans.

Guess what? You can play around with those amounts. Love coconut? Add a little more. Don’t like nuts? Leave them out and replace with more chocolate chips or coconut. There is plenty of room to play around with the toppings. Have fun with it! Kevin even suggested peanut butter cups next time. I knew I was marrying this man for a reason.

stack of ultimate magic cookie bars on a white plate

Top with 8 ounces of sweetened condensed milk, which is a little more than half of a standard 14 oz can. Before baking, I threw some extra butterscotch chips on top. I am a fool for butterscotch, aren’t you?

Once the cookie bars are done in the oven, you have to let them cool. Now if you’re self control has never been tested before… it will be tested now. If you cut into the bars too early, the layers will fall apart and you’ll be left with a gooey mess. Which, umm… still tastes quite good if you ask me.

But seriously. Let the bars cool. Since I have zero patience, I sped up the process and stuck them in the refrigerator after 30 minutes of cooling on the counter. I suggest you do the same. The sooner you can dig in!

ultimate magic cookie bars cut into squares

They’re soft, they’re thick, they’re chewy, they’re ultimate! Layers upon layers of goodness. So many darn tastes and textures. Your tastebuds will be in heaven. They’ll be the star of any dessert platter!

So what did we do with these bad boys? After sampling quite a few after the photo shoot, Kevin’s friend came over to visit. (I’m beginning to think that his friends come over just for the baked goods we always have around.) We sent him off with the rest of these ultimate cookie bars. I received a text shortly after.

“These won’t last the whole car ride.”

Yeah, I hear ya Dave. I hear ya.

ultimate magic cookie bars with a bite taken from one

Look at how they’re made and start some ultimate baking!

Print
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stack of 2 ultimate magic cookie bars

Ultimate Magic Cookie Bars

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Yield: 16 bars
  • Category: Bars
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Soft-baked graham cracker cookie bars with butterscotch, coconut, chocolate, and pecans. An ultimate version of the classic magic bar/hello dolly bar.


Ingredients

Bars

  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 cup (100g) graham cracker crumbs (9 graham crackers)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (175g) butterscotch chips

Layers

  • 1 cup (180g) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used mini, but regular size is OK)
  • 3/4 cup (50-60g) shredded sweetened coconut*
  • 1/2 cup (70g) chopped pecans*
  • 8 ounces sweetened condensed milk (not the full can)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang on the sides. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl using handheld or stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed. Beat for about 2 minutes until smooth and combined. Add the vanilla extract and egg, beating until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl down as needed.
  3. Add the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer running on low, slowly mix until combined, then beat in the butterscotch chips. Press graham cracker dough into the prepared baking pan and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and layer with chocolate chips, coconut, and pecans. Drizzle sweetened condensed milk evenly on top. (Remember, not the full can. 8 ounces is a little more than 1/2 of a 14 ounce standard can.) I sprinkled a couple more butterscotch chips on top, but that’s optional.
  4. Bake the bars until set, about 30 minutes. I loosely covered the pan with aluminum foil halfway through baking to prevent browning. Make sure you rotate the pan a couple times during the bake time as well. Allow to cool for 30 minutes at room temperature and then stick in the refrigerator to cool all the way through. Once the bottom of the pan is cold, you may cut the bars into squares.
  5. Bars stay fresh at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: Bars can be frozen for up to 3 months– thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
  2. Coconut: Different brands of coconut weigh different amounts. I used store-brand sweetened shredded and 3/4 cup was 55g.
  3. Pecans: If you don’t like nuts, leave them out! Replace with more butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, or coconut. Play around with the amounts of add-ins you like. These bars are very forgiving.

Keywords: magic cookie bars, ultimate magic cookie bars

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68 Comments

  1. I made these the other night and they are so amazingly good. I will definitely use graham cracker cake/crust for other stuff. I’m so glad I found this site!

  2. Okay so I finally made these and WOW…I think I found my favorite recipe of yours 🙂 I was going to try and make them healthier but….yeah…no…I actually ended up using nearly twice as much sweetened condensed milk AND I may have sprinkled a few more than “a few” extra chocolate chips on top. I have been making Eagle’s magic bars for quite a while but these outshine them completely. If I gain 5lbs from something, I want them to be from THESE 🙂

  3. So I made these for Christmas, and let me tell you, my entire family was CRAZY over them!! (I’m in high school btw) my mom especially liked them and I’m surprised because she doesn’t usually like indulging on sweet things, but she loves these. Too bad I thew away the rest of my sweetened condensed milk because I didn’t think I’d be needing it soon. Or maybe it’s a good thing because I would have definitely made these again. SO DELICIOUS!! I still have one square left and it’s definitely not eating clean safe haha

  4. Hey Sally!
    I made these with the regular graham crust..(crumbs and butter) .during the baking process, the condensed milk seemed to somehow get under the crust in places…and made a gooey mess…also, when the edges were done, the middle was not, so by the time the middle was done, the edges were hard and I had to cut them away…
    I have to make another batch for tomorrow’s NY Eve party, so I would appreciate your help asap.
    Help!! Where did I go wrong??

    1. Hi Shelley – I advise you to make the recipe as written with the thick style cookie crust.

  5. Hi Sally, I made a thick crust as per your pictures..Any idea Why would the edges be overdone in order for the middle to be done? Would the rack position play a part?
    Thanks

    1. Is your oven rack positioned in the center? I would also check your oven temperature. You may also loosely cover the pan with aluminum foil midway through baking to ensure the bars bake evenly.

  6. I recently made the magic cookie bars but my recipe said to pour the sweetened condensed milk on top of the graham crust then add the toppings. When I did that some of the condensed milk bubbled through to the top and went golden brown and gooey. Since your recipe says to pour the sweetened condensed milk on top of everything does it brown and bubble? How come the tops of yours looks so perfect!? Do you just add more toppings on top or does the condensed milk settle down?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Elyse – yep, the sweetened condensed milk sinks into the layers and lightly bubbles on top. I never pour it directly onto the crust, for fear that it would turn soggy.

  7. Sally, you have done it again!! I love everything I make on your site but these take the cake (so to speak)! I’ve always loved Magic Bars but they didn’t seem thick enough and your crust in this recipe took it to the next level!! Keep up the great work and I can’t wait to see what you have next 🙂
    Blessings,
    Susan

  8. I am guessing we should spray or butter the foil lining of the pan before we put all these gorgeous, gooey, magnificent ingredients in, right? Can you double the recipe and bake in a 9 x 13? If you were to substitute the aforementioned raspberry jam and white chocolate chips, would you still include butterscotch in the crust? Thanks for all the glorious recipes! I just love your site!

    1. Hey Liz, if I were to make these with some rasp jam and white chocolate – I would not keep the butterscotch chips in the crust. I do not know the exact baking time for a 9×13 pan (for which you would double the recipe, yes). About 45 minutes, maybe a little more.

  9. I never comment on websites, but this time I had to. These are amazing. The crust, omg, the crust. Amazing. I’ve passed this recipe on to several coworkers in the last 2 days and I now have to buy the stuff to make these again, because a 13″x9″ pan of them was gone in 2 days. Thank you so much for this recipe. I honestly can not say enough good things about it.

  10. Love this recipe! It’s so easy and I haven’t had a magic cookie bar since I was a kid. Brought these to work for a coworker’s last day and I think he would have eaten the whole pan.

  11. I just made these and they are DELICIOUS!!!!! I gave my husband a small piece and now he’s begging for more! I’m going to have to hide them so they will last more than 24 hours! Fantastic recipe!

  12. How come you have used only 8’ounce of sweetened condensed milk ? What happens with 14 ounces if I did that instead ? 

    1. This is a smaller batch recipe, so the entire can isn’t used. If you double the recipe to fit a larger pan, 1 can is perfect.

  13. Made these for a party last night and they were AMAZING! Everyone loved them! I normally stick to a more basic butter/graham cracker crust (which is all fine and good) for my go-to magic bar recipe, but I’m so glad I branched out and tried this one!!! Btw, I am SO excited that you may be coming to Atlanta, my hometown!

  14. I made these last Christmas and they tasted DELICIOUS! Got rave reviews! My only dilemmas were that after I cooled them the appropriate time, they were rather difficult to cut through. Is there a special type of knife you use to cut them into the delectable little pieces of heaven that they are? Also, the foil didn’t peel off very well from the crust…any tips? Could parchment paper be used instead of foil? I can’t wait to make these again oh so soon! Merry Christmas! 

    1. Maggie, make sure you’re using a super sharp knife to get through all of those layers. OR you can let the bars sit at room temperature for 10-20 minutes which will help you cut through easier. Parchment paper works too.

  15. Sally,

    Can something else be used in the crust instead of butterscotch chips? I’m bringing these to a kids birthday and I worry the butterscotch taste won’t go over well.

    1. Peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, chopped candy bars (heath bar, snickers maybe?), or M&Ms!

  16. I made these for my husband, but he challenged me to add some layers. He was also going on a hike so I wanted to make them a little heartier, and maybe not as sweet. I used a mix of shredded sweetened coconut and flaked unsweetened coconut, added peanut butter chips, and topped it with some broke up pretzels for a salty crunch. They were a huge hit!

  17. Sara Hornseth-Bates says:

    Hi Sally! I’m going to try making these for the first time soon. I just measure out some graham crumbs for your no-bake chocolate pb squares and found that 1 cup of my graham cracker crumbs comes to 150g, not 100g. Which do you recommend I go with, the cup or the mass? 

    1. Ok no worries there– go with 1 cup.

  18. Hi Sally, just wondering if you’ve ever frozen magic bars/think they’d hold up? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sabrina! I have. You can freeze up to 2-3 months. They’re just fine! Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. They taste best fresh but no one seemed to notice or care they had been frozen. 🙂

  19. Hi Sally! If I wanted to do a version without coconut could I have the flavor combinations be: white chocolate chips in the crust and chocolate chips, peanuts, and mini peanut butter cups for the top portion? Thanks Sally!! Was just wondering if the coconut part is vital. 

    1. Coconut is not imperative and, actually, your version sounds like it would be delicious!!

  20. Can these be made in a 9×13 pan without changing the ingredients?

    1. The best bet would be to double the recipe for a 9×13.

  21. Because of how much I LIKE-LIKE nuts, I’ve made these with a combination of pecans, walnuts, macadamias and cashews (toasted first), plus dark chocolate chips, semi-sweet chips, and butterscotch chips. Hershey also puts out cinnamon chips this time of year, and I added them one year (with all the other toppings–I don’t skimp!), and it was simply “over the top,” and my coworkers went crazy for the bars.

    I never thought to make a crust like this, though, so will do that for my next batch–but will still have all the toppings, including more butterscotch chips :-)!

  22. Hina Siddiqui says:

    Hi Sally, These look AMAZING! Two questions: 
    1) If I understand correct, I would have to double the above recipe for a 13*9 pan, right?
    2) Would dark brown sugar or regular white sugar be okay to use instead of the light brown?
    Thanks

    1. I made these with dark brown sugar (all I had on hand) and they were good but tasted of molasses; next time I’ll wait for light brown sugar. Family ate every crumb anyway. Didn’t try white sugar.

  23. Made these for a bake sale today! Tried a small piece while wrapping them and had to think twice about not eating them all! They were a huge hit, thanks for the great recipe!

  24. Robin Silveira says:

    Hello, can these bars be frozen ?

    1. Yep, see the last step.

  25. These look amazing!! I’m definitely making them for my In-Laws as a Christmas gift!! They love coconut and pecans! 🙂

  26. Hi Sally Instead of butterscotch chips,, how about peanut butter? Would that work?

    1. PB chips would be great!

  27. Linda Walker says:

    I know i’m A day late and a dolla short but I just made these and my house smells SO GOOOD!

  28. Here’s my question. What if I want to make enough for a 13×9 pan? Should I just double the recipe and watch it on the oven? I don’t like nuts so would probably reduce the nuts and increase the coconut by theright amount. I would use milk chocolate chips since I’m not fond of semi sweet chocolate. Thanks.

    1. Hi Penny! Your best bet would be to double the recipe for a 9×13.

  29. I made these bars yesterday for a holiday get together and they were a big hit. Everyone loved them. Some took extras home and others asked for the recipe. Will make again and again. Thanks!

  30. Melody Barlow says:

    Hi. I made these exactly by your directions. Unfortunately, they stuck to the foil like crazy and stayed very gooey and soft in the middle. So much that there is no cutting them into bars as I expected. What did I do wrong? I followed the recipe exactly. Help. The flavor is great but its a mess.

    1. Hi Melody! If you decide to try them again, use parchment paper. I find it’s a little easier to work with for these bars.

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