The best basic base recipe for soft, chewy, gooey cookie bars. It calls for simple ingredients, is easy to make, no mixer required, and completely adaptable. Add chocolate chips, M&M’s, or your favorite candy bars! The possibilities are endless.
H What is a Cookie Bar?
Cookie bars, also known as bar cookies or cookie squares, are cookie dough baked in a 9×13 inch baking pan or sheet pan, which is then cut into squares. They’re usually thicker, chewier, and slightly gooier than your average cookie.
The Best Cookie Bars
It took me three tries to figure out how to make the best cookie bars ever from scratch. The first version of this recipe didn’t have enough moisture, it was a bit too crumbly and crispy too.
So for the second version I decided to just reduce the flour. That made it worse. Surprisingly, the bars were even crispier, crunchy, and dry.
So after some hard thinking and taking a real good look at my notes, I realized that these problems were caused by there not being enough moisture, binding, and lift.
So I added another egg, some baking powder, added just the perfect amount of flour by chance, used only brown sugar, and baked the bars at a slightly lower temperature to ensure that it all baked at the same rate so that there was no chance of it being crunchy or dry.
Sometimes when I do trials like this it’s a hit or miss, that’s why I don’t like doing it but some recipes are worth it and fortunately, the third try, was a success!
The bars came out pleasantly chewy, soft, slightly gooey and so flavorful. I took one bite and I was in love. I literally jumped for joy because I told myself if they don’t come out right this time I’m not retesting the recipe again.
Easy Basic Cookie Bar Recipe
Making cookie bars from scratch is quite simple. First, you mix up the batter, then press it into the pan in an even layer, and finally, pop it into the oven and bake.
See? Simple, quick, and easy. It’s basically foolproof.
Unlike with cookies, the dough does not need to be chilled beforehand, you don’t have to roll it into balls, or bake multiple batches.
This recipe only has a few basic ingredients, takes about 10 minutes prep, and comes together in one bowl without a mixer. So that’s one less bowl to clean.
Because this recipe is so simple and straightforward it’s perfect for beginners. You can even bake this with kids and let them add in and decorate the bars with their favorite candies and chocolates!
By the way, these easy bar cookies are perfect for a crowd. You may even need to double the recipe because they disappear fast! Baked desserts are the best.
Kitchen Sink Cookie Bars
Since this is a base recipe for bar cookies you can add pretty much anything and everything to it. As you can see my bars look a little wacky because I added all of the leftover candy, chocolate, and sprinkles that I had. Though they do look a bit bizarre, they tasted so good! One of my favorite dessert bars to date.
Here are some examples of the add-ins that you can use:
- Chocolate chips
- Broken pieces of pretzels
- Butterscotch chips
- Your favorite candy bar, chopped into pieces
- White chocolate chips
- Toffee Bits
The recipe calls for “1 ½ cups add-ins” but please use this as a guideline. For example, if you use mini chocolate chips use a little less (1 ¼ cups) because they are really small. If you use chopped up candy bar pieces use a little more because they are big and chunky. But for things like regular-sized chocolate chips and M&M’s, I recommend using exactly 1 ½ cups.
If you use add-ins that have a higher salt content, like toffee bits or salted pretzels for example, reduce the salt in the recipe to 1/2 teaspoon.
These bar cookies are made with melted butter which contributes to the chewy texture. When melting the butter do not overheat it otherwise it will cook the eggs. If you do end up overheating the butter, let it cool until it is just warm before using.
Substituting unsalted butter for salted butter: This recipe calls for salted butter but if you don’t have any on hand simply add 1/4 teaspoon more salt. The salt is important because it adds flavor and balances out the sweetness.
Another ingredient that adds flavor and is responsible for the chewy texture of these bars is the brown sugar which is the only sugar in this recipe. Using only brown sugar ensures that the bars are perfectly soft and chewy, instead of crispy, and full of caramel-molasses flavor.
How to know when the Bars are done
You need to bake until the top and edges are set. What exactly does this mean? It means to bake until slightly firm to the touch. There should be no raw batter or wet spot in the center! It should be soft but not so soft to the point that it dents very easily when you touch it really gently with your finger.
When you remove the bar cookies from the oven the center may be slightly puffy but they will sink as they cool and the residual heat from the baking pan will continue to “bake” them.
It’s important not to overbake these because if you do, after they cool they’ll end up being tough or dry. You want that whole center layer (the layer between the very top and bottom layer) to be slightly under baked so I don’t recommend baking for more than the suggested time in the recipe.
Using a glass baking dish/pan: If you bake the cookie bars in a glass pan instead of a metal one you may need to bake them for two minutes longer, but be very careful not to over bake! It’s best to use a metal pan though.
You should know that the texture of the edge pieces and center pieces are slightly different. The edges are chewier and a bit crisper, and the centers are softer and a little gooier. Which do you prefer? The edges or center slices?
More Easy Cookies & Bars Recipes:
Now that you know how simple it is to make homemade cookie bars, give it a try and let me know how it turns out in the comments below! I love hearing from you!
The best basic base recipe for soft, chewy, gooey cookie bars. It calls for simple ingredients, is easy to make, no mixer required, and completely adaptable. Add chocolate chips, M&M's, or your favorite candy bars! The possibilities are endless.
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups add-ins (chocolate chips, M&M’s, nuts, etc.)
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl combine the butter, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.
Add the flour and gently mix until fully incorporated, then fold in the add-ins.
Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan and spread it into an even layer.
Bake for 28 – 30 minutes. *The longer they bake the chewier they'll be.
Cool in pan for about 1 hour before slicing. Bars will fall apart if handled while still too warm.
Store fully cooled bars in an airtight container to prevent them from drying out.
- If using unsalted butter add an extra 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
- Light or dark brown sugar can be used but dark brown sugar will yield chewier, more flavorful bars.
- How to measure 3/4 teaspoon salt: 1/2 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon.
- Use "1 1/2 cups add-ins" as a guideline. Add more or less depending on what you use and what your preference is.
*These nutrition facts are for the bars without add-ins.
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