Hello Dolly Cookie Bars are one of my favorite sweet treats of all time. They are so simple to make and I always have the 7 ingredients stocked in the pantry. The best part of this hello dolly cookie recipe is that you make the entire recipe in the pan they bake in! Less pans = more time enjoying these cookies.
A Cookie of Many Names
The hello dolly cookie bar recipe can be found at almost any potluck or holiday dessert spread you come across, however, they are called many different names depending where you are. It's just a simple to make as my no-bake Chocolate Pudding pie, and even more magical (if that's even possible).
Growing up in the Midwest, this same classic recipe was called 7-layer bars or magic cookie bars. The original recipe these are based on, is from the back of a can of sweetened condensed milk and was referred to as 7 layer magic bars. I've heard them referred to as coconut dream bars and hello dollies. No matter what you call them they are delicious every time!
- Graham Cracker Crumbs: I like to buy these already in crumb form, but you can make your own by pulverizing full size graham crackers in your food processor. You want a fine crumb texture.
- Melted Butter: Unsalted butter works best.
- Butterscotch Chips: I use nestle brand because they are the easiest to find, but any brand will do.
- Shredded Coconut: I like to use the sweetened shredded coconut in this recipe. You can find it in any grocery. Unsweetened coconut flakes will work in a pinch, but not my preference.
- Chocolate Chips: Semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips are best in this recipe since there are so many other sweet elements.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk: You'll think the whole can is too much...but it's not. I use the store brand and Eagle brand interchangeably.
- Walnuts: Chop these small, but not to fine. You want to be able to get the texture the walnuts give in the bar
How to make Hello Dolly Bars
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Spray your 9x13 baking pan lightly with baking spray or line the baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a bit hanging over each edge for easy removal from the pan.
In a small bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter until a sand like texture forms.
Pour this sandy mixture over the bottom of the pan and press down until a buttery graham cracker crust is formed. It will take some finessing to get into the corners. Just keep pressing it down and out until it's evenly distributed across the entire pan.
Now the fun starts!
You are going to build the layers of the hello dolly cookie bars. I like to start with the sweetened coconut, then sprinkle the chocolate chips, then the butterscotch chips, and lastly the walnuts. Press the layers down gently so the ingredients aren't rolling around.
The last step is to pour the entire can of sweetened condensed milk over the top of the bars, making sure to cover the entire surface. This step puts the "magic" in the magic cookie bar recipe. It's the "glue" that will hold the whole bar together once baked.
Pop them into the oven and bake for about XX minutes. You are looking for the top to be golden brown without burning.
Yes, absolutely. In order to make these nut free, simply leave out the walnuts and check the rest of the ingredients to make sure they are nut free. You can add a little bit extra of the chocolate or butterscotch chips. If you still want the crunch of the nuts, try breaking up some pretzel sticks and using them in place of the nuts. You'll get the same texture without the nuts.
Because these bars are a truly sweet treat, I like to cut them in smaller squares than most simple desserts. That means in a 9x13 pan, I can usually get 35 bars.
I make 4 cuts along the 9" inch side of the pan, giving me 5 rows and then 6 cuts along the 13" side giving me 7 columns.
Make sure your knife is clean by rinsing it in hot water before each cut. The cleaner the knife, the cleaner the slice will be on each cookie bar. The cut bars can then be frozen and stored for later or served immediately!
This simple graham cracker crust method is great for easy cheesecakes, vanilla pudding pies, or even a yummy chocolate tart. Really anywhere the flavor of graham crackers work it can be substituted. I even use use it for pumpkin pies when I want to change things up!
Many of the layers in the hello dolly cookie bars can be substituted based on personal preference or if you are just out of something at the time you want to make this quick & yummy dessert.
Here are my suggestions for substitutions layer by layer:
- Butterscotch chips → substitute with peanut butter chips or toffee chips
- Chocolate chips → these are staple in my opinion, but you could also use chopped chocolate off a chocolate bar or even chocolate wafers chopped up. White chocolate chips will work in a pinch and dark chocolate chips are always good too.
- Walnuts → pecans and peanuts will also work in this cookie bar recipe, just be sure to chop them
- Graham cracker crumbs → the bottom layer holds everything together, but if you don't have graham cracker crumbs available, you can substitute with by using a food processor to create crumbs with shortbread cookies or vanilla wafers.
How to Store Leftover Cookies
If you want to make hello dolly cookies in advance or just have leftovers (which I never seem to) the steps for storing are the same.
- first bake and cut the bars
- then place them in an airtight container with the layers separated with parchment or wax paper
- if freezing, place in freezer for up to 2 months, thaw on the counter for an hour or two when ready to use
- if keep on the counter, enjoy within 5 days
One More Simple Tip
There is no right or wrong way to make these dessert bars. Don't worry about the order you layer the ingredients. The secret ingredient in the hello dolly cookie recipe is just love. The finished product should be something is a family favorite that you can share and enjoy together. Whether it's the first recipe you make with your kiddos or the one you rely on year after year, this is a simple recipe that should always be fun to make!
Simple Hello Dolly Cookie Bars
- Preheat oven to 350°F and spray a 9x13 baking pan with non stick baking spray.
- In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter with a fork, until it looks like sand. mix well. Press the graham cracker crumb mixture firmly into bottom of prepared pan.
- Layer the coconut flakes, nuts, chocolate chips and butterscotch chips evenly over the crumb layer.
- Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the entire pan.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Loosen from sides of pan while still warm and let cool before cutting.