Peanut Butter Cup Caramel Shortbread Bars

CATEGORIES: Bars and Brownies, Kate

When I became pregnant with my son, I had been more or less eating very healthy for three years. I had maybe one candy bar a year and that decision was always made with a great deal of consideration, weighing potential options, alternatives, and consequences (um, what happened?).  One night in the middle of my second trimester, my husband and I were driving home at about 9:00 pm when we drove past a gas station.  I ordered him to immediately pull into the parking lot. He obliged because he learned not to mess with pregnant me after the time I came home from Arby’s and discovered they had forgotten my curly fries and a lot of yelling, cupboard-slamming, and swearing ensued.  He was scared.

Anyway, I’m sure he thought that the gas station stop had something to do with some form of pregnant lady bodily function. Imagine his surprise when I came out with a whole bunch of Twix bars. Yep, after years of healthy eating, Twix bars were my downfall. To me, they’re like those toxic boyfriends you keep going back to–we can’t be around each other without things ending in some kind of self-loathing.

Which is why, when presented with the opportunity, I made a whole pan of homemade Twix bars. Only to make matters worse, I topped them off with melted Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (my other ultimate weakness) instead of regular chocolate.  Just call me Chelsea from Teen Mom 2… (for going back to my toxic “boyfriend”; I’m not implying that she eats a lot of Twix bars).

While it does take some time to make these, they’re actually super easy; most of the time is letting things cool down and set up.  You’ll need softened salted butter, flour, powdered sugar, vanilla, caramels, cream, and mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups.  And just FYI, I’m pretty sure if I made up my own version of “My Favorite Things,” it would probably involve everything in that ingredients list.

Preheat your oven to 300.  Then spray a 9×13″ pan with non-stick cooking spray and set it aside.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a heavy duty mixer), combine the flour, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla. Mix until it is combined–it may start out stiff, but it will all come together. Gently press it into the prepared pan

then prick the dough with a fork to prevent bubbles from forming while it’s baking.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the cookie crust is light golden. Remove it from the oven and let it cool completely. This can be done a day ahead of time.

When the crust is cool, place the caramels in a microwave-safe bowl.

Okay, I’ve modified the caramel directions from when I originally posted this recipe. I changed things because when I added 3 tablespoons of cream, the caramel melted everywhere, but it seems like a lot of people have run into hard caramel issues. So I recommend adding the 3 tablespoons with a warning that if you’re at a very low elevation, the caramel may end up being on the very soft side. So if you’re very worried about that (like if you’re bringing these to a bake sale and can’t keep them refrigerated), keep that in mind. But better too soft than breaking a tooth, right?

That’s right, if anyone asks you why you’re adding cream to your caramel, tell them you can get a note from your dentist that it’s totally necessary.

Melt the caramel in the microwave for 3-4 minutes or until smooth, stirring each minute.

Spread the caramel over the cookie crust and then place the pan in the fridge to help the caramel set up quickly.

When the caramel is solid, place the peanut butter cups in a microwave-safe bowl

and microwave for 2-3 minutes or until smooth and melted, stirring every 45 seconds.  Spread it over the cooled caramel layer.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until the chocolate layer is solid (you could also pop it in the freezer for less time to hurry things along).

When the chocolate is set up, carefully cut into bars. Eat one. Pour a glass of milk. Go back for more. Wonder if Chelsea will ever learn her lesson and kick Adam to the curb forever. The end.



  1. How am I supposed to stay on my diet, with recipes like these? 🙂 Twix are also one of my downfalls; these look even better.

    Also, finally received your cookbook a few weeks ago. Can I just say…FABULOUS! I have been raving about it to everyone. My mom and best friend just ordered one as well. Thanks, gals!

  2. I’m new to your site, and I just love it! It seems as though you have hit all of my own weaknesses! I love twix, I love peanut butter cups and I am pregnant! BAD COMBO, but boy does this sound good! Thanks for the recipe! I will have to try it ASAP!

  3. Ooohhhh. I really like the idea of topping with the peanut butter cups since my favorite are actually the peanut butter twix, not the caramel ones. When Twix came out I had braces for 6 years, so couldn’t have the caramel ones, so peanut butter was the next best thing. After finally trying caramel, I still prefer the peanut butter ones. A layer of a peanut buttery filling in there too, yummy! But I need no more sweets in my house right now, I’m still surrounded by cupcakes. lol

  4. OH MY HECK!!! YUMMY! You ladies sure know how to keep us girls in our fat jeans LOL. I’m not complaining, believe me. Besides, aren’t sweat pants the new “in”? If they aren’t, I believe they should be. Thanks, again!

  5. WOW, I’m not sure I could stop after eating one or even two. I could easily eat the whole pan. Well probably not in one day but eventually. 🙂 Those are all of my favorite things as well. Thanks for this yummy recipe.

  6. Those Twix bars haven’t made a dent in your beautiful figure. Well we both know every calorie counts but you’re still gorgeous just with curves! Now for more serious business. How come you don’t make these with the bigger peanut butter cups if you want more peanut butter to chocolate ratio? Will they set up properly or do you just not get enough chocolate flavor that way? I guess if the aim is to make something close to a Twix bar then you would need more chocolate. For the really hardcore candy maker, I would use a true peanut butter layer thickened with graham cracker crumbs maybe and then top it with a chocoate layer of melted chocolate chips. What do you think?

    1. Marjorie, I did worry about things not setting up quite right with the bigger PB cups because they have more peanut butter and less chocolate, but you could ALWAYS try it–they just might be a little softer. And yes, you could do an amazing PB layer and then use chocolate chips–that would be awesome! 🙂

  7. I really just want Chelsea’s dad to lay down the law. Adam is a punk, and that baby deserves better. Love this recipe by the way. 🙂

  8. *First off, when Chelsea said they were back together on the reunion show I seriously wanted to reach through the screen and throttle her. What the heck is wrong with that girl!?!?! I literally cried when he viciously made fun of her stretch marks on 16 and pregnant. He is a HORRIBLE person.

    *Second, why on earth are you doing this to me?! I started weight watchers almost 2 months ago and have been doing really well. Until now. I think you may be my downfall.

    *Third, I am making these. Today. Right now. Because they look like just about the best things ever created. Sugar on top of sugar with a little sugar thrown in? My kind of dessert for sure!

    1. Heather.

      First, I KNOW, right?! He’s horrible. Horrible horrible horrible.

      Second, I just calculated them because I had one for breakfast (eek!) and it was 5 WW points. So not GREAT, but not the end of the world, right? Of course, that’s if you cut 35 bars…if you cut less, you might be in more trouble, haha!

      Third, go for it, girl! 🙂

  9. WOW!!! These look amazing! I might have to make these….today! Or just stop by and help you finish off the pan! 😛

  10. Ok, I cannot even concentrate on the receipe, because just seeing Chelsea again and thinking about the fact that she went back to Adam just makes me mad all over again! I mean, I KNOW she’s a child, but really, what is she thinking? He’s a scum bag. Does she really want her daughter to think him treating her like that is ok? GRRRRR.

  11. Guess who will be buying caramel and Reese’s pb cups at Target today? I also might try the PB Twix version. My mom has a recipe for homemade Reese’s that uses PB and graham crackers… Oh decisions, decisions….

  12. yum, I have all the ingredients except the recees cups…I never keep candy at the house because, well, it wouldnt be there long anyways. if i dont have it i cant eat it lol and it sure takes a lot of energy to get in the car and go get a candy bar so i usually dont that tactic works for me haha. I do have some things to get at the store later and I doubt I can resist picking up a certain item to make a certain dessert 🙂

  13. I need to lose my pregnancy weight fast so I can kick my diet and start baking again. I should probably also take a break from your blog until then too, to avoid the temptation.

  14. These look so good! I saw mocha Twix bars at the store the other day. I can’t believe I resisted the temptation to buy one, but now I can’t stop thinking about them! Might have to take your recipe and throw in some espresso powder….

  15. OMG! YOu could not have created a better combination cookie/bar!! And I think you are my evil twin – separated at birth, after hearing your pregnancy story!!! Totally happened to me too! (minus the healthy eating previously part)
    Thanks for this recipe! Can’t wait to make it.

  16. These look AMAZING! Twix are one of my favorites right now and Reese’s Cups are definitely a family favorite. I tend to indluge when I am not pregnant due to the fact that when I am I do not crave ANYTHING! And Teen Mom is like my husbands favorite show and we hate that fact that Chelsea goes back to Adam. Arghh! Love your site and I should get your cookbook in the mail to day! So excited!

  17. I need these. Soon. I love Twix more than I can say. I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys this little “guilty pleasure” we call Teen Mom.

  18. hey! I had the very same “need” for a Twix Fix when I was preggers too! Must be something about the combo that the baby desires too! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing — just printed it out to add to my Holiday cookie tray recipes. As always, you are amazing ladies with such great talent in the kitchen. Thank you for sharing this! ♥

  19. I make a similar(ish) recipe with peanut butter filling and plain chocolate on the top. I believe the filling is just PB, powdered sugar, and vanilla. I think your crust looks way better though, so I might combine the two for a peanut butter twix version. Bonus….less unwrapping of caramels/pb cups!

  20. I may have to stop reading your blog. Seriously these look too yummy. I love twix and peanut butter cups!!! I have to make this for tonight’s FHE.
    P.S. I made the molten lava cakes a couple of weeks ago and may or may not have had to make them 4 times since. Just saying.

  21. MMmmmmmmmmm!!! 😀 I’ve got to try these soon!

    As a side note, I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the picture of a huge pile of reese’s on a purple background!! I saved it to my computer so I can use it as wallpaper/FB profile pic, etc! 😀
    Thanks for all the yummy recipes!!

  22. HA!!!! Kate, the minute I saw Chelsea on here, I knew it had to be a post from you–before I even read what the recipe was for. Hee hee! I’m totally cracking up. And I am absolutely loving the parallel you made with yourself and Chelsea. Hilarious. But seriously, WHAT is her problem? I can’t handle it. He is so, so, so incredibly awful to her. Between her and Jenelle, what are we going to do??!! And of course, the recipe looks absolutely amazing. I’m currently making the strawberry/lime shortcakes with coconut cream, so these will have to be next on the list. You’re killin’ me and my waistline… 🙂

  23. OMG I can’t wait to make these! Sounds like a must for Easter. Thanks for sharing – this is my new favorite website so many things I’m excited about trying & thrilled with the ones that I have already!

  24. to put your minds at ease, Chelsea is on my twitter and stated that shortly after the reunion show they broke up for good and I havent seen anything stating otherwise since then. even if she finally resisted, I’m still going to make these twix bars tonight!! haha

  25. LOVIN’ these!! This is a MUST try!!!
    (& I can’t stand Adam!!! What a loser, low life, cheater, @ss, rude, etc etc… So called- person!!!! ) ok, I’m done now. 🙂 Now, on to the bars!!!!! 🙂

  26. Oh my deliciousness!!! My husband LOVES caramel and peanut butter cups…this could be a new favorite around our house. I am going to Wal-Mart soon and will be picking up the few things I don’t already have around the house for this. What an amazing recipe!!!!

  27. OMG, OMG, OMG. My two favorite candy bars of all time – except Reese’s comes first, then Twix bars, for me. I think the hardest and most “difficult” part of this recipe is unwrapping all those caramels and Reese’s. One year, my best friend sent me an Easter basket and it included one bag of those mini Reese’s cups and I told her, “If you ever send me little Reese’s again – you better be on the look out for me!!!!” I hated unwrapping all those little cups just to get the same “effect” as eating one or two regular sized ones. She did it on purpose – very devilish of her!

    Well, this recipe is going in my files, that’s for sure.

  28. I made these tonight. I cannot decide whether to thank you for this amazing recipe or cry because I cannot stop eating them. 🙂

  29. Um….Yum! Your Arby’s story made me laugh out loud. Reminds me of when I was pregnant with my first, I sent my husband out for gas station nachos and he came home with doughnuts instead. Nineteen years later and I still can’t let it go.

  30. Argh! I am 8.5 months pregnant…and completely craving both twix and reeses. This recipe may well be the death of me!!! 🙂

  31. Oh YUMMY…. I am going to make these and eat them tonight when I watch the new season of 16 and Pregnant. I have an 18, 15 and 13 year old sons and they make fun of me for watching the show but…it is reality…all teenagers should be forced to watch!!!

    Love your blog and your cookbook. I am working my way through it one page at a time…next up a WW book so that we can all lose the weight we have gained from your delish recipes. Oh WAIT … there is portion control. I should try that first!

  32. How do you do it? Joy and happiness, sorrow and despair, all wrapped up together after reading this post. Smiles because it’s going to taste so yummy and frowns because it’s going to taste so yummy (and I’ll just keep eating, and eating, and eating…..).

  33. I told my hubby about this recipe yesterday and he drooled. The bad news is that we can’t get caramels OR peanut butter cups here in the UK. (!!! I know, right!) We’re moving back to Canada in 2012 and, honestly, I can’t wait to make these bars.

    It was your BBQ sauce that brought me to the site but you’re now on my Bookmarks bar so I can come peek at your archives on a daily basis. Oh yum!! Keep it coming. 😀

    ps. Can I charge you for the new wardrobe I’m going to need because of this blog? 😉

  34. Wow! I think I just went into a sugar coma while reading this. But now that I’m conscious again, I’m immediately going to start making these. Delicious! I can’t wait. Thank you for sharing!!

  35. How did you KNOW!? I absolutely must make these…. I’m even going to take my three boys (4 and under) to the store so I can get the ingredients. YUM!

  36. Oh MY GOODNESS!! Totally making these! Forget buying smaller jeans, if I eat enough of these I can fit into the ones I already have! Lol! 🙂 You guys rock!

  37. I love your recipes, and follow a number of awesome cooking blogs and websites. I noticed you guys just recently started referencing your sources and I wondered why you haven’t done that before. What made you start? Just curious…

    1. We’ve always tried to cite recipes when we’ve known the source and we’ve really been making a conscious effort to reference our sources in a uniform way for about 1 1/2 years now, so if it’s a recent recipe that’s not cited, it either means we made it up or we have no idea where it came from (like an old family recipe that we’ve had forever). However, we have been working on another project where we’re basically putting all of our original recipes, which is why you haven’t been seeing too many brand-spanking new ones from us lately. 🙂

      1. Oh, so excited for the secret project, especially if it’s something other than the calendar…I really appreciate when blogs and cooking websites reference their sources. I like to see the original recipe, if possible, to see what amazing changes have been made. Even if it’s an old family recipe, it makes the recipe more meaningful to me, just knowing that. It bothers me if someone posts a recipe and doesn’t really say much, possibly trying to make it look like they made it up. Many of your recipes are so unique, I know you two came up with them. A few are familiar to me…like the buttermilk syrup or the overnight Carmel sticky buns…when they are somewhat common recipes, it’s hard to credit a source. Recipes aren’t copyrighted, not that I know of anyway. I just have really enjoyed recently that you guys have sources of recipes because I love seeing the genius adaptations you two do. Thanks for all your work on the blog. I have made a number of your recipes and have found some real winners.

  38. I sat down to work on my homework at the computer (yes, teachers have homework, too), and decided to delay my torture a bit and bookmark a few cooking blog sites so that I didn’t have to keep googling them. I made the mistake of searching your blog first. After 3 hours of browsing and drooling, I have given up on my homework. (There’s always tomorrow.) Thanks for doing what you’re doing… and especially for sharing with those of us who are in the same-o, same-o, meal cycle and need a good “shot in the arm”! ;0)

  39. Thank you SO much for posting this (and all of your other fabulous recipes–I’ve tried at least 10 in the last 3 weeks since I found your blog and bought your book)! Twix and Reeses are my all time favorite candy and I’m dying to make these. I already went and bought most of the ingredients, except I forgot to get cream. This is probably a stupid question, but can I substitute whole milk for cream since it’s only 1 TBSP, so I don’t have to go buy a whole carton of it? Would it work the same?

  40. thanks so much! I just bought some carmels today and look forward to making these. i will wait for some easter pb cups to go on clearance after easter 🙂

  41. Made these tonight and they are ridiculously good!!! I used Werthers Caramels and decided I didn’t have enough so I added 3 tbsp cream…. the cream didn’t all stir in so I poured it off the top and had enough caramel after all. Oh yah did I mention I drank the caramel whip cream I poured off?? Yep thats right… I have a problem:)

  42. Hahahahaha! For some reason this post made me crack up. Oh and for the record Twix bars are my FAV and a close second is the RPCs. This dessert is going to be a serious problem if I make it because I’ll want to eat it. I guess I should make it when I have to bring dessert to something so I’ll only eat one…or maybe two. 😉

  43. Okay … I have a question. I made these last night and then “tried” to cut them this morning. The caramel is hard as a rock! 🙁 What did I do wrong?? The caramel lifts completely off of the shortbread and … it just didn’t work.

    1. Debbie–what kind of caramel did you use? And how much whipping cream did you use? I’m 99% sure that’s the problem, but since it’s too late fix that, did you try letting them sit at room temperature? Did they get any softer?

  44. I made these for Easter!! Super easy and wonderful! I did have a little bit of a problem with caramel lifting off the crust but not enough to keep us from loving them! Thanks so much – I get so many good ideas from you and I make sure everyone knows what a great site you have! Happy Easter……

  45. So you’re next post is going to be ‘how not to each halve of the ingredients before the recipe is made’, right? That shortbread was good enough to eat alone. I’ll be making that too often. Mmmmm.

  46. I’ve soo been thinking about making a twix cookie – but have been stymied by the amount of work involved…this sounds so easy! I’m so excited to try your recipe.

  47. I made these for an Easter dessert last night. I would say that even using Kraft caramels use about 3 tblspns of cream. My caramel was too hard as well (not too hard to eat) just a bit too chewy for those with bad teeth or little ones. Everything else came out great and I’m enjoying one right now!

  48. Any idea if these freeze well? I have all of the ingredients to make them, but
    absolutely do not need my jeans to be any tighter than they are already! I’m hoping
    that it’s possible to freeze them in individual servings. Thanks!

  49. I made these for Easter as well and followed the ingredients exactly and had the same problem with the carmel. It was so hard and even after spraying the pan I couldn’t get the bars out so my husband got to pick at the shortbread for 2 days instead!! LOL

  50. I made these as soon as I saw them and was actually a little disapointed. The shortbread crust was great and I plan on using that recipe for simple shortbread cookies. But as a whole, they were just too rich and seemed an odd combination. Almost seemed like they’d be better without the carmel layer maybe. Usually my husband is up for anything sweet, and her actually said these were too much.

  51. I had some ‘gourmet’ homemade caramel recently (not made by me, heh) and even when I left it sitting out for a day or two (because I’m easily distracted like that) it was still chewy and not hard at all. I’m wondering if a homemade caramel would be better for this recipe? I definitely envision the end result with a smoother caramel texture just like a Twix bar. In any case, this is in my “to make” file.

  52. So sweet; so delicious!
    Having never eaten a real Twix before because I can’t eat the cookie part, I made this recipe gluten free just by substituting flours (to Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gf flour plus some xantham gum). They turned out great and now I feel like I’ve had the Twix bar experience.
    They’re super rich so small pieces were perfect. Instead of Reeses mini cups I used easter candy bought on clearance (a blend of reeses bunnies and chocolate bunnies). I also didn’t have cream so used the 1% milk in my fridge and the carmel still turned out soft and creamy. The recipe easily adapts!
    Thanks so much for such a fun recipe!

  53. Debbie- I had the same problem you did! The carmel layer was ROCK HARD. We scraped the topping off and just ate that. I mean we really could not even bite the carmel. I used Kraft carmels with 1 T. cream.

  54. These were as yummy as they sounded. Like others, I added a bit more cream and they were hubby and co-worker approved!!

  55. I made these because they look so good! However, my melted reese did not turn out creamy. I melted them on the stove, and added a little evaportaed milk to get it a little creamy. So, is the microwave the trick? They still are delicious!

  56. I was a little skeptical to make these after reading reviews about caramel being too hard, separating from the shortbread, etc. I made these for dessert one night and was so disappointed because the caramel was hard as a rock and the chocolate was too soupy. I left it in the fridge overnight, and they were still too hard when I tried to cut into them. THEN, I let them sit on the counter for a few hours. OH. MY. GOODNESS. I think I gained 5 pounds in 2 days because I kept eating “one more little piece” until the whole pan was gone. They were absolutely to die for. So in my case, the trick was leaving it on the counter at room temperature (and to grab a nibble every time I walked past…) and they were perfect. I would highly recommend them (and everyone that tried them loved them, too!) Thanks for the delicious recipe!

  57. These are pretty awesome with melted Milky Ways in place of the Reese’s.

    But then again, I’m a caramel junkie.

  58. I made these the other night and left them in the fridge until right before I served them – they were super hard to cut and the caramel wouldn’t stick to the crust. So this is what I learned from this recipe:

    1) I used ‘Peters’ caramel that you can get from Orson Gygi. It stays super soft and chewy.
    2) This dessert is best when served at room temperature and maybe even a little warmer than room temperature. Next time I will probably make the day before, refrigerate, and then the day of set out on the counter.

    Overall they were SOO good. Thanks for the recipe.

  59. I wasn’t sure I could pull these off since I live overseas and had to substitute ingredients, but I made this recipe last night and it was so delicious! We don’t have those pre-made caramels here, and I didn’t feel confident enough making my own, so I made dulce de leche instead. For the chocolate topping – there are imported RPBC (the big ones) here, but they are expensive. So I bought a couple to get the idea and filled in the rest with chocolate chips and peanut butter. The end result was so yummy. The dulce de leche layer maybe wasn’t as substantial as a caramel layer would have been, but I also had no problem with tough caramel like some of the other commenters, so I’m calling it a win! Thanks!

  60. So what is the trick to getting the shortbread to “come together”. 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, 2 cups of flour and 1 TEASPOON of vanilla?? This is not enough liquid for anything to come together. I have a bowl full of powder. Yet, no one else is mentioning this. I am confused!

    1. There shouldn’t be any additional liquid in shortbread. How did you measure your flour? Next time, try lightly spooning it into the measuring cup and leveling it off with the blunt edge of a knife. Aside from that, I’m as puzzled as you are–never had any problems.

  61. I am making these tomorrow but your Arby’s story sounds similar to my Quiznoz incident where I ended up with a lap full of lettuce from my sandwich that I didn’t ask for. This was as we were running late to our prenatal class. My husband was also very, very scared.

  62. I have made these more times than I can count in the past few years. We absolutely love them! I’ve made the caramel as written, but found it has been quite hit and miss with the consistency. Sometimes it’s too hard, sometimes it too runny, and sometimes it’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. I have no idea what I do differently from time to time. We love these so much that I went on a quest to find an easy, homemade caramel to replace the store-bought caramel and cream in this recipe. The caramel I found (“Microwave Caramels” from has always been the right consistency for these bars, no matter cold or at room temp. Here’s what I do: In a large microwave safe bowl, put 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, and 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk and stir. Put in the microwave for 2 minutes. Stir. Cook 2 minutes more. Stir. Cook 1 minute more. Stir and pour on top of the cookie layer (careful as it is VERY HOT). When I want to make these more like Twix cookie bars I just sprinkle a bag of chocolate chips (instead of the peanut butter cups) on top of the caramel layer and carefully spread once the chips have had a chance to melt. Your website is the best! There has never been a recipe that I’ve made here that hasn’t been met with rave reviews from family and friends. Thank you!

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