Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Just so we are clear, what these bars are not: peanut butter and caramel living on completely different planets (or in this case, layers). What they are: Peanut butter plus caramel, or in other words, caramel and peanut butter swirled together to create the most decadent layer to have ever visited a chocolate chip cookie bar.

It’s peanut butter and caramel together forever. And it’s totally insane. In a really, really good way.

Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

After my brother emailed me saying I needed to make these disastrously delicious bars before taking another breath, it took a few variations to get the recipe just how I wanted so the rich caramel and peanut butter layer stayed prominent while not overpowering the buttery, sweet chocolate chip cookie dough. And who’s going to complain about multiple batches of peanut butter caramel? Not me and mine, that’s for sure. Judging simply from the reactions of those lovely souls who took several samples off my hands (and the bajillion squares I consumed all in the name of quality control and scientific cookie bar research), it was clear the combination of flavors would be fabulous.

As I mention in the notes below, if you choose to brown the butter first before making the cookie dough base, I won’t stop you. And I’ll probably end up on your doorstep (my only talent is being able to detect the delectable smell of browned butter from miles away). It’s not an essential step but one that may have you chasing your self-control across the neighborhood.

Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

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Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Yield: Makes a 9X13-inch pan of bars

Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I've only ever used Trader Joe's soft and chewy salted caramels for this recipe (about 26 of them to be precise) but other brands of chewy caramel (like Kraft or Brachs) could be used too, as well as homemade if you want to be a total rockstar. Also, keep in mind if using milk with the caramels (instead of cream) the mixture will be quite a bit thinner and runnier. I've made it both ways and it's delicious either way - just richer and creamier with the cream rather than the milk.

Oh, and if you want to brown the butter first, I won't stop you. Just don't come back blaming me if your self-control flies out the window.


    Cookie Dough:
  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups (13.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • Peanut Butter Caramel:
  • 10 ounces soft caramels (see note above), unwrapped
  • 1/3 cup cream or milk (see note above)
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with foil (the foil part is optional but helps the bars come out in one big slab after cooling, if that's your thing) and spray liberally with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the melted butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar together in a large bowl until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Spread or press about half (or just slightly more than half) of the batter in the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 8-9 minutes.
  4. While the cookie dough base is baking, add the caramels and cream to a microwave-safe bowl (you can also heat on low on the stovetop in a saucepan) and microwave for 1-minute increments at 50% power, stirring in between, until the caramel is melted and smooth. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla extract.
  5. Drizzle the caramel mixture over the top of the baked cookie dough and spread evenly.
  6. Pinch the remaining cookie dough between your fingers and crumble over the top of the caramel.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the bars are puffed and the edges are slightly golden.
  8. Let the bars cool completely before cutting into squares.

Recipe Source: inspired by this recipe at Julie’s Eats & Treats after my brother emailed me and told me we couldn’t be friends until I tried and perfected the bars (after a few tries, I used a tweaked version of my favorite thick and chewy chocolate chip bars and adapted the caramel recipe so it didn’t overpower the bars)

37 Responses to Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

  1. Hi Mel- this looks yummy! Have you ever tried/heard the tip of adding a little flour to the caramel to help is set-up when making bar recipes? It is supposed to keep the caramel “stretchy” while still be able to cut through when cool.

  2. Sheila says:

    Oh my . . . .this should have been one of those holidays recipes. But the new found runner in you came forth in mercy allowing us to have this during summer so we could burn calories chasing our self-control around the neighborhood. 🙂 🙂 When I make this (and I will be sure friends are present to help consume), I know I will be a rock star even without making homemade caramels. You certainly are a family of chefs and people with giving hearts sharing your treasures with us. Thank you!

  3. I’m totally convinced that I need these in my life…like this weekend!

  4. Gigi says:

    Do you think caramel sundae topping would work? The one in the jar not the squeeze bottle or would it be too runny?

  5. Kim in MD says:

    Oh my…I must make these a.s.a.p.!

  6. Tracy says:

    We have been addicted to your regular chocolate chip cookie bars for the last 2 weeks. I’ve made 4 pans. Question: when these caramel bars are done baking and cooled, do they hold up, like to pick one up and eat it with you hand? I have to take a treat to co -ed softball and I want to try these but if they aren’t solid, I’ll just stick with the regular ones we love so much! Thanks in advance!!!

    • Mel says:

      Hey Tracy, yes these can definitely be served as finger food…they hold up really well especially if you use cream in the caramel mixture and not regular milk.

  7. Jane says:

    These look delicious. Do you think I could try baking them with coconut oil in place of the butter, or am I asking for disaster there? Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Sure! I’ve made the cookie bars without the caramel PB mixture with coconut oil and it works great. The dough has a slightly more greasy texture and might feel drier but it should be ok.

  8. Connie says:

    I think I need a pan of these in my life. Or my mouth. They look freaking amazing!!!

  9. Ellen says:

    So I just read another recipe on another blog for some oatmeal/fruit cookie bars. I thought yum, then……. I saw these. Fruit vs. caramel/peanut butter? No contest.

  10. Louise E. says:

    These look so good! Peanut butter, caramel and chocolate chips…. what more could you want? I can hardly wait to make a batch. Do you use regular (10%) cream or heavy (35%) cream in this recipe? Also, do you think this would work with natural peanut butter?

    • Mel says:

      I usually use heavy cream. I’m not sure about the natural peanut butter since the texture is different but I definitely think it’s worth a try.

  11. Laura says:

    Hey, Mel! If you were to make your own caramel, what recipe would you use?? Thanks a bunch!

  12. Jen says:

    I’d like to know, if making your own caramel, approximately how much would you use in the bars? By the way good luck with your half marathon! I also am running one in Seattle on the 13th. I’m so excited to get it done!

    • Mel says:

      I would say right around 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups. I’ll try to measure more specifically next time I make them. Good luck on your half! I agree, excited to get it over with!

  13. These bars look so incredible!!!!

  14. Aida Suarez says:

    Hi I saw these bars on your blog and I knew I had to make them for my husband family. I had all the ingredients in my pantry so I decided to make them tonight. They came out great! I couldn’t resist I had to try one and it was delicious. Thank you for the recipe.

  15. Peg says:

    Hi Mel,

    These sounds delicious–have you ever tried freezing them? I have two events coming up where I need cookies for both and
    only want to bake once…

    • Mel's Kitchen Cafe Admin says:

      Hello Peg – Mel is out of town this weekend and not by internet, but yes, these freeze beautifully. It also helps to chill them before cutting so that you can get nice clean cuts before you freeze them. Good luck at your events!

  16. Kirstin says:

    I had some homemade buttermilk caramel syrup (Our Best Bites recipe) leftover, so I used about 2 cups of that with great success! And I must say, that syrup is even better with the peanut butter mixed in. That’s probably how I’m going to make it from now on.

  17. Jennifer says:

    Mel, I’ve made brownies before with salted caramel in them and made from scratch, not candies, and the caramel was very hard and chewy…it ruined the brownie! I’m scared to use caramel in any other recipes for fear this may happen. Do you think the candies are better to use the homemade or maybe there is a tip to keeping the caramel soft and stretchy? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Hmmm, that’s an interesting point, Jennifer. I’ve used homemade caramel in a brownie recipe before and it seemed to be fine but I think the key may be to undercook the caramel (when making just the homemade caramel) by a few degrees since it will cook more in the oven.

  18. Jeanine says:

    I made these for the first time tonight. I wanted to make something for our neighbors who let us borrow their pool while they were out of town. She is a professional baker so I’ve been intimidated to share baked goodies with her! We brought these over to her and 5 minutes later she was knocking on our door to tell us how divine they were!! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  19. Hcoxmom1 says:

    I made these .. with homemade salted caramel (basically your foolproof caramel recipe–with kosher coarse salt added and I cut down on cooking time and cut the recipe in 1/2 ) So so yummy and worked great!! They were delicious – soft- chewy- the caramel was the perfect texture when the peanut butter was added and baked between the cookie dough. These were everything I wanted them to be!!

  20. Colleen says:

    I made these for a family picnic this weekend, and everyone inhaled them! I used Trader Joe’s caramels and chilled them before cutting–they cut like a dream. They were absolutely delicious. I’m already trying to figure out another occasion when I can make them!

  21. Adrienne says:

    Made this and I think they are my new favorite dessert!! Absolute heaven! Especially when microwaved for about 12 seconds to warm them up!! If others were wondering- I expected the caramel to set up and get chewy after they were baked but three days later the caramel was still smooth and soft! Incredible!

  22. Ashley says:

    These have been on my radar since the day you posted them! I just couldn’t make them for just my hubby, my 2 year old and myself to eat all by ourselves. So we invited some friends over and I took advantage and made them. They were so delicious! Thanks for the great recipe! I don’t think I have made a recipe of yours yet that has failed me.

  23. Louise E. says:

    Okay, so I finally made these bars a couple days ago and they are absolutely delicious. I used regular peanut butter and heavy cream along with Kraft caramels. The only hard part was unwrapping all the caramels.

  24. celia says:

    Not sure these bars and I will become friends: the one caramel I sampled before starting to bake pulled out one of my fillings! Wasn’t the first time either, should have known better!

  25. Kelly says:

    I made these for my office’s treat day today and they are a HIT! A few people have asked for the recipe. Thanks for another great one Mel!

  26. susan says:

    I won major points from my FIL when I made these for a little gathering. I’m new to the TJs caramels, but I ate a tub and used a tub for these and they will be added to my ‘stock up’ list whenever I head in. Made the mistake of having to use part crunchy peanut butter and wasn’t crazy about the peanut bits mixed in, so I’ll have to make sure I have straight creamy on hand next time. And there will be a next time!

  27. Jennifer W says:

    Mel ~

    If I use store bought caramels but still want the salted caramel flavor…could I add some sea salt to the caramel mixture and if so, how much would you recommend?

    Also, are you to whisk and stir this recipe only by hand (no mixer)?

    Sound amazing!

    • Mel says:

      Sure, that would work just fine. I’d start with just a pinch or 1/8 teaspoon and work up from there. It works fine to make it per the recipe without a stand mixer.

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