Transform your favorite cookie recipe: Learn how to make cookie bars

Sometimes cookie cravings hit hard and fast. All of a sudden, you find yourself dying for your favorite cookie. But all of that scooping and rotating of pans just seems like too much work. When that moment comes, you need something satisfying and sweet. This is when you pull out your secret weapon: you know how to make cookie bars from the best cookie recipes.

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Take your favorite cookie recipes, like our Vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies, and learn how to make them into a fast and easy treat: cookie bars!

It might seem easy to whip up some cookie dough, throw it into a pan, and pop it into the oven to bake. But when you’re making something seemingly simple, it becomes even more important to bake it to perfection.

The last thing you want is to end up with dry, hard edges to your cookie bars while the center is still raw. You also don’t want the cookie dough to puff up and over the sides of the pan, spilling onto the bottom of your oven. You want freshly baked cookie bar magic and nothing less!

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Our Famous Department Store Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe is perfect for making a big batch of cookie bars that can be packed into lunch boxes or served as an after-school snack.

Here are five simple steps that’ll allow you to transform cookie recipes into the very best cookie bars.

Step 1: Choose the right recipe

Like many projects in the kitchen, set yourself up for success by choosing the right recipe. While practically any cookie recipe could hypothetically be made into cookie bars, some lend themselves to bar cookie format better than others.

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

The best choice? Drop cookies. Any recipe that calls for scooping and baking on a cookie sheet is a good place to start.

Are there any exceptions? Of course! Some recipes call for “scooping” the dough or batter onto baking sheets, like our Flourless Fudge Cookies or Almond Cloud Cookies. But these recipes have a consistency that’s unlike normal drop cookie dough. You can’t easily press it into a pan or roll it in your hands to form a dough ball.

Regardless of whether the dough is quite wet (i.e. Flourless Fudge Cookies) or thick and sticky (i.e. Almond Cloud Cookies), stay away from recipes that you can’t easily handle with your bare hands.

When you’re learning how to make cookie bars, start with these fail-proof choices: Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies, Oatmeal Cookies, Ranger Cookies, or my personal favorite, Chocolate Drop Cookies.

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Shortcut: How to make cookie bars with no fuss

If you’re the kind of baker who just wants to cut to the chase, you can start with a recipe that’s designed to be baked as bars. There’s a whole treasure trove of tasty cookie bar recipes, including Hermit Bars, Take-10 Super Cookies, Camelot Dream Bars, or the ultimate classic, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.

But for those of you who want to have the ability to be nimble in the kitchen, read on. We’re going to show you how to make cookie bars from your favorite cookie recipes. Let’s bake!

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Step 2: Pick your pan

Once you’ve chosen your cookie recipe, it’s time to pick the right vessel for the dough.

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Here’s a general rule of thumb to guide your choice: The cookie dough should be between 3/4″ and 1″ thick when pressed into your pan.

Any thicker and you’ll have to bake the bars to the point where the edges become hard by the time the center is baked through.

Any thinner and you’ll have crispy bars that will likely crumble when sliced. If you’re a fan of crispy/crumbly cookies, then you’re more than welcome to use a large pan and press the dough out thinly. Just be sure to reduce the baking time accordingly so the cookie bars don’t burn.

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Press your dough out so that it’s about 3/4″ thick, like these Double Chocolate Cookie Bars, or 1″ thick, like these Salty-Sweet Pecan Cookie Bars based on how chewy you want the centers to be. The thicker the bars, the chewier they’ll be!

Now if you don’t want to go pressing your dough out into all your pans until you find one that leaves you with the right dough thickness, we have some helpful guidelines based on the total volume of cookie dough.

To figure out the volume of cookie dough your recipe makes (i.e. how many cups), simply add up all of the major ingredients using cups. (For example, 1 cup of sugar + 1/2 cup of butter + 1 1/2 cups of flour + 2 cups of chips = about 6 cups of dough.)

Some ingredients change in volume once they’re mixed (i.e. sugar dissolves, flour compacts, etc.) but you’ll see that we give a range of 2 cups per pan size. A rough estimate of total volume is fine here. For this reason, you also don’t need to account for anything less than 3 tablespoons.

Remember that these are guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. Use the pans that are available to you. The final thickness of your cookie bars may vary slightly based on the dough volume to pan size ratio.

Big Batch Brownies and Bars via @kingarthurflour

Bonus: Making a big batch

Looking to make more than just a 9″ by 13″ or half sheet pan of cookies? Maybe you want to make a full sheet pan of cookie bars and seriously feed a crowd.

If you not only want to know how to make cookie bars but also how to make a big batch of cookie bars, read our post, Big batch brownies and bars. It covers everything you need to know to scale up your recipes and bake your bars beautifully.

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Step 3: Set the temperature

Now that you have the right recipe and the perfect pan, it’s time to turn to the oven. But how do you determine the right baking temperature for your cookie bars? Do you follow the temperature given in the cookie recipe or change it?

Most drop cookie bar recipes that are pressed into a pan about 3/4″ to 1″ thick bake well at 350°F.

Even if your cookie recipe calls for baking at 375°F or higher, I recommend turning the temperature down to 350°F. This will prevent those hard outer edges that we talked about — no one truly likes the overdone parts. (Crispy, OK. But hard and dry? No thanks.)

350°F it is for baking perfect cookie bars!

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Step 4: Determine the best baking time

Then, how long do you bake your cookie bars?

Start with the bake time called for in the cookie recipe. Then multiply the suggested times by 2.5 to get a range of doneness.

Take our Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe for instance. It calls for baking the cookies for 11 to 12 minutes. If you multiply those numbers by 2.5x, you’ll know that the cookie bars should bake for about 28 and 30 minutes. (Multiply by 3x if you opt for a smaller pan and your dough is around or over 3/4″ thick.)

There’s just one catch! If you lower the baking temperature, you’ll need to add an additional 2 to 5 minutes to the baking time for each 25° increment of change.

With the Chocolate Chip Cookies, we lower the temperature from 375°F to 350°F, so we add 2 to 5 minutes onto our range.

That leaves us here: Bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes. Voilà!

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Remember to use your baking instincts and check for doneness. Cookie bars should puff up slightly around the edges and look set in the center. The top should be golden brown and your kitchen should smell amazing. You can even try inserting a toothpick or sharp knife into the center; the bars will be done when it comes out just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Step 5: Serve and enjoy

All that’s left to do is let your cookie bars cool slightly, then slice into squares or oblongs. A couple tips to make this last step just that much easier:

  • Use a parchment paper sling. (See full details about how to prepare your pan here.) It’ll make removing the bars to cool a breeze.
  • Consider using a bench knife or heavy duty dough scraper to cut your bars. It’s easy to hold the knife straight up and down so you get even, clean slices. Also, it’s won’t scratch your pan as easily as a sharp knife.
  • Freeze any leftovers. You might be thinking, “Leftover cookie bars? There’s no such thing!” I know. But it’s worth mentioning in case anyone wants to bake and get ahead. You can let your cookie bars cool then wrap in plastic (either as a whole or as individual bars) and keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. (That is if no one discovers your delicious treasure trove of treats before then!)
Transform your favorite cookie recipes into bars with five easy steps. No scooping required! Click To Tweet

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Remember: Choose a drop cookie recipe, pick the right pan size, and bake at 350°F for 2.5x longer than the cookie recipe calls for. You can even follow these same steps if you’re looking to bake gluten-free. It’s an easy process with a delicious reward!

We hope you’ll take your favorite drop cookie recipe and turn it into bars the next time you’re looking to make something sweet.

How to make cookie bars via @kingarthurflour

Make your cookie bars extra elegant by garnishing them with a bit of flaky sea salt. The presentation is eye-catching and the flavors will pop!

Do you have more tips or secrets for how to bake cookie bars? Let us know in the comments, below.

Thanks to Anne Mientka for taking the photographs for this post.

Kye Ameden
About

Kye Ameden grew up in Fairlee, Vermont and has always had a love of food, farms, and family. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, she became an employee-owner at King Arthur Flour and is a proud member of the Digital Marketing Team.

comments

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      We love using a thermometer to test for doneness in some cases, namely bread. We’ve written full articles on our blogs about using a thermometer to test for doneness in yeast breads and quick bread (like banana bread). This doesn’t tend to work as well for cookies since the formula for dough can vary so drastically. Instead, use visual cues like the color of the top crust and how a knife looks when it comes out of being inserted into the center. Your kitchen should also smell amazing when they’re done baking! Kye@KAF

  1. Sallie

    Bless you for sharing this information !!
    My son wants Mega Chocolate Chip Cookies for his August Birthday instead of cake. I cringe at the thought of heating up the house to bake batches of cookies every year. This cookie bars information may be the solution I have been needing.
    King Arthur to the rescue !!!

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      We like the way your son thinks, Sallie! A big chocolate chip cookie to celebrate the special day sounds like a fantastic idea to us. Our instructions for making a Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie might help give you some inspiration and direction. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Linda Gibbs

    I have a few favorite cookie recipes but don’t want to spend the day taking out cookie trays and replacing them with a new tray. Thanks so much for this time saver. Now I can make cookies that don’t take all day. I’ve been making items for the firefighters and first responders (Northern California) but drop cookies take so long to bake. Now I can save half the time and still have delicious cookies. I’ve been making tea breads since they take half the time as drop cookies. Maybe I can adopt those recipes as well.

    Reply
  3. Christine Kuret

    Hurrah, at long last, a way to bake for my college-age nieces and nephews where the goodies have a better chance of arriving in one piece! Thank you KAF.

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Lucky kiddos! They’re going to be thrilled by any package that arrives including sweets. For more ideas of baked goods that tend to hold up well in the mail, check out this article on our blog called “Shipping news.” We hope this helps, and happy baking! Kye@KAF

  4. NAOMI LEE

    I am wanting to make a chewy, non-crumbly bar that is gluten free. Want to add choc chips, raisins, dried cranberries and nuts. Should I start with one of the above mentioned cookie recipes to get the ratios correct? Do you gave a recipe you would recommend that I start with?
    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Thanks for asking, Naomi. We’re totally in the chewy-non-crumbly cookie bar club too. I think you should start with the cookie recipe called Famous Department Store Cookies. It calls for oats, nuts, grated chocolate, and chocolate chips. You can split the amount of chocolate chips called for and use half dried fruit (cranberries) if you like. To make this recipe gluten-free, replace the all-purpose flour with our Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour. We’ll admit, this is a massively massive cookie recipe! (It makes over 100 cookies!) So feel free to reduce the recipe by dividing all the ingredients in half (or by even more than that, depending on how many cookies you’d like to make). We hope this helps give you the delightfully chewy and packed-full-of-goodness cookie bars you’re looking for. Happy GF baking! Kye@KAF

  5. Roxanne Davis

    Can you tell me how to convert a cookie recipe into one large round cookie ? It would be thinner than the 3/4-1″ you mention here.

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      You’re welcome to give this a try, Roxanne. You’ll want to use a relatively stiff cookie dough that doesn’t have too much sugar added to it to prevent the cookie dough from spreading all over the pan. Prepare the cookie dough as directed in the recipe, up to the point where you’ve made the dough. You can then press the dough into a large disc on a baking sheet so that it’s about 1/2″ thick. Alternatively, you can press the dough into a lightly greased 10″ cast iron skillet. Bake the large cookie/skillet cookie in a preheated 350°F oven for about 22 to 26 minutes, checking for doneness early and often. Cut it in wedges and serve warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  6. Christine F Nelson

    My grand daughter and I have baked many things over the years, but one of her favorites is your recipe for “Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars”. She is a senior in high school this year, and will be going on to college when she graduates this May. She is going to become a Physicians Assistant. I am so proud of her, but I know our time together will be limited. We will always have those “baking memories” to share.

    Reply
  7. Jo Skarin

    This is exactly the guidance I needed to transform my “perfect” chocolate chip cookies into the pan variety. Your tips are spot on and as a side note I really enjoy reading your playful and fun writing style, Kye. I look forward to future posts from you!

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Thanks for your positive feedback, Jo! We hope you’re feeling inspired to pull out your baking pans and make some cookie bars the next time a chocolate craving hits. Cookie bars are the perfect treat to bring school (or work), and they’re just divine with a scoop of ice cream on top. Once you nail the baking time and temperature for your perfect bars (and we have no doubt they will be perfect!), we hope you’ll share it with us here. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  8. Dana Ross

    We finally figured out to cut our big batch cookies to the dimensions of a klondike ice cream bar, making a luscious yummy base with a cold creamy top, without scooping through rock-hard ice cream.
    P.s. We often heat the cookie slightly in microwave before topping.
    Just sayin’………

    Reply

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