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Derby Pie Bars made with a bourbon caramel and a buttery shortbread crust! Celebrate the Kentucky Derby with these easy to make Derby Pie Bars!
So growing up on a farm, and riding horses pretty much my whole life until I went to college means I love watching the Kentucky Derby.
So it makes sense then that eventually a dessert to celebrate the race would eventually make its way onto this blog.
And if you know me, you know I love my desserts that come together in 30 minutes or less. Especially a bar dessert recipe. So enter these Derby Pie bars.
Now I know the classic might be to make a pie. But sometimes making a pie just seems like a daunting task doesn’t it?
But turn a classic pie into a bar and I’m all for it.
What is a real derby pie even? A real derby pie is kind of a riff on a pecan pie- with a sticky caramel like filling but made with chocolate and walnuts. And get this- no bourbon. Huh, I always thought there was bourbon in it. Well my bars do, because why not? Bourbon, and caramel, and chocolate, and walnut all sitting on top of a buttery shortbread crust. Like I said friends, crazy good.
As much as I love the Kentucky Derby, I am sad to say I have not been. But it’s on my bucket list. I absolutely adore and cannot miss the Kentucky Derby. It’s been kind of a tradition now for my mom and I to call each other after it’s over with a “did you watch?!”
Now just because I can’t go to the Kentucky Derby doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good Kentucky Derby Party. I love the whole hat wearing, and mint julep thing. And of course a friendly bet in there is always fun as well.
So let’s talk about how to make these bars shall we?
- Making the Crust: This crust starts with a easy shortbread crust that can three different ways. You could make these in your stand mixer, food processor, or by hand with a pastry cutter if you need to fit in an arm workout. I made mine with my stand mixer but the other two options would work too. You will bake this crust first on its own, then add your filling to bake it again.
- Making the Caramel: Now hopefully that didn’t have you running scared. This is a fairly easy caramel sauce I adapted from Pioneer woman and it uses condensed milk. I added bourbon to mine of course to make it a bourbon caramel sauce, but that can be left out if you want. This caramel sauce starts by adding your brown sugar and butter on a stove until melted. Then go ahead and pour in your condensed milk, vanilla, and bourbon and bring to a boil. At this point, you do need to use a candy thermometer. Here are my two go to favorites- a classic candy thermometer or a digital version- both work great. The sauce gets cooked until it reaches 225°F, but just be sure to stir, stir, stir while this is cooking otherwise it may burn on the bottom!
- Toasting Walnuts: Is this step really necessary? Yes, yes it is. Toasting the walnuts brings out the flavor of the walnuts- enhances their nuttiness if you will. For toasting, simply spread them out on a cookie sheet (I like to use my silicon baking mat) and toast for 5-10 minutes in a 350°F oven, stirring occasionally. You want the nuts to be a shade darker, but be sure to take them out on time so they don’t burn! I don’t think I need to tell you that burnt nuts = gross.
- Making the filling: Allow your caramel to cool before adding to the mixing bowl for your filling. Once its cooled, combine the flour, eggs, and Now that you have your caramel sauce, let that cool while you prepare the rest of your filling. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs and flour, and caramel. Stir in your (cooled chopped walnuts) and chocolate chips. If the caramel and nuts aren’t cool before you add them to the bowl you run the risk of cooking your eggs, and melting your chocolate chips. Now you are ready to go to pour the filling over the partially baked shortbread crust and bake for an additional 30 minutes in your preheated oven.
I love making bar desserts because they are just so darn easy to make. Like these M&M blondies with browned butter #swoon and these Reese’s Pretzel blondies with their whole sweet and salty thing going on, and then these kitchen sink blondies I made for you last week with like everything going on in those. But man, these bourbon caramel chocolate walnut bars are seriously the jam. It’s like a pie in a bar with bourbon. It’s kind of ooey gooey, and buttery and chewy all at the same time. Um, yea. Sign me up.
Now I just can’t wait for the Kentucky Derby this weekend to enjoy these bars and maybe a mint julep on the side 😉 Who’s with me?
If you like this recipe then let me know and leave a comment! Or if you have any questions, ask away and I’d be glad to help! And don’t forget to stay up to date with all my baking adventures on by following me on:
Listed below are the “baking essentials” you would need in order to make these bars yourself besides the main ingredients. These are affiliate links that will redirect you to Amazon, to which I would receive a small percentage if you purchased, which just helps to keep this blog going! So thank you in advance!
Bourbon Caramel Chocolate Walnut Bars
For the Crust
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter softened and cut into tablespoons
For the Filling
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 6 Tablespoons butter
- 14- ounce can condensed milk
- 2 Tablespoons dark corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 Tablespoons Bourbon optional
- Pinch of Kosher Salt
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups walnuts toasted and chopped
- 2 cups chocolate chips semi-sweet
- 1. Preheat your oven to 375F and prepare a 13x9 pan with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray and set aside. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the flour sugar and salt. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Press into the 13x9 pan. Bake at 375F for 14-18 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 350F.
- 2. To make the filling, start with making the bourbon caramel sauce. In a medium saucepan, add the brown sugar and butter. Stir and cook over medium heat until melted. Add the milk, corn syrup, vanilla, and bourbon. Bring to a boil and stir continuously. Insert a candy thermometer, and continue to cook until the thermometer reaches 225F. Remove the heat and allow to cool before adding to the rest of the filling.
- 3. Once the caramel has cooled to room temperature add your flour and eggs and stir to combine. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Spread into the prepared 13x9 pan and bake for 20-25 minutes in a preheated 350F oven until the top is golden brown and set.
- 4. Cool completely before cutting into bars and enjoying!
*The bourbon is completely optional in this recipe and can be left out if you so choose.