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Stacked oatmeal chocolate bars on white paper on wooden board, grey white background.

Easy Carmelitas Recipe

These are the most irresistible bars that are insanely easy to make! A layer of buttery oat mixture is topped with chocolate, caramel or dulce de leche, nuts, and a crunchy topping. They are out of the oven in 45 minutes, keep well, and can be frozen. 

  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 12 bars

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups traditional oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, chunks, or chocolate chopped into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • 1 cup dulce de leche, thick caramel sauce, or soft caramels, unwrapped (see Notes below)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF / 170ºC.
  2. Spray or butter a 9-inch square baking pan (23cm) and, if you want to, line the bottom and two of the sides with a strip of wax or parchment paper that is a little narrower than the bottom of the pan and long enough to come up both sides. So two sides will be unlined but greased. The paper will make it very easy to remove the block of carmelitas when it's time to cut them. 
  3. Stir to combine flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Add melted butter and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until it’s all wet, with no dry parts remaining.
  5. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of this mixture (loosely measured not packed), and press the remaining crumb mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, until it starts to dry and color a bit. You don't have to bake it fully.
  7. Take it out of the oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips or chunks over the hot base.
  8. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top of the chocolate.
  9. Drop the dulce de leche or caramel mixture by spoonfuls on top of the walnuts. It will not cover the whole surface. That’s fine.
  10. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture and very lightly press it down. You don't want to compact it, just make it slightly adhere to the rest of the ingredients.
  11. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until it starts to color. Don't overbake it. 
  12. When you take it out of the oven, run a smooth knife along the sides to separate any dulce de leche that might have stuck and make it hard to unmold later.
  13. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
  14. Lift the paper to take out the whole block from the pan and cut it into squares or rectangles.
  15. Eat at room temperature.
  16. Store leftovers covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days, or refrigerated. They can be frozen for a month, well wrapped. 

Notes

Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have ingredients at the right temperatures, as well as equipment and space needed. This will make the process so much easier!

Baking time: all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as can be, but it might take you more or less time. Use a thermometer inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that the temperature is right. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust. 

Don't overbake: the crust is pre-baked for a few minutes so that it stays crunchy, and the assembled bars only need to be lightly colored. This is important so that the carmelitas are chewy and not tough.

Double batch: if you want to make twice the recipe (and who can blame you) I recommend making two pans. You can make double the oatmeal crumble in one bowl but bake them separately. The baking time will be less and you'll avoid overbaking them.

Make ahead: carmelitas keep well at room temperature for 2 days and in the fridge for several days (well wrapped). They can be frozen for a month (I wrap them first in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil).

Caramel filling: if using soft caramels scatter them, unwrapped, over the nuts. They will melt as they bake. Alternatively, melt caramel squares in a small saucepan with a few tablespoons of heavy cream and make a toffee sauce. Drizzle over before sprinkling the crumble topping.

Variations: use milk chocolate chips together with the semi-sweet chocolate chips, using the same total amount. The bars will be sweeter. Add a little ground cinnamon and vanilla extract to the oatmeal mixture for a mellower oatmeal cookie bar.

  • Author: Paula Montenegro
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Bars & Brownies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: International

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/12
  • Calories: 446
  • Sugar: 37.3 g
  • Sodium: 183.5 mg
  • Fat: 21.7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 59.3 g
  • Protein: 5.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 30.5 mg

Keywords: carmelitas