Healthier Magic Cookie Bars

by Susan on April 11, 2012

Are you familiar with magic cookie bars? The classic version is a bar containing nuts, coconut and chocolate, all layered on top of a graham crust and held together by some kind of sticky sweet milk product. Freakishly addictive and easy to make, but far from what I’d call magic.

I hate to be the eternal fun food buzz kill, but there are a ton of reasons why this isn’t a treat you should feel good about serving up to your brood. First, it’s a complete sugar bomb. Sugar in the chocolate chips. Sugar in the flaked coconut. Sugar in the condensed milk. And all is sweet stuff is the processed white stuff. Condensed milk really skeeves me: a shelf-stable milk product that can last for years, as it’s so processed and loaded with sugar.

Now, lest I sound preachy today, it’s not like I’m under the delusion that anyone thinks magic cookie bars are a health food. They’re clearly a treat. But I was positively giddy when I found a recipe making them more a bit more innocent, with some actual nutritional value. No refined sugar. No sketchy condensed milk. No dairy or gluten/grains. Amazing taste!

Thanks to the wonderfully titled blog She Cooks, He Cleans**, today I baked up some scrumptious healthier magic cookie bars (click through link to see original recipe, and check out their drool-worthy site). The process was made even more fun and less messy by the great pan I picked up at Target yesterday. It had been part of their Easter display, so I was able to score it 50% off! No messy bar-cutting for me 😉

Healthier Magic Cookie Bars
recipe adapted from She Cooks, He Cleans

1 cup total ground nuts (I used 1/2 cup almond meal, 1/2 cup chestnut flour)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbs. melted coconut oil

3/4 cup dairy-free mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, pulsed in food processor until fine
1/2 cup chopped raw nuts of choices (I used cashews and almonds)
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup palm sugar
2 tbs. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat coconut milk and sugar over medium heat in a heavy saucepan, stirring frequently. Once milk begins to bubble, lower to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 30 minutes, stirring often, to allow the mixture to reduce and caramelize. Once thickened, add coconut oil and vanilla (allowing oil to melt). Remove from heat.

crust mixture

Meanwhile, make crust by combining all ingredients and pressing into the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish.

Sprinkle chocolate chips, nuts and coconut in an even layer over top. Pour the caramelized coconut milk over the top and bake for 25-30 minutes, until browned.

Allow to set for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before slicing and serving.

** I first stumbled upon She Cooks, He Cleans when scouring the web for Paleo recipes. While some of the cuisine might not be what would conventionally be termed “kid food,” even if you don’t follow a Paleo lifestyle, Nancy’s recipes are worth a glance! Real, whole food with gorgeous photography… if you are a seafood fan, the Seared Scallops with Apple Cider-Balsamic Glaze are divine.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kellie April 12, 2012 at 1:15 am

You have no idea how happy I am you posted this recipe!!! I make those magic bars (we call them 7 layer bars) several times during the summer. Now I have a healthier version. Thank you!!!!


Susan April 12, 2012 at 1:32 am

So glad Kellie… these were a HUGE hit!


Nancy April 12, 2012 at 11:40 am

Hi Susan, Thanks so much for the shout out to our blog! I’m glad people are enjoying the cookie bars!


Susan April 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Hi Nancy! I was going to post my praise on your site as well… loved the bars so much I will be chatting them up on my little Paleo blog too ( Thank you for being so inspiring 🙂


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