7-layer bars are a vintage dessert that have been around since at least the mid-60s, but possibly the mid-50s. They are known by several different names including “Hello Dolly bars” or “magic bars”, but I grew up calling them 7 layer bars.
When my grandmother would visit us from Chicago during the Christmas holidays, it was the one recipe I remember her making the most. I still have her hand written 3″ x 5″ recipe card from the 60s in my recipe collection. I remember how simple it was for a kid to make those bars and how it really isn’t so much of a recipe as it just layering all the ingredients! (This post was originally published on December 14, 2011)
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A buttery graham cracker crust is layered with chocolate and butterscotch chips, flaky coconut and crunchy nuts then topped with sweetened condensed milk, to make these classic dessert bars. If you have a nut allergy, just skip the nut layer!
Ingredients for 7 layer bars
The “7 layers” come from the 7 ingredients, which makes it really easy to remember! Back in the day we’d use Nestle chocolate chips, since that was pretty much all that was available. Now, I prefer to use Guittard or Ghiradelli chocolate chips.
- salted or unsalted butter. Add a pinch of salt if you use unsalted.
- graham cracker crumbs. Either purchase graham cracker crumbs or use a food processor to crush graham crackers into fine crumbs.
- semi-sweet chocolate chips
- butterscotch chips
- shredded coconut (I prefer unsweetened coconut as they are a pretty sweet bar to begin with) Shredded coconut are finer than coconut flakes.
- chopped walnuts
- sweetened condensed milk (Not evaporated)
The sweetened condensed milk is the “magic part” of the recipe which sinks into all the layers and helps these gooey bars stick together.
How to make 7 layer bars
Honestly it doesn’t really make a difference which order you layer the bars as long as you start with the butter and graham cracker layer and end with the sweetened condensed milk.
- Line a 13×9″ baking pan with parchment paper or brush with butter to keep the bars from sticking. I prefer parchment, as it makes it easier to remove the bars once they’ve baked.
- Melt butter in a small bowl and mix with graham cracker crumbs. Pat mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Begin layering with chocolate chips.
- Butterscotch chips.
- Shredded coconut.
- Chopped nuts.
- Then drizzle the sweetened condensed milk all over the top.
- Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Cool 10 minutes. Then remove bars from pan and allow to cool completely.
- Cut bars with a sharp knife and store at room temperature in a sealed container for 3-5 days.
Can I freeze 7 layer bars?
Yes! they freeze beautifully when well wrapped for up to 3 months. Defrost at room temperature.
Gluten-free version of 7 layer, or seven layer magic cookie bars
While these are labeled gluten-free on Amazon, please double check ingredients to be sure!
- Butter (no issue)
- Graham crackers this brand is certified gluten free.
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Butterscotch chips
- Shredded coconut this one is just coconut
- walnuts (no issue, but check label)
- Sweetened condensed milk (Eagle brand claims to be gluten free)
Other variations for seven-layer bars
- Instead of graham cracker crumbs, use Biscoff cookie crumbs.
- Instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips, use milk chocolate, or dark chocolate chips.
- Instead of butterscotch chips, use peanut butter chips or white chocolate chips.
- Instead of chopped walnuts, use pecans, or hazelnuts.
Looking for more dessert bars?
Seven Layer Bars
- Melted butter in the bottom of a 13 X 9 in square pan, then layer in the following order:
- graham cracker crumbs
- chocolate chips
- butterscotch chips
- top with sweetened condensed milk and bake at 350* F for about 25-30 minutes or until coconut is golden brown. Let cool
- substitute dark chocolate for semi-sweet chips.
- substitute white chocolate for butterscotch chips.
- See notes for gluten free substitutions.