These gluten free magic cookie bars are an easy to make, healthier dessert option. They have an almond flour shortbread crust that's layered with nuts, coconut, dark chocolate and topped with a homemade maple caramel sauce.
I debated naming these magic cookie bars or seven layer bars.
Growing up, we called them seven layer bars. My mom made them every Christmas. Of course, not my recipe, but a conventional one using completely non-paleo ingredients like condensed milk.
After much thought, I decided to name these magic cookie bars. Simply because there's something *magical* about them!
They bring back joyous memories from my childhood (Christmas time). Not to mention, these gluten free magic cookie bars have an amazing taste and all the right textures. I could probably eat half the batch in one sitting (no joke)!
Healthier Magic Cookie Bars
Unlike the classic magic bar recipe, these are healthy (for dessert) and lower in sugar. Here's what you need to know:
- paleo and vegan magic cookie bars: no grains, gluten, dairy, eggs or refined sugar
- made without condensed milk: have a homemade maple caramel topping
- no graham cracker crust: have an almond flour shortbread crust
- lower in sugar: the maple caramel isn't overly sweet, the crust is just lightly sweetened and I use 100% dark chocolate chips
- easy to make: they may look fancy, but these seven layer bars are super easy to make
- hold together: let them chill in the fridge overnight and the bars cut easily and hold together
Here a list of what you need:
- blanched almond flour
- non-hydrogenated shortening (or coconut oil or vegan butter)
- maple syrup
- vanilla extract
- slivered almonds
- flaked coconut
- dark chocolate chips
- full fat coconut milk
These paleo magic cookie bars are made without graham crackers. Instead, they have a vegan almond flour shortbread crust. It's made with almond flour and non-hydrogenated shortening. (Vegan butter or coconut oil will work too.)
The middle layers consist of nuts and dark chocolate chips. I used pecans, walnuts, almonds, coconut and 100% dark chocolate chips, but fee free to mix up the ingredients as desired. Any nut or seed will work and you can use whatever type of chocolate you wish.
Lastly, these healthier seven layer bars are topped with a homemade maple caramel sauce. The classic version uses condensed milk, but to make these paleo and vegan (and healthier) I used a maple caramel.
How to Make Magic Cookie Bars
To start off, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Next, make the shortbread crust. Combine blanched almond flour, non-hydrogenated shortening, maple syrup, vanilla and salt in a large mixing bowl. The dough will seem too dry at first, but keep working it (using your hands works well) until the mixture is homogeneous and can be rolled into a ball.
Firmly press the crust into a parchment-lined 8" x 8" baking pan. If you're using a 9" x 13" pan, you'll want to double the recipe.
Next, add the middle layers. This includes all of the nuts, shredded coconut and chocolate chips. You'll need to chop the pecans and walnuts prior to adding them, unless you're using "pieces" rather than whole nuts.
I added the layers in this order: chopped pecans, chopped walnuts, slivered almonds, flaked coconut and chocolate chips. However, you may choose to add them in any order.
Caramel Sauce Topping
Next, make the caramel sauce. Combine coconut milk, maple syrup and vanilla in a small sauce pan. Put the pan on your stovetop and set heat to medium-high.
Bring the sauce to a boil. Continue cooking on medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. I recommend using a spatula to stir the caramel because you need to scrape the bottom and sides of the sauce pan so that the caramel doesn't burn.
After 10 minutes, turn the heat to medium. Continue to frequently stir the caramel, keeping a close eye on it. The caramel should be simmering and gradually start to darken and thicken. After another 8-12 minutes, the caramel should be done. Look for a slightly thicker texture. When you dip your spatula into the sauce it should slowly run off.
Pour the caramel over the middle layers. Make sure to coat the entire nut layer (middle and sides) because the caramel is what holds the entire dessert together.
Bake the Cookie Bars
Lastly, bake the vegan magic bars in your oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. The coconut should slightly brown around the edges.
Cool the Cookie Bars
Cool the bars to room temperature in the pan. For best results, store the bars in the fridge overnight prior to cutting. Trust me, they do not cut well until they have completely chilled!
These gluten free magic cookie bars are best stored in the fridge or freezer. (They actually keep really well in the freezer and taste great stored that way.)
Cut the bars and place them in an air-tight container or baggie. Keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, or the freezer for up to two months.
More Paleo Cookie Bar Recipes
Looking for more healthy, Paleo friendly cookie bar recipes? Well, look no further! Here are some reader favorites from my site:
These gluten free magic cookie bars are paleo, vegan and have 7 magical layers. They consist of an almond flour shortbread crust topped with layers of nuts, coconut, dark chocolate and are finished with a maple caramel sauce.
- 1 + ½ cup blanched almond flour (170g)
- ¼ cup non-hydrogenated shortening*
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup flaked coconut
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk**
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line an 8"x8" glass baking dish with parchment paper.
- Make the shortbread crust: combine blanched almond flour, non-hydrogenated shortening, maple syrup, vanilla and salt in a large mixing bowl. The dough will seem too dry at first, but keep working it (using your hands works well) until the mixture is homogeneous and can be rolled into a ball. Firmly press the crust into the lined baking pan.
- Add the Middle Layers: Layer chopped pecans, chopped walnuts, slivered almonds, flaked coconut and chocolate chips on top of the crust.
- Make the Caramel Topping: combine coconut milk, maple syrup and vanilla in a small sauce pan. Put the pan on your stove top and set heat to medium-high. Bring the sauce to a boil.
- Continue cooking on medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently***
- Reduce heat to medium and cook caramel for another 8-12 minutes, stirring frequently. Once done, the caramel will be a golden brown color and have a slightly thicker texture (not goopy).
- Pour the caramel over the middle layers, coating the entire dish.
- Bake Cookie Bars: Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. The coconut should slightly brown around the edges.
- Cool Cookie Bars: Cool the bars in the pan to room temperature. For best results, place bars in the fridge overnight prior to cutting.
*Can sub coconut oil
**Be sure to use full fat coconut milk. Shake the can prior to use to mix together the cream and liquid. If it is still separated, mix the cream and liquid together in a large bowl prior to using.
***I recommend using a spatula to stir the mixture. You want to scrape the edges and bottom of the sauce pan so that the caramel doesn't burn.
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