Paleo Magic Cookie Bars

These Paleo Magic Cookie Bars are just like the real thing, except they’re gluten-free, vegan, and refined sugar free too! You won’t taste the difference.

These Paleo Magic Cookie Bars are just like the real thing, except they're gluten-free, vegan, and refined sugar free too! You won't taste the difference.Let’s talk about my favorite childhood dessert for a minute: Magic Cookie Bars. Also known as Seven Layer Bars or Hello Dolly Bars, these pieces of dessert art are truly delicious and are remembered with great fondness by all who have tried them. I really don’t know that I’ve ever had someone not love them. The combination of so many delicious things thrown on top of a buttery graham cracker crust and topped with sweetened condensed milk just really can’t end up as anything but insanely delicious.

My mom and I would make batches and batches of these for Christmas, and when I was little I would constantly be sneaking outside to grab a bar (or three) out of the freezer in our garage where my mom would attempt to hide them. The main problem with these decadent little morsels? They are sooo far from the realm of healthy, and though the holidays are a time for splurging and going calorie-crazy, that’s not necessarily what I want to be doing for the remainder of the year.

These Paleo Magic Cookie Bars are just like the real thing, except they're gluten-free, vegan, and refined sugar free too! You won't taste the difference.
These bars are not low-calorie, and you still need to eat them in moderation, but in this version the calories come from more natural sources that aren’t loaded with preservatives and empty sugars. Please please please don’t let the word Paleo in the title freak you out. My dad, one of the Magic Cookie Bars biggest fans, couldn’t keep his hands off these, and we even toyed with the idea that these were even better than the original.

They do require a bit more effort, because you need to reduce down the coconut milk and coconut sugar, but that process don’t require a lot of thought, just a distant eye and the occasional stir to keep it from burning. If you ask me, that’s not a lot to do to cut out the major amounts of sugar that would’ve been in that can of sweetened condensed milk. Besides that, everything’s pretty much the same in terms of effort.

These Paleo Magic Cookie Bars are just like the real thing, except they're gluten-free, vegan, and refined sugar free too! You won't taste the difference.The crust here is made out of crushed nuts instead of the crushed graham crackers, and with a little bit of cinnamon stirred into the nut mixture, you won’t even notice the difference! The toppings are super similar, with the exception of butterscotch chips. I couldn’t think of a reasonable substitute, and the original chips weren’t too much of a loss for me. The bars are still plenty sweet and decadent without them!

I used unsweetened coconut flakes, and two kinds of nuts I had on hand (you can just use what you have!) to complement the melty dark chocolate, and oh my gosh you guys – I really do wish I had them to share with you guys! I’m totally in love with this recipe and truly impressed with how much they taste like the original. I’ll definitely be making these again and again, and I guarantee they won’t last too long around here! If you want Paleo in the most decadent way, whip a batch of these up. You won’t regret it! :)

Paleo Magic Cookie Bars
For the coconut milk caramel
  • 1 15.5 ounce can coconut milk (full-fat)
  • ½ cup coconut palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the bars
  • ½ cup ground almonds or almond meal
  • ½ cup ground walnuts
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut butter, melted
  • ¾ cup dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped almonds
  • ½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
For the coconut milk caramel
  1. In a heavy saucepan, heat the coconut milk and sugar over medium heat, stirring often, until coconut milk begins to boil. Lower heat to simmer and reduce by ⅓ to ½, stirring often to prevent the sugar from scorching. (If thicker, caramelized sugar begins to form on sides or bottom, use a whisk to reincorporate it.) When it reaches the desired consistency, in around 30 minutes, add 2 tablespoons coconut butter and vanilla. Stir well and remove from heat. You should end up with a little over a cup of caramel-colored, sweetened coconut milk.
For the crust/bars
  1. While the caramel is simmering (be sure to continue stirring every few minutes), mix together the ground almonds, ground walnuts, cinnamon, salt, and coconut butter. Sprinkle nut mixture into a parchment-lined 8x8 baking pan. Using your fingers or a spatula, press the mixture down in an even layer, covering the bottom of the baking dish.
  2. Sprinkle the chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and coconut flakes evenly over the crust. Pour the sweetened coconut milk over everything. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned.
  3. Let chill in the refrigerator for about an hour or until completely chilled and set. Cut, and serve!

Recipe adapted from She Cooks, She Cleans


  1. Wow! Those look incredible! Can’t believe they are paleo either. Definitely saving this recipe! :D

  2. You know how to make dreams and memories come alive. Thee bars look incredible. Love all the layers and that they are paleo!! Yummmm!!!

  3. These are FAB! I love all of your paleo desserts Rachel!

  4. Secret: I’ve never had a magic cookie bar. Isn’t that CRAZY?! We didn’t eat them growing up in Canada.
    However, I have had them on my “to try and make healthy” list for all the evers. So, I am going to marry these.

  5. I saw these on Instagram when you posted them and, let me tell you that I’m still drooling over them. They look too good to be real! I cannot belive they’re healthy! xx

  6. Thanks for sharing our recipe, and I’m glad you enjoyed them. Your photos are beautiful!

  7. These bars look so dang tasty, I’m seriously considering making them for a 2nd breakfast this morning. Gorgeous photos, Rachel!

  8. Holy smoke – these are beautiful, and there is no doubt in my mind that they taste out. of. this. world!
    I love the old-fashioned way of baking, especially around christmas times. I remember my grandmother would always have piles of tins in her hall filled to the rim with all types of different biscuits throughout December, and the children were usually to be found not far from there :P
    BUT there should be no shame in treating yourself to one of these any time of the year, I’d take mine with a nice cup o’ coffee :D

    You’ve got a beautiful blog, and I’m gonna take a little dive into the archive now, I love the photographs as well, stunning! I hope you have a great start to your week :) x

  9. what a great recipe. so healthy!

  10. Woah, where have these been all my life?! You’re amazing! I LOVE coconut milk caramel, and I love that these are so easy but have 7 components! The name of 7-layer dips and nineteen-layer cookies (made that one up!) always intimidates me, but I love that you can just pour over caramel and shove them in the oven!

  11. I love magic cookie bars / 7 layer bars! These look just like the real thing, or maybe even better! I love the sound of the nut crust – yum!

  12. I never knew what seven layer bars were until I was in college! Which is just crazy! These look awesome – you have me craving dessert now!

  13. I LOVE magic bars. Love this healthier take on them :)

  14. so smart! i love how decadent and sinful these are while still being natural and paleo!

  15. Oh god stop (don’t stop). These are killing me (they are amazing). No seriously though I don’t know how you achieved this but I can’t believe these are actually grain free. Amazing job!

  16. Wow, these look spectacular. I don’t think I’d miss anything from the traditional recipe. An amazing adaptation!

  17. These bars look awesome, Rachel! I’ve heard of seven layer bars and Hello Dolly bars, but somehow have never had one. Your healthier version looks so great! And um, coconut milk caramel sounds fantastic. Pinning! :)

  18. Holy cow, these look ah-mazing!

  19. These look amazingly delicious, yum!! What a great idea!

  20. I only bake desserts with paleo friendly ingredients (aka clean and healthy!) and no one is ever the wiser!! I love tricking people into eating healthier versions of their old favourites

  21. I just made these today. They literally just came out of the oven. Not sure if they are still suppose to be liquid so should i put them in the fridge or wait a little bit?

  22. these look incredible!! Starbucks just released Hello Dolly bars here in Canada but I can’t try them as I can’t have gluten. And I’m Paleo, so these looks perfect for me. I have never heard of coconut butter though, do you make it yourself? I’ve got a block of coconut cream, and also coconut flakes (the big chunky kind, not the shredded flakes) so perhaps I can process it into a butter texture. If not, is there something else to substitute? I’ll try googling recipes and maybe see if I can find it next time I’m at the store. Haven’t even heard of it before.

    thanks so much. I’m sure I’m going to love these! :)

    • Hi Dana! You can either make or buy your own coconut butter. The coconut flakes you have are perfect, and are exactly what I used to make mine. I have a recipe for toasted coconut butter here, for regular coconut butter just skip the toasting and put the coconut flakes straight into the food processor. You can also buy coconut butter. I find it at health food stores, Artisana is a great brand, but it does tend to be expensive. Thanks so much for stopping by, I hope you love these bars!!

  23. Love these cookie bars! They sound really delicious and I can’t wait to try them! Would love to also include them in a recipe roundup for Valentine’s Day! May I?

  24. I never post comments but I’ve made these twice now and they are so damn GOOD. I add a layer of a pureed medjool dates and they’re totally addictive


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