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Caramelitas, also known as chocolate caramel bars, are soft, chewy, and easy to make. Melty chocolate and gooey caramel are sandwiched between an oatmeal cookie crust and topping for the ultimate crumb bars.
The Ultimate Crumble Bars!
I love fruity crumb bars and have made several variations on my blog, but these chocolate caramel bars are something else, in a very good way.
While most of my crumb bars typically don’t have oats, these caramelitas do. It adds a nice chewy texture to compliment the ooey gooey chocolate caramel filling.
How to Make Caramelitas
These chocolate caramel bars are super easy to make!
- A quick oatmeal cookie dough is made in one bowl for the crust and topping. (No mixer required!)
- The crust is baked and then layered with chocolate chips and melted caramel.
- All that’s left to do is to top it with the remaining oat crumble and finish it off in the oven.
The result is ooey gooey, rich and indulgent carmelita bars that you won’t be able to stop eating. They’re like having oatmeal chocolate chip cookies made into bars with thick caramel sauce inside. Delicious!
Below is the step-by-step photo guide for this carmelitas recipe.
- Whisk together the all-purpose flour, old fashioned oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt.
- Add melted butter and stir to form a dough.
- Press half of the oat mixture onto the bottom of a prepared 9-inch pan.
- Bake at 350˚F for 8-10 minutes or until light brown.
PRO TIP: I like to line my pan with parchment paper overhanging the sides, so that I can lift the dessert out of the pan and cut the bars more easily. You can simply grease the pan with cooking spray, if desired.
For the Caramel Filling
While the bottom crust is baking, prepare the caramel filling.
PRO TIP: I like to have the caramels unwrapped before the crust goes in the oven, so while the crust bakes, the caramel is melting and everything finishes at about the same time.
- Place the caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
Layering the Dessert
Once the crust is baked and the caramels have melted, it’s time to assemble the rest of the dessert.
- Remove the crust from the oven when finished baking.
- Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the crust.
- Pour caramel evenly over the chocolate chips.
- Sprinkle with the remaining oat mixture, and carefully press into the hot caramel. (It’s okay if the caramel is peaking through.)
Return pan to oven and bake at 350˚F for another 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Cooling, Serving, and Storing
COOLING: The HARDEST part of making this dessert is waiting for it to cool so that the caramel can set back up, but it is necessary to wait, or you’ll have a big mess.
The entire cooling time will take approximately 2+ hours. You could refrigerate the bars, but it may harden the caramel too much. So either keep an eye on it, or just leave the pan on a wire rack at room temperature until it’s cool to the touch. It’s worth the wait, I promise!
Even after the carmelita bars are fully cooled, they’re soft and gooey and wonderful! So even if you have to wait overnight for them to cool, it will be well worth it for them to stay in one piece.
SERVING: If you used parchment paper you can lift the dessert out of the pan and cut it into squares, otherwise cut it in the pan and use a brownie spatula to lift them out. Cut the dessert into 16 bars.
STORAGE: Store caramelitas in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. You can freeze the bars in layers divided by parchment paper for up to 4 months. To thaw, place on counter overnight.
Carmelitas are on the sweet side, so if a rich dessert is not your thing, go ahead and skip this one. I personally can’t pass up these tasty crumble bars.
There is salt in the crust/topping, but to try and balance this more, you can add additional salt in the melted caramel sauce.
Of course using semi-sweet chocolate chips over milk chocolate is a great choice to balance the sweet caramel, which is what I use and recommend.
What type of caramels should I use?
I used Kraft caramels for this recipe. They are soft, square caramels wrapped in cellophane and sold in an 11-oz bag. You’ll use 35 of them, which is almost the whole bag with maybe 3-4 leftover. (And you could probably just throw them in the caramel sauce as well, if you don’t want any leftover.)
Kraft even has caramel bits in an 11-oz bag. You can use 1 & 1/3 cups of those.
Other options would be to use Werther’s Soft Caramels like I used for these Salted Caramel Cookies. Just make sure to use a soft and chewy caramel, not a hard candy.
Can I use caramel sauce instead?
I believe a thicker store-bought caramel sauce would be just fine to use in this recipe, although the filling may be more soft and sticky. You will want to use about 1 & 1/4 cups in place of the caramels and heavy cream.
My favorite store-bought sauce is Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce, but I personally haven’t tried it in these bars.
Must I use old-fashioned oats?
Yes, you must use old-fashioned oats, aka rolled oats. Unfortunately, instant or quick oats have an entirely different texture and will effect the consistency of the crust and crumb topping.
More Crumb Bars
If you liked this recipe, then you might also like these other crumb bars:
If You Make This Recipe, Please Rate and Review it in the Comments Below. THANKS!
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (stir, spoon & level)
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar, gently packed
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 35 caramel squares, unwrapped (almost a full 11 oz bag)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (half of a 12 oz bag)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9x9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper leaving a couple inches of overhang to easily lift the bars out of the pan to cut them.
- Unwrap caramels and place in a small saucepan with the heavy cream. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.
- Add the melted butter and stir until combined. Press half of the oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake at 350˚F for 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden.
- Meanwhile, melt the caramels and heavy cream over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until completely smooth; remove pan from heat and set aside.
- Remove the crust from the oven and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips. Pour the caramel mixture evenly over the chocolate chips. Crumble the remaining oat mixture over caramel. Gaps are ok. Press/flatten the oat mixture carefully into the hot caramel.
- Return pan to oven and bake at 350˚F for an additional 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely (about 2+ hours) before pulling the bars out of the pan to cut. This allows time for the caramel to set back up, or you'll have a big mess.
- 1 & 1/3 cups Kraft Caramel Bits can be substituted for the caramel squares.
- Do NOT use quick oats. Use old-fashioned or rolled oats only.
- To make in a 9x13-inch pan, simply double the amounts.
- It takes a while (2+ hours) for the caramel to cool down enough to cut them into squares. Do not rush this.
- Cover and store at room temperature for up to 1 week. You can freeze the bars in layers divided by parchment paper for up to 4 months. To thaw, place on counter overnight.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1/16
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 316Total Fat: 16gSodium: 155mgCarbohydrates: 40gSugar: 17gProtein: 3g
*Originally published 9/2/12. Photos updated September 2022.