Paleo Magic Cookie Bars (Gluten Free + Vegan)
These Paleo Magic Cookie Bars are just as rich and delicious as the classic seven-layer bars you know and love! This gluten-free, vegan, and refined sugar-free version has an almond flour crust and homemade coconut milk caramel.
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 chewy, chocolatey 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 every year growing up, 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 from us.
Magic Cookie Bars always bring back the best memories for me. Creating a healthier version of the classic, that tastes just as good, has been on my mind for a good long while now.
These bars aren’t low-calorie and you still need to eat them in moderation. However, in this version, the calories come from more natural sources that aren’t loaded with preservatives and empty sugars. My dad, one of the Magic Cookie Bars biggest fans, couldn’t keep his hands off these and said they were even better than the original!
How do you make Magic Cookie Bars healthier?!
They do require a bit more effort than the originals. Instead of opening a can of sweetened condensed milk, you’ve got to make your own homemade paleo + vegan version by reducing down the coconut milk and coconut sugar. But, it’s a process that doesn’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.
The crust is made out of crushed nuts instead of crushed graham crackers. With a little bit of cinnamon stirred into the nut mixture, you won’t even notice the difference!
The toppings are super similar to the classic recipe, with the exception of leaving out the 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!
What’s the best way to store them?
My personal preference is keeping them in the refrigerator or freezer. It keeps them super chewy and absolutely delicious. They’ll last a week or two in the refrigerator, or a few months in the freezer!
They’ll be good at room temperature for a few days, if you choose to keep them that way.
Paleo + Vegan Magic Cookie Bars
I’ve been making this new + improved version of my favorite magic cookie bars for a while now. They’ve now become a new staple at Christmas! My sister and I fight over who gets to devour them…I’m totally in love with this recipe and truly impressed with how much they taste like the original. It’s become seriously hard to me to resist eating all of these paleo magic cookie bars once I know I’ve got some stashed in the freezer!
I’ll definitely be making these again and again, and I guarantee they won’t last too long around here! Sooo many of you have let me know you’re loving this new version as well since I posted them. It puts the biggest smile on my face to know I can help you enjoy magic cookie bars, no matter whether your diet requires no gluten, or no dairy, or no grains. If you want Paleo and vegan in the most decadent way, whip a batch of these up. You won’t regret it! Enjoy :)
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Paleo Magic Cookie Bars (Gluten Free + Vegan)
- Yield: 16 bars 1x
These Paleo Magic Cookie Bars are just as rich and delicious as the classic seven layer bars you know and love! This gluten-free, vegan, and refined sugar free version has an almond flour crust and homemade coconut milk caramel.
For the coconut milk caramel
- 1 (15.5 oz) can full-fat coconut milk
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- 2 tablespoons coconut butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the bars
- 1 cup (96g) almond flour
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 3 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
- 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 half, 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 a similar consistency to a thick sweetened condensed milk or a drippy caramel sauce, 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
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line an 8×8″ pan with parchment paper, then lightly grease with coconut oil.
- While the caramel is simmering (be sure to continue stirring every few minutes), mix together the almond flour, cinnamon, salt, and coconut butter. Sprinkle the crust mixture into the prepared baking pan. Using your fingers or a spatula, press the mixture down in an even layer, covering the bottom of the baking dish.
- Sprinkle the chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and coconut flakes evenly over the crust. Pour the sweetened coconut milk evenly over everything. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned.
- Let chill in the refrigerator for about an hour or until completely chilled and set. Cut into 16 squares with a sharp knife and serve!
Recipe adapted from She Cooks, She Cleans
This post is sponsored by Relative Race! Thanks so much for supporting the brands that support Bakerita :)
Want some more magic cookie bar goodness?!
Paleo & Vegan Dark Chocolate Macadamia Nut Magic Cookie Bars
Wow! Those look incredible! Can’t believe they are paleo either. Definitely saving this recipe! :D
You know how to make dreams and memories come alive. Thee bars look incredible. Love all the layers and that they are paleo!! Yummmm!!!
These are FAB! I love all of your paleo desserts Rachel!
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.
Thanks for the pin, Taylor! I’d love for your thoughts if you try them!!
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
Thanks for sharing our recipe, and I’m glad you enjoyed them. Your photos are beautiful!
Thanks for the recipe, Nancy!
These bars look so dang tasty, I’m seriously considering making them for a 2nd breakfast this morning. Gorgeous photos, Rachel!
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
what a great recipe. so healthy!
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!
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!
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!
I LOVE magic bars. Love this healthier take on them :)
so smart! i love how decadent and sinful these are while still being natural and paleo!
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!
Wow, these look spectacular. I don’t think I’d miss anything from the traditional recipe. An amazing adaptation!
Thanks so much, Chris!
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! :)
Holy cow, these look ah-mazing!
These look amazingly delicious, yum!! What a great idea!
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
Isn’t it the best?! Thanks for stopping by Bakerita, Lisa! :)
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?
Hi Hope! Yes, I would definitely put them in the fridge until they’re completely chilled and set before cutting. Hope you like them!
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!!
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?
Sure! As long as it links back here, feel free to include the bars in your roundup.
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
The date idea sounds delicious – I’ll have to try that!! So glad you like them, Leslie. Thanks for commenting! :)
I love love love your recipes! I wanted to say thank you!
Also for this recipe, what are some options that I can use to substitute for the coconut butter?
Hi Adee, you could use coconut oil instead. Thanks so much for the love, I’m so thrilled you enjoy my recipes! Hope you love this one too :)
Love these Rachel!!!! I love making a lighter version of something classic. And these may be the best healthy-ier version of anything I’ve seen. And those photos
Magic cookie bars are the best! Can you believe I’ve never made my own?! Yikes, I need to get on that, and soon! I’m wishing I had this ENTIRE batch for breakfast since my stomach is growling! :) Looks delicious, Rachel!
Thanks so much Gayle – magic cookie bars are definitely one of the best thing ever!
What a clever “cleaned up” interpretation of this classic treat. I am intrigued!
These cookie bars look delicious and extremely addictive!
Ahhh I kinda wish I didn’t see this recipe because I’m on Whole30 and I wish I could eat one of these cookie bars! I bet they taste soooo magically delicious ;)
Hi Bethany – ahh so tragic! I’ve got a Whole30 friendly recipe coming tomorrow though ;) thanks so much girl!
Hi! I’m planing on making these this week, and was looking over the ingredients. I’m not sure how much canned coconut milk I need to ise. We use ml and grams where i’m from. I googled 115 onces and the result came back 3400 ml. It seemes a lot. How many cans do I need?
Hi Denisa, it’s not 115 ounces, but one 15.5 oz can of coconut milk, which would be about 440g. It’s one standard size can here in the US. Does that help? Hope you enjoy the bars!
I have never had a magic cookie bar (I’m from the Netherlands and don’t think they are sold here) but man I want to make these!! Pinning the recipe to make later for sure!
I hope you love them Simone – they’re one of my favorites, and I hope your first foray into Magic Cookie Bars is a delicious one :) enjoy!
Hi! I’m planing on making these this weekend, but have no idea how much cocnut milk I need. I googleled form oz to ml and the result was 3400 ml which seems a lot. Help :-). How much milk do I need?
Hi Denisa – I think you’re misreading! It’s one 15.5 oz can – not 115 oz. I’m going to fix it on the post so no one else makes the mistake. Hope this helps, and hope you love the bars.
Thank you! Can’t wait to sink my teeth into them :-)
Rachel as always you rock! I love the adaptation of 7 layer bars! Like you, I grew up making these and our whole family love them. Last year I was determined to make or find a replacement for condensed milk, before I knew you had this recipe of course. I found a sweetened coconut condensed milk from Nature’s Charm. It’s good and does the trick. The ingredients are coconut milk, sugar and salt , that’s it. So if your in a pinch and want to make grainfree 7 layer bars, the Nature’s Charm coconut condensed milk is a great alternative, but I am sure not as good as your homemade version. Thank you for sharing your brilliant recipes!
Thanks so much Elaine! I actually picked up a can of that sweetened coconut condensed milk and have been meaning to try it with these. Thanks for letting me know how it is! Hope you’ll give these a try this year :)
I just made these and they are fantastic!! I’ve never had magic bars before and they might be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Thanks so much for creating an awesome paleo dessert option!
Yay so thrilled to hear you’re loving them! One of my faves, too. Thanks Alyssa!
Can I use coconut oil instead of coconut butter?
Yes that will work! Enjoy :)
Made these today but the caramel topping stayed on the surface rather than sinking down as the pictures suggest. Followed directions carefully so not sure why this happened. They taste delicious though.
Hi Elsa, I’m guessing what must have happened is the caramel got too thick so it wasn’t thin enough to drip between the nuts/chocolate/coconut. Next time, I’d try cooking for a little less time – it should be the consistency of sweetened condensed milk or a drippy caramel sauce. I’ll update the recipe to make it more clear. Glad you’re still enjoying them though, sorry for the trouble!
I love your blog and alternative healthy options. Just a quick question. Did you know that raw cacao contains a very high percentage of omega fatty acids. So, while this recipe is amazingly vegan, gluten free and virtually sugar free, it contains rancid fats, because cacao is heat sensitive. Do you have an alternative to add instead of chocolate nibs?
Looking forward to hear from you!
Hi Lise-Marie, this recipe doesn’t use cacao nibs, it uses dark chocolate. Feel free to leave out the chocolate if it bothers you. Enjoy!
Do you mean to oil the parchment paper?
Hi Shell, just put a little coconut oil on the parchment paper to help prevent the bars from sticking to the paper. Enjoy!
These turned out really well for gluten free and paleo. I used vegan butter in place of the coconut butter. I would make them again.
So glad you enjoyed them, Tamz!
I would like to make these so my partner can try them. Unfortunately he can’t eat certain nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts ok, almonds, cashews and pistachios definitely no!) I was wondering if I could use extra walnuts for the almonds on top and if I could substitute coconut flour for almond flour in the base?? Thank you!
Hi Alison, you can definitely sub the nuts that he can eat for whichever ones he can’t in the topping. For the base, coconut flour should work, I’d just use 1/3 of the amount called for (1/3 cup, in this case) OR you can pulse walnuts in a blender/food processor until they make a flour-y texture and use that instead. Enjoy!!
These bars are AMAZING! My sister in law made them for me at a family get together and now I’m hooked. I have a severe grain allergy and (as long as I’m careful about the ingredients like chocolate) there are no grain components used in this recipe. It’s very exciting
Woohoo!! So glad they were a hit, Erin. Thanks so much for the feedback!
These look super yummy! I have sweetened condensed coconut milk which I bought from a store – approximately how much would I need for this recipe? Would half cup be enough? Thanks!
Hi Rachna, you’ll want to use a little over a cup!
I made caramel with coconut oil in it and it solidified once it cooled. Will it do the same with the coconut butter?
Hi Kari, yes it will firm up a bit which is important to the texture of these bars and helping them stay together!
I’m wondering if using an 8oz of coconut CREAM (instead of coconut milk) with the coconut sugar would reduce the 30 minute simmering time to create the coconut caramel. Did you try that by any chance? TIA
Hi Toby, I haven’t tried that, but the best shortcut is buying sweetened condensed coconut milk which has become a lot more widely available since I first posted this recipe!