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Coconut Caramel Pecan Bars

  • Serves: 12
  • Calories: 535
Coconut Pecan Caramel Bars on a baking tray with caramel sauce in a jar

These gooey coconut caramel pecan bars sit on a buttery shortbread crust and are finished with a simple, homemade dulce de leche that really makes them special.

Take Your Favorite Pecan Bars on a Tropical Vacation

Specifically, to a place with an abundance of coconuts! These shortbread pecan bars are sticky, coconutty, caramel-topped perfection and they follow in the tradition of other classic coconut bar recipes that are particularly popular in the South, like 7-layer bars, pecan pie bars, or dream bars. But, they’re also kind of their own thing! We cherry picked our favorite parts of all of those recipes—the buttery shortbread crust, the sweetened condensed milk, and of course the coconut—and created a bar that’s our own sort of dream bar! We love the short ingredient list, and the fact that all of those ingredients are easy to keep around, so you can whip this dessert up just about any old time you feel like it (or need to deliver a tray of treats to a friend, stat!).

shortbread crust pressed into a 9x9 inch baking pan
sweetened condensed milk being poured into a bowl

6 Pantry Ingredients Are All You Need To Make The Best Pecan Bars Ever!

Loaded with rich, nutty ingredients and of course that divine shortbread crust, these coconut pecan dream bars are well, dreamy! Our pecan bar recipe really puts these six simple ingredients to work so that the effort-to-payoff ratio is easily in your favor. The coconut flakes—use the unsweetened kind—are used in both the shortbread crust and the pecan bar filling, while the sweetened condensed milk is used in both the filling and to make the dulce de leche. Having cans of sweetened condensed milk in the cupboard does make us feel a little bit like a combination of a 1950s housewife and Winnie the Pooh, but it also means that we can make these easy pecan bars any old time we feel like it, so it’s totally worth it. Here are the six ingredients you’ll need to make our pecan bars recipe:

  • Flour

  • Butter. We call for salted butter here, which is unusual for baking! But it’s honestly just out of sheer ease. We’re salted butter people—what can we say? You want and need a little salt in the shortbread crust, so if you only have unsalted, add at least 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the shortbread dough before mixing.

  • Sugar

  • Coconut flakes

  • Sweetened condensed milk

  • Pecans

Coconut Pecan Caramel Bars poured into a pan
coconut and pecans in a bowl

A Easy Way to Make Dulce De Leche (Which Makes Everything Delicious)

Sometimes referred to as “Mexican caramel”, dulce de leche is a creamy, nutty, rich, sticky, gooey, sweet sauce that’s popular throughout Latin America. It’s mellow and sort of butterscotch-y, and it’s worth noting that a little goes a looooong way. Best of all? It’s a one-ingredient treat! While you can make it from milk and sugar—you’d stir the two together and let them reduce for ages and ages until you end up with caramel—the easiest way (and most popular) is to make it from a can of sweetened condensed milk! Some people cook it directly in the can, but we prefer a slightly safer method. Here’s how to make dulce de leche (and yes, you can do it up to a week ahead of time!) :

  1. Pour a can of condensed milk into a metal pie tin, and cover it with foil.

  2. Make a water bath by setting the pie tin into a baking dish and filling the baking dish with hot water until it comes about halfway up the sides of the metal pie pan.

  3. Bake for 90 minutes at 425°F, adding more water to the water bath as you go along if need be.

  4. You’re done!

Coconut Pecan Caramel Bars fresh out of oven
Coconut Pecan Caramel Bars fresh out of the oven

How To Make Coconut Pecan Squares

Once you’ve made the dulce de leche—and again, you can make that up to a week ahead of time, the only trick is not eating it all—these pecan bars are a total breeze. Even the dulce de leche is easy to make, it’s just a bit time consuming. Here’s how to make these easy pecan bars:

  1. Make the shortbread crust. Beat together the flour, butter, sugar and coconut flakes until it comes together into a light and fluffy dough.

  2. Press the shortbread dough into a 9X9 baking dish.

  3. Bake the shortbread crust for 30 minutes.

  4. Make the coconut pecan filling! Stir together condensed milk, pecans and coconut flakes.

  5. One more bake! Pour the pecan filling over the baked shortbread crust, and bake the bars for about 20 minutes.

  6. Drizzle with dulce de leche!

  7. And now, the hard part! Let the bars cool completely before cutting them into squares.

Coconut Pecan Caramel Bars being drizzled with caramel
Coconut Pecan Caramel Bars on a baking tray with caramel sauce in a jar

Tools You’ll Need

More Nutty Coconut Recipes To Try

Coconut Pecan Caramel Bars 17
Coconut Pecan Caramel Bars being drizzled with caramel

The Best Pecan Bars (Right?!)

Once you realize how insanely high the ROI on these dreamy shortbread pecan bars is, you’ll never be without the ingredients to whip them up! They’re so ideal for meal trains, for last minute hostess gifts—you name it, these bars have no trouble finding happy homes. They can mend fences, lift moods and are easy enough to make with even the littlest of helpers. Try the recipe, and let us know how you like it, OK? Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Coconut Caramel Pecan Bars

  • Serves: 12
  • Calories: 535

Ingredients

Shortbread Crust

  • 2 cups All purpose flour
  • 1 cup Salted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup Granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened coconut flakes

Filling

  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups Pecan halves, half roughly chopped
  • 1 cup Unsweetened coconut flakes

Dolce de Leche

  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. In a stand mixer (or by hand) beat together flour, butter, sugar and ½ cup coconut flakes for 5 minutes on high until light and fluffy.
  3. Using your hands press the dough into a parchment lined 9X9 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl combine 1 14 oz can Eagle Sweetened Condensed Milk along with pecans and remaining coconut flakes. Once crust is done, pour mixture over the top and spread evenly. Bake for another 20 minutes or until top is just golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool before removing from pan.
  6. While it’s cool start the dolce de leche. Preheat oven to 425°F. Pour one 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk into a metal pie tin and cover tightly with foil. Set the pan into a baking dish and fill with hot water until halfway up the sides of the pie pan. Place on center rack and cook for 90 minutes adding more water if necessary. Once done, remove from oven and whisk the dolce de leche until smooth.
  7. Drizzle over the top of the bars and top with more coconut flakes if desired.