Yield: 8″ pan pumpkin spice caramel cookie bars // Total Time: 1 hr. 20 min. // Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links.
Soft and chewy oatmeal pecan cookie bars, stuffed with a pumpkin spice caramel and chocolate chips.
pumpkin spice caramel cookie bars
Carmelitas, but make them *fall-flavored.* Dessert really doesn’t get better than this. We start with a soft and chewy oatmeal pecan cookie dough. (And of course you know we’re browning the butter for even more delicious, toasty flavor.) We’ll bake off most of the dough, then top it with chocolate chips, a homemade pumpkin spice caramel sauce, and even more oatmeal pecan cookie dough. Truly the perfect dessert for your fall sweet tooth cravings.
what are carmelitas?
Carmelitas are a more common way to describe these bars, but I’ve also found that not many people have heard of them! Carmelitas are essentially two layers of oatmeal cookie dough that are filled with a very very generous amount of caramel sauce and chocolate. I mean…it’s dessert perfection if you ask me. If you’ve ever had a dream bar from Potbelly, these are essentially what those are.
weigh your ingredients
Weighing your ingredients is important for getting the recipe perfect and getting consistent results. I do provide cup measurements but please note that I test all my recipes in grams and can not guarantee that your bake will turn out like mine. This kitchen scale is super cheap and a great starter scale!
use room temperature ingredients
It’s almost always important to use ingredients that are at room temperature so that they all incorporate nicely with one another. In this case, all you’ll need is one egg at room temperature – which you can do pretty fast by just running it under hot water for one minute.
line your pan with parchment paper
The caramel likes to ooze out of the bars which can make them difficult to release from the pan. Using parchment to line your pan gives you the ability to pick the bars up out of the pan so you don’t have to worry about cutting them in the pan.
let the carmelitas chill
Annoying, I know! But very necessary. You’re going to need to set the carmelitas to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, up to overnight. If you try to cut the carmelitas before they have fully cooled and set, you’re going to have caramel and chocolate everywhere. I know that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but, I still recommend waiting for the best results.
ingredients and substitutions
For the oatmeal pecan cookie bars:
All purpose flour: for structure and chewiness. I haven’t tried it but a 1:1 swap gluten free flour should work perfectly here.
Rolled oats: I recommend rolled oats for the best texture.
Baking soda & baking powder: for helping the dough rise.
Salt: to balance and bring out the sweetness of the carmelitas. Never skip on the salt!
Unsalted butter: for tenderizing and giving the carmelitas a classic buttery taste. You can substitute in salted butter, just be sure to remove the extra salt from the dough.
Light brown sugar & granulated sugar: a mixture of both helps to both give moisture and flavor, while locking in moisture and keeping the dough soft as well.
Egg: for adding moisture and binding the dough together.
Vanilla: for flavoring.
Chopped pecans: for texture and flavor. You can substitute in any other nut here, or just omit them completely.
Dark chocolate chips: for the filling. I recommend using dark chocolate as it provides a nice contrast to the sweetness of the caramel and the dough. Feel free to use semi sweet or milk chocolate in it’s place if you prefer something a bit sweeter.
For the pumpkin spice caramel sauce:
Granulated sugar: the base of the caramel
Unsalted butter: helps make the caramel smooth and velvety. You can swap in salted butter for unsalted if that is what you have on hand, just be careful when adding additional salt.
Heavy cream: helps smooth out the caramel and make it pourable.
Pure pumpkin: for flavor! Make sure the ingredients on the can only say “pumpkin”, and that you are not using pumpkin pie filling.
Pumpkin spice: for flavor.
Salt: the perfect balance to the sweetness of the caramel. I used just regular table salt, but if you want to use sea salt or flaky sea salt you should double the amount.
how to make pumpkin spice carmelitas
- Cook the butter on the stovetop, stirring often, until it turns amber in color and develops little brown specks.
- Beat together the brown butter and sugars, followed by the egg and vanilla.
- Fold in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until only a few flour streaks remain.
- Then, fold in the pecans just until no flour streaks remain.
- Pat 3/4 of the dough into a buttered and lined 8″ square pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges start to turn golden brown.
- Add on the chocolate chips in an even layer.
- Pour the caramel over the chocolate chips.
- Break up the remaining cookie dough into little pieces and scatter them over the caramel. Bake until golden brown!
pumpkin spice caramel cookie bars q&a
can these carmelitas be made ahead of time?
Definitely! Honestly, these only get better with time. Feel free to make these the night before and store them in the fridge until ready to serve. You can also make the caramel sauce and store it in the fridge for up to 1 week before making the bars.
how to store carmelitas
Because these bars are filled with caramel, I do recommend storing them in the fridge for the best food safety practices. They are delicious straight from the fridge but you can also let them come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes if you would like. They will also freeze very well if you are looking for longer-term storage. Just lay them flat on a tray in the freezer, and once they have completely frozen, store them all together in an airtight container.
why do you measure in grams?
My recipes are all written in grams because it is the most accurate way to bake. When you use a kitchen scale, you ensure that your baked goods turn out as close to the written recipe as possible. Plus, the cleanup is way easier when using a scale! I will provide standard cup measurements but please note that I have not tested the recipe using cup measurements and therefore can not guarantee your recipe will come out how mine did. Here is my favorite kitchen scale
a note on oven temperature
Ovens vary and fluctuate in temperature. For example, I always have to set my oven to 330°F if I want it to bake at 350°F. If you love to bake like I do, I highly recommend getting an oven thermometer. They are super helpful for letting you know when your oven might be lying to you! I use this one.
tools and ingredients
You can find all my favorite tools and ingredients that I use on my Amazon Storefront page, here!
did you make these pumpkin spice caramel cookie bars?
If you made these pumpkin spice caramel cookie bars I would love to see them and know your thoughts! Please leave a comment and review down below, and tag me on Instagram @freshbeanbakery. If you have any questions about the recipe I will gladly do my best to answer them in the comments below!
Pumpkin Spice Caramel Cookie Bars
Pumpkin Spice Caramel Sauce
- 200 g granulated sugar (1 c.)
- 28 g unsalted butter (2 tbsp.)
- 75 g pumpkin puree (⅓ c.)
- 80 g heavy whipping cream (⅓ c.)
- 1 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 tsp. salt
Oatmeal Pecan Cookie Bars
- 113 g unsalted butter (½ c.)
- 100 g light brown sugar (½ c.)
- 50 g granulated sugar (¼ c.)
- 1 egg room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 130 g all purpose flour (1 c. + 1 tbsp.)
- 80 g rolled oats (1 c.)
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- 85 g crushed pecans (¾ c.)
- 170 g dark chocolate chips (1 c.)
Pumpkin Spice Caramel Sauce
- Add the sugar to a medium sized saucepan set over medium heat. Stir ocasionally until the sugar begins to melt and caramelize, then stir constantly until the sugar is completely melted, caramelized, and smooth.
- Add in the butter and whisk until the mixture is smooth.
- Take the mixture off of the heat, and carefully mix in the pumpkin, followed by the heavy cream. Whisk in the pumpkin pie spice and salt.
- If you're making the bars right away, leave the caramel out. Otherwise, you can store the pumpkin caramel sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week before making these bars.
Oatmeal Pecan Cookie Bars
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C. Grease and line an 8×8 baking dish with butter and parchment paper.
- In a small saucepan set over medium heat, brown the butter. Stir the butter occasionally until it turns amber in color and develops little brown specks.
- Remove the butter from the heat and transfer it to a medium sized mixing bowl. Chill the butter in the freezer for 5 minutes.
- Whisk both sugars into the brown butter.
- Whisk in the egg and vanilla until very well combined.
- Add in the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pecans. Fold the mixture together with a rubber spatula just until no flour streaks remain.
- Pat ~3/4 of the dough down into an even layer in the prepared baking dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.
- Remove the pan from the oven, and evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips over the dough to the best of your ability (they will be impossible to move once placed since they will start melting – that's okay!)
- Drizzle the caramel in an even layer over the chocolate chips.
- Use your hands to tear off small pieces of cookie dough and distribute them on top of the caramel. It will not completely cover the top – this is okay!
- Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the dough begins to turn golden brown.
- Let the bars chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before slicing. Serve and enjoy!