Hello Dolly Bars

by jenna on May 11, 2012

This is one of Great Grandma’s recipes so we already know it contains graham crackers, coconut and sweetened condensed milk. Obviously.

If you’re been following my journey working through her recipe box, you know as well as I do that these three ingredients made up the crux of Gram’s life. The woman loved her graham crackers. And her butter. She lived a very sweet life indeed. Is it possible to miss someone you never really knew? Because sometimes when I’m making her recipes and squinting my eyes to read her tiny cursive letters, I really miss her and wish she was the one in the kitchen baking away instead of me.

I was just reading Lisa’s latest blog post where she recreated her grandma’s peanut butter crisscross cookies (if you’ve never read Homesick Texan before you’re in for a major treat!). Something she wrote really struck me and that was that there’s just something about your mother’s, and your grandmother’s, cooking that just makes you happy. I love that because it’s so true. There’s a million adaptations of this recipe all over the place, but because this is my great-grandma’s recipe, it will always taste the best to me.

You know what I mean?

These layer bar cookies are an adaption of the classic Southern hello dolly bars. Before yesterday I had never had a hello dolly bar before, and I’m from the South. Go figure. From doing a bit of research though, I learned that the traditional bars have seven layers in them and include butterscotch chips. Well, great-grandma wrote a tiny note at the bottom of her recipe card that said she preferred these bars “without the butterscotch chips and with extra graham cracker crumbs”. Of course she did. The woman lived for graham crackers. This we know.

So instead of seven layers, here we have four layers….that’s if you don’t count the butter and sweetened condensed milk as layers, which I don’t.

Add a long, slooooooow drizzle of Eagle brand milk, pop them in the oven and in half an hour you have these beauties:

Sure, they’re sweet enough to break your teeth, but pretty perfect for any potluck, church picnic or special dessert. I’m sure the bars would have been a bit neater if I would have been patient enough to let them cool completely in the pan before slicing. I’m sure a lot of my desserts would be a lot neater if I had more patience (I’m not a cake decorator for a reason). Thus, my rational advice to you is really to let cool completely before slicing or make the night before and keep them in the fridge.

Or just completely disregard my above recommendation and dive into that warm pan with a butter knife, because who the heck cares anyway?

P.S. I really hope my dentist doesn’t read my blog.

P.P.S. I love you guys.

Hello Dolly Bars

makes about 20 bars, depending on the size

Print this recipe!


1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 stick butter, melted

10 graham crackers, crushed

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup chocolate chips

1 15-oz can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Pour the melted butter into a 9 x 13″ pan. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over melted butter, followed by the walnuts, chocolate chips and coconut. Pour sweetened condensed milk over top.

Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing and serving!


1.5 hours (includes time to cool)

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{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

shelly (cookies and cups) May 11, 2012 at 3:34 am

Those look amazing!! I love family recipes :)


Caroline @ chocolate & carrots May 11, 2012 at 4:22 am

Yummmm! I have a bag of coconut in my pantry that is dying to be used. These look like just the thing. Thank you for the great recipe Jenna! 😀


Molly @ RDexposed May 11, 2012 at 4:24 am

Grandmother recipes are always delicious but more so to the family than anyone else! <3


Emily May 11, 2012 at 4:32 am

I’ll tell you what, you (and Lisa) are so right when it comes to loving your mother’s, or grandmother’s, recipes. My Mom’s gravy is the best in the world, and when I make it, I feel like I’m back at home. No other gravy in the universe will ever match hers in my eyes! :)


Jenn May 11, 2012 at 4:49 am

Look similar to the muffin tops you posted! …are they sitting on newspapers? 😉


Katrina May 11, 2012 at 4:54 am

My grandma has such a similar recipe, but without walnuts. Over the years I’ve tried a few varieties and they are all so yummy! Gotta love Grandma classics :)


Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat May 11, 2012 at 4:56 am

I think your grandma and I would have been good friends because I share a similar love for graham crackers. Either that, or we’d be enemies because we’d be caught fighting for the last box in the grocery store. 😉 These sound delicious!


Nicole May 11, 2012 at 4:58 am

My family has the same recipe, except with a few modifications: crushed corn flakes instead of graham crackers and no walnuts (I’m allergic). They were originally named Magic Bars but affectionately became known as Lizzy cookies, when my college roommate fell in love with them.


Blog is the New Black May 11, 2012 at 5:05 am

OK, so I made “7 layer” aka “magic bars” the other day (somehow failed) and then at work someone told me they are ALSO called… wait for it… Hello Dolly Bars! All the same thing! Yours look delicious! I am trying these again, for sure!


Sara @my less serious life May 11, 2012 at 5:05 am

i die for hello dolly bars. die for them.


Sara Palacios May 11, 2012 at 5:08 am

Geez…these look delish! And I love your grandma for not including the butterscotch chips….because I am not a big fan either! I’ve been banned from eating chocolate during most of my pregnancy (and caffeine), but I am due in two weeks and totally PLAN on consuming some of these as soon as humanly possible. Care to send a care package to a new mom in need of her first dose of chocolate in months?!? 😉


Steffany May 11, 2012 at 5:23 am

My Mom makes hello dollies but without the nuts for EVERY holiday or special occassion or potluck. They are devoured ins econds, even by people who swear they hate coconut.


christie May 11, 2012 at 5:43 am

oh my gosh. i cannot wait to make these bars.
and to steal your pink pants!!


brandi May 11, 2012 at 5:43 am

These are one of my husband’s all time favorite desserts. I have his mom’s recipe for these – I’m sure it’s exactly the same, but it’s still one that gets passed down all the time :)


Barbara May 11, 2012 at 5:47 am

I have such great memories of mymom making these. Thanksfor the post, Im going to gohome and make her recipe later tonight!


Sarah May 11, 2012 at 5:56 am

Oooh, these look AMAZING! I make a version called magic bars. The best part is that everyone loves them and they are so easy to make.

Happy weekend!


Rebecca May 11, 2012 at 5:57 am

I have been making these for years! My mother made them when I was a little girl and I fell in love with them. I make the Texas version with pecans, though. Whenever I take them to a party or potluck, the platter comes back empty.


Kath May 11, 2012 at 6:04 am

These are one of my favorite desserts EVER! My roommate in college used to get them in care packages. I must make some in the future!


Cait's Plate May 11, 2012 at 6:04 am

Are Hello Dolly bars the same as 7 layer bars?

I was just going to comment that I’ve never made Hello Dolly bars but have always wanted to…and then I took a look at the ingredients again and realized, give or take a few chips (butterscotch and white chocolate), it might actually be the same thing! If so, I can finally check these off my “to make” list :)


jenna May 11, 2012 at 7:31 am

They are the same! Except, you’re right, 7 layer bars contain butterscotch.


Lily O'Dare May 11, 2012 at 6:05 am

yummmmmmmm neeeeeed nowwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!


Erin May 11, 2012 at 6:14 am

It’s funny, when I first encountered a Hello Dolly bar after I moved to Memphis I was curious what was in it. Once I found out I realized, they are pretty much a 7 layer bar! And they are delicious. Yours look awesome.


Margarita May 11, 2012 at 6:18 am

There are so many desserts out there that require such fancy ingredients… They are good and fancy, but sometimes what we really want are just good ole classics that warm our hearts and put a big smile on our faces. These dolly bars truly speak of a grandma’s love!


Rachel Cooks (formerly Not Rachael Ray) May 11, 2012 at 6:29 am

These look amazing, and I think your grandma is right. The butterscotch makes it too over-the-top sweet for me.


Nadeanne May 11, 2012 at 6:40 am

My mom makes Hello Dollies but without the coconut and she adds PB chips….to this day it’s one of my favorite desserts!


jenna k May 11, 2012 at 6:46 am

mmm, my mom makes these at all holidays! the butterscotch chips are my favorite, so i could never leave those out. but the extra grahams sound right up my alley :)
ps (a comment about your ‘may favorites’ post) i definitely feel like we’re friends haha


Emilie @ Emilie's Enjoyables May 11, 2012 at 6:58 am

this is one of my all time favorite desserts–I like more graham cracker crumbs too! so much better that way :)


Kelli H (Made in Sonoma) May 11, 2012 at 7:00 am

These look SO good. I know I would love them! It looks like in your ingredient picture that it says ‘text’ by the sweetened condensed milk.


jenna May 11, 2012 at 7:33 am

good eye! it totally does. I need to fix that…after I drink some coffee.


Liz @ Tip Top Shape May 11, 2012 at 7:13 am

These are my favorite bars!!! Delicious!


Elisabeth May 11, 2012 at 7:23 am

We’ve made these since I was a kid but we always call them 7 layer bars or Eagle Magic Bars. I’ve actually never heard them called Hello Dolly bars, but I’m not from the south (Ohio, actually). I like the idea of making them with just chocolate chips – I’m not a big fan of butterscotch chips (too sweet…ha!). :)


Robin May 11, 2012 at 7:26 am

Hello Dollies are my FAVORITE! No butterscotch chips and pecans. The only thing not to like about them is waiting for them to cool (or really, not waiting for them to cool and having them inconsiderately fall apart as I’m trying to get it directly from the pan into my mouth)


Laura @ She Eats Well May 11, 2012 at 7:33 am

Yum. I think these bars combine all my favorite ingredients…especially the chocolate. Best eaten warm out of the oven!! So delicious.


Bryan May 11, 2012 at 7:43 am

Those look delicious! I have always loved bars like this. However, what I am really coveting is your glasses. What are they called and where did you get them, if you don’t mind my asking.


Shannon May 11, 2012 at 7:44 am

I’m really missing out on a lot of tasty recipes because of the fact that I dislike coconut! I like the taste/flavor – just not the actual coconut flakey – pick it out of your teeth an hour later feeling. Recipes like this make me wish I did though. And, maybe I’ll try again :)


Urban Wife May 11, 2012 at 7:48 am

I’ll take a toothache any day from these babies. Swoon!


rachel May 11, 2012 at 7:49 am

i love your blog! can’t wait to make the muffin tops and baked eggs for my mom this sunday. any ideas on what brunch cocktail to serve?


jenna May 11, 2012 at 7:54 am

Mimosas, Sangria or (non-alcoholic) sparkling blueberry lemonade!


Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch May 11, 2012 at 8:09 am

Family recipes are the absolute best, aren’t they? Especially when they are this delicious!


Liz May 11, 2012 at 8:10 am

Hello amazingness. These look SO good!


Em (Wine and Butter) May 11, 2012 at 8:13 am

It’s the downside of bars for sure. Yesterday I made some amazing peanut butter cookies (if I do say so myself) – I pulled them out of the oven and immediately began to try scrape them from the baking tray. Obviously some of the bottom became disconnected and I started wailing to my husband ‘why does this always happen to meeeeee??’ and he was like ‘um, maybe you need to leave the cookies to cool for more than 3 seconds’. Oh yeah. Maybe.


Averie @ Averie Cooks May 11, 2012 at 8:18 am

I love Seven Layer Bars, Magic Bars, Hello Dolly bars…whatever name they go by, I love them! I have made many varities of them and versions and really any combo of the basic seven ingredients or so always works.

Can’t believe you’ve never had one til just recently (yesterday!) I grew up on these things :)


Kim @ The Family Practice May 11, 2012 at 8:36 am

Our grandmas must have been friends or something – these are almost identical to my grandmas “magic cookie bar” recipe! So fun that you are working through her recipe box. What a great way to honor her and get some great goodies too :)


Moni Meals May 11, 2012 at 8:43 am

Why Hello Dolly Bars…HELLLLO! I love anything you make from your Grandma’s Recipes. :)

So similiar to 7 Layer Magic Bars, right! YUM, one of my fav.
Have a great day!


joelle (on a pink typewriter) May 11, 2012 at 9:01 am

These look SO yummy. May have to be a thank you gift for my boyfriend after he helps me move today. :)


Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray May 11, 2012 at 9:10 am

Yesss, I love Hello Dolly bars. I’ve only ever known them as “Magic Cookie Bars” or “Seven-Layer Bars” or, more recently, “Congo Bars” (seriously, what?), but they’re just every kind of sweet yummy. And even better when they’re a family recipe. :)


Courtney May 11, 2012 at 9:11 am

I love that you called them Hello Dolly bars. Growing up in CA, they were also 7-layer bars even if they didn’t have 7 layers, but after meeting and marrying my Texan, they are SOLELY called Hello Dolly bars….by any name, they are delicious and I will need to make them, um, maybe tonight:) Happy Friday to you!


Karen May 11, 2012 at 9:15 am

These are very popular in Kansas where I live. Lots of variations. I usually make them with pecans and semisweet chocolate chips but no butterscotch chips. One of my coworkers makes them without coconut. I’ve even seen them with Andes mint chips. I can never figure out what variation I like best–they’re all delicious!


Alison May 11, 2012 at 9:21 am

You make me want to fly to my grandmother’s house and bake with her. :)


Allison May 11, 2012 at 9:28 am

A few months ago I had a bad habit of running over to Peets for their 7-Layer bars (which remind me a lot of these) almost every afternoon. After about two weeks of this my waistline and wallet both pleeded for me to grab an apple instead. I take this recipe as a sign that it’s time to rekindle my relationship with delicious chocolatey-nutty-coconutty bars, and homemade basically = economical right? Thanks Jenna!


Stephie @ Eat Your Heart Out May 11, 2012 at 10:44 am

You’re so right. There are a million different kinds of rice pudding out there, but to me, my momma’s will ALWAYS taste the best. Go figure.


Jess May 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

This is exactly what my grandmother made! And no one calls them hello dollys here, I thought I was the only one!


Amanda May 11, 2012 at 11:07 am

Those bars look soooooo good! I’m going to make these for a sweets table for a party I’m hosting next month!


Antonia @ healthinspirations May 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

I LOVE YOUR BLOG. The recipes you post are simply amazing. This is on top of my “to-bake” recipes list. Can’t wait!


Mary May 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

I made these as a kid! Mom and I always called them “Spread Around Delights.” I still make them. Always a favorite!


Mary May 11, 2012 at 11:19 am

Except when I make them I layer this order: craham cracker; coconut; chocolate chips; walnuts; condensed milk. They stay together very well when cool!


Marinos May 11, 2012 at 11:40 am

I love so much your blog!! So delicius recipes!!
Could you tell me where did you get the colorful bowl you used on salted caramel chocolate mousse?
Please answer its really important to me! :)


jenna May 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I don’t know! That was a guest post an I’m not sure where the author of that recipe got it. So sorry!


Angela @ Happy Fit Mama May 11, 2012 at 12:29 pm

This is such a “grandma” recipe! Graham crackers and condensed milk are definitely in my grandmother’s recipe combinations all the time!


Aundra Weissert @ Fit for Life May 11, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Whoa. You had me at coconut. And chocolate. So yummy!

That recipe box of your grandma’s is kind of like a box of chocolate: reaching in to grab another recipe, you just never know what you’re going to get! Can’t wait for more in the series.


Chelsea May 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm

awww this made me smile!! my family makes a bar kind of like this, but we just call them mounds bars, and the layers are just more structured. yours look like a lot more fun!! and you’ve inspired me to start collecting recipes from my grandma :)


Caitlin Murphy May 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I love these. My family makes “seven layer bars” every year for Christmas. It’s not Christmas if we don’t have them. They have the graham/butter as the crust, coconut, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans, and condensed milk. Thanks for sharing!


Kathy W. May 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Mmm, layered bars.

(Isn’t it weird to realize that we all had 4 great-grandmothers, and 8 great-great-grandmothers?? And so on until the mind boggles. And let’s not forget the ever-multiplying great-grandfathers, either.)


Candace May 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I KNEW these were Hello, Dolly bars when you posted that pic on Twitter! These are a family favorite. Yum.


Kristen @ notsodomesticated May 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I LOVE how your grandma’s recipes are simple with minimal ingredients, and yet I bet they all taste amazing. Recipes don’t need to be complicated to be delicious!


Luv What You Do May 11, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I just learned that these were called Hello Dolly Bars….I’ve always called them magic cookie bars. I make mine with butterscotch which adds just a hint of flavor. My mouth is watering thinking about these guys. I love them fresh out of the freezer!!!


Heidi - Apples Under My Bed May 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm

warm fuzzies from this post :)
Heidi xo
ps I really hope you know what “warm fuzzes” mean (& that it’s not an Australian thing) so that you don’t find this comment to be incredibly creepy. let’s hope.


Lora May 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm

I grew up in Wisconsin and we called these magic cookie bars. They were a special treat whenever Mom made them. And now I’m wondering if my son would like them since I want them but really shouldn’t eat a whole pan.


Lauren May 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Love love love these!


kyla May 11, 2012 at 10:12 pm

If you do want to include butterscotch, how much could we add?


jenna May 11, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Add 1 cup–same as the chocolate!


Tally May 12, 2012 at 5:05 am

When making these without the butterscotch chips, my recipe called them “Hello Dolly” bars and if you added the butterscotch chips, they became 7-layer bars :) They were always made with pecans (my Texas heritage) and I used to put them in the freezer so I wouldn’t eat them so fast, but that didn’t work as they are wonderful frozen too.


Jenny May 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm

baking now:) can’t wait to try!


amy walters, aDESIGNdock May 12, 2012 at 11:07 pm

These look amazing Jenna! I love your Great Grandmother’s Recipes. Their always my favourite posts.
You’re recipe box challenge totally inspired me to pick up a couple of retro recipe box tins. I love em’. Thanks for the inspiration.


Christy May 14, 2012 at 6:18 am

I’m a sucker for those bars…can’t wait to make them!! Thanks! :)


Karen O. May 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm

My mom has made Hello Dolly Bars since I was little. I always see similar recipes but this is the first time I have ever heard any one else call them Hello Dolly Bars!!!


Kathleen @ KatsHealthCorner May 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Oh my gosh. I can feel the love. What an amazing recipe! <3


tanja May 17, 2012 at 1:52 am

I made those yesterday, with some adaptations in the ingredient list and were a big hit. Thanks!


tanja May 17, 2012 at 1:55 am

do you mind if I share this recipe in my blog?


Gia May 17, 2012 at 10:07 am

These looks just like the “killer cookies” that my Mom makes! We’re from up North and I’ve never heard of hello dolly bars… :)


Amanda June 10, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I just wanted to let you know I made these hello dolly bars this weekend for a BBQ party and they were fabulous! Everyone at the party loved them.


Amy D. December 20, 2012 at 6:21 am

Hello Dolly Bars were part of my childhood. My Gram made them for Christmas – and for special family events. Thanks for posting here — found the recipie and my daughter and I just made a batch. Brings back sweet memories!


Momo April 7, 2013 at 8:06 pm

The Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk has had the same recipe on its can for years as “Magic Cookie Bars”. Delish!


Cat April 14, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Just found this recipe after making my own, without coconut (yuck). Thinking I did it backwards, cuz the recipe I had made me do the condensed milk FIRST, then the chocolate chips, then the walnuts. And the walnuts are looking kind of loose…


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