Shortcut Cinnamon Caramel Apple Bars are an ooey gooey fall treat that are EASY to make! Think oatmeal cookies meet caramel sauce and apples.
With apple season in full swing, who doesn’t love a caramel apple treat?
But nothing beats an ooey gooey fall-flavored bar like these Shortcut Cinnamon Caramel Apple Bars!
What are Shortcut Cinnamon Caramel Apple Bars?
They are layered bars with flavors of oatmeal cookie, caramel sauce, apples and cinnamon.
Shortcut Cinnamon Caramel Apple Bars are so good warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Their taste could pass for pie.
These caramel apple bars are supple in texture, not firm like cake-ier bars. Cut them in any size, stick them in lunch boxes or steal one as a snack in the mid-afternoon with a cup of coffee.
Any way you eat them, I think they’ll make you happy! These bars are moist and taste like fall!
What’s the Shortcut in these Caramel Apple Bars?
It’s my mission in life, or at least in the kitchen, to find ways to make recipes EASIER without sacrificing quality and flavor.
Instead of a full from-scratch crust, Oatmeal Cookie Mix is substituted and boy is it good.
It makes a nice, puffy cookie base for fresh apples, caramel sauce, cinnamon baking bits and a bit of the cookie on top too.
Oatmeal cookie mix is available in both regular and gluten-free mixes. Using the cookie mix not only takes time out of the preparation but also adds wonderful balanced oatmeal cookie flavor to these delicious caramel apple bars.
Using Oatmeal Cookie Mix
There are many brands making regular (gluten) oatmeal cookie mixes and they can readily be found in grocery stores in the baking aisle or online (super inexpensive via Amazon Pantry for online shoppers).
Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookie Mix
Being gluten-free I was able to substitute a gluten-free cookie mix easily. The key is using the same amount of mix, regardless of whether making regular or a gluten-free version.
If the mix you choose is less than the standard 1 pound 1.5-ounce cookie mix, simply weigh out the difference of your mix and the quantity called for in the recipe and add it to your mix.
While researching I found a few gluten-free oatmeal cookie mixes and they all were of differing weights. Add or subtract the amount required to use 1 pound 1.5 ounces.
What Ingredients are in Shortcut Cinnamon Caramel Apple Bars?
Oatmeal cookie mix, butter, an egg, fresh apples, caramel sauce (purchased or homemade), a bit of flour (regular or gluten-free) and cinnamon baking chips.
Cinnamon Baking Chips and Substitutions
Cinnamon baking chips are a wonderful addition to fall dessert recipes. They are a fantastic addition to bake in, as with these caramel apple bars, or as a topping for recipes like Pumpkin Spice Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Dark Salted Caramel Glaze cake.
Generally cinnamon baking chips are only available in the fall. They can be found at most grocery stores or online.
TIP: buy a supply and freeze them! Put the bags into a larger gallon freezer bag, force out the air from the freezer bag, seal and store in your freezer. This will have a supply on hand whenever the mood strikes in any season!
How to make Shortcut Cinnamon Caramel Apple Bars – Step by Step:
I think you’ll agree these caramel apple bars are quick and easy to make!
- The oven is preheated to 350 degrees. A 13×9-inch baking pan is buttered (photo 1).
- Using a food processor with the dough blade attachment the oatmeal cookie mix and butter are pulsed into a crumbly consistency (photos 2 and 3)
- An egg is added and pulsed to incorporate (photo 4)
- (photo 5) 3/4 cup of the cookie dough mixture is removed and set aside for topping.
- The mixture is added to the prepared baking pan and pressed into a crust with a special tip (see recipe below)! (photo 6). Crust is baked for 15 minutes.
- After the crust bakes, freshly peeled and chopped apples are spread on top (photo 7). TIP: I use a mini chopper to chop the apples quickly (and effortlessly) into a small size.
- The cinnamon baking chips are sprinkled next (photo 8),
- Followed by the caramel sauce (photo 9) and the remaining cookie dough (photo 10).
- The bars bake for 20-25 minutes then are left to cool for at least 2 hours before serving!
Shortcut Cinnamon Caramel Apple Bars
- 1 packet of Oatmeal Cookie mix (1 lb 1.5 oz; I used Pamela’s Products Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookie mix*)
- ½ cup (1 stick) Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
- 1 Egg
- ¾ cups Caramel Sauce (purchased or homemade)
- ¼ cup All Purpose Flour; regular or gluten-free
- 3 medium-large Apples (1 should be a Granny Smith variety); peeled, cored and chopped+
- 1 cup Cinnamon Baking Chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 13 x 9 inch baking pan by greasing it or spraying it with non-stick spray. Set aside.
- (Preferred method): In the bowl of a food processor with a dough blade, combine the cookie mix and butter pieces. Pulse to combine fully. Alternate hand method: Place cookie mix and butter in a large mixing bowl and cut the butter into the mix using a pastry whisk or dinner knives until fully combined.
- Add the egg and pulse until fully incorporated into the dough (if using a hand method, stir to combine).
- Remove ¾ cup of the prepared dough and set aside (it will go on top of the bars). Turn the rest of the dough into the prepared baking dish and using the back of a silicon baking spoon and/or your fingers, press the dough into the bottom of the pan forming a thin crust. Tip: the dough is sticky so spraying the back of the spoon with non-stick spray or dampening your fingers in neutral-flavored cooking oil will help it not stick.
- Place pan in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
- While the crust is cooking, combine the caramel sauce and the flour in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine fully.
- After the crust has baked (it will be puffy), spoon the chopped apples evenly over the cookie crust, followed by the cinnamon baking chips. Drizzle the caramel sauce evenly over the top and finish with small pieces of the remaining cookie dough distributed over the top.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown or done (the dough I used did not turn golden but I could tell it was done by carefully touching it) and allow to cool for at least 2 hours.
- Cut into 30 2-inch by 1-inch bars. Serve slightly warm (with a scoop of vanilla ice cream) and store covered in the refrigerator.
Originally published October 2015; updated September 2018