Oatmeal Carmelita Bars

Back to work, back to school, and nothing says easy and portable quite like cookie bars. They are easy to make, and just as easy to wrap up and drop in a lunchbox (or lunch bag, depending on who is taking the treat). If you don’t have kids or don’t need to worry about packing a lunch, then all you need to worry about is that these are just plain fantastic. Nothing complicated here, yet the flavor definitely packs a serious punch. An oatmeal shortbread crust is topped with chocolate and chopped pecans, then a layer of caramel sauce, and then finished off with an oat crumb topping. Hello, heaven.

A little over a year ago a reader, Joelle, emailed me to ask if I had a recipe for carmelita bars, as she had enjoyed one on a recent trip and was dying to recreate them at home. My apologies to Joelle that it has taken me this long to whip them up, but hopefully she feels that they were worth the wait! I know she mentioned that hers had walnuts, while I used pecans in these, but you could easily use either one interchangeably.

I am pretty much a sucker for anything that includes a crumb topping, and these are no exception. Chocolate, nuts, caramel, oats, crumb topping… life doesn’t get much better than that for someone who adores sweets!

One year ago: Oatmeal Muffins with Dates, Cranberries & Pecans

Oatmeal Carmelita Bars

Yield: 24 bars

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1½ cups light brown sugar
2 cups quick-cooking oats
14 ounces caramel candies, unwrapped
½ cup evaporated milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until combined and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture until fully incorporated. Add the oats and mix on low briefly to just combine.

4. Transfer approximately half of the dough mixture to the baking dish. Spread and press the dough into the baking dish until you have an even layer with no cracks or crumbles. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven.

5. While the dough is baking, combine the evaporated milk and caramels in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir the mixture constantly until all the caramels are melted and you have a thick sauce. Allow to cool until cookie base comes out of the oven.

6. Once out of the oven, sprinkle the cookie base evenly with chocolate chips and pecans, and then carefully pour the caramel sauce over the cookie base, nuts, and chocolate. Use an offset spatula to spread the caramel sauce into an even layer.

7. Sprinkle the remaining cookie dough over the top of the caramel-chocolate-nut mixture a handful at a time, making sure to get an even coating over the whole dish.

8. Return the dish to the oven, baking until the topping is lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

9. Once out of the oven, cool the dish to room temperature and then refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

(Recipe adapted from Bluebonnets & Brownies)

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73 Responses to “Oatmeal Carmelita Bars”

  1. Deborah on January 6, 2012 at 12:11 am

    I have made something similar – and love them!! Now I’m wishing I had one for my nighttime treat. :)

    Reply

  2. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga on January 6, 2012 at 12:48 am

    These look phenomenal. I have seen a few recipes for carmelitas bars recently and I’m dying to make some. Love.Caramel.

    Reply

  3. CouponClippingCook on January 6, 2012 at 1:38 am

    I for sure couldn’t stop at eating just one of these. They sound delicious.

    Reply

  4. Choc Chip Uru on January 6, 2012 at 3:45 am

    If I made these, I would never stop eating them – why do you keep putting my favourite ingredients together my friend :)

    Reply

  5. Kiri W. on January 6, 2012 at 6:05 am

    Oh man, the only thing better with caramel than chocolate is crumbly oats. Well, maybe oats AND chocolate, but I’m still dying for these bars! Looks delicious!!

    Reply

  6. Lauren at Keep It Sweet on January 6, 2012 at 6:16 am

    I am a huge fan of carmelita bars and would love to have a batch of these around:-)

    Reply

  7. Sommer@ASpicyPerspective on January 6, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Michelle… those look ridiculously good! Oatmeal is a breakfast food, I can have them for breakfast, right???

    Reply

  8. Jennifer@Peanut Butter and Peppers on January 6, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Oh yum! These bars looks fantastic!!! I need to do some baking this weekend! Nothing like a quick, grab and go bar and it’s healthy too because there’s oatmeal in it! :) he he

    Reply

  9. Colleen @ What's Baking in the Barbershop?! on January 6, 2012 at 7:13 am

    I just got to work for the day but all I want to do now is go home and make these bars. Yummmm! Just pinned them on Pinterest so I’ll remember them for another time :)

    Reply

  10. Sandra on January 6, 2012 at 8:06 am

    I will surely have to add in more exercise when I make these.

    Reply

  11. sue@ cakeballs, cookies and more on January 6, 2012 at 8:36 am

    they sure look good!

    Reply

  12. Lindsay @ The Live-In Kitchen on January 6, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Obviously, yum! Everything should have caramel sauce, don’t you think?!

    Reply

  13. Melanee on January 6, 2012 at 9:37 am

    To make these easier, use the really good Mrs. Richardson butterscotch caramel sauce (in a glass jar as an ice cream topping). It is rich, thick sauce and can easily just be eaten with a spoon solo. It would be a cheater step. Also, roasting nuts in the oven brings out more flavor in them (Foodtv taught me that – and it is true!). Awesomeness in a bar — that is what these are. With teenagers, these will disappear in the blink of an eye ( I have three — and I am being serious!). What a perfect Friday recipe!!

    Reply

  14. Ali B on January 6, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I’ve never heard of carmelita bars before but they look delicious! I love anything with caramel and the oatmeal makes these bars healthy right….?

    Reply

  15. Mercedes (Satisfy My Sweet Tooth) on January 6, 2012 at 10:27 am

    i have had these bars and love them! Great photos as usual!

    Reply

  16. Cookbook Queen on January 6, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Will you believe that I have never made Carmelitas? But I know I would LOOOOVE them!! These look great, love the use of pecans!!

    Reply

  17. Deb on January 6, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I was intrigued by the name Carmelita Bars. I had never heard of them and can see this is a serious omission on my part! What could be a better cookie for winter, than oatmeal and caramel? Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  18. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar on January 6, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Mmm I love a good caramel bar!

    Reply

  19. Courtney @ Bake.Eat.Repeat. on January 6, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Ummm…you had me at oatmeal shortbread crust.

    Reply

  20. Emilie @ Emilie's Enjoyables on January 6, 2012 at 11:12 am

    YUM. I love bar cookies, they are the best!

    Reply

  21. Peggy on January 6, 2012 at 11:22 am

    I’d say that these were definitely worth the wait! Oh man, my only regret is that I don’t have one in front of me right now =)

    Reply

  22. Tina on January 6, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Mmmm! This looks like an excellent recipe for the church bake sale this weekend! Can’t wait to try them.

    Reply

  23. susan on January 6, 2012 at 11:41 am

    If I were to make homemade caramel, how much caramel sauce do you think I should use to replace the 14 caramel candies? Should it be room temperature before I pour it on?

    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 6th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      Hi Susan, I’d estimate about 1.5 cups of sauce.

      Reply

      • susan on January 6th, 2012 at 3:18 pm

        Thanks!

        Reply

  24. missy on January 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Oh, these are lovely!

    Reply

  25. Christina @ Sweet Peas Kitchen on January 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Oh yeah!! These look amazing! I love that the recipe calls for caramel candies! As I unwrap them I will put one in the pan and one in my mouth! ;)

    Reply

  26. gretchen on January 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I make these and the recipe I have is different. Yjou use a jar of Smukers Caramel Ice Cream topping and mix in 1/4 cup flour. No need to heat it and the recipe does not call for evaporated milk. It is also alot cheaper then buying the caramel candy.

    Reply

  27. amanda @ fake ginger on January 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Ooh, I want one of these immediately! They look scrumptious!

    Reply

  28. Connie the Cookie Monster on January 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    anything with caramel is heavenly!!

    Reply

  29. Dana@TheSundaySweet on January 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I absolutely love carmilitas! I haven’t seen a post about them in a long time. Now I’m going to have to dig up my recipe and head to the kitchen.

    Reply

  30. Ally on January 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Oh my… these look & sound amazing!!!
    xo
    http://www.allykayler.blogspot.com

    Reply

  31. leslie on January 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    mmmm.caramel and chocolate..nothing better

    Reply

  32. Steph@stephsbitebybite on January 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Holy smokes! I think these just got me excited to get back to “normal life” :)

    Reply

  33. modernworkinggirl on January 6, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Yum. It’s the abundance of oats that gets me!

    Reply

  34. Jessica S on January 6, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    OMG! Those look amazing!

    Reply

  35. Rebekah @ Making Miracles on January 6, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I am stuck on bedrest and can’t cook or bake right now – but I want to make these!! They look so tasty!! :)

    Reply

  36. Catherine Daugherty on January 6, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Thanks for this recipe! The sugar bowl and I have parted ways (under duress) and so I am baking vicariously through you! Thanks for the recipe. I re-posted with a link back to you!

    Reply

  37. Jen at The Three Little Piglets on January 6, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Oh my! Forget lunch, I’d eat these for breakfast!!

    Reply

  38. bergamot on January 6, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    These look lovely. I have some caramel chips, wondering if I could use them instead in this recipe.

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 9th, 2012 at 8:44 pm

      Hmm I have never seen or used caramel chips, so I couldn’t give a definitive yes or no, but if they melt down into a sauce-like consistency then I think you could give it a go.

      Reply

  39. Joelle N. on January 6, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    Thanks, Michelle, for your post! The wait was well worth it — you are a woman who stands by your word! You made my year and I truly hope that your readers love these carmelitas as much as I do. I no longer need to drive up to The Model Bakery in Napa to get these delicious treats! Cheers!

    Reply

  40. Kendra on January 7, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Hooray! I’m Joelle’s sister and I’ve been looking forward to these, too! Thanks so much for this recipe, and all the wonderful blogging you do throughout the year!

    Reply

  41. Ann on January 7, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Oh, hello heaven is right! These are nothing short of spectacular!

    Reply

  42. Mackenzie@The Caramel Cookie on January 7, 2012 at 8:20 am

    These look great to go with lunch this week!

    Reply

  43. Holly on January 7, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Oddly enough I had all the ingredients to make these. They are fantastic! They remind me of a grown up version of the 7 layer bars everyone makes at Christmas time. Love, love, love! Seriously amazing. Thank you!

    Reply

  44. Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes on January 7, 2012 at 11:55 am

    These are right up my alley ! LOVE IT!

    Reply

  45. beti on January 7, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    they look so crunchy, soft and chewy at the same time!

    Reply

  46. Lottie @ Lottiesworldofcakes on January 8, 2012 at 5:31 am

    I like the sound of these!

    Reply

  47. Eftychia on January 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I was looking for a recipe like this one. Thank you so much for sharing. My kids will love them

    Reply

  48. Barbara on January 8, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    De-licious! I like that they stayed together and didn’t crumble apart.

    Reply

  49. Family Meals and Cooking Tips on January 9, 2012 at 12:59 am

    I love a good lunchbox idea (for me and the kids!!) so these look like just the ticket. The crumb topping looks amazing. I can’t wait to try these out.

    Reply

  50. Lisa Williams on January 9, 2012 at 8:55 am

    I made these yesterday afternoon and they were ready just in time for our Sunday dinner dessert. They we fabulous!

    Reply

  51. Shelly Knight on January 10, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I made these with the caramel sauce from this recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/caramel-shortbread-squares/

    It made them a bit more complicated, but I had the ingredients on hand, rather than needing to buy a bag of caramels. I doubled the caramel sauce recipe and I will try it single next time. These are a huge hit in the lunchboxes so will definitely be made again!

    Reply

  52. Dena on January 17, 2012 at 10:39 am

    I made these this weekend and they were delicious! Everyone that tried them loved them! Thanks for the great recipe!

    Reply

  53. Callie on January 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    ok…these were just awesome. Pretty sure a few people fell in love with me when I made them. Yum. And even better the second day! Never, ever have had a bad recipe from you ! THANK YOU! Keep em coming. :) -callie

    Reply

  54. RisaG on February 18, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    I have got to try these BUT I would have to substitute some other type of rolled grain for the oats and pumpkin seeds for the nuts as my son is allergic to oats and nuts. Mainly almonds but I am not taking any chances. I also have the newer Caramel Bits that Kraft makes and measure out 14 oz.

    I will try the recipe with the adaptations and let you know what we thought of them. First we have to finish the S’Mores Krispy Treats I made my son for Valentine’s Day and the Peanut Butter Cup Bars I made for hubby.

    Reply

  55. Andrea (Quest for Delish) on March 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I made these yesterday and me and my family are devouring them. I was so happy I blogged about them today. Check it out when you have a chance. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

    • Michelle on March 2nd, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      I’m so happy you enjoyed these bars! They quickly became one of our favorites too!

      Reply

  56. Kendra (Joelle's sister) on March 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Just wanted to report back after making these — they were a huge hit! I used caramel bits, which come in an 11oz bag, so I needed to buy two bags. To avoid having leftover caramel bits, I made a recipe-and-a-half, which uses up both bags and fits perfectly in a 10×15 pyrex!

    Thank you again for posting this recipe, Michelle!

    Reply

    • khaytlen on June 22nd, 2013 at 5:16 am

      Thanks for letting us know how that went. Kraft caramels are hard to find in Australia and very expensive. So, good to see that I can use caramel bits, which we can get here.

      Reply

  57. wendyb964 on May 1, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    My goodness! Haven’t seen a recipe for these since I was in college,um,lots of years ago. They were my fav then though I never made them when my kids were little. Ate one from Whole Foods Mkt. which was disappointingly sweet. Thanks for the reminder of wicked good carmelitas. A year ago I purchased a 5# block of caramel from a local candy/cake store. The owner said it lasted a long time: this winter I melted what I had left, used some, and stored the remainding in two zip lock bags. Will have to make again this weekend. Thanks!

    Reply

  58. Juanita on August 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Has anyone every made these using the salted caramel sauce? Just wondering since I love the flavor of salted caramel, but not sure if it is the right consistency for this recipe.

    Reply

    • Rebekah G. on October 23rd, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      The recipe I found and used and commented about (Kaseys Essentials on Cook TV) uses a homemade salted caramel sauce. I used it and it worked well. She adds 2 tablespoons flour to the caramel before pouring it over the chocolate and pecans. The consistency is perfect, but next time I’ll reduce the amount of salt a little bit. Hope that helps.

      Reply

  59. Rebekah G. on October 23, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    These are a recipe from the Cook Tv channel and featured on Kaseys Essentials. Her recipe is a bit different and include an incredibly easy & delicious homemade caramel sauce. I have made them and they were a major hit! These sound good too, but i prefer the homemade caramel and to answer someone elses question, yes it is 1.5 cups of caramel to replace the candies. :-)

    Reply

  60. mouna on November 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    i was just wondering what can i use instead of caramel squares because i cant find therm in the uk?

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 15th, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Hi Mouna, If you have any type of packaged caramel candies, I would use those. If you do not, then you can make a homemade caramel sauce.

      Reply

  61. Jennifer Griffin-Kennedy on March 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    The first time I ever tried a Carmelita was at Wholefoods in Fresno, CA! I fell in love with them and tried to find a recipe for them. Didnt have much luck with that until now! I just happened to stumble across your recipe today!!! Thank you soooo much!!!!

    Reply

  62. Teri Bee on September 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Made these for a church picnic today and won 2nd place…SO delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe :-)

    Reply

  63. Khanum on September 19, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Thanks for sharing! But I have a big question. The time in the oven you suggested did not leave me a good result b/c the dough mixture was too light and didn’t seem “baked” completely. So I added more time (7 addt’l min) and that just made them too crunchy…Any suggestions?
    Just like you, I first had these at Whole Foods and fell in love for them right away. My kids absolutely love them! I also tried the other recipe posted on youtube and the result was the same as with your recipe…not sure how to fix that. Thanks in advance!

    Reply

    • Michelle on September 19th, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Hi Khanum, Maybe try somewhere in the middle between the stated time and 7 extra minutes? Also make sure that your oven temperature is correct (you can purchase an oven thermometer for as little as $10).

      Reply

  64. Cynthia on November 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Just baked up a batch of these for church using 14 ounces of your Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce in place of the Kraft caramels and evaporated milk. To quote my husband, who snagged two on the way out the door, “oh my . . . oh, oh my . . . ” HIghly recommended substitution!

    Reply

  65. Jen on November 25, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    I tried these, and they were so yummy I’m featuring them on my blog tomorrow! Thanks for the super yummy recipe! :)

    Reply

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