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.
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.
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:
- Graham crackers
- Sweetened condensed milk
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Butterscotch chips
- Pecans (though you can swap any other chopped nut!)
- 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:
- 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.
- 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!
7-Layer Magic Bars Recipe
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.
3 Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the graham cracker crust. Spread to edges of the pan with a spatula.
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.
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).
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.
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