7-Layer Magic Bars

VideoDessertHolidayBar cookiePecan

Classic 7-layer magic bars with chocolate, nuts, butterscotch, and coconut! They're the perfect make-ahead dessert for your next party.

Photography Credit: Irvin Lin

These bars go by a few different names, like 7-Layer Bars or Hello Dollies, but I’ve always known them as Magic Bars.

They are a pure Midwestern treat for me, often brought to potlucks to round out a shared meal. All the names for the same dessert might seem confusing, but luckily, there’s nothing confusing about making them.

VIDEO! How to Make 7-Layer Magic Bars

The Magic of Magic Cookie Bars

The true magic of these rich, sweet Magic Bars is how easy they are to make. There’s no mixing, no creaming butter with sugar, no adding the eggs one at a time.

Instead, Magic Bars are pretty much assembled from a pantry of stock ingredients, which are then sprinkled and layered one on top of the next. (Usually there are seven different ingredients, which explains at least one of the alternate names!)

Bake in the oven until toasty brown and the bars are done.

Magic Bars

Essential Ingredient: Sweetened Condensed Milk

The one essential ingredient in the whole recipe is sweetened condensed milk. This sticky, gooey, honey-thick condensed milk is what binds all the ingredients together. It also caramelizes in the oven, giving a sweet depth to each bite similar to dulce de leche.

Also, make sure you read the labels and buy sweetened condensed milk, not evaporated milk—the cans look very similar.

Our Favorite Videos

From the editors of Simply Recipes

What are the 7 Layers?

Traditionally Magic Bars have 7 different layers, though it's a bit of a misnomer because "butter" is typically counted as a layer even though it's mixed with the graham crackers to make the bottom cookie layer. In these bars we have:

  1. Graham crackers
  2. Butter
  3. Sweetened condensed milk
  4. Semi-sweet chocolate chips
  5. Butterscotch chips
  6. Pecans (though you can swap any other chopped nut!)
  7. Shredded sweet coconut

Fun swaps and substitutions

The essential components of the bars are the cookie base and the sweetened condensed milk to hold everything together. Beyond that, you have lots of options! For one of our favorites try this recipe for Peanut Butter Pretzel Magic Bars.

Here are some other ideas. For all of them, keep the overall ratios and proportions the same as the original ingredients:

  • Use gingersnaps, chocolate wafers, Biscoff cookies or any other dry, crumbly cookie instead of the graham crackers
  • Swap white chocolate chips for the butterscotch chips
  • Swap peanut butter chips for the butterscotch chips
  • Add marshmallows
  • Add dried fruit
  • Add toffee bits
  • Add M&M candies or any other small candy
  • Add a drizzle of caramel over the top

Tip for Easier Slicing

Gooey is the name of the game with these bars. While delicious, this can make them difficult to slice. Two things can help:

  1. Be sure to line the pan with parchment. This way you can lift the bars from the pan and slice them with a chef's knife on a cutting board.
  2. Refrigerate the bars for a few hours or overnight. If the bars still seem too soft and gooey to slice, put them in the fridge (covered) for a few hour until they firm up.

Storing Your Magic Cookie Bars

Store your sliced magic cookie bars between layers of parchment in an airtight container. They'll keep in the fridge for about a week (recommended if it's really warm where you live) or on the counter for about 5 days (fine in cooler temps).

More Favorite Bar Cookies to Try!

Updated June 29, 2020 : We added a new video and new details to help you make the best Magic Cookie Bars ever! No changes to the original recipe. Enjoy!

7-Layer Magic Bars Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 24 bars

These bars are so rich and sweet, you can cut them into 24 small bars and still feel satisfied.

I like to add a sprinkle of flaky Maldon salt on top to add some crunch and help cut the sweet richness. The salt is totally non-traditional, though, so omit if you want that nostalgic, ultra-sweet Magic Bar experience.


  • 2 cups (225 g) graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup (115 g / 1 stick) melted unsalted butter
  • 14 ounces (396 g / 1 can) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup (185 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (185 g) butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup (115 g) chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (105 g) shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (like Maldon), optional


1 Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking oil then line it with parchment paper.

2 Make the graham cracker crust: Place the graham cracker crumbs and the melted butter in a bowl. Toss with a fork until the crumbs are moist and hold together when squeezed with your hand.

Dump the crumbs in the middle of the pan and then press them into an even layer with your fingers or the back of a flat-bottomed cup.

The graham cracker layer for Magic Cookie Bars Graham cracker layer for magic bars pressed into the baking dish

3 Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the graham cracker crust. Spread to edges of the pan with a spatula.

Sweetened condensed milk poured over the graham cracker layer for making 7 layer bars

4 Layer on the rest of the toppings: In this order, sprinkle the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans, and then sweetened coconut over the top of the condensed milk.

Gently press the ingredients down with your palm so they stick to the condensed milk.

a last layer of shredded coconut sprinkled over the top of the magic cookie bars

5 Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Bake until the edges of the bars turn golden-brown and start to pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the sea salt (if using).

Magic Bars

6 Cool completely before lifting the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper. (Stick them in the fridge for a few hours or overnight if needed to help firm up.) Cut into 24 pieces and store in an airtight container with wax paper or parchment paper between layers.

The flavor of the bars is even better the day after baking. Bars stored at room temperature will be fairly soft and are best eaten within 3 to 5 days. For firm and chewy bars, store in the fridge for up to a week.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. Thank you!

This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Simply Recipes. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.

Magic Bars

Irvin Lin

Irvin Lin is an IACP award-winning photographer, food writer and recipe developer, blue-ribbon baker, public speaker, and occasional social media consultant. His blog is Eat the Love and his first cookbook is Marbled, Swirled and Layered.

More from Irvin

68 Comments / Reviews

No Image7-Layer Magic Bars

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Terrie

    Haven’t made these in years, just added the 2 ingredients I need to grocery list! I remember adding maraschino cherries diced small and pressing juice out with paper towels. Great flavor addition! Looking forward to salted tops!

  2. Lisa

    My older sister makes these for the holidays or gatherings. Family feuds breaks out on who’s taking the remainder home? lol I’ll be making them tonight with my 2 grandkids for the 2nd time tonight. It’s a surprise, they’re on their way over and can’t wait to see those smiles knowing that they’re going to be baking with Grandma on a Saturday night during this Covid Pandemic. Life can STILL BE GOOD!!!


    Show Replies (1)
  3. Bebe

    I use salted butter and melt it in the pan (I use a Pyrex backing dish) in the oven while prepping graham cracker crumbs and chopping nuts. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs evenly over melted butter, and use a spatula to press down evenly. Layer the chips and nuts (I use chopped walnuts) and the coconut over the crust (I use sweetened flaked coconut – makes it easier to cut bars). The last “layer” is the condensed milk, poured carefully and as evenly as possible over the bars.

    Show Replies (3)
  4. Malia

    Hello Dollies in my house and one of my strongest memories of my sweet grandmother! So good with coffee.


  5. Elizabeth

    I used to make these for board game nights in the summer in Maine as a teenager. I also poured the condensed milk over the top of the other ingredients. If you pull it quickly out of the pan and cut into squares, it’s much easier… don’t know about eating in 3-5 days, mine never lasted that long!!

    Show Replies (1)
View More
Overhead shot of magic cookie bars ready to eat7-Layer Magic Bars