Caramel Nut Bars


Let’s be honest here – I would not be low carb if I didn’t have to be. Some of the sweet comments I receive on this blog suggest that I am somehow virtuous for creating my low carb treats, but virtue has nothing to do with it. The simple truth is that I have a sweet tooth and I love to indulge it. And if my health weren’t on the line every time I eat something sugary, you can bet that I would be indulging it with sugar. I’ve never had to watch my weight, and although I love healthy foods, I’ve never been good at denying my cravings for sweets.

And let’s face it. For all that I am able to create some very satisfactory low carb sweets, nothing truly compares to sugar. It behaves in a way that no other sweetener can fully imitate. This recipe is a case in point. The way the butter and sugar caramelize together to create a chewy, gooey, sticky topping has no equal. And the holy trinity of baking – flour, butter and sugar – form a shortbread crust that is tender and delightfully crumbly. And the nuts…well, if you follow me you probably already know my passion for nuts of all kinds. Perhaps not the human, crazy kind of nuts, but I am sure you know what I mean.

Have I sold you on these yet? Because I could go on and on, ad nauseum, singing their praises. These are the ultimate in carbilicious indulgence. I have made these for Christmas every year for 11 years, ever since I discovered them in Bon Appetit, December 1999. The only change I have wrought on these amazing bars is to add walnuts and almonds in with the pecans. The original is all pecan, but I was once making several batches for a cookie swap and ran out of pecans. The mixed nut results were, in my humble opinion, better. More complex and flavourful. At the cookie exchange I was asked for the recipe at least half a dozen times. Everyone who has ever tasted them has given them rave reviews.

Let me just say that it was pure torture, photographing these bars. Because I love them, and the smell of caramel and toasted nuts and shortbread was almost more than I could bear. Try them, and I guarantee that you will love them too.

I’ve added this recipe to the Holiday Recipe Exchange being held by My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats…Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Kerrygold.

Caramel Nut Bars
– adapted from Bon Appetit, Dec. 1999

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cups cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the crust, preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 13×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper, with a 1-inch overhang on the short sides of the pan. Grease paper and sides of pan.

Blend flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and process until mixture resembles a fine meal. Press evenly into bottom of prepared pan and bake until set and lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Set aside while preparing the topping.

For topping, stir brown sugar, corn syrup and butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Boil 1 minute. Add nuts and cream and boil until slightly thickened, about 3 more minutes. Stir in vanilla and pour hot topping over crust.

Bake until caramel has darkened and bubbles thickly, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove by lifting overhanging ends of parchment and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into bars with a heavy sharp knife.

Serves 32. Can be stored for 1 week between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container.

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  1. whatsfordinneracrossstatelines says

    I really do know your struggles! My brother and sister are diabetics. Yet they crave sugar even more than I do. You have so many great recipes, I can't wait to try something for them. These bars do sound heavenly. I love caramely, nutty goodness.

  2. Sommer J says

    Oh,My.Chewy.Crunchy.God! You're killin' me with sweetness, girl!!! These look absolutely delicious and my family would fight for these because we love nuts in almost anyway imaginable, but especially in desserts!!!! Must try this 😀

  3. Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot says

    Oh my god, these look absolutely delicious! I am loving your photos too. They make me want to take a big bite out of my laptop screen.

  4. sara @ CaffeIna says

    I truly admire your honesty! And I truly admire the fact that you still manage to satisfy your sweet tooth despite constraints. You really do an amazing job. And i'm with Lindsey: great pics! I'm totally biting the screen!

  5. Anonymous says

    I feel your pain. My Christmas baking consists of a pile for others and a pile for me. :) Thank you for posting all of the recipes. It helps a great deal of us out, especially around the holidays.

  6. gharkness says

    Well, I'm really mad at you because when I saw the title and the photo, I thought "Oh boy, FINALLY a low carb caramel that actually tastes like caramel."

    Bah humbug :-)

  7. Carolyn says

    Oh gharkness, I wish, I wish! I am sorry I misled you. It would be a dream come true if I could make these low carb. FYI, I always title my posts with (low carb) or (low carb and gluten free) if they are, so as to avoid misleading my readers as much as possible.

  8. Liren says

    LOL, what? You don't like nuts of the human variety?

    Hee hee, thanks for the chuckle :)

    The bars look heavenly – I just love everything about it and will be bookmarking so I can try it soon!

  9. Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having says

    I've temporarily given up sugar twice in my life, and both times what got me through was thinking about what sugary treat I'd have when the challenge was over. I can't imagine what not being able to eat sugar at all is like. If it's any consolation, your sugar free treats always look incredible. It takes a great baking mind to find the right way to replace sugar!

  10. Sweet Artichoke says

    Oh my! They look irresistible! and I am adding them on my xmas goodies list!! Totally nuts about nuts, too 😉

  11. Dawn says

    It is truly a disappointment that the carmelization and crispness afforded by real sugar and flour just can't be duplicated with low-carb options. I just made standard old chocolate chip cookies for my kids the other day, and had a bite. What a wonderful texture! I miss the texture more than the sweetness (which really can be pretty well duplicated using no-sugar sweeteners). Still searching for the Holy Grail of low-carb baking, if it's out there. . .

  12. Joanne says

    Girl, you are SO STRONG for doing all this baking and not being able to indulge in it. I'm not sure I could control myself around these, even if I had to. They look amazing!

  13. Lindsey says

    These bars look downright amazing! I admire your will power because if that were me taking those photos, I doubt I could resist the temptation. Thank you, thank you for sharing this recipe!

  14. Pretend Chef says

    These look so delicious and I too am a sucker for nuts. I can't have them in the house or I will eat an entire can within a day or two. These look so good!

  15. She's Cookin' says

    I can imagine the restraint you had to exercise while photograhing these nutty caramel pieces of perfection! They're gorgeous – thanks for sharing. Have a super Sunday!

  16. Mother Rimmy says

    My motto is everything in moderation. These treats look worth the calories! Perfect for the holiday treat table.

  17. says

    Carolyn…. these are beautiful! I love that you make them every year. Nothing like tradition! xoxo
    your sugar partner in crime!

  18. Sugar Free Low Carb says

    These look sinful. No wonder you've been making these for so long. I also gave the post a buzz. Definitely worth saving!

  19. Green Girl @ A little bit of everything says

    you can stop now, I take them all. Sold
    WOW, they simply look amazing, perfect for the gift bags
    thanks for sharing
    have a great rest of the day

  20. Emily Z says

    Wow, these nut bars are utterly delicious. Low carb or not, they are definitely worthy treats. And it's great that they can last up to a week since not all delicious treats can!

  21. VelezDelights says

    I've tried similar ones to these, and I have to agree that the mixed nuts give these a certain something that make them amazingly good. These look great, and I'll definitely be making them over Christmas weekend :)

  22. Sandra says

    I just can't believe that I didn't put any comments on this delicious, wonderful and mouthwatering 'caramel nut bars' yum….Great recipe and photos Carolyn!

  23. bakingbarb says

    First thing that comes to mind, WOW!
    These look fantastic! I like you could eat sweets too much but only home baked wonderful sweets like this.
    These will become gluten-free for me and I can't wait to try them.

  24. HayleySF says

    These treats look fantastic! What a great idea to add walnuts and almonds! I will have to try these this Christmas!

  25. Gulmohar says

    Oh my ! That looks wonderful. We make a peanut bar which looks similar, though we use melted Jaggery (Palm sugar) instead of caramelized sugar.And the pics are to die for :-)

  26. blackbookkitchendiaries says

    this is such a beautiful treat.. i wish i had one right now..thanks for sharing this and hope you have a nice day.

  27. Evan @swEEts says

    Carolyn you didn't have to sell me on anything.. I just saw the title and knew they were going to be good! They look absolutely delicious.. such wonderful flavors and with a shortbread crust? oh man.. I have to make these..

  28. Trish says

    I love how there are many different kinds of nuts in these. They must be wonderful based on the ingredients. Bookmarking!

  29. Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels says

    OH MY WORD, not only do the caramel nut bars looks insanely delicious but they're so beautiful! I LOVE walnuts and pecans so I can't wait to try this recipe. And I can't stop drooling…. :)

  30. Dionne says

    Yay! This means that I don't have to wait until Christmas each year to eat my favorite of all your treats. Thanks for sharing!

  31. MegSmith says

    I have a hard time thinking of a recipe that looks and sounds better than this! Caramel, nuts, shortbread…that is perfection!

  32. shannon says

    these for sure look like the "ultimate caramel nut bars". Way to go…I have saved this recipe for this Christmas!!!

  33. Stormy @LaMaoomba says

    There are times when I wish I didn't need to worry about dairy and gluten issues. Today is one of them. I love caramel and nuts – more than any chocolate can ever compensate for.

  34. radioactivegan says

    I saw these on bakingishot blog and had to come check them out … but serves 32? seriously? That is awesome! sounds like these are meant for a party.

  35. Alison says

    Ever think about revisiting these now with your extensive knowledge of low carb caramel and various flour shortbreads? I’d love to try them if you do…

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