Why make a pecan pie when you could make these gooey caramel pecan pie bars? They are a deliciously perfect combination of a shortbread crust, with a gooey, sweet pecan filling, and a nutty, salty sprinkle on the top. Your family will adore them.
I’ve never been a big fan of pecan pie. It’s too sweet for me. Hard to believe, I know. However, pecans in a bar cookie with caramel and some salt? Sign me up! This dessert is a great addition to a fall dinner or for a Thanksgiving dessert table.
It has it all – the buttery, slightly salty, tender, shortbread crust; the sticky, sweet, homemade caramel filling; the crunch and texture from the nuts; and then the dusting of salted nut crumbs on the top. I can’t imagine what could make this better. Well, maybe chocolate, but that will be a recipe for another time.
TIPS FOR MAKING THIS RECIPE
- It is worth using both dark and light brown sugar – one in the crust and one in the filling. It adds a depth of flavor, but if you only have one or the other on hand, it won’t make that big of a difference.
- Use good quality butter, as a lot of the flavor comes from the butter.
- Using cornstarch in the crust lightens the texture and makes the crust easier to cut into.
- Toasted pecans make a big difference in flavor if you have the time. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and toast in a 400-degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Watch them carefully. They can go from perfectly toasted to burnt and bitter in a hot second.
- The recipe calls for using a candy thermometer. You can do the ‘water test’ to determine the soft ball stage, but I have never been able to get that right. A candy thermometer is pretty inexpensive and you will actually use it more than you think. But, if you want to learn how to do it the ‘old fashioned way’ and use the water test, here’s a video to explain it.
- Use the parchment paper in the pan and be sure to spray it with cooking spray. The overhang of parchment paper on the two short sides makes lifting the bars out so much easier. I hate it when I leave half of the crust in the pan or the filling makes it impossible to get pretty bars because it caramelizes too much along the side. The parchment and cooking spray take this worry away! So worth it.
- Place your baking pan on a baking sheet before baking, just in case it bubbles over. If you’re like me, cleaning the oven is the Worst. Chore. Ever!
Looking for a few more dessert recipes for fall? Here are a few to try:
- Brown Sugar Pound Cake
- Mousse Au Chocolat
- Rustic Apple Galette
- Old Fashioned Apple Crisp
- Incredible Molten Lava Cake
These decadent Gooey Caramel Pecan Pie Bars are the perfect combination of sweet, salty, buttery, and crunchy. Forget the pecan pie! This will be your new family favorite.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
- ¾ cup butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup honey
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups pecan halves
- ¼ cup toasted pecans
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Caramel sauce for drizzling (optional)
Make the crust. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper and leave enough paper at each end to lift the bars out of the pan after baking. Spray the parchment and sides of the pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Use your hands to press the mixture smooth.
Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, make the topping. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, stir together the butter, light brown sugar, and honey. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and bubbly – about 7-8 minutes. Pour in the cream and continue to cook, stirring until a candy thermometer inserted in the mixture hits the soft-ball stage (240 degrees) – about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and pecans.
Carefully pour the mixture over the crust, using an offset spatula to spread it evenly to all corners.
In a food processor, add the toasted pecans and sea salt. Process until finely chopped.
Sprinkle the pecan/salt mixture evenly over the top of the caramel mixture.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the caramel is bubbly. Remove from the heat and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
To serve, run a butter knife along the sides of the pan. Use the parchment paper overhang to lift the dessert out of the pan.
Cut the bars into squares. If your knife gets sticky, dip it in hot water before making the next cut.
Arrange the squares on a platter and drizzle with caramel sauce, if desired.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Category: Desserts
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: Southern
Keywords: gooey caramel pecan pie bars, bar cookies, pecan pie, caramel recipes, pecan recipes, Thanksgiving desserts, Southern desserts