Soft oatmeal crumb bars stuffed with gooey caramel, chocolate chips, and chopped pecans. These Carmelitas use the same mixture for the crust and topping and are so easy to make!
Have you ever tried Carmelitas? If not, they’re basically an oatmeal crumb bar stuffed with caramel, chocolate, and pecans. If that sounds like a lot, I promise that these bars are actually pretty easy to make and they taste delicious too!
So what makes these bars so easy? You’ll be using the same mixture for the crust and topping. You can mix everything up in one bowl, scoop half into the pan for the crust, and set aside the other half for the topping. The layer of caramel is made with just two easy ingredients and you can prepare it in the microwave.
The last two ingredients are just chocolate chips and chopped pecans that you sprinkle on top of the caramel layer. And if you’re not a fan of pecans, you can simply leave them out and these oatmeal caramel bars still taste wonderful!
These oatmeal carmelitas have two components: the buttery oat layer that doubles as the topping and the crust, and the gooey caramel filling. Here’s what we’ll need to make these oatmeal caramel bars:
- All-purpose flour: Make sure to spoon and level the flour so you don’t end up with dense oatmeal caramel bars.
- Brown sugar: Adds a little moisture to these bars as well as a slight molasses flavor.
- Baking soda: Gives these bars a little lift and also helps them brown.
- Salt: You need some salt to balance out the sweetness from the caramel filling.
- Unsalted butter: I recommend using unsalted butter since the amount of salt in salted butters can vary between different brands. If using salted butter, omit the salt called for in this recipe.
- Old-fashioned oats: Provide a chewier texture than quick oats.
- Caramel candies: I prefer to use Kraft soft caramel candies, you can usually find them in the candy aisle.
- Heavy whipping cream: Should be at least 36% fat.
- Pecans: Can be omitted or swapped with your favorite nut, if desired.
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips: Can be replaced with dark chocolate or milk chocolate chips, if desired.
How to Make Carmelitas
To make these carmelitas, you’ll start out with a simple mixture of flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, butter, and old-fashioned rolled oats. You’ll whisk everything together and cut in the butter until it’s nice and crumbly, then stir in your oats. It’s similar to the crumb mixture I used in my Blueberry Crumb Bars (another delicious recipe), but with more oats and some baking soda mixed in for a little rise.
I found that the base of these carmelitas didn’t hold up as well without prebaking the crust first. So you’ll want to press half of the mixture into the pan and bake it for about 15 minutes or just until it’s set.
It’s also important to allow the crust to cool for about 10 minutes so that it’s firm enough to hold the ingredients for the filling.
To keep the filling simple, I like to use soft caramel candies and some heavy whipping cream that’s melted down in the microwave. Once the caramel and crust have cooled slightly, you’ll pour the caramel on top of the crust, then sprinkle some chocolate chips and pecans on top. For the topping, you’ll be using the other half of the oatmeal crumb mixture and just sprinkle it on top. Then, bake the bars for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is set. I recommend letting the bars cool completely before slicing into them too.
Do I Have to Use Caramel Candies?
I suggest using the caramel candies if you’re able to find them. However, if you can’t find any or simply don’t want to use them, you can substitute my homemade caramel sauce instead. It won’t be quite as thick as the caramel candies, but it should do the trick.
Can I Use Quick Oats?
I don’t recommend using quick oats since they’re not as chewy as old-fashioned oats. Because they’re more finely ground, they may also result in a drier bar.
- If you don’t have heavy whipping cream on hand, you may be able to use whole or 2% milk in its place. I imagine you’d need to use just 2 to 3 tablespoons of milk since it’s much thinner than cream.
- Even though these bars are made in a foil-lined pan, I recommend greasing the foil as well to prevent the caramel from sticking to it.
- It’s best to let these bars cool completely so the caramel can firm up before you cut into them. But, I promise these bars are worth the wait!
More Caramel Desserts to Try!
- No-Bake Pumpkin Caramel Icebox Cake
- Salted Caramel Brownie Bites
- Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake
- Caramel-Stuffed Snickerdoodles
- Salted Caramel Almond Turtles
For the crust and topping:
- 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour , spooned & leveled
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter , softened and cut into pieces
- 3/4 cup (75 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
For the filling:
- 25 soft caramel candies , unwrapped (I use Kraft soft caramel candies)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup (55 grams) chopped pecans
- 3/4 cup (140 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, making sure to leave some overhang for easy removal, and set aside.
To make the crust and topping:
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Add the butter and cut it into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or a fork (you may also use an electric mixer for this step) until the mixture starts to come together and is crumbly. Stir in the oats.
- Scoop half of the mixture into the prepared baking pan (place the other half in the refrigerator for later use) and firmly press it down into one even layer.
- Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or until the top of the crust looks set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
To make the filling:
- Add the caramel candies and heavy whipping cream to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 20-30 second increments, stirring well after each increment, until fully melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.
- Grease the sides of the pan with butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray. This step is optional, but it helps to prevent any caramel from sticking too much to the foil.
- Once the crust and caramel have cooled, pour the caramel on top of the crust, then sprinkle the chopped pecans and chocolate chips on top of the caramel. Remove the other half of the topping from the refrigerator and sprinkle it on top.
- Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until the topping is lightly golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut into bars and enjoy!