Buttery Coconut Bars Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Buttery Coconut Bars

Total Time
Prep: 20 min. + cooling Bake: 40 min. + cooling
This easy recipe for buttery coconut bars is loaded with enough sweetened coconut to please even the most ardent coconut lovers in your life.

Updated: Mar. 07, 2024

Loaded with not one, not two or even three cups of coconut, these buttery coconut bars are jam-packed with four full cups of coconut. Needless to say, they’re a total dream for coconut lovers—and one of our favorite coconut desserts.

The heavenly bars, which are inspired by a Filipino coconut cake called bibingka, begin with a rich, buttery base reminiscent of shortbread recipes. Then, a sweet coconut filling made with eggs, butter and brown sugar is layered on top before everything is baked into pure coconut bliss.

Ready in just over an hour, these buttery coconut delights are sweet, slightly chewy, and rich with terrific butter and coconut flavor.

The Best Coconut for Baking

When shopping for dried coconut, you’ll see several different options at your local supermarket. Dried coconut typically comes either flaked or shredded, and sweetened or unsweetened. While the best option will vary between baking applications, in most cases (like this buttery coconut bar recipe), reaching for sweetened shredded coconut is usually a safe bet.

Here’s more about when to use flaked vs. shredded coconut in your recipes.

Ingredients for Coconut Bars

  • Crust: A simple shortbread-style crust made with butter, flour and brown sugar serves as the perfect base for these buttery beauties.
  • Dried coconut: Along with providing a deluxe coconut flavor, shredded, sweetened coconut gives these bars tons of sweetness, moisture and texture.
  • Sweetened condensed milk: In these bars, and many other recipes with sweetened condensed milk, sweetened condensed milk sweetens and provides a lovely milky creaminess to the filling without adding too much liquid or moisture.
  • Eggs: Beaten eggs add richness and structure to the bars, so they hold their height and shape once cooled and cut.
  • Brown sugar: A 1/4 cup of brown sugar adds a touch of molasses flavor to the filling, which pairs well with the coconut and the crust. You can use either light or dark brown sugar for this recipe.
  • Flour: All-purpose flour is a key ingredient that stabilizes the filling by thickening it and giving it some structure.

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the crust

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, letting the ends extend up the sides.

Combine the flour, brown sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of melted butter and stir until evenly moist. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake until light brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Then, reduce the oven to 325°.

Editor’s Tip: When making the crust, the mixture should still be rather crumbly and resemble wet sand (similar to when you make a homemade graham cracker crust).

Step 2: Mix the coconut filling

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sweetened condensed milk, flour, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract and salt until blended. Stir in 3 cups of coconut. Pour the filling over the cooled crust and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Step 3: Bake the coconut bars

Buttery Coconut Bars served on a baking sheet on a wooden surfaceTMB Studio

Bake the coconut bars until light golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack and let the bars cool.

Use the ends of the parchment paper as handles to lift the bars from the pan. Cut into squares.

Editor’s Tip: Like these lemon coconut bars, buttery coconut bars are pretty sweet, so we suggest cutting them into small-ish squares, about 1 to 2 inches in size. However, feel free to cut them larger if you’ve got a big sweet tooth.

Coconut Bars Variations

  • Add nuts: For contrasting crunch and complementary flavor, consider adding 1/2 cup of your favorite chopped nuts. Pecans, walnuts, or macadamia nuts would all taste lovely in these buttery coconut bars.
  • Make the chocolate lovers’ version: If you can’t do dessert without chocolate, make chocolate coconut bars by adding a cup of mini chocolate chips to the filling. We recommend using dark chocolate or semisweet chips, since milk chocolate may be too sweet for these buttery coconut bars.
  • Add a touch of caramel: Coconut and caramel are a match made in heaven (hello, Girl Scout samoas). Add up to 1 cup of caramel baking chips to the filling mixture before baking, or try drizzling the finished bars with a generous amount of this homemade salted caramel sauce.
  • Brown the butter: Browned butter is a great way to add depth to an array of baked goods (like these browned butter spice cookies). In this recipe, the toffee notes of browned butter pair exceptionally well with the coconut. Here’s how to brown butter.

How to Store Coconut Bars

Buttery coconut bars may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for three to four days, or in the refrigerator for up to one week.

How to Freeze Coconut Bars

Luckily, coconut bars are not on the list of baked goods you shouldn’t freeze. To freeze these buttery coconut bars, keep them in an airtight freezer container for up to three months. If stacking the bars, separate layers with a piece of parchment paper. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving.

Coconut Bars Tips

Buttery Coconut Bars on a wooden surfaceTMB Studio

Can you make gluten-free coconut bars?

If you would like to experiment with making these buttery coconut bars gluten-free, you can try swapping the flour in the crust and filling for your favorite 1-to-1 gluten-free flour blend.

Can you make coconut bars without sweetened condensed milk?

Readers have reported success making this recipe with sweetened condensed coconut milk instead of regular sweetened condensed milk. It’s dairy-free and amps up the coconut flavor even further. Other sweetened condensed milk substitutes can even be made without a trip to the store—you just need milk, sugar and the stovetop.

Watch how to Make Buttery Coconut Bars

Buttery Coconut Bars

Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 40 min
Yield 3 dozen.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • FILLING:
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups sweetened shredded coconut, divided

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13x9-in. baking pan with parchment, letting ends extend up sides.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, brown sugar and salt; stir in 1 cup melted butter. Press onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake until light brown, 12-15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Reduce oven setting to 325°.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the first 7 filling ingredients until blended; stir in 3 cups coconut. Pour over crust; sprinkle with remaining coconut. Bake until light golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Lifting with parchment, remove from pan. Cut into bars.

Nutrition Facts

1 bar: 211 calories, 12g fat (8g saturated fat), 36mg cholesterol, 166mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate (18g sugars, 1g fiber), 3g protein.

My coconut bars are an American version of a Filipino coconut cake called bibingka. These are a crispier, sweeter take on the Christmas tradition I grew up with. —Denise Nyland, Panama City, Florida