Congo Bars

Have you all heard of congo bars? I love blondies just as much as the next gal, but I hadn’t heard of “congo bars” until recently. Basically, they are blondies are steroids. The good kind of steroids, of course. You know, the dosage your doctor gives you so you can recuperate from mono (me in high school) or a concussion (my CCC earlier this year). Because I’m convinced that these bars can wash away all the bad and deliver everything good. They are a classic blondie base, with boatloads (a standard, scientific measurement) of toasted coconut, pecans, and semisweet and white chocolate chips. Basically, they are heavenly and deserve a reserved place in your baking rotation.

For these bars, you will need unsweetened shredded coconut, which I haven’t been able to find in the regular baking section of the grocery store (usually they just have sweetened). I found this bag in the healthy/organic section of my local grocery store, score!

If you choose to toast the coconut and pecans (I would call this optional – it enhances the flavor but it’s not totally necessary), preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and then spread each out on a pan (do these separately) and pop them in the oven, stirring every minute or two,  keeping a close eye. I always tend to let my coconut get a tad too dark, so just keep a vigilant eye on it and keep mixing them. Alternatively, you could also toast either one in a dry skillet on the stove over medium-low heat.

So, to sum up: blondies + coconut + pecans + semisweet chocolate chips + white chocolate chips = heavenly deliciousness.

One year ago: Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits
Two years ago: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Three years ago: Grown Up Mac and Cheese

Congo Bars

Yield: 36 bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 22 to 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes


1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1½ cups light brown sugar
2 eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray a 9x13-inch baking pan, then line it with parchment paper, leaving a bit of an overhang over all the edges.

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

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and light brown sugar until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold them into the egg mixture until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the toasted coconut, pecans, semisweet and white chocolate chips. Dump the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth it into an even layer.

4. Baking until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Remove the bars from the pan using the parchment handles and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 36 bars and serve. The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 5 days.

Note: You don't have to toast the coconut or pecans if you don't want to, it just enhances the flavor.

(Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated)


58 Responses to “Congo Bars”

  1. Liz @ Tip Top Shape on September 9, 2011 at 12:32 am

    These are a lot like dream bars but with nuts. They sound absolutely fantastic! Cannot make these until I have somewhere to bring them, though. If they’re anything like dreambars, they’re dangerous even in the freezer!


  2. CouponClippingCook on September 9, 2011 at 12:34 am

    These look so good. The middle looks so moist and delicious. The coconut, pecans and chocolate chips are such a great match.


  3. Kathy W on September 9, 2011 at 12:35 am

    My mom used to make these when I was a child…I loved them, maybe more than brownies….Somewhere along the way, my mother thought that “Congo” bars had a politically incorrect flavor to it, and changed the name in our family to “Congoleum” bars–giving the excuse that with all the different colors/textures of ingredients, on the cut edges they looked kind of like some ’70’s variety of vinyl flooring….


  4. Cathy J. on September 9, 2011 at 3:21 am

    I knew there was a good reason why I accidentally stumbled onto your blog. I’ve been promising myself for months that I would make congo bars. I buy them at the Nordstroms Cafe in Costa Mesa (South Coast Plaza) and they are yummy. I opened up a bag of sweetened coconut last weekend to make tres leches cake and thought maybe this is the time to tackle the congo bars. I’ll have to adjust the sugar, but I think I can work it out. I’m going for it! Thanks for sharing!


  5. Kathryn on September 9, 2011 at 4:37 am

    Wow, these look like they are full of deliciousness. I can’t wait to make them!


  6. Sasha (The Procrastobaker) on September 9, 2011 at 6:26 am

    Pure heaven right there. Ive seen these bars around for a while but they somehow slipped out of my mind (actually thats not hard to do to be fair..) So im very grateful you reminded me of these lovelies! 🙂


  7. Katrina on September 9, 2011 at 6:34 am

    These sound lovely! Yum!


  8. Paula on September 9, 2011 at 8:20 am

    I love a chewy bar (and chewy cookies) and these look like something I could really sink my teeth into! I’m also loving the packaging on that organic coconut…wish all manufacturers would tell you right on the package exactly how many cups their product contains!


  9. Kita on September 9, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I could use a dose of steroids right now – or maybe this bars will do the trick.

    And I agree, a boatload is a perfectly scientific measurement.


  10. shelly (cookies and cups) on September 9, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I have been wanting to try these for so long but haven’t made…mainly because I am scared of their deliciousness!


  11. Kelly on September 9, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Would love a bite of heavenly deliciousness 😉


  12. Michele (also a brown eyed baker) on September 9, 2011 at 9:29 am

    If I would use sweetened coconut, can adjustments be made elsewhere (w/brown sugar)? Did you get the unsweetened stuff at G. Eagle?


    • Michelle on September 12th, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      Hi Michele! If you use sweetened you would probably want to cut back on the sugar, but I haven’t experimented with that yet, so couldn’t say for sure how much. I did get the unsweetened at Giant Eagle – in their organic/specialty food section near the produce.


  13. Georgia on September 9, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I read this “There is a small chance that sweetened might be slightly too sweet in a recipe that calls for unsweetened, but the sweetened coconut is not so sweet on its own that it should really throw off a recipe in that way” when googling sweetened coconut.

    Thanks for the tip about looking in the organic section of the store. Also, I would think if you have an “international” section in a store, you might find unsweetened there for Asian or Indian foods.


  14. Amberly on September 9, 2011 at 11:30 am

    This was always the staple cookie growing up at our house, I love these! I’ve never had them with coconut in them though! I’ll have to try that!


  15. colleen on September 9, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how much we bake and then realize we’ve overlooked a traditional, tried and true treat like these? I’m looking forward to trying your version! Thank for sharing!


  16. Ela on September 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I love everything that’s in this cookie bar. We’ll be making this soon, thank you for the recipe. Do you think I can add crushed pineapple too?


    • Michelle on September 12th, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      Hi Ela, Crushed pineapple sounds delicious! It would definitely affect the texture, making them really moist, so you might need to adjust the eggs. Let me know if you try it!


  17. Erin on September 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I have heard of them before but somehow have never made them or had one. So I’m not sure why I know what they are haha. But they sound great.


  18. Liz @ Southern Charm on September 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    How dreamy! These look and sound amazing! Must get more coconut so I can make these this weekend!


  19. Jennifer Eloff on September 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Well, I think this is my first encounter with Congo Bars. 🙂


  20. The Culinary Lens on September 9, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    I generally think toasting coconut for recipes like this really makes quite a difference. This does indeed look like blondies on steroids


  21. Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. on September 9, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    My Grandma makes these all the time! They are one of my faves! Yours look super tasty!


  22. Jen at The Three Little Piglets on September 9, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    My grandmother used to make the best Congo Bars, but she never wrote down a recipe! For that or her apple pie, the stinker. I’ve been trying recipes for years trying to come close…just love them.


  23. Curt on September 9, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Those look great. I love cocnut.


  24. Janice on September 9, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    When I read the name of this recipe I immediately had to say it out loud! Looks delicious! This has made it to the top 5 on my to-do list!


  25. Jennifer @ Jane Deere on September 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    I’ve never had these…they sound delish!


  26. Nat on September 9, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    wow these looks great! I love the combination of coconut and white chocolate chips, my faves!


  27. Kim Bee on September 9, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Oh my goodness these look so amazing. I have not heard of them before. Going on the must try list. So many of your recipes go on my list. You rock!


  28. Ann on September 10, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Believe it or not, I just tried a congo bar today! The lovely lady gave me her recipe so I can blog it….they are AMAZING!


  29. Michelle on September 10, 2011 at 10:14 am

    So these are in the oven as we speak..Thanks for the great recipe!


  30. Mary Beth on September 10, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I’ve never heard of congo bars before, and I really want to try them now! Thanks for the awesome recipe.


  31. Catherine on September 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I had congo bars that were a chocolate cookie crumb base, but as thick as a brownie, made into a seven layer bar on top–they were fantastic.


  32. Amy @ Gastronome Tart on September 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Like you, I love blondies! I have never heard of congo bars either, but since I love blondies and coconut, these sound amazing!


  33. Corey on September 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I made these with butterscotch chips instead of the white chocolate chips. So rich and yummy! Thanks for the recipe.


  34. on September 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Congo bars! I had completely forgotten about them. Grew up eating them … soooo deliciouis.


  35. tiramisusa on September 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    muuu that rich, I love your blog, yet I have sooooo many things.
    photography is amazing. great job.
    Muchas gracias por todo y besos desde España.
    kisses from Spain.


  36. Ashley on September 10, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Blondies have always been close to my heart, and this loaded version is causing some serious swooning over here – need these now!


  37. Paula Jo @ Home and Garden Decor on September 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    The congo bar looks delicious!! I’m going to have to try them and see if they are a hit with my family. I bet they will be a must make often. Thanks so much for the recipe. I bake a lot, but always looking for something new to make.


  38. Apron Appeal on September 13, 2011 at 5:11 am

    How much stability do the pecans add. we have allergies so I’m thinking of subing in diced dried prunes…what do you think, not a good idea? Maybe I’ll try both.


    • Michelle on September 13th, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      You could definitely sub for the pecans, and dried prunes would work. Enjoy!


  39. Mackenzie@The Caramel Cookie on September 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Never heard of these but they sounds delicious!


  40. Shelby on September 13, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    These remind me of the smooshed up cookies that i’m not afraid to eat. The look great, I can’t wait to try them. Can the pecans be substituted for walnuts?


    • Michelle on September 13th, 2011 at 8:04 pm

      Yes, absolutely! Walnuts would be a great substitution!


  41. Laura @ GotChocolate on September 17, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Love these – they have CHOCOLATE in them! YUM!!!


  42. Sharon on September 20, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    These look so yummy! Thanks for posting. Any idea on how to adjust for high altitude? I am presuming you aren’t at mine 6800, but if you were, I would be so happy ;)) Thanks again —


    • Michelle on September 22nd, 2011 at 10:26 pm

      Hi Sharon, I am not at high altitude, but I do have some basic information about adapting recipes in the Baking FAQ section of the site.


  43. RisaG on September 26, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    I love Congo Bars. I never had one until I was in college and they were sold at the snack bar at a local independent film movie theatre. I had one and fell in love. In those days I couldn’t find any recipes for them. Now I can and am so happy. I have to make these. Thanks for bringing back memories.


  44. Danielle on October 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I made these and linked to your site. They were a hit. So yummy.


  45. RisaG on November 4, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    I finally made a batch of these today! OMG! So good. I substituted toasted pumpkin seeds for the pecans, white chocolate chunks for the white chocolate chips and I didn’t toast the coconut. They are amazing. So good. Just like I remember Congo Bars to be and I haven’t had one since 1981! Thank you!


  46. Nona on January 3, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Hi i abosluetly love your blog and it’s definetly my favourite. I’ve tried your brownie recipe so far which was absolutely amazing and I’m making fish tacos for dinner tonight. As of now I’m currently making the congo bars but I’m not the most intelligent one when it comes to recipes; when you say melted the butter do you mean like liquified or just to like melt them where they are at a creamy consistency and you can mix it around easily? i’m sorry if this question is a little ridiculous


    • Michelle on January 4th, 2012 at 8:40 pm

      Hi Nona, No need to apologize! Melted butter would mean liquified. Enjoy the bars!


  47. Benita Zazueta on February 11, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    I made these yesterday & they are AMAZING! My hubby has fallen in love with me all over again. Thanks for sharing & taking the time to tweak things before passing it on to us-your fans.


  48. Alisha on November 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    I made these today and they’re delicious! I left out the pecans and found some unsweetened coconut at a small local market and toasted it easily in a skillet over medium-low heat. (the smell of yummy toasting coconut filled up my whole apartment!) Great snack or dessert!


  49. SusieQ on January 13, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    The taste was great, but mine were too dense. They looked nothing like the Cook’s Illustrated picture. Don’t know where I went wrong.


  50. Lisa on September 1, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    What do you think of swapping the pecans for macadamias? 🙂


    • Michelle on September 3rd, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      Go for it!!


      • Lisa on September 11th, 2016 at 9:26 pm

        I did! I also used all white chocolate chips and sweetened coconut for a tropical potluck I’m going to tomorrow. So easy and so delicious! I used a foil sling. First time I tried that and it really does simplify things. I cut 24 bars. Yum!!


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