Gluten-Free Layer Bars: Coconut Chocolate Nirvana

Gluten free layer bars recipes aka hello dolly bars and seven layer bars
Gluten-free coconut chocolate layer bars.

This is a quickie bonus post. Chocolate-coconut layered cookie bar bliss --- just in time for the holidays. A wink and a nudge to the retro cookie  layer bar recipe I posted two years ago. This newer version is non-dairy using condensed coconut milk, so you lactose-free folks don't miss out on all the fun.

Now get ready to party.

Coconut Chocolate Nirvana Layers Bar Recipe

Originally published January 2006.

These easy layered cookie bars are based on those yummy retro-vintage Hello Dolly bars. I've made them gluten and dairy free using sweetened condensed coconut milk. Dairy options are given as well.


1/2 cup butter or vegan margarine, such as Smart Balance
1 1/2 cups gluten-free Pamela's Chocolate Cookies, processed into crumbs*
1 cup (heaping) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped roasted almonds (I used salted because I like a sweet & salt combo)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed coconut milk- see below- or condensed milk


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the butter or vegan buttery spread in a 9x13-inch baking pan and set it in the oven until the butter is melted. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly.

Sprinkle the gluten-free cookie crumbs in the prepared pan and toss them to coat; press them into a layer.

Pour the condensed coconut milk/dairy milk in the pan.

Add a layer of chocolate chips, then a layer of coconut, then almonds. Using the back of a spatula, press the mixture firmly into the pan. I usually sprinkle a few extra chips on the top, and gently press them in.

Bake at 350ºF for about 20 to 25 minutes, until set.

Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

Makes 24 bars.

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Karina's Notes:

I used Pamela's Chocolate Chunk Cookies because I have to be gluten-free, but any cookie will work in this recipe. Use vegan cookies for egg-free and dairy-free.

Try ginger snaps or lemon cookies for a change of pace.

To make your own non-dairy condensed milk, here's what my son Alex does:

Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk:

3 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup organic sugar- or sweeten to taste with agave

Stir ingredients together in a sauce pan and heat gently; cook slowly over low to almost medium heat, stirring constantly, until the volume is reduced to about half.

Add some bourbon vanilla extract to taste, if you like; and a pinch of sea salt, if desired.

Cool the condensed milk and refrigerate if not using right away.

Cookies from fellow food bloggers:

Kalyn's Sugar-free and Gluten-Free Triple Almond Cookies
Gluten-Free Bay's Sugar-Free Pecan Coconut Macaroons 
Ginger Lemon Girl's 2008 Gluten-Free Christmas Cookie Recipe Round-Up
Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies at A Mighty Appetite
Elana's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
GF Maple Butter Cookies at Gluten-Free Gobsmacked
Ginger-Nut Lace Cookies from The Crispy Cook

We enjoy our sugary treats in moderation, don't we darling? 
Gluten-Free Goddess advises consuming no more than 2 tablespoons of sugar a day.


  1. Valerie D13:57

    I made these bars last night. I used Country Choice Double Fudge Brownie cookies (couldn't find Pamela's)and honey roasted peanuts instead of almonds... Wow, they are marvelous. My kids couldn't tell the difference without wheat and my husband actually came back for seconds. I'm heading toward the Roasted veggie quiche for dinner tonight!

  2. Peanuts and chocolate = yum! Great idea! Thanks for sharing, Valerie.


  3. Torrey :)09:49

    Oh, wow--these look awesome!! :) Kind of like those 7-Layer Bars I remember having as a kid?
    Ok, I have a (kind of silly) question: if I don't have a food processor, can I just smash up those cookies in a heavy-duty Ziploc bag or something like that?
    Thanks in advance!

  4. Hi Torrey!

    That's not a silly question at all. Yes, you can put cookies in a strong zip-lock style bag [such as a freezer bag] and whack them with a rolling pin; then roll the whole bag with the rolling pin to crush the crumbs even smaller.

    Thank you, btw, for leaving a link over at the GFP Celiac Forum. I really appreciate the shout out! It was very sweet of you! Thanks!

    take care! ~K

  5. Torrey :)11:58

    Hey there,
    Thanks--that suggestion will definitely make it easier for me to make those bars sans Cuisinart!
    Um, hey, no prob for the "shout-out" on the Celiac Forum...however, I feel like I inadvertently started a little "something" and I feel terrible. It was not my intent to do so. I'm *really* sorry about that and I feel awful...I just wanted to let others know that you're working hard to create yummy things for us all to eat!
    I really enjoy your blog and have already printed out a bunch of your recipes for my BF and I to try.
    Thanks so much and keep in touch!
    ~Torrey :)

  6. mmemama15:29

    We are Gluten and Casein Free and I was wondering if you think that Coconut Milk would work in place of the sweetened condensed milk?

    I have a box of Kinnikinnick Montana Cookies that are begging to be turned into something even more decadent!

    Amy :)

  7. Amy~

    I have made various baked desserts with coconut milk, and yes, it works in most recipes. You may need to add some sugar, however.

    For best results, I'd first heat the coconut milk over low heat and add enough cane sugar to sweeten [to taste], heating it just long enough to reduce the liquid it a bit [to thicken it]. Then cool slightly, and proceed with the recipe.

    If you do try it, please post your results here. I'm sure others who are GF and CF [or vegan] would love to read about it!


  8. Anonymous20:19

    This looks like a great recipe. How many Pamela's cookies do you need to get 1.5 cups of crumbs? Gracias!

  9. Hi Anon ~ Hmmm. You know, Pamela's cookies are different sizes. So I cannot give you an exact number.

    I'd "guesstimate" a whole box.

    And I'd say, it's better to have more than less.

    Hope that helps! :-)

  10. Hi Karina,
    I didn't have any gluten free cookies on hand, so I used almond meal instead, and it worked beautifully.
    A friend of mine makes bars similar to these, and I had never tried to make them before- thanks for the recipe!!

  11. Hi Amsuka!

    Thanks for dropping back in and sharing that great tip. I wondered if almond meal might work. I'm so glad it does!



  12. Jen VH09:07

    I substitute Silk's soy nondairy creamer for condensed milk in my recipes, pumpkin pie, etc and it works great! I use equal amounts. I will be trying it in this recipe this weekend. It is an easy to make these types of recipes dairy-free...

  13. Karina
    I will have to stop at the grocery store on the way home tonight! Yum.
    Thanks for the recipes and beautiful pics of food.

  14. Please note that the comments above reflect the original posting of this recipe. Thank you.


  15. Christa12:25

    Thank you thank you thank you! I used to love angel bars. I'm going to try this recipe!!! :)

  16. These look amazing! I can't wait to make them! What could be better than chocolate and coconut!

  17. We are totally on the same wavelength, Karina. I linked to your recipe from my post. Will have to give your dairy-free condensed milk a shot.

    Happy holidays! Thanks for giving so much to the gf community. :)

  18. WOWZA those bars look spectacular.

  19. Dyhana10:38

    I also like to use almond meal for recipes for pie crust or that call for cookie crumbs, it mixes well with a little margarine, like Earth Balance,etc. or I've ecen just mixed it with peanut oil (as long as there's no peanut allergy!) and it makes a nice crust that holds together pretty well, but doesn't get heavy. My boyfriend, who isnt even trying to be gluten free actually prefers it to the pre-made pie crusts he used to buy, and it's simple enough that he (or I) don't feel challenged trying to make it. I think I'm going to try this recipe for my after-Christmas dinner dessert! Thanks, Karina!


  20. wow...I'll try this recipe for sure!! That's gonna be my Christmas dessert!!!!

  21. I made these yesterday. Right after I read your post I ran out to the grocery store and picked me up some Pamela's cookies. I could only find the chocolate chip walnut ones but they worked really well. I forgot to buy the almonds but it was still really good without them. I used unsweetened coconut because that's what I had and they still turned out beautifully! In fact they are so good I am taking them to some friends today to spread the love(and the calories). I can't stop eating them!

  22. I think I need to have these! I have a bag of gluten free ginger snaps in the pantry, which I don't really love, but I think using them in this recipe will make them yummy!

    Thanks for all the inspiration!

  23. We just got the news that my daughter's biopsy was positive for celiac. The call came 2 days ago...and I've been at a loss of where to "start".

    She is 5 and already living with type 1 celiac too.

    Here it is, only a few days until Christmas and I was busy in the kitchen making all kinds of cookies for a little celebration tomorrow evening. She's my little helper and, suddenly, I was so sad wondering if we'd ever get to make Christmas cookies together again.

    Thank you sooo much for this site. Someone actually posted it in my comment section when we found out that her blood test was positive. WOW! What a find :)

    This recipie looks fantastic. I can't wait to proudly offer these cookies to my guests alongside the other ones we made.

    Thanks for giving this mama a good dose of HAPPY GF HOPE!!!!

  24. My husband surprised me with these bars tonight! WONDERFUL!

  25. Happy Holidays Karina! Thanks so much for the link love!! Happy cookie making and baking!!

  26. Karina,

    I just want to thank you for this recipe and the one for pumpkin pie. I made them both and wrote about them giving you thanks and some linkage love.

    Merry Christmas,


  27. I made these bars yesterday for a family get together (I wanted something that I could eat). I used pecans instead of almonds and made the coconut condensed milk. They were delicious and devoured by everyone, thankfully I did manage to snag a bar before they dissapeared.

  28. Christa, Christine, Lauren, VeggieGirl- Thank you all- may your New Year be SWEET!

    Dyhana- Thanks for the tip on using almond meal for a bottom crust. I'm sure our readers appreciate this option. Happy Holidays!

    Shallyssa- Nice!

    Nova- Oh excellent. Gotta love spreading the love- and calories. ;)

    Milhan- I think a ginger-chocolate combo would be delicious. Let me know how it turns out.

    Aw, Wendy- Thank you for your kind words- and more importantly, sending you warm wishes for a healthy, bright New Year- GF gets easier with time. Take care!

    Lovebird- He did? What a sweetheart. I bet he scored some points. ;)

    Carrie- Happy Holidays to you, too! :)

    Dee- Why thank you for your kind post- and linkage love. Have a beautiful holiday and healthy New Year!

    Jendolin- Yum- love the pecans with chocolate idea.

    Thank you- everyone- for your feedback and support! Have a safe week- stay warm!



  29. I remember making the original version of these bars before I started really having to watch fat content and give up dairy. I -may- have to try these again with this new and improved recipe! They look so delicious!

  30. Hey, just noticed you linked to my Ginger-Nut Lace Cookies recipe. Thank you! I'm going to try making them into little cannoli shells next (I bake so irregularly so don't know when THAT might happen, next holiday season, probably), but I do appreciate it.

    Happy New Year!

  31. Anonymous09:40

    Hi there!
    I made these cookies when they were first posted and brought them to a friend's house where we were staying for the weekend. They were completely gone by the next day, and her roommate (who had never even heard of gluten) asks for them every time she hears we're coming over.

  32. Hi Shannon, Rachel and Danielle-

    Thanks- these are way too tasty. Ha!

    Take care,


  33. I rarely post on blogs, but this recipe has made me do it! I want to thank you for having this blog, it has been my savor since finding out my headaches I have been suffering from for about 20 years ( i tried to blame my kids, since they started the same time I had my first one), or most likely an intolerance to wheat, eggs, cows milk, and soy. I am astonished how many things we eat every day that have soy in them!!
    Thank you Karina, you are my GF Goddess!

  34. Anonymous20:03

    With the coconut milk is that the canned coconut milk or the So Delicious coconut milk found in the dairy section?

  35. The coconut milk we used was canned. I've never tried the cartons (I imagine carton milk for drinking is thinner?).


  36. Now how did I miss these? I've been reading your blog since the beginning and I know I would have remembered this post if I saw it because my mom made a similar recipe when I was a kid (she called them Centennial Bars). The only diff was that she used ground graham crackers for the base so I've been making mine with gfree graham crackers. But I love, love, love the condensed milk substitute and will try it for sure next time I make these.

    Thanks, Jodi xoxo