Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars

published Aug 22, 2023
Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars Recipe

With three impressive layers, plus a double dose of caramel sauce, these pie bars are a fall dessert you don’t want to miss out on.

Makes12 bars

Prep35 minutes to 40 minutes

Cook55 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes

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Close-up of salted caramel-covered apple pie bars.
Credit: Kelli Foster

If you love apple pie, you’ve got to make these salted caramel apple pie bars. With three impressive layers, plus a double dose of salted caramel sauce, they are the dessert of fall. 

There’s a buttery, shortbread-esque dough, a layer of soft, tender, caramel-kissed apple slices (which are totally reminiscent of apple pie filling), a crumb topping that I guarantee you’ll want to pick at, and a thick drizzle of salted caramel sauce over the top. Not only are these apple pie bars much easier than making a whole pie, they can also feed a crowd.

How to Make Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars

These triple layer bars come together in six easy steps.

  • Make the salted caramel sauce. It’s important to make this first because it needs time to cool and thicken. And, there’s ample time for that while you prepare the bars.
  • Prepare the apple filling. This is just like the filling you’d prepare for an apple pie.
  • Make the dough. Here, one dough doubles as the base of the bars and the crumb topping. Plus, it doesn’t have to be baked before adding the apples.
  • Assemble the bars. I love using a 9×13-inch metal baking pan for these bars. Don’t forget to coat the pan with a light layer of cooking spray; it’ll make the bars easier to remove later.
  • Bake and cool. Make sure to let the bars cool completely — they’ll be much easier to remove from the pan.
  • Drizzle on the salted caramel sauce. Once the bars are cut and removed from the pan, you’re ready to add the salted caramel sauce. If the sauce feels like it’s thickened a little too much and doesn’t seem drizzly enough, just pop it in the microwave for about 15 seconds to loosen it up. 
Credit: Kelli Foster

Use a Double-Duty Dough for Ease

My favorite trick for making pie bars is making one dough that can work as both the crust and crumbly topping. It saves time, eliminates the need for extra ingredients, and makes the most of your efforts. 

Here, you’ll use a buttery shortbread dough, which I find easiest to mix together by hand in a large bowl. About two-thirds of the dough gets pressed into the pan, which will bake up into a sturdy base. You’ll mix a spoonful of ground cinnamon into the remaining dough, which gets sprinkled over the apples — it’ll bake into the most irresistible buttery crumb topping.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars Recipe

With three impressive layers, plus a double dose of caramel sauce, these pie bars are a fall dessert you don’t want to miss out on.

Prep time 35 minutes to 40 minutes

Cook time 55 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes

Makes 12 bars

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the salted caramel: (Makes about 1 1/4 cups)

  • 3/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup

    water

  • 1 cup

    heavy cream

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 3 pounds

    Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Pink Lady apples (about 6 large or 7 medium), or a combination

  • 1/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the crust and topping:

  • Cooking spray

  • 2 1/2 sticks

    (20 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter

  • 1

    large egg

  • 3 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

Instructions

Make the salted caramel:

  1. Place 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved, then stop stirring and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, measure out 1 cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt.

  2. Continue to boil, swirling the pan occasionally but not stirring, until it turns a dark-amber color (380ºF to 390ºF), 3 to 6 minutes. There will be pale yellow streaks, then darker ones will appear. When you see these, pick up the pan with the handles and swirl occasionally, and be attentive.

  3. Remove the pan from the heat. While whisking continuously, immediately but slowly pour in the cream. Be very careful — it will steam and bubble up violently! It may also ball up or clump, but just keep whisking until smooth again. Add the butter and salt and whisk until smooth.

  4. Return the pan to medium-low heat and simmer until slightly thickened and reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof bowl or container and let cool for at least 30 minutes before using (it will thicken more as it cools). Meanwhile, make the filling and crust.

Make the filling:

  1. Peel 3 pounds Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Pink Lady apples. Halve and core the apples, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and stir to coat the apples.

Make the crust and topping:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

  2. Cut 2 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Lightly beat 1 large egg in a small bowl.

  3. Place 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour mixture and use a pastry cutter or your hands to work together until the butter pieces are no larger than a pea. Add the egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and stir to combine. The mixture should be crumbly and hold together when squeezed.

  4. Transfer 2/3 of the dough (about 4 cups) to the baking pan and press in with your hands until it covers the bottom and goes up the sides about 1/2 inch.

  5. Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the remaining dough and mix together with your hands.

  6. Transfer the apple filling onto the crust and spread into an even layer. Drizzle about 1/2 cup of the salted caramel over the apples. Crumble the cinnamon dough evenly over the top.

  7. Bake until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 52 to 55 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan, about 3 hours. Cut into 12 bars and drizzle with the remaining salted caramel sauce.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.