7-Layer Magic Bars

DessertHolidayBar cookiePecan

Classic 7-layer magic bars with chocolate, nuts, butterscotch, and coconut! They're the perfect make-ahead dessert for your next party.

Photography Credit: Irvin Lin

Please welcome my friend and master baker Irvin Lin of Eat the Love who shares his favorite Magic Bars! ~Elise

These bars go by a few different names, like 7-Layer Bars or Hello Dollies, but I’ve always known them as Magic Bars.

They are a pure Midwestern treat for me, often brought to potlucks to round out a shared meal. All the names for the same dessert might seem confusing, but luckily, there’s nothing confusing about making them.

The true magic of these rich, sweet Magic Bars is how easy they are to make. There’s no mixing, no creaming butter with sugar, no adding the eggs one at a time.

Magic Bars

Instead, Magic Bars are pretty much assembled from a pantry of stock ingredients, which are then sprinkled and layered one on top of the next. (Usually there are seven different ingredients, which explains at least one of the alternate names!)

Bake in the oven until toasty brown and the bars are done.

Magic BarsThe one essential ingredient in the whole recipe is sweetened condensed milk. This sticky, gooey, honey-thick condensed milk is what binds all the ingredients together. It also caramelizes in the oven, giving a sweet depth to each bite similar to dulce de leche.

Also, make sure you read the labels and buy sweetened condensed milk, not evaporated milk—the cans look very similar.

7-Layer Magic Bars Recipe

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  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 24 bars

These bars are so rich and sweet, you can cut them into 24 small bars and still feel satisfied.

I like to add a sprinkle of flaky Maldon salt on top to add some crunch and help cut the sweet richness. The salt is totally non-traditional, though, so omit if you want that nostalgic, ultra-sweet Magic Bar experience.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (225 g) graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup (115 g / 1 stick) melted unsalted butter
  • 14 ounces (396 g / 1 can) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup (185 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (185 g) butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup (115 g) chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (105 g) shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (like Maldon), optional

Method

1 Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking oil then line it with parchment paper.

2 Make the graham cracker crust: Place the graham cracker crumbs and the melted butter in a bowl. Toss with a fork until the crumbs are moist and hold together when squeezed with your hand.

Dump the crumbs in the middle of the pan and then press them into an even layer with your fingers or the back of a flat-bottomed cup.

Magic Bars Magic Bars

3 Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the graham cracker crust. Spread to edges of the pan with a spatula.

Magic Bars

4 Layer on the rest of the toppings: In this order, sprinkle the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans, and then sweetened coconut over the top of the condensed milk.

Gently press the ingredients down with your palm so they stick to the condensed milk.

Magic Bars

5 Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Bake until the edges of the bars turn golden-brown and start to pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the sea salt (if using).

Magic Bars

6 Cool completely before lifting the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into 24 pieces and store in an airtight container with wax paper or parchment paper between layers. The flavor of the bars is even better the day after baking. Bars stored at room temperature will be fairly soft and are best eaten within 3 to 5 days. For firm and chewy bars, store in the fridge for up to a week.

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Irvin Lin

Irvin Lin is an IACP award-winning photographer, food writer and recipe developer, blue-ribbon baker, public speaker and occasional social media consultant. His blog is Eat the Loveand his first cookbook is Marbled, Swirled and Layered.

More from Irvin

Magic Bars

37 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Kerry

    I *LOVE* Irvin and Eat the Love (easily one of the best written food blogs). My grandmother used to make these for us when I was a kid. So now I love Irvin even more for reminding me. I may even have all of the ingredients in the house! :)

    Just read through the comments and reread the post – ours were layered in a different order. Crust, coconut, chocolate and then butterscotch chips, pecans and topped with (as another reader wrote) the sweetened condensed milk. The chips melt into the coconut a bit and the covers and seeps in the crags to hold it all together.

  • MJ

    Do these freeze well?

  • Diane

    I just made three batches for twenty or so hungry college students. My husband teaches an evening class, so each week I make goodies (different each week) for him to have out for his students. If there are any left over (usually there are a few) they will be his treat until they are gone. Thanks for the great idea!

  • Ann

    My sister in law came up with this idea. Instead of using graham cracker crumbs she uses a small bag of crushed Pecan Sandies cookies for the base. It makes them so much better.

  • m j b

    I am lactose tolerence. What can I use to substitute the can of condensed milk?

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