Chocolate, caramel, and oats join forces in this Carmelitas recipe for the best cookie/bar combo dessert OF ALL TIME. Ever. Like, in the history of the world. They are like an incredibly soft, chewy oatmeal cookie loaded up with chocolate chips and plenty of gooey caramel, but in bar form.
Okay, maybe these S'mores Bars could give them a run for their money, but Carmelitas are pretty darn incredible. And if you like desserts with oats, be sure to try my Toffee Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, Homemade Iced Oatmeal Cookies, or Oatmeal Rolled Sugar Cookies next!
I guarantee that everyone will love you if you show up at a friend's house or at work with a plate of these rich, wonderful bars. They are perfect for sharing although you may just want to make a double batch!
It's so hard to resist the siren call of gooey, melted caramel, but it's practically impossible when it's nestled in every nook and cranny of chocolate-laden oatmeal bars.
Don't hate me, but you're going to have to wait at least a few hours to enjoy these. It takes a while for the caramel to cool down and the bars to set up.
Although you could always throw caution to the wind and just scoop out a serving and top it with ice cream. I literally just came up with that and now I am dying to try carmelitas pizookie-style in a skillet!
What is a Carmelita Bar?
I have no idea when or where carmelitas were created and a google search didn't yield any reliable results. The name sounds like it could be Spanish, but I don't see anything about this dessert that would indicate a Mexican or Hispanic origin.
Although if you wanted to give it a Spanish flair, you could swap out the caramel layer for dulce de leche and it would be incredibly delicious.
Wherever and whoever invented carmelitas, they were brilliant because these layered cookie bars have it all. They are chewy, crispy, soft, gooey, and absolutely irresistible!
Carmelitas Recipe Ingredients
- Salted butter - I typically only use salted butter when I’m baking. If you have unsalted butter, just add an extra ¼ teaspoon of salt to the recipe for each stick.
- Light brown sugar - This should be packed into the measuring cup. You can also use dark brown sugar for more molasses flavor.
- Vanilla extract - If you haven’t tried making your own homemade vanilla extract, give it a try!
- Flour - Regular all-purpose flour works great for these bars. We always use unbleached flour in our recipes.
- Old fashioned oats (not quick or instant oats)
- Baking soda - A leavening agent that gives the recipe just a little rise.
- Salt - So that the bars don’t turn out bland.
- Milk chocolate chips - You can use semisweet if you prefer, but we like milk chocolate chips in these carmelitas bars best.
- Werther’s chewy caramels - I find that these are softer and melt more easily than the Kraft caramels.
- Heavy cream - This helps thin the caramel just enough that it stays soft when you bite into the bars.
What caramel is best when making Carmelitas?
I love using the chewy Werthers for the caramel layer. They taste delicious and are easy to use. The only thing you have to do is unwrap the caramels. If you don’t want to unwrap the caramels, you can use an 11-ounce package of Kraft caramel bits.
How to Make Carmelitas
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9x9-inch square baking pan with a parchment paper sling. It's tempting to skip this step, but it makes it easy to lift the bars out and cut them later after they have cooled completely. Which is so much easier than cutting them in the pan!
Go ahead and unwrap the caramels now before mixing the oatmeal cookie layer.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and vanilla together, then add in the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Stir by hand until everything is combined.
3. Press half of the oatmeal dough evenly into the prepared pan. It will be a very thin layer, but don't worry, you're doing it right!
4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, just until the bottom layer is barely golden and starting to set.
5. While the bottom layer bakes, heat the unwrapped caramels and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until the caramels are melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat once the caramel is melted.
6. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the partially baked bottom layer, then pour the caramel sauce over the chocolate chips. Scatter the remaining oatmeal dough over the caramel by breaking apart small chunks. No need to worry about completely covering the caramel. Gaps are just fine!
7. Bake for another 16-18 minutes, until the edges are a golden brown. The middle will continue to set as the bars cool. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely. This should be at least 2-3 hours, before cutting into squares. If you try slicing them sooner, you will have an ooey-gooey (albeit delicious) mess on your hands.
Carmelitas Recipe Tips
- I know it is REALLY hard but you really do want to wait at least a few hours before taking a big piece and cutting into them! You need to let the caramel cool down and the bars to set up.
- Line your pan with parchment paper will make it so easy to lift the bars out and cut them. Easier than cutting them in the pan!
- Finish with some flaky salt. You can sprinkle a little flaky Maldon salt on the top either before or after baking and make them a salted caramel bar! Yum!
Carmelita Recipe Variations
Salted Caramel Carmelitas
If you love salted caramel, you might want to try sprinkling ½ teaspoon to 1 full teaspoon of coarse salt on top of these bars right when they come out of the oven for salted caramel Carmelitas.
Storing and Reheating Carmelitas
Reheating Carmel Chocolate Oatmeal Bars
If you’re looking for a way to bring back that slightly warm and gooey flavor and feel from when the carmelitas were fresh from the oven, reheating them can do the trick.
Simply place them one at a time in the microwave for about 20 seconds and you should have a treat that’s ready to eat.
Do you like caramel as much as I do? Check out these recipes that you're going to love!
- Chocolate Salted Caramel Whoopie Pies
- Salted Caramel Frosting
- Twix Caramel Popcorn Halloween Poppers
- Buttermilk Caramel Syrup
- Salted Caramel Pumpkin Panna Cotta
- Caramel Oreo Fudge Ripple Ice Cream
- Salted Caramel Apple Pie
- Caramel Pecan Brownies
- Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
- ¾ cup salted butter melted
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup old fashioned oats not quick or instant oats
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ⅓ cups milk chocolate chips
- 40 caramels like Werther's chewy caramels unwrapped
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x9-inch square baking pan with a parchment paper sling to make it easy to lift the bars out and cut them later after they have cooled completely.
- In a large bowl, whisk the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla together.
- Add the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt, stirring until everything is combined.
- Press half of the oatmeal dough evenly into the prepared pan. It will be a very thin layer, but don't worry!
- Bake for 8-10 minutes until just golden.
- While the bottom layer bakes, heat the unwrapped caramels and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until the caramels are melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.
- Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the partially baked bottom layer, then pour the caramel over the chocolate chips. Scatter the remaining oatmeal dough over the caramel by breaking apart small chunks. No need to worry about completely covering the caramel. Gaps are just fine!
- Bake for another 16-18 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. The middle will continue to set as the bars cool. Remove from the oven and cool completely, at least 2 hours, before cutting into squares. You can slice them sooner, but they won't slice clean and you will have an ooey-gooey (albeit delicious) mess on your hands.
- These can be made in an 8x8-inch pan, but they will take slightly longer to cook and be slightly thicker.
- You can use an 11-ounce package of Kraft caramel bits in place of the soft caramels to save time unwrapping.
- Carmelitas will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.