17 Best Cookie Bar Recipes for a Bite-Sized Treat

Here’s something sweet to snack on.

October 18, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

I love a good cookie. But you know what's even better? When said cookie comes in the shape of a bar and takes half the time and effort—no scrambling to transfer hot cookies to a cooling rack, no messy portioning of subsequent batches, no devastating cookie Pangaea. It's a one-and-done, no-fuss crowd-pleaser; the low-maintenance, reliable alternative to its more demanding, self-involved, singular counterparts.

A team player at heart, the bar cookie doesn't allow for stragglers, or runts, or misfires. Ultimately, each bar is only as good as its batch. Moreover, bar cookies are fun to bite into—they're soft and gooey, and on occasion surprise us with a pleasing crunch or hidden layer. They're dense and easy to eat, as well as easy to share. Plus, everyone has a favorite: the middles, the two-edged corner, the one-edged side. So I urge you: On your next baking bender, consider the bar. Here are 17 recipes to get you started.

Our Best Cookie Bar Recipes

1. Magic Cookie Bars

Five-layer bars are a dream. No, they’re magic. Layers of sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, nuts, and shredded coconut are a nostalgic combination that I’ll never get tired of.

2. Sugar Cookie Bars

Kelly, why would I bake cookie bars when I could just make sugar cookies cut into seasonal shapes for Halloween or Christmas? Let’s ask recipe developer Grant Melton. “Regular sugar cookies are already pretty easy to make, but this version is even simpler. No chilling, rolling, or cutting,” he says. An easier version that’s just as delicious? Good enough for me!

3. Malted Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars

Malted milk powder and two kinds of chocolate (cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate) make this cookie bar taste like an old-fashioned candy bar, in the best way possible.

4. Cranberry Cookie Bars

If you’re sick of pies during fall and winter, turn to these festive, seasonally appropriate bars instead. They call for just six ingredients, one of which is leftover cranberry sauce, making it a sweet use of Thanksgiving leftovers.

5. Coconut Dream Bars

Two kinds of coconut—coconut flakes and sweetened shredded coconut—are folded into a nutty vanilla custard. The mixture is poured over a layer of pre-baked shortbread dough and then the whole thing is baked again until the filling is set.

6. Nanaimo Bars

These classic Canadian cookie bars consist of three distinct and delicious layers: a chocolate and coconut graham cracker crust, a creamy custard filling, and a layer of chocolate ganache on top.

7. Tahini Chocolate Shortbread Bars

These festive shortbread cookies combine tahini, dark chocolate, and crumbled marble halva for a buttery, crumbly bar that recipe developer Melissa Clark loves to serve for Hanukkah.

8. Chocolate Caramel Walnut Bars

An old-fashioned treat—pecan turtle bars—gets a delicious new addition with the help of a chocolate crumble topping.

9. Cinnamon & Rye Shortbread

“My twist on traditional Scottish shortbread is pretty much the perfect cookie,” writes recipe developer EmilyC. “They’re rich, buttery, salty-sweet, and delightfully crumbly. The malty sweetness and warm spice of the rye and cinnamon up their charm factor considerably.”

10. Cookie Butter Blondies

Cookie butter is so good, especially by the spoonful. But it’s one of those ingredients that can be hard to figure out what to do with. The solution? Cookie butter cookie bars. The spiced butter, white and dark chocolate chips, and blondie base is a combination I can’t get enough of.

11. Custardy Shortbread Bars With Boozy Meringue Topping

“Topped with fluffy Italian meringue, flavored with port wine, and dusted generously with cinnamon, suspiro de limeña is a rich pudding that tastes like the offspring of dulce de leche and custard,” writes recipe developer Carlos C. Olaechea. The custard is set over a simple shortbread crust for a decadent buttery bite.

Not Quite a Cookie Bar

12. Cookies & Cream Bars

This isn’t exactly a cookie bar. Actually, it’s not a cookie bar at all. It’s white chocolate bark with crushed Oreo cookies, but it’s a sweet-as-can-be iteration that everyone will love.

13. Lemon Bars

There’s more lemon flavor than ever—2 teaspoons of grated zest and ½ cup of fresh lemon juice—in these tart bars that taste like pure sunshine.

14. Pecan Pie Bars

Okay technically these may be pie bars rather than cookie bars, but potato, poh-tah-to. A classic, ooey-gooey pecan pie filling is spread over brown-sugar shortbread for the perfect autumn bite.

15. No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars With Oreo Crust

Five ingredients, no-bake, and make-ahead, these chocolate-peanut butter bars from Emma Laperruque are simply perfect.

16. Brown Butter Pumpkin Bars With Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Frosting

Even if you aren’t a fan of some of the cloyingly sweet pumpkin spice treats in grocery stores, you’ll love these nutty spiced pumpkin bars that are closer to cake than cookies (but I don’t hear anyone complaining).

17. Carrot-Halwa Blondie Bars (Carrot Cake Blondies)

For these not-quite-cookie-bars, carrot cake marries blondie bars, then they take a honeymoon in India and take on the flavors of fresh cardamom seeds.

Are you team cookie bar or do you stick to classic rolled and cut-out cookies? Share your sweetest thoughts in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • janet voris
    janet voris
  • Earlene
Former Food52 Staff Editor


janet V. October 25, 2021
Cookie bars are the best! They're quicker to make and stay fresher longer. When I'm in a hurry I like the kind that have a crumbly soft dough that is pressed on the bottom for the base and crumbled on top as a streusel, with a jam or preserve middle.
Earlene October 24, 2021
Bar cookies are called “slice” in Australia, and they’re a national thing. Some of them are pretty much like the first bar offered here, made with store cookies (biscuits) like we do graham crackers. But some of them are much less sweet and contain a layer of stewed fruit, etc. My favorite is Apple Slice, which is unsweetened stewed apple encased in barely sweet, buttery layers of dough in a 9” square pan. I always use two layers of parchment paper on the bottom—one north/south and the other east/west with an inch or so of overhang. You just lift the while thing out once it’s cooled somewhat and cut at the table so everyone will love you.