How to Make Millionaire Bars

Updated: May 01, 2023

Crisp shortbread meets gooey caramel and a layer of chocolate in these decadent, crowd-pleasing millionaire bars.

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What’s better than homemade shortbread? The million-dollar version of shortbread: millionaire bars. They’re topped with scratch-made caramel, chocolate ganache and flaky sea salt.

Why Are They Called Millionaire Bars?

million dollar barsTMB studio

While the name is up for debate, there are a few theories about why these bars are called millionaire shortbread or millionaire bars.

The best guess is that the rich flavor of these bars begs for them to have a similarly rich name. That’s where the term millionaire comes in.

Another thought is that the ingredients needed to make these multilayered cookies can cost a pretty penny—especially if you’re buying the best butter, best chocolate and top-of-the-line flaky salt like Maldon.

How to Make Millionaire Shortbread Bars

Millionaire Bars ingredientsTMB Studio

Before you start these bars, have parchment paper and a candy thermometer on hand. Plan to allow enough time to let the cookie dough chill before baking, and for all of the ingredients to set before you cut the bars.


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • 1-1/2 cups 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking chips
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Flaked sea salt, optional


  • 13×9-inch pan: This recipe makes a big batch of bars. Make sure you have a 13×9-inch pan on hand.
  • Candy thermometer: Making the caramel for this recipe requires precise temperature monitoring. Use a candy thermometer or an instant-read thermometer.
  • Flaky sea salt: Part of the appeal of these bars is the sweet-and-salty combo. Maldon makes large, thin flakes of salt that look beautiful and melt in your mouth.


Step 1: Cream the butter and sugar

cream butter and sugar for Millionaire BarsTMB Studio

In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Yep, it does take that long to properly blend these ingredients. Then beat in the egg yolk.

Step 2: Combine wet and dry ingredients

In another bowl, whisk flour and salt. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Don’t overmix the dough, as you want the shortbread to be super tender.

Step 3: Press the shortbread into the pan

Millionaire Bars short bread layerTMB Studio

Line a 13×9-inch pan with parchment paper. Be sure to use enough parchment so the paper extends up and over the edge of the pan.

Then spread the dough into the pan. You can use a measuring cup to help flatten the cookie dough into an even layer. Know that the dough will be sticky. Once you’re done, chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Step 4: Bake the shortbread

bake the shortbreadTMB Studio

Bake at 350ºF until edges are lightly browned and center is dry, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Step 5: Make the caramel

making caramel for Millionaire BarsTMB Studio

Meanwhile, in a large heavy saucepan, combine all the caramel filling ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Reduce heat to maintain a low boil; cook and stir until the mixture is amber-colored and reaches 225°F. This is where that candy thermometer comes in handy! Be patient—this will take 20-25 minutes.

chilled caramel for Millionaire BarsTMB Studio

Remove the caramel from the heat, and quickly pour over the cooled crust. Let cool for 15 minutes and refrigerate until chilled, about an hour.

Let cool for 15 minutes and refrigerate until chilled, about an hour.

Step 5: Make ganache and top

gnache for Millionaire BarsTMB Studio

Place chocolate in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream just to a boil. Pour over chocolate and let stand 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Pour over the caramel layer. If desired, sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

Millionaire BarsTMB Studio

When you’re ready to serve, remove the bars from the pan by lifting with the parchment. Cut into bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Here are our favorite million-dollar recipes that are perfect for every occasion.

Tips for Making Millionaire Bars

Can you freeze millionaire bars?

Yes, millionaire bars freeze well. Wrap individual bars in plastic wrap, and then wrap stacks of bars in foil. You can also seal in airtight containers. Thaw the bars before eating.

Why should you chill shortbread before baking?

Chilling shortbread dough before baking firms up the butter, which helps keep the dough from spreading when you put them in the oven.

How can you personalize millionaire bars?

There are lots of ways to make millionaire bars your own. For starters, you can change up the cookie base layer by adding more flavor to your shortbread dough. Try grating in lemon or orange zest, mixing in a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg, or even adding a different extract like almond or orange. You can also consider adding crushed nuts into the mix—about a half cup is ideal.

If you’re interested in modifying the caramel, add a couple of tablespoons of your favorite liquor, like rum or whiskey, immediately after removing the caramel from the heat. Scotch would be particularly appropriate since shortbread is originally Scottish! Prefer coffee? You could mix a little espresso powder in with the caramel ingredients.

Finally, there’s the ganache. That can also be flavored by steeping ingredients in the hot cream prior to adding it to the chocolate.

Want more of this rich flavor profile? Test our recipe for Millionaire Candy!

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