Have you ever had a magic cookie bar? They’re shaggy little squares of graham cracker, coconut, chocolate, butterscotch chips, and condensed milk.
This is an amalgam of pantry goods that, when combined, make for much more than the sum of their parts.
A New Riff on Magic Bars
And while I do love a good old magic cookie bar, for me, the original version leans a little too sweet. So, I made a version with pretzels and peanut butter to bring some salty balance to the party (salt + sugar is my baking language).
The results are these cookie bars layered with a sandy pretzel base, chewy coconut, peanut butter chips, and chocolate chips, bound together with sweetened condensed milk fortified by peanut butter.
They are at once, sticky, chewy, crunchy, sweet, salty, and totally craveable.
Tips for Baking These Bars
- To make sure the center of these bars set enough to slice, be sure to bake them until the edges caramelize and turn golden. Then cool them completely to room temperature then chill them in the refrigerator for a few hours before cutting.
- When you are ready to remove the bars from the pan and cut them, run a knife around the edges and gently turn out the bars. They should be firm enough to handle but the crust can crumble a bit.
- Cut into squares with a serrated knife.
Make-Ahead and Store (Or Freeze!)
You can also make these bars a day ahead. Just cover the pan of cooled bars in foil and leave them on the counter.
The sliced bars can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days. Store them with parchment between the layers or individually wrapped in plastic wrap (easy for grab-and-go treats!).
The bars can also be frozen for up to a month, either individually wrapped in plastic, or with parchment between the layers. Place the bars inside a freezer bag with as much air pressed out as possible.
To thaw, remove the bars from the bag and let them thaw at room temperature.
More Bar Cookies to Enjoy!
- 7-Layer Magic Bars
- Blueberry Crumb Bars
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping
- Pecan Pie Bars
This recipe was written by Cindy Rahe with assistance from Rachel Knecht.
Peanut Butter Pretzel Magic Bars
- 3 1/3 cups (5 oz) mini pretzels, for the crumb crust, plus additional whole pretzels for topping
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (397g), divided
- 1/4 cup (57g) smooth peanut butter
- 3/4 cups (100g) peanut butter chips
- 1/2 cup (100g) mini chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 cups (75g) unsweetened coconut flakes
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch square baking pan with foil, allowing a couple inches to overhang down the side of the pan. Generously, coat with cooking spray or brush with melted butter. Set aside. If using a glass baking dish, lower the oven temperature to 325°F.
Warm the peanut butter
Pour 1/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk into a small bowl and set aside. In another bowl small bowl, add the peanut butter and remaining condensed milk. When combined you should have about 1 1/4 cups. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir the mixture until smooth. Set aside to cool.
Make the crust
In the bowl of a food processor, add 3 cups whole pretzels and process for 15 seconds until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Measure out 1 1/4 cups (120 g) pretzel crumbs and return them to the food processor bowl. (If you have extra crumbs save them to sprinkle on ice cream!)
Add the sugar and melted butter and process continuously for 20 seconds. The mixture will look like wet sand.
Pour the pretzel mixture into the prepared pan. Use a measuring cup or glass to press the mixture firmly into an even layer in the bottom of the pan.
Bake the crust
Bake the crust until it feels firm to the touch and is slightly golden around the edges, about 10 minutes.
Assemble the first layer
Stir the peanut butter and condensed mixture again, then pour 3/4 cup of the peanut butter mixture over the baked crust. Use a towel, or oven mitts to gently tilt the pan from corner to corner so the peanut butter mixture completely covers the crust. Top with half of the shredded coconut, half of the peanut butter chips and half of the chocolate chips.
Pour remaining 1/2 cup peanut butter and condensed milk mixture over the entire layer. Top with remaining shredded coconut, peanut butter and chocolate chips. Arrange whole pretzels on top and use your hands to gently press the bars down to ensure the layers are compact. Drizzle with the reserved condensed milk.
Bake the bars
Bake on the center rack of the oven for 30-35 minutes until the edges are turning golden and the center is just starting to take on color. The center might be a little soft but the bars will firm up as it cools.
Remove the bars from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 1 1/2 hours. Take out of the pan and remove foil. Continue cooling on rack for an additional 1 hour. Once bars reach room temperature, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. This will ensure that the bars slice cleanly with the least amount of crumbling. You can cut them once they’ve cooled to room temp, but the crust may crumble.
Serve & store
Once the bars are chilled, slice into 16 squares and serve. Store leftover magic bars in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 7 days or at room temperature for 5 days.