My caramel apple pie bars are bursting with the sweet-tart flavor of fresh apples and a buttery crumble crust and topping, all drizzled with rich caramel. They're the perfect treat to prepare during apple season, or anytime you long to create that irresistibly cozy, spicy scent of autumn in your kitchen!
Caramel Apple Pie Bars, Kissed with the Sweet Flavors of Fall
For me, baking is one of the coziest things to do when the days begin to take on a slightly cooler quality.
The sweet and comforting scent of spices, brown sugar, butter and apples is such a wonderful pleasure as it enticingly drifts through the entire house, creating that divine sense of a delicious dessert being prepared with lots of love, like a hug for one's belly.
Whenever my beloved apple season comes around, I find myself longing to create lots of tasty recipes around those sweet-tart beauties, some savory but most of them sweet.
I begin dreaming of variations on apple pie or apple cake, and generally thinking of new ways to incorporate apples into a new dessert, such as these scrumptious little caramel apple pie bars.
Rich, buttery and filled with the flavor of fresh apples, my caramel apple pie bars recipe has a buttery, crumble crust on the bottom as well as sprinkled over top, with a thick, juicy layer of apples tossed with brown sugar, a hint of cinnamon and a generous drizzle of good-quality, prepared caramel sauce.
It's our new favorite apple recipe this season, simple to prepare and wonderful to share! 😉
How to Make Caramel Apple Pie Bars Using a Few Pantry Staples
What served as a bit of an inspiration for these caramel apple pie bars is the jar (or two!) of good-quality, prepared salted caramel sauce that I like to keep on hand in my pantry.
I happen to love Trader Joe's version called “Fleur de Sel” caramel sauce, but any good-quality drizzle-able caramel sauce will work great here.
We also happen to have a little apple tree in our backyard—some sort of mixed varietal that yields a very tart-sweet apple—and I love finding opportunities to incorporate those apples into my apple recipes. Of course, any fresh apples with both some sweetness and tartness are going to work perfectly—no backyard tree needed! 😉
I enjoy a cookie-like, crumble-style crust for my apple pie bars, so I prepare a really simple one using ingredients such as butter, flour, brown and granulated sugar, a touch of vanilla and sprinkle of cinnamon.
This gets gently pressed into a bottom crust layer, with some sprinkled over top for a crumble topping.
The crunch under tooth of chopped pecans adds nutty, warm flavor, and I sprinkle a small handful of those over top for good measure as well.
Here's a glance at my caramel apple pie bars recipe:
- In a bowl, I add my peeled and thinly sliced apples and toss together with the rest of my filling ingredients, then set this aside for a moment.
- I prepare my buttery crust next, reserving a portion of it for the crumble topping.
- Then, I press most of crust mixture into my prepared baking dish, layer in the apple filling, then top with the reserved crumble topping and the pecans.
- The caramel apple pie bars are baked for roughly 55 minutes, then allowed to cool before drizzling on a touch of extra caramel, then slicing and serving.
Caramel Apple Pie Bars
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: 9 bars
Nutrition Info: 266 calories per bar
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Caramel Apple Filling Ingredients:
- 3 medium apples (Granny Smith and/or Honeycrisp), peeled and thinly sliced (between 2 1/2 – 3 cups of sliced apples)
- 1 (slightly heaping) tablespoon flour
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons good-quality, prepared caramel sauce, divided use
- 3 tablespoons chopped, raw pecans, for topping
Crumble Dough Ingredients:
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat the oven to 350°, and line a (roughly) 7 ½ x 7 ½ baking dish (I use glass) with a piece of parchment paper that has a bit of overhang, and lightly mist with cooking spray.
- To prepare the filling: toss together in a large bowl the thinly sliced apples with the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon, then drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the caramel and toss to combine until well-coated; set these aside while you prep the dough.
- To prepare the dough: in a bowl whisk together the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder, and set aside these dry ingredients for a moment; to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and the brown and granulated sugars, and mix until well-combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes; add the vanilla and mix to incorporate, then add in the dry ingredients, mixing until combined, but crumbly.
- Add the water and mix until a large crumbles form, reserving 3/4 cup of the mixture to use for your crumble topping.
- Press the rest of the dough mixture gently into your prepared baking dish as evenly as possible, then add in the apple filling in as even a layer as possible; sprinkle over the reserved dough to create a crumble topping.
- Sprinkle the pecans over the crumble topping, then bake for about 55 minutes (turning halfway through), until golden-brown; allow to cool in the baking dish for 30 minutes.
- Carefully remove the crumble bars from the baking dish using the overhanging parchment paper (they will be soft and hot), and allow to completely cool on a wire rack.
- Once cooled, drizzle over the remaining 2 tablespoons of prepared caramel sauce; cut into 9 bars (you can even cut into 12 small bars, if desired), and serve room temp.
Tips & Tidbits for my Caramel Apple Pie Bars:
- Sweet-tart apples: To cut some of the sweetness and richness, I like to use an apple with a good amount of tart flavor for balance. I actually use a combo of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples, but you could choose just one of those, or even use Gala apples as a substitute.
- Slice the apples thinly: Because you want the apples to become nice and soft, developing a juicy and caramelized quality, take care to slice the apples quite thinly. If they're too chunky or the slices too thick/big, they won't quite “melt” into the bars as nicely.
- Good quality prepared caramel sauce: Using a good-quality store-bought caramel sauce makes this recipe super quick and easy, as there's no extra step of preparing homemade caramel sauce (though feel free to). You'll add a little into the apple filling, then drizzle a bit more over top of the prepared bars once baked and cooled.
- Use parchment paper in the baking dish for easy removal: To make it easier to lift the baked bars out of the baking dish to completely cool, I like to add parchment paper to my baking dish with overhanging sides. Less mess, less sticking!
- Completely cool before slicing: It's best to allow the bars to completely cool before adding the finishing drizzle of caramel sauce over top and slicing. This will help the bars to keep their shape and become a bit crisp-chewy, sort of cookie bar-like.