Congo Bars

These congo bars are sort like a mashup between seven layer bars and blondies and are made with a graham cracker crust topped with condensed milk, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, and pecans. Bet you can’t stop at just one.

Stack of four Congo bars made of coconut, chocolate, graham crackers, each on a square of paper

The name “congo bars,” we’re told, comes from the “lineup” of graham crackers, condensed milk, chocolate chips, and shredded coconut in this classic childhood sweet that’s also referred to as 7-layer bars. (And we know what you’re thinking. How sometimes after remembering a childhood favorite fondly for years, if not decades, you set out to make the recipe…only to be wildly, wretchedly, devastatingly disappointed? That won’t happen with this recipe. It’s an ever-so-slightly gentrified, though still quite genuine, incarnation. Although we confess, in an aberration from tradition, we sort of like to chop chocolate bars into chunks rather than rely on little chips. A little adult arrogance, perhaps.)–Patricia Helding

Congo Bars | 7 Layer Bars

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 10 M
  • 40 M
  • Makes 12 to 16 bars
4.7/5 - 3 reviews
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  • For the crust
  • For the topping


Make the crust

Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Butter an 8-by-8-inch or 9-by-9-inch baking pan, dust with flour, and tap out the excess.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs and light brown sugar and mix well.

Tester tip: You can make the graham cracker crumbs in the food processor, or do it the old-fashioned way by putting whole crackers in a resealable plastic bag and crushing them with a rolling pin.

Work the butter into the crumb mixture with your hands until the crumbs are evenly coated with buttery goo. Spread the crumb crust in the prepared baking pan, pressing down gently with your hands. You don’t want to make the crust too dense or compact. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is slightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool while you make the topping. Oh, and leave the oven on.

Make the topping and assemble the congo bars

While the crust is cooling, mix together the coconut, both chocolates, and the condensed milk. Add the pecans or other nuts, if desired. Spread the mixture evenly over the warm crust. Return to the oven and bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until the top is set and light brown. Watch carefully toward the end of the baking time to make sure the top doesn’t become too bubbly or dark.

Let the pan of bars cool on a wire rack for 2 hours or so, until the chocolate is no longer soft and they slice easily.

Tester tip: Don’t learn the hard way that the bars really do need to rest a while before slicing. They’re simply too gooey to devour right away…unless you simply dig in with a spoon.

Cut into whatever size or shape you fancy. Originally published April 28, 2011.

Print RecipeBuy the Fat Witch Brownies cookbook

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

When I first saw this congo bar recipe, I thought it would be easy, but too sweet for me. I figured I’d just share with coworkers and get rid of the extras. Well, I was halfway right—the bars were easy, but they never made it to work! They were absolutely lovely and rich, and just the right sweetness.

I did share with friends and with my mother’s neighbors. Everyone raved about them, but I was too busy munching on my share to say thank you. Honestly, I’d not change a thing in this recipe. Please give it a try.

Wow, what a blast from the past! These bars are as tasty as I remember. Gooey, chewy, and sweet. The slightly salty graham cracker crust was a nice balance to the topping. I might try it with butterscotch chips in place of the milk chocolate chips next time. I’m not quite sure why I don’t make these more often.


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  1. I grew up calling these Hello Dollies. They seem far too sweet for my adult tastes nowadays, but I remember absolutely loving them!

    1. Julia, I’m embarrassed to say we never had these growing up. We were a brownie and blondie town. I ate these the first time in college at R.I.T. in Rochester, NY.

  2. Ah, the MEMORIES.

    Setting: Haverford College, late 80s.

    Act 1: College freshman, hair in a ponytail, discovers the 7-Layer/Congo bar on the cafeteria line. Eats one; pockets a second for later. Decides then and there that this college was indeed the right pick. Six years later, marries her college sweetheart. In 2011, lands here, on this site, and all those memories flood back.


    Curtain closes.

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