My mom said that she got this coconut squares recipe from her aunt about 40 years ago. So we have been making these chocolate coconut magic bars for a long time! Some people call them old fashioned coconut bars and I have also seen them called Hello Dolly bars, too. Whatever you call them they are TASTY!
These chocolate coconut magic bars are in my top 5 list for my favourite baked goods! I’m a huge fan of coconut, so this makes them the perfect treat for me. They can be cut into wonderful bite-size treats and I usually enjoy more than one when I make them!
You might have run into these before, since they are popular at bake sales, potlucks and holiday parties. Or maybe you haven’t. Read on though, and find out why you absolutely have to make them.
Interesting History of Coconut Magic Bars
These coconut squares, which we call coconut magic bars, are also known as 7-layer bars. And also Hello Dolly bars. So I decided to find out why!
Apparently the ‘hello Dolly’ refers to a Broadway musical of the same name. It was popular in the 1960s – when these old fashioned coconut bars first came out.
Clementine Paddleford wrote a food column in The Week magazine, and in September 1965, she featured this recipe. Apparently it was sent in by an 11-year old girl from Dallas, whose grandmother made them. The girl was called Alecia Leigh, and it’s thought the Hello Dolly bars name was her idea.
Another story has it that a similar recipe for these old fashioned coconut bars appeared in July 1965. This recipe was in the Evening News of Ada, Oklahoma.
What I can’t figure out though is what these coconut squares have to do with the musical. Apparently nobody else knows either!
Why Everyone Loves Coconut Squares
These little treats are something very special. And in fact there is something for everyone in there. Whether you are a coconut fan like me, a chocolate fiend, or a walnut lover, these coconut magic bars have them all! And yummy graham crumbs too.
Not only are they really MORE-ish, but they are easy to make. And when I say easy, I mean really easy!
All you have to do is mix the graham crumbs with butter then press this into a pan. Then sprinkle on the walnuts, and then the chocolate chips. Finally the coconut and sweetened condensed milk goes on top.
After that, you just bake the whole thing in the oven! You don’t need a stand mixer or whisk. You don’t even need a bowl. There isn’t much that can go wrong with this recipe. Not unless you forget about them in the oven that is!
There are different recipes floating around for these old fashioned coconut bars. The way my mom and I make them is the same way my mom’s aunt made them 50 years ago. Some people use different ingredients though.
For example, some people prefer pecans to walnuts. Others might add some brown sugar into the mix, but honestly these are sweet enough without it. Even when using unsweetened coconut rather than sweetened.
Another variation I’ve seen is adding butterscotch chips instead of (or as well as) the chocolate chips. That sounds very indulgent but I might try that sometime. I do have quite a sweet tooth!
White chocolate chips are another tempting alternative. Or you might prefer dark chocolate chips and almonds. Any combination goes, really!
Coconut Magic Bars – Tips for Perfection
These parchment paper sheets are perfect for cookies and bars! For bars, just cut them to fit the pan. No sticking and (hopefully) no burning, plus easy clean up.
If your parchment paper insists on rolling up instead of lying flat on the baking sheet, there is a fix! Just splash a few drops of water on the baking sheet first. That way, the parchment paper will stick nice and flat.
You need sweetened condensed milk to make these coconut squares. This is made by heating sugar mixed with whole milk until most of the liquid is gone. You are left with a thick, sweet result.
You can’t use evaporated milk instead for Hello Dolly bars, because that is unsweetened.
Although these coconut squares contain condensed dairy in the form of milk and butter, they don’t need to be refrigerated. Just keep them in an airtight container and use them up within three days.
These coconut magic bars are perfect for any occasion. They aren’t fragile and they travel well, making them idea for picnics, gifts or even an addition to a box lunch. I like to make them around Christmas because they’re so indulgent and special.
Chocolate Coconut Magic Bars Recipe
Chocolate Coconut Magic Bars
- 1 1/2 Cups graham crumbs
- 1/2 Cup butter melted
- 1 Cup walnuts chopped
- 2 Cups coconut shredded, unsweetened
- 1 1/3 Cups sweetened condensed milk
- 1 1/2 Cup chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F . Line a 9"x13" pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the butter and graham crackers. Press the mixture into to bottom of the 9″x13″ pan. I use a spoon to make sure it is packed well.
- Add the walnuts over the graham cracker crust and add the chocolate chips over the nuts. Add the coconut and then the milk evenly over the top.
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool before cutting.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.
These coconut magic bars really have stood the test of time. They’ve been around for about sixty years now, and look set to stay popular for at least another sixty!
Let me know if you try to make these chocolate coconut magic bars!
Other Recipes to Try
Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.
Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.