Caramel-Chocolate Oatmeal Bars {Caramelitas!}

CATEGORIES: Bars and Brownies, Sara

Caramel Chocolate Oatmeal Bars from OBBNot to be one of those people who freaks out and makes a huge deal when they’re sick and feels the need to tell EVERYBODY about their miserable existence…but oh my gosh, I had a really, really, miserable existence this past week.  I was more sick than I can remember being in years.  While I was trapped in my bed for days on end I had a stack of food magazines on my night stand, and every time I’d pick one up, I’d put it back down just as fast.  Food itself bothered me.  And it wasn’t that it was making me feel sick, I was just completely disinterested.  My husband cooked an amazing Easter dinner and I couldn’t care less about not eating it.  My house was full of Cadbury Eggs and Reeses PB cups and I didn’t even sample one.  And the crowning jewel of my apparent stint with insanity?  6 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies showed up and I ate one.  ONE.  (That’s when I told my husband I thought it was time for a CT scan or something) I subsisted on toast and popsicles for several days and then it hit me.  Do people live like this all the time?  Are there people who don’t wake up and have the first thing that goes through their head be what they’re going to eat that day?  Are there people in the world that really don’t care if there are Cadbury Eggs on the counter or Girl Scout Cookies in the pantry? Or who don’t have recipes rolling around in their brains on a never-ending loop?  I’ve heard they exist, but after my week here’s one thing I now know for sure:  I’m not one of those people.  Boy am I glad to have my foodie-brain back again; I missed it.  To celebrate, we’re making these:

Oatmeal Caramelitas from Our Best Bites

These classic bars take soft cookie dough and sandwich it together over chocolate and caramel.  You really can’t go wrong there.

We start off with normal ingredients for a soft, sweet cookie.

1 Peanut Butter Cookie Ingredients

Mix up an easy batter

Soft peanut butter cookie dough

and throw some oats in there.  (PS: raise your hand if you want to stick your finger in that.)

Cookie dough with oatmeal

You’ll need to divide the dough at this point.  Sometimes when a recipe tells you to remove half, or a third of a mixture it can be a little tricky, so here’s a little tip.  Press your dough into an even layer and then score it with your spatula.  That will ensure you’re taking out as much as you’re supposed to.

Divide cookie dough in thirds

In this case, it’s 2/3 of the mixture, and we’re going to press it into the bottom of a foil-lined pan.  One thing I love about this recipe is that it’s written for a 15 x 10 inch pan.  I got a pan that size for a gift a few years back and at first I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it, since I usually need 9×13″ pans.  But this pan has become one of the most-used dishes in my kitchen.  You can see in the photo below that it’s just a little bit bigger than a 9×13″.  I often use it when I know I need to stretch a recipe just a little bit to feed more people, but I don’t want to double it.  You can buy sheet pans in 15×10 as well, and that works great for this recipe, too.  If you don’t have a 15×10, just use something close.  You could probably put all of this in a 9×13 as well, but they’ll be pretty thick, and  you might have to bake them a bit longer.  If someone tries it, make sure to let us know in the comments how they turn out!

Pan Dimensions

Drop chunks of dough on the bottom of the pan and then press it into an even layer.

Pressing Dough into Pan

Next, sprinkle on a layer of chocolate chips.  I like mini chips because they distribute better, so if I just have regular chips I give them a quick, rough chop.

Chopped Chocolate

And also a few chopped pecans or walnuts.  You can leave the nuts off if you want to (or need to) but I do really love the texture and flavor they add, and I like to toast mine first.  I did half and half in my photo below- that works too!

Dough Layered with Chocolate and Nuts

Now, let me introduce you to another one of my favorite things:

Peter's Caramel

A lot of recipes for caramelitas call for jarred caramel sauce and in this one we’re using real caramel.  I used to almost avoid recipes that called for caramel because I’m not a huge fan of the little Kraft caramels and it seemed like good ones were hard to find and I certainly wasn’t about to make caramel to then go and use in another recipe.  Then I discovered Peter’s Caramel.  It comes in 5lb blocks. That’s 5 pounds of buttery deliciousness at your fingertips.  You may be asking yourself what you’d possibly do with 5 pounds of caramel, but that’s the great thing.  You just wrap it up and store it in your pantry and cut off pieces when you need it.  And if you have 5 pounds of caramel in your pantry you will suddenly think of all sorts of things to do with it.  It stores great and lasts a long time and it’s perfect for cooking and baking.  Peter and I are so close we sometimes have quiet moments together in the pantry when no one is looking.

Peter's Caramel Opened

Those of you in the SLC area, you can run into Orson Gygi’s and grab a loaf of Peter’s caramel, and those of you not in SLC, you can order it online.  It’s really high quality caramel and you can melt it with different amounts of evaporated milk to make it thinner or thicker for all kinds of uses.  I highly recommend it.

for this recipe I cut up about 9 ounces and melted it with just a few tablespoons of regular milk until it was creamy and smooth.

Chopped Caramel

And that pours right on top of our chocolate and nuts.

pouring caramel sauce

Then we take the remaining reserved dough and sprinkle it on top and pop the pan in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Topping on Caramel Oat Bars

The two cookie layers bake up soft, sandwiching the caramel and chocolate in the middle.  On the top, little bubbles of caramel peek through the cookie cracks.

Baked Caramel Oatmeal Bars

After they’re cooled, you can just lift up the foil to remove the whole sheet of bars and cut them into squares.  Make sure to let them cool first; that’s the hard part!

Yummy Oatmeal Caramelitas from Our Best BitesSweet, gooey, caramely, chocolaty, squares.

Sweet Caramelitas from Our Best Bites






  1. that block of caramel looks awesome… the caramel in the netherlands isn’t quite as good as in the U.S. It always ends up tasting like penuche fudge – which isn’t bad but it’s not the same when you want the American kind. I think I’d have to just use rolo’s in a recipe like this.

  2. WOWZA! Who knew you could get quality caramel by the 5 pounds-ful? I will be hitting up Orson Gygi for sure! (Love that store!) These bars look absolutely delish and perfect for my hub who looooves caramel! Thanks!

  3. Darn you Sara Wells. DARN YOU. I do not need 5 lbs of caramel. I do NOT NEED 5 lbs of caramel.
    Okay, I gotta go to the store.

  4. My Grandma has a very similar bar recipe that is always a hit. Hers uses Kraft caramel squares. It was always torture peeling the wrappers off and not sneaking any for yourself!

  5. I have a similar recipe that is one of my all-time favorites. That block of caramel looks dangerously delicious. It would be a serious problem in our house because either my son, who is named Peter, would take the label way too literally and not share it, or I would have way too many quiet moments with it in the pantry and there would be none left for cooking or sharing or anyone else’s quiet moments. I’m pretty sure I could gain 5 pounds just thinking about that block. Yum!

  6. My favorite line of your post: “Peter and I are so close we sometimes have quiet moments together in the pantry when no one is looking.” Hahaha! I have quiet moments with Nutella and graham crackers. 😉

    Seriously, these look amazing. Can’t wait to try!

  7. These look wonderful! I need to ship some cookies as part of a care package to a college student. Do you think these would hold up well in the mail for a day or two?

    1. Yes! I think these would be perfect for mailing. I’d wrap them well in plastic and then place them in a disposable plastic container. That will keep them fresh and in tact, but they’re pretty sturdy, so they should arrive just fine. Do you need my address?? 😉

  8. Oooo these look amazing and ya I did raise my hand! I didn’t think I was a big caramel fan until I made your Buttermilk Caramel Syrup for ice cream sundaes. Oh my land; I can’t stop eating the stuff it was so fun to make and is so delicious. I’m just curious, because I don’t want to wait for Peter to come in the mail, if you think I could use the Buttermilk Caramel Syrup instead of Peter’s caramel?

    1. I’d really like to know the answer to this too.
      We make the buttermilk syrup often enough and being in Canada means the yummy-looking Peter’s Caramel is pretty expensive to get our hands on. And who really wants to use annoying little wrapped caramels?!

  9. Oh my gosh. These look so amazing, I can’t even handle it. That caramel. Where can I buy “real caramel” like that instead of the pieces I have to unwrap one at a time. Chocolate, caramel, cookie = perfection. I need these in my life.

  10. My son is the type who can go through a whole day without thinking about or wanting to eat food of any type. :/ He has a disease where he can only eat a handful of foods, and it’s painful to eat, so he has a feeding tube. It makes me feel guilty for having a strong appreciation of food, but then I see a recipe like this and think it’s a good thing he doesn’t like to eat, because I get this all to myself! 😉 I’ll be going to the store for some caramel very soon!

  11. Wow, this looks amazing. I love to bake but I’m a huge fan of instant gratification as well. I wish I had this right now! I have some dried cherries that would probably work well in these bars… Challenge accepted!

  12. Will try and hit this tonight. Often we make our own caramel from sweetened condensced milk whilst still in a can…I think I’ll try it that way

  13. I feel the same way you have been feeling-but that’s due to pregnancy. I can’t wait until I want to eat everything again, like normal. These look amazing though…I just need to find someone that wants to make them for me 🙂

  14. I have made these with the caramels from Trader Joes and Costco. Both very delicious and about a million steps above the Kraft squares. Plus they have the handy wax twisted wrappers. Why does Kraft think its cool to make us pick at those stupid little triangles all day long just to unwrap a bunch of caramels? Ridiculous…

  15. “Peter and I are so close we sometimes have quiet moments together in the pantry when no one is looking.” OMG. This made me laugh out loud at work. These look SO yummy!!!! Thanks for the great recipes & your sense of humor!

  16. Oh. My. Deliciousness! These look amazing and I had no idea that you could buy caramel in loaf form, that is very good information to have :). I can already see the many secret pantry rendezvous in my future. You are too funny, thanks for the laugh as well as the yummy recipe. I’m sorry that you have been so sick, there is some really nasty stuff going around right now.

    1. Paula weird, I know, but I live in Utah and could probably buy some and ship it way cheaper I’m sure! I don’t usually ship overseas but people around here do it a lot can’t be too outrageous. If you are interested email me itsjustsuz at 🙂

  17. I also got hit and my family as well with the yucky virus so I know exactly or close to how you feel. I was able to stand long enough to make the ham but my mom and husband did everything else. My husband even did all the pre-night Easter stuff. I hope you feel better soon. I have the same question that a few other people have about caramel. Can you use your own like what I would use for caramel corn or should I play it safe and order Peter’s Caramel. Thank you.

  18. I made these tonight with butterscotch chips instead of caramels and no nuts. Halved the recipe and put in an 8 x 8. Will post later to let you know how they are, but the dough was DELICIOUS!!! (tee hee)

    1. 8×8 worked perfectly for half of a recipe. My fam wasn’t crazy about the oats in the dough, but the butterscotch definitely worked for a good caramel substitute in a pinch.

      1. is it a texture thing that your family doesn’t like about the oats? If so, throw them in the blender or food processor and grind them smaller. Not as fine as flour, but close. I often do that when I make oatmeal choc chip cookies if I know some of the consumers don’t care for the oat texture.

  19. I found 5# blocks of caramel many years ago at a local cake decorating store. If you have one of those in town you might check there or see if they would consider stocking it. I haven’t unwrapped a caramel since! You can also buy these blocks from King Arthur Flour’s website. Not sure about Alaska shipping but they do have free shipping deals from time to time.

    I was wondering the same about some homemade dulce de leche. I’ll let you know if that works!! Thanks for a great recipe idea!!

  20. Made these with a bag of caramel bits (found by the chocolate chips…hit or miss but I stocked up yesterday when I found them at Walmart!) melted with 1/4 cup milk and they were so, so good! I literally ate a fairly large section out of the corner of the pan still warm and gooey

  21. I used 9×13 and baked for 25 minutes. I pulled them out since you said not to get the top too brown, even though I was a little worried about the bottom. The middle pieces may be slightly on the underdone side on the bottom, but they’re still delicious and holding together fine, so I’ll call it a success.

  22. I am definitely one of those people whose first thought in the morning is about what they’ll be having for breakfast (and lunch and dinner)! These cookies/bars have all of my sweet favorites in them – plus a good dose of guilt! Definitely going to make these tomorrow. I’ll deal with the guilt later.

  23. I saw this on Friday and knew I had to make it immediately. Unfortunately I didn’t have any caramel and couldn’t make it to the store. Amid my despair I remembered a can of dulce de leche in my pantry. Score! It was easy to use and delicious to eat. Thanks!

  24. Can’t wait to try these. We are heading to Zion’s with some friends for the weekend and I’m pretty sure everyone will love me forever after they try these bars.
    Also, wanted to say that the Peter’s Caramel is THE BEST. I use it to make chocolate dipped pretzel rods. I cut off a hunk of the caramel, roll it like a snake, wrap it around the pretzel rod (about 2/3 of the way down the rod), and then take the whole rod with the caramel wrapped around it and roll it again in my hands (like you are rolling a snake again) to flatten the caramel out a little. Then dip it in the melted chocolate. So much easier than dipping in melted caramel, waiting for that to set up, and then dipping again. Plus, it makes a good thick layer of chewy caramel. Delish. Just another reason for all of you to run out and buy a loaf of Peter’s Caramel. And if you want, split it with a friend cause it’s a BIG loaf.

  25. Perfect! I’m traveling to see my new niece Sunday and wanted to bring dinner with me…this seems like the perfect ‘just had a baby’ treat!

  26. Welp. There ya go. I am one of *those* people who doesn’t think about food. Can we still be friends? I figure if we resolved our cantaloupe differences we can overcome this, too! Haha. 🙂 Love you, my foodie-friend!!

  27. Light brown sugar or dark brown sugar?
    And for the record, it is usually Nutella that calls my name, even though there is always a block of peter’s caramel in the house. 🙂

  28. I didn’t have a 15×10 pan so made them in a 13×9 pan. My oven cooks a bit hot, and I ended up cooking them for about 28 minutes and they turned out great (I also used carmel sauce rather than caramels and milk because that’s what I had on hand, not sure if that made a difference cooking-wise). When they cooled they weren’t doughy, but were wonderful. Thanks for sharing this glorious recipe! Life is Good 🙂

  29. I baked these over the weekend, and I used the Smuckers caramel sauce because I couldn’t find the Peter’s caramel in the store. They were heavenly and I am so glad you posted this recipe.

  30. These were totally worth the trip to Gygi’s for the caramel. I made these for a bridal shower a few weeks ago and I have been thinking about them since. That’s probably not healthy–to think about food — not these gooey, caramel bites of deliciousness. I’m sure they’re healthy. They have oatmeal, for goodness sake.

  31. I got on your blog to get my favorite salad recipe and came across this instead. I knew I couldn’t be trusted with a five pound block of caramel so I made these using your caramel recipe. It was a little more work but it was delicious. Like your cookie dough pie I thought it was even better the second day! Thanks for the delicious recipes and food inspiration! Love your blog and cookbooks.

    1. I have found it helps to rinse my fingers with cool water when the dough is sticking. Sometimes I have to rinse them off two or three times before I finish pressing the dough into the bottom of the pan. I use the same trick when patting out the pieces for the top. I don’t necessarily dry my fingers, but they aren’t dripping wet either.

  32. Do you happen to know if these freeze well? I am in charge of the food for Girls Camp and was thinking of doing these for a dessert, but possibly making them the week before and freezing them and taking them to camp. It would seem like they would freeze well, but just wondered if you had tried it. Thanks!

  33. I’m drooling on my computer now. I had forgotten that I printed this recipe up a month ago to make, and even made the 30 minute drive to Orson Gygi to get the caramel. Making them today! Thanks for the amazing recipe! AND I love your mixer. I’m dying to get a new one with that gorgeous glass bowl.

  34. These are one of my favorites. Another idea with the same crust mixture is to layer with lemon curd and then a cup or two of blueberries! So good!

  35. These look divine and can’t wait to try them! But I can’t help but notice those beautiful little flour/sugar canisters in the background?! Maybe b/c I’ve searching the web at the moment for little vintage type ones but please share where you found those!! =) thanks so much!!

  36. I made these in a 9X13 pan and baked for about 27 min. They turned out fantastic! We love them, and will definitely be making again!

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