Dream Bars

Dream Bars

In the depths of the Depression, Americans badly needed sweet dreams. And that’s exactly when recipes for dream bars—rich, nutty coconut bars—first made the rounds in newspapers. Within 20 years, dream bars were so popular that manufacturers had taken to using them to promote a wide range of ingredients. A Domino sugar advertisement went so far as to promise that the housewife who used its brown sugar to make her dream bars would become known as “a cook with a touch of genius.”

Early recipes called for a simple, brown-sugar, pat-in-the-pan shortbread crust topped by a sticky, uncluttered filling of eggs, more brown sugar, shredded “cocoanut,” and “nut meats”. By the ’40s and ’50s, dream bars might include chocolate chips, cornflakes, graham cracker crumbs, dried apricots, even rolled oats. A number of these fully loaded versions originated as back-of-the-box recipes—most famously for bars that incorporate sweetened condensed milk. As the ingredient list swelled, the recipes were rechristened several times over. Hello Dolly bars, seven-layer bars, and magic bars all are a far cry from the pared-down, toffee-flavored original dream bars that I was determined to recreate.–María Del Mar Sacasa, Cook’s Country

Dream Bars

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 25 M
  • 3 H, 45 M
  • Makes 24 dream bars
5/5 - 2 reviews
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  • For the dream bars crust
  • For the dream bars topping


Make the dream bars crust

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with foil, allowing the excess foil to hang over the pan edges. Coat the foil lightly with vegetable oil spray.

Process the flour, sugar, pecans, and salt in a food processor until the pecans are coarsely ground, about 10 seconds. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 pulses. Using the bottom of a metal measuring cup, press the mixture firmly into the prepared baking pan. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Make the dream bars topping

Combine the coconut and cream of coconut in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Stir in the pecans, then spread the filling over the cooled crust. Dollop heaping tablespoons of the coconut mixture over the filling, spread the coconut mixture as evenly as possible over the pecan layer, but don’t worry if it looks patchy.

Bake until the topping is a deep golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Using the foil overhang, lift the dream bars from the pan and cut into 24 pieces. Serve. (The dream bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.)

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Recipe Testers Reviews

This is a recipe that's easy to put together and tastes great. Making the crust in a food processor is very quick and patting it in the pan takes no time. I made the filling while the crust was cooling. I was a little concerned there wouldn't be enough coconut mixture to top everything, but it worked out just fine. The smell was so good, everyone kept asking what was cooking. The hardest part of this recipe is letting it cool for 2 hours before eating. The end result is a very sweet bar, so I cut mine a little smaller than the recipe suggests. It's a hands-down favorite in our family.


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  1. This is not the recipe I was looking for. They recipe I’m looking for has a graham cracker crust, coconut, semisweet chips, butterscotch chips, and sweetened condensed milk. Anybody out there have this recipe, please let me know. Thanks much, Nancy

    1. Sorry to hear this isn’t what you’re seeking, Nancy. Lots of folks have loved them, but we know what it’s like to be on the lookout for something very particular. Anyone happen to have the recipe Nancy describes?

        1. Kaitlin, thank you! Nancy, do either of these recipes look familiar? Neither calls for butterscotch chips, although if everything else looks right you could simply substitute them for some of the other chips…?

    2. Hi Nancy,

      I know it may be too late, but I think your looking for a recipe for 7 Layer Bars, here’s one—http://allrecipes.com/recipe/seven-layer-bars/

  2. Oh my goodness. My Mom used to make these for her Euchre Parties and they were requested again & again. I have been looking for this recipe for years (thank you Internet). I can’t wait to make these! Side point – Mom hated cooking and even more so BAKING. She had two specialties: Roast beef Sunday and Dream Bars. I kid you not. (You don’t want to know what we ate the rest of the week!) 3 of 4 children are now terrific cooks.

    1. Janne, about those Euchre parties… You’re not from Michigan by any chance, are you? My mom’s side of family is. But we rebelled: we all play Pinochle. And we bake. A lot. I haven’t tried these bars myself, yet, though. Might need to now. Thanks for commenting.

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