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There’s so much to love about these Apple Bars with Caramel Sauce! They taste like apple pie in an easy to make bar form and they’re over-the-top fantastic with a drizzle of caramel.
Apple Bars with Caramel Sauce
We first shared this recipe back in 2013 and have since made many improvements. The addition of bourbon is now optional, (but highly recommended) we doubled the shortbread crust, refined the oaty crumble topping and improved the apple filling. It’s practically a brand new recipe!
It was good back in the day, but it’s so fantastic now you should put it on your list of must make apple desserts. 😋
- old-fashioned oats
- all-purpose flour
- light brown sugar
- ground cinnamon
- baking soda
- unsalted butter, melted
- unsalted butter, at room temperature
- granulated sugar
- all-purpose flour
- vanilla extract
- Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
- lemon juice to help prevent the apples from turning brown
- unsalted butter
- light brown sugar
- apple cider, (not vinegar) or water
- ground cinnamon
- dash of nutmeg
- bourbon (optional)
How to make our Apple Bars Recipe
1. First prep the pan and preheat the oven
Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan with vegetable cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper so the excess hangs over the sides like a sling. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Next prepare the topping
Combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add melted butter and stir until combined. Refrigerate until needed.
3. Prepare and par-bake the crust
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the flour, salt and vanilla. Blend until a soft dough forms. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
Bake for 13 to 16 minutes or until the crust is just set but not brown. Set aside to cool.
4. Make the apple filling
While the crust is baking peel, core and slice the apples and place in a large bowl. Toss the apples with the juice of one lemon.
In a large skillet melt the butter and brown sugar. Add the apples and cook stirring occasionally until softened. Stir in the apple cider, cinnamon, nutmeg and bourbon, if using. Cook another 5 minutes or until the apples are caramelized, tender and the liquid is absorbed.
5. Assemble the Apple Bars
Spread the apples over the crust. Using a spoon or fork, break the cold topping into clumps and sprinkle over the apples. Bake for 40 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool before cutting for best results.
To serve, stir the bourbon into the warmed caramel sauce. Drizzle caramel over the bars and serve. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired, and more caramel sauce of course!
How to store Apple Bars
We usually wait until time to serve before adding caramel sauce to each slice. But these apple bars still keep well even after they’ve been drizzled.
Store leftovers in a single layer in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Refrigerate for longer storage.
We cut these bars into 9 squares for a hearty dessert. However, feel free to cut them into 12 pieces or cut each of the 9 squares in half diagonally to create 18 wedges. If serving a crowd or for a hand-held dessert, be sure to cut them into 18 pieces.
The BEST Caramel Sauce for Apple Bars
If you want to skip the caramel drizzle and serve with a scoop of ice cream instead, be sure to drizzle caramel over the ice cream. Just saying … 😁
Apple Pie Bars are great for gatherings and holidays
This recipe can be made a few days in advance so it saves time on the big day. If making your own Apple Cider Caramel Sauce, it can also be made up to a week before it’s needed. This dessert is perfect for your holiday table and everyone is going to love it!
We also love the oaty topping with one-half cup of chopped walnuts or pecans added in. If you’re not sure about nut allergies for your guests, just follow the directions as written.
Warm a tablespoon of bourbon and 1/2 cup of dried cranberries in the microwave. Allow the cranberries to plump up before adding to the apple mixture. This adds a nice tart bite along with a pop of color to the apple bars.
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For the topping:
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats (80g)
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour (85g)
- ½ cup light brown sugar (112g)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted (113g or 8 tablespoons)
For the crust:
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature (226g)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (110g)
- 2 cups all purpose flour (252g)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the apple filling:
- 4 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and sliced thin (about 2 lbs)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar packed
- ⅓ cup apple cider or water (not vinegar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- dash nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
- 1 cup homemade or store-bought caramel sauce
- 1 tablespoon bourbon stirred into the caramel sauce (optional)
- Vanilla ice cream
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Line the pan with piece of parchment paper so the excess hangs over the sides like a sling. Set aside.
Prepare the topping
- In a medium bowl combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add the melted butter and stir until combined. Refrigerate until needed.
Prepare the crust
- Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the flour, salt and vanilla and mix until a soft dough forms. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 13 to 16 minutes or until the crust is just set but not brown.
- Set aside to cool while preparing the apples.
Prepare the apples
- Peel, core and slice the apples and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle the juice of 1 lemon over the apples and toss to coat.
- In a large skillet melt the butter and brown sugar over medium-high heat. Add the apples and cook stirring occasionally until softened. Stir in the apple cider, cinnamon, nutmeg and bourbon (if using) into the apple mixture and cook another 5 minutes or until the apples are caramelized, tender and the liquid is absorbed.
Assemble the apple bars
- Spread the apples evenly over the crust. Using a spoon break the topping into clumps and sprinkle over the apples. Lightly press the topping down to make an even layer. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Cool completely then cut into 9 bars. You can also cut each square diagonally into wedges to create 18 bars.
- Stir the bourbon into the caramel sauce if using. Drizzle the caramel over the bars and serve. Top with a scoop of ice cream if desired, and more caramel sauce of course!
- Store the apple bars at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Refrigerate for longer storage
The BEST Caramel Apple Pie Bars
Our Apple Bars are easy to make, can easily be made ahead and are always a hit with our favorite friends and family.
Top each slice with a drizzle of caramel sauce to a scoop of vanilla ice cream AND a drizzle of caramel. They’re not overly sweet and have layers of flavors and textures you won’t soon forget.
Originally posted October 2013, updated November 2022