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Salty Cashew-Caramel Bars

These Salty Cashew-Caramel Bars are a ridiculously gooey, messy, amazingly delicious dessert. If you love that classic combination of sweet and salty, you’re in for a treat!

Salty cashew caramel bar on parchment-lined board

Gooey Caramel Nut Bars

These Salty Cashew-Caramel Bars have layer upon layer of good stuff. It all starts with a simple crust made with crushed pretzels, delivering some irresistible crunch and saltiness. Then, there’s a layer of gooey caramel. That’s topped with nutty cashews, rich chocolate, and a sprinkling of coarse salt. It’s sweet and salty heaven!

It’s been a while since I made something this fantastically gooey. Even at room temperature, the caramel is plenty soft. You can up the ante by heating the bars slightly before serving. Just be sure you eat these with good friends, because you’re going to make a mess when you eat them. You need a judgment-free zone!

Overhead view of salty cashew caramel bars

While these are perfectly delicious just as they are, you could go all out and serve the warm bars with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and let it melt over the tops. Maybe a drizzle of salted caramel sauce too? Why not!

(If cashews are your thing, be sure to check out my Coconut Cashew Toffee Cookies, Dulce de Leche Cashew Brownies, or Chocolate Chip Cashew Bread next!)

Overhead view of salty cashew caramel bar ingredients

What You’ll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

  • All-purpose flour – Learn more: How to Measure Flour
  • Pretzels – You can use any kind you like, but butter pretzels are especially delicious in sweet recipes like this one.
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter – Learn more: Unsalted or Salted Butter: Which is Better for Baking?
  • Granulated sugar
  • Light or dark brown sugar – Dark brown sugar will give you a deeper, more molasses-y flavor.
  • Eggs
  • Rolled oats – Also known as old-fashioned oats.
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Soft caramels – The inexpensive little square ones are perfect here. No need for anything fancy!
  • Vanilla extract
  • Cashews – You’ll chop the cashews, so save yourself some money and buy cashew pieces rather than whole cashews.
  • Dark chocolate chunks
  • Milk chocolate chunks
  • Sea salt or other large-flake salt – Maldon salt adds a lovely crunch, but whatever you have on hand will be just fine.
Dry ingredients for crust in glass mixing bowl

How to Crush Pretzels

There are a few options for crushing the pretzels. You could use your food processor and pulse them until they form a coarse crumb, or you can place the pretzels in a zip-top freezer bag and roll over them with a rolling pin or bang them with a meat tenderizer. 

Another option is to place the pretzels on a large cutting board and chop them up with a chef’s knife, but it’s harder to get a uniform crumb this way, so I’d use this as a last resort.

How to Make Salty Cashew-Caramel Bars

Don’t let the number of steps fool you! These Salty Cashew-Caramel Bars are actually quite easy to make.

Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper or foil.

Dry ingredients for crust in glass mixing bowl with whisk

Mix the dry crust ingredients. Whisk the flour, pretzels, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.

Mix the wet crust ingredients. Use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until they’re light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Fold in the oats.

Crust for salty cashew caramel bars in pan

Form the crust. Set aside 1 cup of the crust mixture for the topping. Press the remaining mixture into the prepared pan, creating a firm, even layer.

Make the caramel layer. Combine the condensed milk and caramels in a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the caramels have melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour this over the crust and spread it into an even layer.

Finish assembling. Sprinkle the cashews, chocolate, and sea salt over the caramel. Drop the reserved oat mixture over the tops of the bars.

Overhead view of salty cashew caramel bars in pan

Bake. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the bars are light brown. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool.

Overhead view of salty cashew caramel bars on parchment

Serve. Lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper and place them on a cutting board. Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut into bars.

Spatula holding salty cashew caramel bar

Tips for Success

Here are some hints and tips for perfect Salty Cashew-Caramel Bars:

  • Press the crust into the pan. Use your hands to really compress it into the bottom of the pan; this will keep it from falling apart when you cut into the bars.
  • Adjust the salt. I used a larger amount because I used unsalted cashews, but if yours are salted, you may want to use less.
  • Let the bars cool completely. If they’re still warm when you cut into them, the caramel will ooze out all over. You may even want to pop the pan into the fridge a bit to help the caramel solidify before you cut the bars.
salty cashew caramel bars on parchment paper

Variations

Just about any nut will work in this recipe instead of cashews, or you can use a combination. If you have a strong preference for dark or milk chocolate, you can use all of one instead of both.

How to Store

Store Salty Cashew-Caramel Bars covered or in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. 

Can This Recipe Be Frozen?

Technically speaking, this is a recipe that can be frozen, but I think some of the crunchy textures will soften when frozen and thawed. 

Stack of salty cashew caramel bars on plate

Salty Cashew-Caramel Bars

Yield 24 2-inch bars
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

These Salty Cashew Caramel Bars are a gooey, chewy, sweet and salty treat with chocolate, caramel, and cashews in every bite!

Stack of 3 salty cashew caramel bars on plate

Ingredients

  • 1 & 1/2 cups (180g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely crushed pretzels
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (200g) firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups (297g) rolled oats
  • 14 ounces (396g) sweetened condensed milk
  • 11 ounces (311g) soft caramels, unwrapped
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (150g) chopped cashews
  • 1/2 cup (85g) dark chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 cup (85g) milk chocolate chunks
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or other large-flake salt*

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9" x 13" baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. Whisk together the flour, pretzels, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix well.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until almost combined. Stir in the oats.
  5. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture for the topping. Transfer the remaining mixture to the prepared pan and press evenly.
  6. Place the condensed milk and caramels in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until the caramels have melted and the mixture is smooth.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture over the oat mixture in the pan. Spread evenly.
  8. Sprinkle the cashews, chocolates, and sea salt over the caramel. Drop the reserved oat mixture over the bars.
  9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the bars are light brown.
  10. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Use the edges of the lining to lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into bars.

Notes

*I used the larger amount because I used unsalted cashews. Adjust to your own tastes.

Recipe slightly adapted from BHG.

Store Salty Cashew-Caramel Bars covered or in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. 

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    7 Comments on “Salty Cashew-Caramel Bars”

  1. These bars are totally calling my name!! Yum!

  2. OMG! All of my favorites in one bar. Pinning!

  3. That caramel oozing out. Whoa. I’m sold.

  4. I made these last weekend and everyone loved them. Not too sweet actually, which was great! The caramel layer didn’t really set and I can see that, now, in your pictures. I’m wondering whether the condensed milk could be cut back a bit? But, then, there would be left over from a full can and what to do with that? Thai tea? 😉 Thanks for another great recipe, Jennifer!

  5. Although this recipe sounds delicious, I think that the baking time is way off. The base, with all the oats mixed in, is very heavy and takes more than 30 minutes to bake through. I have a new oven and set time and temp. correctly, so I was disappointed that this recipe with quite expensive ingredients left me without correct instructions.

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