Hello Dolly bars are the ultimate indulgence. They’re every sweet tooth’s dream dessert!
With these bars, you don’t only get one or two layers, but a whopping seven. Think of all the dessert toppings you can think of, and they’re most probably in these bars.
I’m talking chocolate chips, nuts, coconut – the works! There are so many different layers, but they all work with each other to create the perfect balance.
You can also expect a crumbly and buttery crust at the bottom and a secret ingredient that makes the bars ridiculously chewy and ooey gooey.
Are you ready for dessert deliciousness overload? Let’s get the show started.
Hello Dolly Bars
Also called 7-layer bars and magic bars, Hello Dolly bars are a dessert made with layers of crumbly crust, and a bunch of sweet toppings bound together by sweetened condensed. milk.
Seriously, the word decadent is an understatement.
They’re so exquisite, you’ll think they’ll require great baking skills, but the opposite is true.
There might be at least seven layers, but these bars are super easy to make. Thirty minutes, and you’re done! The hardest part is waiting as they cool.
Why Are They Called Hello Dolly Bars?
Hello Dollies first came to be in the 1960s, when the recipe was featured in the original foodie, Clementine Paddleford’s column in the magazine, The Week.
It wasn’t Paddleford’s own recipe, though. Rather, 11-year-old Dallas native Alecia Couch submitted it to Paddleford in 1965.
The Broadway musical, Hello Dolly, was all the rage during that time, hence the name. Other monikers include 7-layer bars, magic bars, magic cookie bars, and coconut dream bars.
Alecia’s recipe featured a graham cracker crust, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, flaked coconut, and condensed milk for the toppings.
Some also believe that Alecia’s recipe was derived from an 1856 cookie recipe made by Gail Borden, the inventor of sweetened condensed milk.
What Layers are In 7-Layer Bars?
- The crust – A thick layer of buttered crushed graham crackers at the bottom that carries the rest of the toppings. It’s crumbly, buttery, and delicious. The classic honey-flavored crackers are great, but you can also try cinnamon for added flavor.
- Sweetened condensed milk – The secret ingredient that binds all the toppings together. It’s what makes these bars wonderfully sweet, sticky, and chewy. That said, don’t even think about substituting it for anything else. The milk is drizzled over the crust AND the toppings for maximum ooey-gooey goodness.
- Chocolate chips – Because chocolate makes everything better! This recipe uses a combination of semi-sweet and white chocolate chips. Feel free to use dark and milk chocolate, too, though. Always choose good-quality brands such as Ghirardelli and Hershey’s.
- Walnuts – For nuttiness and crunch. Toast the walnuts for several minutes beforehand for maximum flavor.
- Shredded Coconut – Its unique crunchy texture and nutty, toasty flavor pairs beautifully with chocolate chips and walnuts. It adds a nice tropical flair to the bars.
Since the other ingredients are already sweet, use unsweetened coconut flakes to balance things out.
What Can You Substitute for Coconut in 7-Layer Bars?
No coconut on hand? That’s okay, you can use quick-cooking oats instead.
Or, just skip it entirely! The bars won’t have that lovely, toasted nutty flavor, but still delicious just the same.
Tips for the Best Hello Dolly Bars
- For minimal effort, use pre-crushed graham crackers. But if all you have are actual graham crackers, you can easily crush them through a food processor. Or, place the cookies in a Ziploc bag, seal, and pound with a rolling pin.
- Place the butter in the baking dish and melt it in the oven as it preheats. That way, you have less stuff to clean.
- Grease the pan well so the crust won’t stick to the bottom. You can also line the pan with parchment paper for easier clean-up. Leave an overhang on the sides so you can lift the bars when you’re ready to cut them.
Take note, though, that parchment paper isn’t the same as wax paper. Wax paper, unsurprisingly, contains wax. Wax melts at high temperatures, which can cause the paper to catch fire.
- Use a large measuring cup to evenly press the crust into the pan.
- The order in which you add the toppings isn’t that important. But if you want toasty coconut flakes, add them last.
- I know it’s tempting to have a bite, but wait until the bars are cooled completely to room temperature. They’ll need time to set, otherwise, the bars will be way too sticky and ooey-gooey to eat.
To help them set faster, refrigerate the baking dish once the bars have cooled to room temperature.
- Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the bars. Run the knife under warm water and dry it with a kitchen towel in between slices. These bars are super rich, so consider slicing into small pieces.
- Place the leftover bars in an air-tight container, with a sheet of wax paper in between each bar. You can store them at room temperature for up to 4 to 5 days.
- The bars taste great when chilled, so you can also refrigerate them for up to a week.
- They also freeze well! Place the bars in a freezer-safe bag, squeeze out as much excess air as you can, and seal. They’ll keep well for up to 3 months. Thaw them in the fridge or at room temperature until soft.
Think of this recipe as a mere guide. Taste is subjective, so you won’t need to follow it to a tee!
The beauty in this recipe is it’s forgiving and super easy to customize, so don’t feel like you need to limit your layers to just seven.
Here are some topping ideas you can add to your bars. Feel free to mix and match!
- Peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, crushed peanut butter cups, or Reese’s pieces – these are great if you want that sweet and salty contrast of flavors.
- Pecans, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, macadamias – whatever your favorite nut is. Toast them for several minutes to bring out their flavor even more.
- Instead of graham crackers, use crushed vanilla wafers for the crust.
- Dried fruit – raisins, craisins, chopped dried mangoes, apricots, you name it.
More Dessert Recipes You’ll Love
- Best Ever Chewy Fudge Brownies
- Cheesecake Brownies
- Buckeye Brownies
- Millionaire’s Shortbread
- Slutty Brownies
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