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Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Pecan Bars

Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Pecan Bars – With their brown sugar shortbread crust and salted caramel pecan filling, these yummy gluten-free pecan pie bars are as delicious as they are gorgeous.

Overhead view of gluten-free salted caramel pecan bars cut into squares

I didn’t know I loved pecan pie or pecan bars until I took high school geometry.

That might sound like an unlikely meet-cute for me and pecan bars, but, well, isn’t that the way with most love stories?

We celebrated Pi Day (March 4th aka 3.14) by everyone bringing in pies to share and in a sea of chocolate cream and pumpkin and apple and cherry, one of my classmates brought in a pecan pie, which I’d never seen before. I tried a slice and my life has never been the same since. I’m pretty sure I ate WAY more than my fair share of pecan pie that day, and I’ll forever be grateful to Susie K. who totally changed my life with that pie. (THANK YOU Suse!)

Nearly every Thanksgiving or fall, I make at least one pecan pie or batch of gluten-free pecan pie bars, and this year I’m making a batch of these Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Pecan Bars. They’re an absolute DREAM.

We make our pecan bars without corn syrup, trading it out for a gorgeous salted caramel filling that’s unbelievable with toasty pecans and a flaky brown sugar shortbread crust.

The end result is gluten-free pecan pie bars that taste like magic and memories.

Here’s all you’ll need to get started…

Overhead view of gluten-free salted caramel pecan bars cut into squares

Ingredients For Gluten-Free Pecan Bars:

  • Butter. You’ll use butter in both the brown sugar shortbread crust + the pecan pie bars filling. It’s like magic.
  • Brown Sugar & White Sugar. I use a mix of brown & white sugars in the crust to give it a unique and subtly caramel-y taste that’s gorgeous with the salted caramel pecan bars. Our filling uses only brown sugar and I love the flavor it adds!
  • Gluten-Free Measure-For-Measure Flour. We’re BIG fans of this gluten-free flour blend for baking and HIGHLY recommend using it for your gluten-free pecan bars. It gives great texture to crusts and works like a dream for most other GF baking projects!
  • Honey. One of the ways we can make pecan bars without corn syrup is swapping it out for honey and brown sugar. It still caramelizes and thickens to make gorgeous salted caramel pecan filling you’ll dream about.
  • Coconut Cream, Heavy Cream, or Half-and-Half. Our family eats limited dairy, so I usually make the filling with coconut cream, but in our dairy days, heavy cream or half and half adds a silky richness to the filling that’s gorgeous.
  • Salt & Vanilla. To balance that flavor! You’ll need salt for the crust & filling, and vanilla for the filling only.
  • Pecans. Can’t make pecan bars without pecans! I like roughly chopping the pecans so they’re easier to distribute over the crust. It also makes them a little easier to cut into squares later.

How To Make Salted Caramel Pecan Bars, Step-By-Step:

Now that we’ve gathered our ingredients for gluten-free pecan pie bars, we’re ready to make these lovelies! Here’s what you need to know to make salted caramel pecan bars, step-by-step. I’ve included plenty of notes to help you!

To Make The Gluten-Free Brown Sugar Shortbread Crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8″ baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. In a stand mixer (or large bowl with a hand mixer), combine the butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Beat 1-2 minutes, or until light, creamy, and fluffy.
  3. Add flour and salt and mix on low speed just until the flour is moistened and there are small crumbly pieces of dough. (Don’t overbeat to make the mixture come together–it should be crumbly) 
  4. Pour the crumbly crust mixture out into your prepared baking dish.
  5. Using the back of a flexible spatula, your fingers, or the bottom of a glass or measuring cup, pat out the shortbread crust mixture until it’s smooth on top, making sure the crust extends all the way to the borders of the pan. (So the filling doesn’t seep through later).
  6. Use a fork to gently prick the crust 9-12 times or so to allow air to escape as it bakes (so it doesn’t puff up in the oven).
  7. Bake the crust at 350 degrees 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are just golden and the center looks set. Set aside to cool for a few minutes while you mix up the salted caramel pecan filling. 

To Make The Salted Caramel Pecan Bar Filling:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, honey, cream, and salt. 
  2. Whisk over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil just 3 minutes. (The surface should look foamy and slightly lighter in color than before.)
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in chopped pecans and vanilla, stirring well to coat the pecans fully in the salted caramel mixture. (You’ll notice the caramel mixture has thickened)
  4. Carefully pour the salted caramel pecan filling out over the baked shortbread crust. Gently use a spatula to spread the mixture (be gentle so the pecans don’t dent or scrape the crust!). 
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are just set and the center is still slightly wobbly. (This wobbly center is important, since the bars will continue to cook for a few minutes once you pull them out of the oven. If your center doesn’t have any wobble at all, the bars may set up more stiff and chewy than soft and gooey.)
  6. Sprinkle with flaky salt if desired, and let the gluten-free pecan bars cool completely before cutting into squares so the filling doesn’t drip. (You can put them in the refrigerator to help speed up this process.) 

How To Tell When Pecan Bars Are Done:

The edges should be set and the center should *just* wiggle in the center. The bars will continue to cook for a few minutes after you’ve pulled them out of the oven, so you want the center to be a little wiggly. If you over-bake them, the filling may end up stiff and chewy rather than soft and gooey.

Tips For The Best Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Pecan Bars:

  • Store Your Pecans In The Freezer! Most nuts have a high fat content, which means they’re prone to spoiling more quickly. You can keep your pecans tasting fresh by storing them in an airtight bag or container in the freezer. Pecans will stay fresh about 2 months at room temperature, 9 months in the refrigerator and up to 2 years in the freezer! Get more tips for storing pecans here.
  • Use Softened (Not Warm!) Butter For The Shortbread Crust. Butter temperature is critical for getting light, flaky gluten-free shortbread crust. You’re aiming for softened, which means the butter should still be cool to the touch and indent slightly when gently pressed with your finger. Your finger shouldn’t easily sink into the butter or look shiny or greasy (too warm!) and the butter shouldn’t be rock solid from the fridge.
  • An Easy Trick To Pat Down Your Shortbread Crust. Use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup or the back of a flexible spatula to pat down your shortbread crust. (Fingertips also work, but they can make divots and usually don’t make things quite as smooth.)
  • Don’t Over-Bake! Remember that especially when you make pecan bars without corn syrup, it’s important to pull them out of the oven when the center is still slightly wobbly, as they’ll keep cooking for a few minutes after being removed from the oven.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions For Pecan Bars:

Are Pecans Gluten-Free? Yes! All unseasoned nuts are naturally gluten-free, though you’ll still want to be mindful when buying flavored or seasoned nuts, as some brands will use gluten ingredients in their coatings or flavorings. But raw pecans (and all raw nuts!) are naturally gluten-free.

Do You Chop Pecans Or Leave Them Whole For Pecan Bars? I prefer roughly chopping the pecans. Having some pieces that are larger and some smaller makes for a beautiful presentation and helps distribute the pecans more evenly than leaving them whole, which can make them easier to slice later. Be sure not to mince the pecans though–you still want good-sized pieces.

Can You Freeze Pecan Bars? Yes! Cut the baked, cooled gluten-free pecan bars into squares, then transfer in a single layer to a freezer-safe airtight bag. If you must stack them, separate the layers with parchment or waxed paper to avoid them sticking together. They’ll keep up about 6 weeks in the freezer!

How Long Do Pecan Bars Stay Fresh? You’ll store leftover salted caramel pecan bars covered in the refrigerator, and when stored like this, they’ll stay fresh for 4-5 days for best texture.

What’s The Best Gluten-Free Flour For Shortbread Crust? My go-to gluten-free flour is King Arthur Measure-For-Measure Gluten-Free flour because of its light blend of starches and grains. I feel like it has a light texture for shortbread crust, and it’s also great for cookies, brownies, cakes, quick breads, and more!

Overhead view of gluten-free salted caramel pecan bars cut into squares

Our Favorite Tools & Ingredients For pecan pie bars:

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Overhead view of gluten-free salted caramel pecan bars cut into squares

Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Pecan Bars


  • Author: Sweets And Thank You
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 16 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

With their brown sugar shortbread crust and salted caramel pecan filling, these yummy gluten-free pecan pie bars are as delicious as they are gorgeous.


Ingredients

Scale

For The Gluten-Free Brown Sugar Shortbread Crust:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 g.) gluten-free measure-for-measure flour, (scooped & leveled or weighed)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

For The Salted Caramel Pecan Filling:

  • 5 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. (6 Tbsp. total) packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut cream, heavy cream, or half-and-half
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped pecans
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

To Garnish: 1/4 tsp. or so flaky sea salt, like Maldon


Instructions

To Make The Gluten-Free Brown Sugar Shortbread Crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8″ baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. In a stand mixer (or large bowl with a hand mixer), combine together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Beat 1-2 minutes, or until light, creamy, and fluffy.
  3. Add flour and salt and mix on low speed just until the flour is moistened and there are small crumbly pieces of dough. (Don’t overbeat to make the mixture come together–it should be crumbly) 
  4. Pour the crumbly crust mixture out into your prepared baking dish.
  5. Using the back of a flexible spatula, your fingers, or the bottom of a glass or measuring cup, pat out the shortbread crust mixture until it’s smooth on top, making sure the crust extends all the way to the borders of the pan. (So the filling doesn’t seep through later).
  6. Use a fork to gently prick the crust 9-12 times or so to allow air to escape as it bakes (so it doesn’t puff up in the oven).
  7. Bake the crust at 350 degrees 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are just golden and the center looks set. Set aside to cool for a few minutes while you mix up the salted caramel pecan filling. 

For The Salted Caramel Pecan Filling:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, honey, cream, and salt. 
  2. Whisk over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil just 3 minutes. (The surface should look foamy and slightly lighter in color than before.)
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in chopped pecans and vanilla, stirring well to coat the pecans fully in the salted caramel mixture. (You’ll notice the caramel mixture has thickened)
  4. Carefully pour the salted caramel pecan filling out over the baked shortbread crust. Gently use a spatula to spread the mixture (be gentle so the pecans don’t dent or scrape the crust!). 
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are just set and the center is still slightly wobbly. (This wobbly center is important, since the bars will continue to cook for a few minutes once you pull them out of the oven. If your center doesn’t have any wobble at all, the bars may set up more stiff and chewy than soft and gooey.)
  6. Sprinkle with flaky salt if desired, and let the gluten-free pecan bars cool completely before cutting into squares so the filling doesn’t drip. (You can put them in the refrigerator to help speed up this process.) 
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: gluten-free pecan bars, gluten-free salted caramel pecan bars, gluten-free pecan pie bars

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