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, and 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, but 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 we even toyed with the idea that these were even better than the original.
They do require a bit more effort than the originals, because 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 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.
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’m bringing you this favorite family recipe of mine in partnership with an awesome new show I’ve been watching called Relative Race! Relative Race is a reality tv show competition all about family – four teams compete against each other, racing to a final destination on a 10 day road trip, competing in challenges and discovering unknown family members along the way. They’re competing for $50,000, but I think they all win by discovering new family!
The show reminds me a bit of The Amazing Race, combined with Ancestery.com or one of those sites, which is so fun and interesting. On many of the episodes, the contestants connect with their newfound family members over dinner – food has such an incredibly way of connecting people :)
I’ve been making this new version for a while now, and they’ve now become a new staple at Christmas! 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! Enjoy :)
Remember to #bakerita if you try the recipe!
Paleo Magic Cookie Bars (Gluten Free + Vegan)
For the coconut milk caramel
- 1 (15.5 oz) can full fat coconut milk
- ½ cup coconut palm 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 1/3 to 1/2, 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
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line an 8x8" 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 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 :)