I love a good bar cookie, and Grandma’s Chewy Coconut Bars are no exception. These in particular are easy to make and way too easy to eat—they taste like a coconut-laden pecan pie!
I have a fondness for bar cookies because they’re so darn fast to make. You don’t have to stand there individually rolling cookies or waiting for dough to chill. You don’t have to soften butter (at least for this recipe, anyway). Bar cookies are always on my list of things that I can quickly make for gatherings, picnics, baby meals, potlucks, or other times when cookies are a must but I’m short on time.
The recipe is from my late Grandma Cay’s recipe binder. It’s a small black leather binder, filled with recipes typed on her typewriter, recipes clipped from magazines, and recipes handwritten by Grandma or her friends. I stumbled upon these Chewy Coconut Bars and knew they would be a gem. Grandma actually called them Chewy Coconut Cookies, but bars are just square cookies anyway!
I can imagine she made these for my dad, who loves coconut. Grandpa probably had his fair share, too. Everyone on that side of the family has a sweet tooth, and I most definitely received that dessert-loving gene. We will all gladly eat smaller portions of the meal in order to have dessert. Please tell me we are not alone?!
When I was growing up, Grandpa would come over to help my dad with the yardwork. They’d pause midway through the afternoon for a glass of lemonade and a treat. In my middle school and high school years, I’d serve Dad and Grandpa whatever I had baked that week. Grandpa started calling me “the refreshment committee”, and it stuck. He was so sad when the refreshment committee went away to college. 🙂
These Chewy Coconut Bars start with a base of flour, butter, and powdered sugar. Grandma’s recipe actually calls for margarine, but I’m an all butter kind of girl, so I changed it. I’m pretty sure this recipe was typed in the 1980s when margarine was in its heyday anyway. Grandma didn’t indicate if the butter should be softened or melted, so I melted it to make it easier to combine with the flour and powdered sugar. The crust par-bakes in the oven while you make the filling.
The filling starts with two eggs and a lot of brown sugar, which is very similar to the filling for pecan pie. Then you add shredded coconut and nuts. I’m pretty sure Grandma would have used either pecans or walnuts. I used walnuts because that’s what I had on hand, but either works great. Chopped slivered almonds would be really good with the coconut, too.
You’ll start to smell the brown sugar, nuts, and coconut as the Chewy Coconut Bars bake—it is heavenly! You want the top to be deep golden all over, but keep an eye on the bars after about 18 minutes to ensure that they don’t burn.
Grandma’s Chewy Coconut Bars are like a coconut meets pecan pie. They’re quick to make and you can easily double or triple the recipe for a big crowd. I sent these to my husband’s co-workers who devoured them for breakfast, but they’re also delicious as an afternoon treat with a cup of coffee or tea. 🙂
The recipe is below, or check out a few more of Grandma’s cookie recipes!
Grandma's Chewy Coconut Bars
- ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick) melted
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1½ cups brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans chopped
- ¾ cup sweetened coconut
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place the melted butter, 1 cup flour, and ¼ cup powdered sugar in a large bowl. Stir until just combined.
- Pat into a 9x12 inch pan (a 9x13 inch pan works, too).Bake in the preheated oven for 12–15 minutes, or until just golden brown.
- Meanwhile, place the remaining ingredients in the same large bowl. Stir just until combined.
- Spread the mixture over the partially baked crust, and return to the oven. Bake for 18–20 minutes, or until golden all over the top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes.
- Cut into squares while still slightly warm.