Homemade Dulce de Leche Twix Bars {Shortbread + Caramel + Chocolate}

These homemade dulce de leche Twix bars are the ultimate combination of a buttery shortbread crust, quick and easy homemade dulce de leche caramel, and chocolate topping. Holy moly, they are amazing.

Sliced homemade grown up Twix bars on white tray.

Just a few days away from the end of holiday baking season and I’m posting this recipe. What on earth am I thinking? I mean, most of you probably already have your holiday baking spreadsheets typed up, double checked, and mostly executed. Go you.

I’m proud of you. Very proud.

But I wouldn’t feel good about myself as your virtual friend and best-recipe giver if I didn’t share this homemade dulce de leche Twix bars recipe. Even this late in the baking season. I’ve definitely saved the best for last, because I think this probably qualifies as the best thing I’ve made all year (lots and lots of close seconds, but if I had to choose…).

Three homemade grown up Twix bars stacked on each other

The perfect combo

I might be a little biased. After all, the classic Twix combination: shortbread + caramel + chocolate is one of my favorites ever. Ever ever. 

Do you remember four years ago when I did the same thing I’m doing today and posted these Twixster shortbread cookies declaring them one of my favorite cookies of all time? You faithful followers shouldn’t be too surprised, right? My opinion of this stellar combo still hasn’t changed. I love those cookies and make them EVERY December (and May, and probably July, too). 

These divine dulce de leche bars are like those cookies – just in bar form. With a few little tweaks here and there.

And oh my goodness, they are insane and amazing and life changing and all the other superlatives you want to throw in there even though people will roll their eyes at you and me. It’s the truth. And I always stand by the truth. (Especially when it comes to shortbread and caramel.)

The bars start with a simple but very important shortbread crust. 

Ingredients in glass bowl to make shortbread crust

Shortbread Crust + Flour Options

And when I say simple, I mean simple. 

  • butter (I use salted, always)
  • brown sugar
  • almond flour
  • all-purpose flour

The almond flour adds a fantastic depth of flavor that all-purpose flour just can’t reach. AND, it definitely adds to the perfect crumbly, but not too crumbly, texture. 

I don’t think I’ll ever make a shortbread crust without a little bit of almond flour thrown into the mix. It’s delightful. 

My try at using 100% almond flour wasn’t as yummy as using a combo of almond flour and all-purpose. But if you are wanting to make a gluten-free option, I think the almond flour is definitely passable! 

Making shortbread crust with almond flour and all-purpose flour

The crust is going to be very crumbly after being mixed. Don’t panic! It’ll look much more crumbly if using a handheld mixer vs a stand mixer.

Although it looks sandy, if you grab a handful, it should clump together. 

Press that delightfully wonderful buttery shortbready mixture into the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan. I use metal pans for baking. I like the straight sides and even baking potential. If you use a glass pan, you’ll probably want to decrease the oven temp by 25 degrees. 

Bake the shortbread crust until set and the edges are lightly golden. Don’t overbake. Don’t underbake. Haha. Good luck. (Just kidding, it’s not hard, 13-15 minutes and you’ll be good to go.)

Pressing shortbread crust into 9X13-inch pan, unbaked and baked

Homemade Dulce de leche

Or, caramel. You can call it what you like; I’m sure I’ll get corrected in the comments (wink, wink), but it really is a beautiful combination of both.

Because the mixture uses a can of sweetened condensed milk, it definitely has a dulce de leche vibe and flavor, although the texture is more chewy and caramel-like than normally soft and creamy dulce de leche.

While the crust cools, you get the lucky job of making this super easy homemade dulce de leche/caramel! You don’t even need a candy thermometer. 

Adding sweetened condensed milk, butter and sugar

The only trick is to stir constantly over moderate heat. 

Once you see bubbles pop on the surface and the mixture comes to a gentle boil, set the timer for 10 minutes. In that time, the color will darken into a lovely golden brown but it stays pretty light overall. If you want more chewiness, cook it a few minutes longer. 

Making homemade caramel or dulce de leche

Off the heat, stir in the vanilla.

Stirring vanilla into homemade caramel

And then immediately pour the warm caramel over the cooled shortbread crust and spread into an even layer. 

Refrigerate the crust until the caramel is cooled and set, about 30 minutes. What you choose to do with the caramel remnants left in the pan is up to you. #nojudging

Pouring homemade caramel on top of shortbread crustCaramel on top of shortbread crust

Chocolate Ganache: A 2-Ingredient Wonder

While the caramel is cooling, it’s time for the ganache. Or in other words: one of the most divine things on the planet. 

I love ganache so much. I love saying it. I love making it. I love digging in with a spoon. 

For this recipe, we’re using 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (bittersweet, semisweet, or a combo – or play around with using milk chocolate) and 1 cup heavy cream. 

Place the chocolate in a bowl, heat the cream to just below a simmer and then pour over the chocolate and let sit. As you start mixing the ganache, it’ll look grainy and weird. And if it’s your first time making ganache, you might panic and think: it’s ruined!

It’s not ruined, I promise. As long as the cream is warm enough and the chocolate fully melted, it will come together. Just keep mixing! 

Making chocolate ganache

Before you know it, the ganache will be glossy and silky and glorious. 

This makes a pretty substantial layer of chocolate on top of the shortbread and caramel. It’s perfect, in my opinion. But you could definitely decrease the quantities a little if you want a less hefty amount of chocolate. I mean, I think we can still be friends if you do that. 

What type of chocolate is best for melting?

I always use Guittard or Ghirardelli brands when melting chocolate chips. The flavor and texture are spot on. 

You can also use chopped chocolate (any brand that you really love the taste of if you take a nibble) or your favorite brand of chocolate chips. No need to be fussy, just keep in mind that some brands of chocolate chips don’t melt well and may have added ingredients that affect flavor or taste. 

Glass bowl of chocolate ganache

Before all is lost and the chocolate ganache is smothered in between graham crackers or eaten straight from the bowl, pour the magical mixture on top of the set caramel. 

Pouring chocolate ganache on top of caramel

Spread the ganache into an even layer and refrigerate until set. 

If you want to sprinkle a small amount of fine sea salt on top, you can do it now or wait until the chocolate has firmed up a little bit. 

9X13-inch pan of Twix bars with caramel and chocolate spread on top

How to cut clean slices

To cut neat, even slices, first, let the bars sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so in order for the caramel to soften a bit. Then, run a sharp knife under hot water and wipe dry. Slice the bars, repeating the hot water step as needed. 

You can cut the bars into thin rectangles or squares. Even triangles or hexagons would be acceptable. It honestly doesn’t matter because they will be inhaled within minutes. 

While the bars do need to be stored in the refrigerator if not served within an hour or so, I like them best one step above room temperature. Not chilly. But not warm. Because the topping is just chocolate ganache, it will soften as the bars sit out of the refrigerator. That’s ok.

They still can be served off a tray to be picked up and eaten. There might be some chocolate lingering on the ol’ fingers, but that never hurt anyone. You can also serve them plated with a fork if you want to go that route, but a small serving goes a long way. 

They are unapologetically rich and decadent.

Two homemade grown up Twix bars on white tray.

If you are looking for a showstopper dessert for a holiday meal or to add to a lineup of finger foods and desserts, these homemade dulce de leche Twix bars should be top of the list. 

My brother introduced me to the recipe months ago (and to the amazing Dandelion chocolate cookbook {aff. link} they originate from); he and I have both made them numerous times. And although we are both prone to hyperbolic exclamations at times (runs in the family), he and I both sincerely and solemnly agree they are definitely one of the best desserts of all time. 

I can’t wait for you to experience the deliciousness of these surprisingly simple little caramel shortbread bars. I can now rest easy and enjoy the holidays. My work here is done.

Three homemade grown up Twix bars on each other with bite taken out

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Homemade Dulce de Leche Twix Bars

Yield: 9X13-inch pan of bars
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 55 minutes
Two homemade grown up Twix bars on white tray.

Ingredients

Shortbread Crust:

  • 10 tablespoons (5 ounces) butter, room temperature (I use salted butter)
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) almond flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use coarse, kosher salt)

Dulce de Leche/Caramel Layer:

  • 10 tablespoons (5 ounces) butter (I use salted butter)
  • 1/2 cup (3.75 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I user coarse, kosher salt)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) good-quality chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (see note)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Fine sea salt for the top, optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray (or line with parchment). I haven't tried making these in a glass pan - if doing so, decrease the oven temp to 325 degrees. Set the pan aside.
  2. For the crust, combine all the crust ingredients in a bowl and mix with a handheld or electric stand mixer until evenly combined and no streaks of flour or butter remain, 1-2 minutes. Press the dough evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 13-15 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. Let cool while making the caramel.
  3. For the dulce de leche layer, in a medium pot, combine the all of the caramel ingredients except the vanilla and heat over medium or medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, scraping the bottom of the pot continuously, and cook for 10 minutes until it changes to a light golden brown color (don't overcook! if the color is changing quickly, don't cook for the full 10 minutes - I keep my heat moderated pretty low, if your heat is higher, the caramel may cook faster). Moderate the heat, especially if it begins to burn on the bottom. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and immediately pour the caramel over the shortbread crust and spread evenly.
  4. Refrigerate the bars until the caramel is cooled and set, about 30-45 minutes.
  5. For the chocolate ganache, place the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream to just below a simmer and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 1-2 minutes. Stir or whisk until the chocolate chips melt and become smooth. The mixture will go from looking grainy to smooth and glossy. Spread the ganache over the set caramel layer. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Refrigerate until the chocolate layer is set, about an hour.
  6. Cut into slices or squares. To cut neatly, run a sharp knife or bench knife under hot water, wipe dry and slice (repeating as necessary and wiping the knife clean, if needed). If the bars have been refrigerated for a while, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so to make cutting easier. Refrigerate bars if not serving them within a couple of hours.

Notes

Flour: You can experiment using hazelnut flour for part of the all-purpose flour if you like (and if you can find it). You can also try using 100% almond flour (instead of part all-purpose) - when I tried that the crust was more dense and less light and tender, but definitely worth more of a try for a gluten-free option. I have not tried this recipe with 100% all-purpose flour - I think the crust will be quite a bit more dense, but if you want to try it, I'd suggest measuring with a light hand or decreasing the overall flour amount by 1/4 cup. UPDATE: someone suggested using a bit of cornstarch if using all-purpose flour for a tender texture; great idea. I'd suggest replacing 1/4 cup flour with 1/4 cup cornstarch.

Chocolate: I use bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (Guittard or Ghirardelli). You can experiment with milk chocolate (I haven't tried it myself). As written, this makes a very substantial layer of chocolate (totally my style). You can cut it down, if you'd like the chocolate to be more of an afterthought next to the caramel and shortbread.

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Recipe Source: adapted from the Dandelion Chocolate Cookbook {aff. link}

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