Coconut Dream Bars

Update: The auction is over and we raised almost $4000! Thank you to all who participated!

Want to try these bars without making them yourself? I donated 2 dozen to an online bake sale to help Japan with earthquake and tsunami relief. There are lots of baked goods available as well as restaurant gift certificates in the Sacramento area. Check out the listings here and go bid on April 1-2!

When Girl Scout cookie season began, the familiar order form went up in the office at my school. For the last couple of years, I’ve been meaning to make a homemade version of some kind of Girl Scout cookie – maybe my favorite, Thin Mints, or another classic, Samoas (AKA Caramel DeLites). Instead, fate intervened: my dear coworker and friend, who was having a very stressful month, mentioned a dessert bar from a local cafe that was like Samoas, but even better. “They had chunks of chocolate, much more than on the cookies,” she said dreamily, ” but ever since the owners changed, I haven’t seen the bars.”

Instead, she resigned herself to a box of Samoas once a year. She told me the name of the amazing bars: dream bars (which seemed quite apropro). I’d never heard of them, but made a mental note to look them up later.  Once I Googled “dream bars” I was met with something from my childhood: magic layer bars (AKA 7 layer bars). While my dad was the chocolate chip cookie baker, my mom made magic layer bars. They were a simple recipe from the sweetened condensed milk can: a graham cracker crust topped with sweetened condensed milk, coconut and chocolate chips.

I found many variations on dream bars and magic layer bars, but decided to stray from my childhood memories in favor of what seemed like a more classic dream bar recipe. I wanted to surprise the recipient so I didn’t risk asking her more about the bars but hoped that they would be want she wanted…

And I don’t think she was disappointed. The shortbread crust was richer than the graham cracker crust I remembered. Topping that with a gooey layer of coconut cream, coconut and a sweet filling with chocolate and pecans made these bars irresistible. Forget potato chips – I literally could not eat just one in a sitting. I ended up giving as many as I could away, after making a small dent in the pile. These are dangerous, but so worth it! I won’t make them often, and will make sure I have many people to share with, but they are fantastic dessert bars. If you like coconut even a little, you have to try these!


Coconut Dream Bars

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Makes 24 bars

For the crust:

  • 2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 C pecans
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 10 T unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 C sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 C cream of coconut (you can find this in the baking aisle)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 T unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 C pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 C chocolate chips

To make the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350°F and place rack in middle of ove. Line a 13″x9″ baking pan with foil and lightly coat with nonstick spray.

In a food processor, process the flour, sugar, pecan and salt for about 10 seconds, until the pecans are coarsely ground. Add the butter and pulse around 10 seconds, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Press the mixture into the baking pan, pressing it down firmly with the flat bottom of a glass. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes before adding the filling.

To make the filling:

Combine coconut and cream of coconut in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla and salt until smooth, then stir in the pecans and chocolate chips. Spread the filling over the cooled crust, then dollop heaping spoonfuls of the coconut mixture over the filling. Spread into an even layer, but don’t worry if appears patchy.

Bake in the preheated oven until topping is a deep golden brown (around 30-40 minutes). Let cool completely, then lift bars out of pan using the foil and cut into 24 pieces. The bars can be refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.

39 Comments on Coconut Dream Bars

  1. sweetlife
    March 29, 2011 at 10:36 am (5 years ago)

    wonderful cause, so upset I didn’t sing up..a wonderful contribution, good luck..they look yummy


  2. Tiffany
    March 29, 2011 at 2:48 pm (5 years ago)

    I can TOTALLY see why you call these DREAM bars! They look fantastic!

  3. Belinda @zomppa
    March 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm (5 years ago)

    Thank you for making these! Also, as much as I love Girl Scout cookies, think I’d choose these any day.

  4. Magic of Spice
    March 29, 2011 at 7:53 pm (5 years ago)

    Definitely a good name for these…Delicious looking bars :)

  5. Suzy
    March 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm (5 years ago)

    Oh my goodness *wipes drool off of face*. That looks splendid! I must make those sometime!

    This post reminded me… I’m trying to come up with a recipe that mimics the flavor of Cherry Ripes, an Australian candy. Have you ever had it? It’s coconut & cherries covered in dark chocolate. Kind of like a thinner Mounds bar, just with cherries and better chocolate. Would you have any ideas as to how to accomplish that?

    • Suzy
      April 2, 2011 at 8:41 pm (5 years ago)

      That recipe looks PERFECT– no shortening like all of the other recipes I’ve found on the internet! With Bonne Maman cherry preserves those would be heavenly. I’d also add a drop or two of almond extract.

  6. Firefly
    March 29, 2011 at 9:21 pm (5 years ago)

    They sure look dreamy :) and yummy!

  7. Peggy
    March 30, 2011 at 2:50 am (5 years ago)

    I’ll definitely be checking these out for the bake sale! I always ogled the 7 Layer Bar boxes at the store as a kid, but my mom would never make them! I’m sure this is way better!
    Peggy recently posted Perfect Morning Start

  8. Emily @ Life On Food
    March 30, 2011 at 3:13 am (5 years ago)

    These look so so good. I am a huge fan of 7 layer bars. What is better than chocolate and coconut!
    Emily @ Life On Food recently posted Baby girl on the way

  9. Sandra
    March 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm (5 years ago)

    I’d be making these tonight if I had coconut cream on hand. Oh well, I’ll add it to my grocery list this week. Wonderful recipe and those pictures are off the chain!

  10. Kita
    March 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm (5 years ago)

    I am in love with coconut right now. These sound amazing.

  11. Marisa
    March 31, 2011 at 6:10 am (5 years ago)

    I love all things coconut – am so making this!

  12. Eftychia
    May 2, 2011 at 8:00 am (5 years ago)

    These coconut bars look delicious! Thanks for sharing!

  13. lisa
    December 7, 2011 at 4:43 am (4 years ago)

    Look Delicious! Question about the Cream of coconut- is that the sweetened stuff like the Coco Lopez brand similar to sweetened condensed milk or just coconut cream which is unsweetened?

    • Stephanie
      December 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm (4 years ago)

      @lisa – it is the Coco Lopez brand that is sweetened

  14. Kaye
    January 11, 2012 at 7:11 pm (4 years ago)

    Hi, quick question: can the pecans be left out of the recipe safely? We have a family member who’s nut allergic and I REALLY want to try these :)

    • Stephanie
      January 11, 2012 at 8:13 pm (4 years ago)

      @Kaye – I’ve never tried it without the pecans so I can’t say for sure, but I think the filling would be fine without the pecans. I’m not as sure about the crust, but I think it will probably be ok too. Let me know if you give it a try!

  15. Susie
    June 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm (3 years ago)

    Can you substitute sweetened condensed mlk for the cream of coconut?

    • Stephanie
      June 21, 2012 at 8:39 pm (3 years ago)

      @Susie – it’s not the same so I’m honestly not sure it would work as a substitute. Sorry I can’t be more helpful. If you try it, let me know how it works!

  16. Kristen
    August 30, 2012 at 6:26 am (3 years ago)

    I made these a few months ago and everyone loved them. I’m going to make them again for labor day festivities :) thank you for a great recipe!

    • Stephanie
      August 30, 2012 at 9:12 am (3 years ago)

      @Kristen – I’m so glad you enjoyed them! Have a great Labor Day weekend!

  17. Cheryl
    November 29, 2012 at 9:40 am (3 years ago)

    In WI you find cream of coconut by the liquor…the piña colada mixes 😉

  18. Carolyn
    September 16, 2013 at 11:07 am (2 years ago)

    Right off I have to say I only made these because my husband wanted them. I DO NOT like coconut!! However, these are fabulous!!! I think I ate more of them than my husband or 3 boys. They are absolutely delicious!!! Even if you are like me and don’t like coconut, I encourage you to try these!

  19. Jess
    December 20, 2013 at 5:13 pm (2 years ago)

    Just made these to distribute for the holidays, received RAVE reviews. I stuck them in the fridge- the caramelized edges were crunchy and the middle had the perfect squidge. Delish. Thanks so much for a wonderful recipe.

    • Stephanie Nuccitelli
      December 20, 2013 at 5:33 pm (2 years ago)

      Jess, that is awesome! I’m so glad you and your family/friends loved them!

  20. Ashley
    November 3, 2015 at 9:51 pm (3 weeks ago)

    So I have this pet peeve about blogs where everyone writes in and says oh man those look good (without ever making them) !! I wanna see comments with people who have made them and give feedback. So that being said…… These are to die for!! I was having a sugar craving after dinner and have had these pinned for a while now. SO glad I finally made them, they are excellent! I grew up eating my moms magic 7 layer bars and these are even better…. Which is hard to say because I love magic bars. I did make a mistake tho…whoops… of using “coconut cream” instead of cream of coconut. I thought it was weird since coconut cream isn’t sweet at all so I just sweetened it with a little sweetened condensed milk and it came out fantastic! Thx for the recipe. My tummy is a very happy :))


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