Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Imagine a tasty chocolate chip cookie bar sandwiched with a creamy, chewy, rich peanut butter caramel layer. Insane. Delicious. Perfect.
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.
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.
One Year Ago: Creamy Tex-Mex Quinoa Dippers
Two Years Ago: Grilled Lime Coconut Chicken with Coconut Rice
Three Years Ago: Ginger Crinkle Cookies
Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
- 12 tablespoons (170 g) salted butter, melted
- 1 cup (212 g) brown sugar
- ½ cup (106 g) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 ¾ cups (391 g) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups (340 g) chocolate chips
Peanut Butter Caramel:
- 10 ounces (283 g) soft caramels, unwrapped (see note)
- ⅓ cup cream or milk (see note)
- ⅓ cup (85 g) creamy peanut butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Drizzle the caramel mixture over the top of the baked cookie dough and spread evenly.
- Pinch the remaining cookie dough between your fingers and crumble over the top of the caramel.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until the bars are puffed and the edges are slightly golden.
- 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)
59 Comments on “Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars”
These are AMAZING! They quickly became my go to recipe when I’m making a treat for a big group. (I double and make 2 pans) They are Heaven!! Definitely chill them, so good! But also, it’s a good idea to sneak just a little corner when its still warm and eat it with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.
These were so amazing…one of my favorite desserts lately. Yum!! I used Brach’s caramels and I even worried they were a little stale but it worked great.
Can this be made as cookie?
I don’t think I really understand your question…are you wanting to make individual cookies with this recipe?
I have made these several times and have always followed the recipe. Infact, I am making these again tonight. I just wanted to say these are AMAZING! The flavors of caramel, creamy peanut butter, cookie dough and chocolate chips all together are insane!!
Do you think it would work to add peanut butter to a can of dulce de leche?
I haven’t tried that but sounds like it would be worth experimenting!
That’s actually the only way I’ve ever done this recipe, and it turns out amazing. I can’t speak to how it compares to the caramels, though, since I’ve never tried it that way.
Silly question – I’ve made these several times and they are a hit! I have leftover salted caramel sauce I made for a dessert and am wanting to use the leftovers to make this – how much homemade caramel do you need – roughly 2 cups? 15 oz? I just didn’t want to mess that part up. Appreciate any input!
I would say probably 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups.
I love how there is a burst of all flavors in one bite: caramel, peanut butter, cookie dough and chocolate chips! It’s amazing! I love how a tiny bit of peanut butter compliments it!
These are a show stopper. I have made them twice in 3 weeks, for different crowds, and both times everyone raved about them.
These are so freaking good! I was too lazy to run to the store for cream, but the recipe didn’t suffer by substituting milk. Thanks again for another perfect recipe!
Can I use homemade caramel sauce and then add peanut butter instead of the candies?
Could certainly try – sounds delicious! A lot will depend on the consistency of the homemade caramel sauce.
These are gooey and oh so delicious! They have the perfect hint of peanut butter. I will be making these again, no doubt about it. Thanks for another amazing recipe!
Should the cookie dough mixture be very wet? Mine was pretty wet for the first layer, making it hard to spread on the pan. I added a little bit of flour to the remainder, hoping it would get a little easier to handle, but I was too worried I’d ruin it so I didn’t add much. The top layer was impossible to crumble, as the instructions say. I dropped it in chunks and tried to spread it a little. It is taking extra long to bake, too. I guess my humid area made the flour measurement a bit off.
Hi Megan, yeah, it sounds like you might have needed a bit more flour (like you said, that may be due to humidity or just a variance in how we both measure flour).
Hi would the Carmel toffee bar’s filling work too? I don’t have Carmel’s in the house right now and would like to try these
I’m afraid I’m not sure what you are referring to??
This looks so good! My husband is allergic to peanut butter, do you think it would taste ok without it?
It would probably affect the texture and consistency of the bars; could you sub sunflower butter or another non-peanut type butter (almond butter would work, too)?
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)?
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
These bars look so incredible!!!!
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!
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!
Hey, Mel! If you were to make your own caramel, what recipe would you use?? Thanks a bunch!
I would use the Foolproof Caramel Recipe.
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?
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.
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.
I think I need a pan of these in my life. Or my mouth. They look freaking amazing!!!
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!
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.
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!!!
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.
Oh my…I must make these a.s.a.p.!
Do you think caramel sundae topping would work? The one in the jar not the squeeze bottle or would it be too runny?
I think that would be too runny.
I’m totally convinced that I need these in my life…like this weekend!
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!
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.
I haven’t heard of that or tried it – sounds interesting!