Post may contain affiliate links.
See my Affiliate Disclosure.
You may well know these cookie bars as 7 layer bars. I made it for our family often, in the days when our grandchildren were small.
As time has passed, though, seven layer bars seem to have slipped to the back of the recipe box with no reasonable explanation.
I brought the chewy, gooey, bar cookies to the forefront, again, this past week. And, we’re not looking back.
Magic Bars are a fabulous mix of textures and flavors that everyone seems to love. After all, who can resist gooey chocolate and butterscotch with coconut and pecans over a graham cracker crust?
Encase those delectable flavors and textures in a chewy, caramelized blanket of sweetened condensed milk and these EASY 7 layer bar cookies are positively irresistible!
Whether you know them as magic bars or as 7 layer bars, this easy bar cookie is one you have probably enjoyed at some point over the years. The recipe seems to have been around, in various forms, since at least the 1960’s.
If you never knew how simple they are to make, or if like me they just slipped to the back of your recipe file, it’s time to fill your house with the sweet aroma of freshly baked magic cookie bars, again.
You’re going to love them. And, so are the people you bake them for. Welcome to magic cookie bars heaven!
So, What’s With the Name?
This is a bit of puzzle to me, too. And I’ve done the research. It appears that I’m not alone in my confusion.
The Internet has many names for the recipe and just as many theories of how the name came to be. The only thing we are in complete agreement about is that: 1) We don’t really know. And, 2) it simply doesn’t matter. We just want to eat them. 😋😋😋
The Seven Layer Bars recipe floats all around the Internet with many variations and several names.
You may see them as Hello Dolly Bars. (Apparently, that has something to do with the release of the movie with that name, starring Carol Channing.) Though, I’ve determined that those particular bar cookies usually have a shortbread crust rather than one made with graham crackers.
I’ve seen them as Coconut Dream Bars, too. Magic Bars or Magic Cookie Bars is the most common name, however, for the luscious cookie bars.
So, if you see any of those names, you can be fairly certain you are looking at some variation of this popular recipe.
It’s a simple seven ingredient list.
Graham Cracker Crumbs. Buy them already “crumbed” if you like. However, I just use my rolling pin to crush my own. One sleeve of graham crackers seems to be perfect. (At least with the store-brand grahams I buy. You will need 1 1/2 cups of crumbs.)
Butter: Just a little bit, melted. It’s the binder to hold your graham cracker crumbs together to form a crust and create the seven layer bars.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Coconut. Buy sweetened shredded coconut in the baking aisle.
Pecans. Nuts of some variety. I use pecans because I LOVE them, but you could choose walnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc. If you have allergies, you could certainly leave them out. It’s just a textural component that you might want to find a crunchy replacement for.
Sweetened Condensed Milk. It’s important to note that this is NOT the same as evaporated milk. You will find canned sweetened condensed milk in the baking aisle. Sweetened Condensed milk is made by reducing milk with heat. Added sugar creates a thick, caramely ingredient. Carefully read labels. Be certain you’re buying Sweetened Condensed Milk. After all, this is the “magic” in magic cookie bars.
FAQ’s About the Magic Cookie Bars Recipe
Can Magic Bars (7 Layer Bars) be made without nuts?
Sure. Almost every recipe can be altered to meet your dietary or allergy needs. However, the nuts are the “crunch” texture in these yummy bars. If you leave them out, I would suggest adding something in their place. Maybe crumbled pretzel pieces, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds would be a tasty alternative for you.
Can I substitute something else for the Sweetened Condensed Milk in Magic Cookie Bars?
The short answer is, “No.”
Sweetened Condensed Milk is the “glue” that holds your bars together. It caramelizes in the oven and melds the ingredients into a solid, but chewy structure. That being said, most stores are commonly carrying Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk, now, if you are avoiding dairy. Look for it in the baking aisle with the regular sweetened condensed milk. Are Sweetened Condensed Milk and Evaporated Milk the same thing?
Again, no. Both are condensed versions of regular dairy milk. But, Sweetened Condensed Milk is a sweetened version where about 60% of the water has been evaporated out before sugar is added. It is thick, sticky, rich and sweet. It has a caramely color. It can also just be called Condensed Milk. It’s commonly used in desserts and baked goods, and in some cultures it’s commonly used to sweeten coffee.
Evaporated Milk is heated to evaporate the water, too. And like condensed milk, about 60% of the water is removed. However, no sugar is added. So, the result is a dense, super creamy, ultra-pasteurized milk. It’s thicker than regular milk you would drink, but much thinner than condensed milk. It adds creaminess to recipes without adding sweetness.
How to Make Magic Cookie Bars
For a complete pictorial tutorial of assembling this easy recipe, check out the video in the recipe card.
Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan.
Melt the butter. Mix the graham cracker crumbs into the melted butter.
Pour the buttered crumbs into the bottom of your prepared cake pan, then press down to create a thin, but solid layer that covers the entire bottom of the pan. Be sure to get it all the way to the edges.
Sprinkle butterscotch chips evenly over the crumbs, after that.
Next, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the butterscotch. Again, be careful to distribute them evenly across the surface of the entire pan. It won’t be a solid layer, but you want them evenly checkered across the entire pan.
The fourth layer is coconut. So, sprinkle that evenly over everything already in the pan.
Additionally, sprinkle an even layer of pecans over the coconut.
Next, drizzle the condensed milk in a zig-zag pattern across the full length of the cake pan, trying to get even amounts of the thick liquid across the whole pan. Drizzle into corners and along edges, too. You can use a spatula to smooth it into areas you might have missed.
Lastly, bake the cookie bars at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes. Look for browned edges and a set center.
Cool on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes. Cut into bars and serve.
The Recipe Print
Magic Cookie Bars are a fabulous mix of textures and flavors that everyone loves. Who can resist gooey chocolate and butterscotch with coconut and pecans over a graham cracker crust? Encase those delectable flavors and textures in a chewy, caramelized blanket of sweetened condensed milk and these EASY bar cookies are positively irresistible!
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 350° and lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan.
Melt the butter and mix with the graham cracker crumbs until all the crumbs are moistened.
Pour the crumbs into the bottom of your prepared cake pan and press to create a thin, but solid layer that covers the entire bottom of the pan. Be sure to get it all the way to the edges.
Sprinkle butterscotch chips evenly over the crumbs.
Next, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the butterscotch. Again, be careful to distribute them evenly across the surface of the entire pan.
The fourth layer is coconut. sprinkle it evenly over everything already in the pan.
Add an even layer of pecans over the coconut.
Drizzle the condensed milk in a zig-zag pattern across the full length of the cake pan, trying to get even amounts of the thick liquid across the whole pan. Drizzle into corners and along edges, too. You can use a spatula to smooth it into areas you might have missed.
Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges are browned and the center is set.
Cool on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes. Cut into bars and serve.
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 25 Category: Desserts, Cookies, Bar Cookies Method: Baking Cuisine: American