A legendary chocolate chip cookie bar with a devoted following, Congo Bars are exactly what to bake when you’re craving chocolate, nuts, and coconut. Some might say that nothing else even comes close to how good they are.
Congo Bars, or Congo Squares, seem to be everyone’s favorite long-lost vintage cookie recipe from their childhoods. They’re similar to Blondies, but with a little extra oomph, thanks to the nuts and coconut. Summer pool parties, picnics, after school snacks…gooey, rich Congo Bars hit the spot.
As with any delicious bar cookie, you can change out the ingredients as you see fit, to work around a nut allergy or your own personal preference. Go ahead, try walnuts instead of pecans, or all dark chocolate chips in place of the white. Congo Bars with coconut don’t always have to be with coconut. You get the idea.
Because this is a sturdy bar, it travels well to school functions, meetings, and study groups. All you have to do is place the plate down on the table and wait for everyone to dig in—the oohs and aahs will speak for themselves.
Making Congo Bars for the longest Conga line ever? Make a quadruple batch and keep dancing! Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Congo Bars Origin:
Why is it called Congo Bar? There are several theories floating out there about the history of the Congo Bar. One of the first recipes for Congo Squares showed up in the 1940s on a package of Nestlé chocolate chips. It might have been a marketing gimmick to compete with the wartime “Tropical Bar” that Hershey’s had developed for soldiers.
Others speculate that “Congo” refers to coconut and chocolate, both rather exotic ingredients in the early half of the 20th century. And yet other research links the Congo recipe to something served at the Congo Room, the name of the themed mid-century lounges that dotted the United States from Las Vegas all the way to Canton, Ohio.
And the mystery deepens; some insist that Congo is short for ‘congregation,’ as the recipe was so popular in congregational churches, at bake sales or afternoon teas.
One thing everyone can agree on is that it doesn’t get any better than a moist and chewy cookie bar that’s chock full of delicious stuff. Just look!
How to make Congo Bars:
This is completely easy, and you don’t need a mixer, either. Let’s get baking!
- First, line a baking pan with foil and grease it up with butter or non-stick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In one bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another larger bowl, mix the butter and sugar together. Next, add the eggs and vanilla.
- With a rubber spatula, fold in the dry ingredients until just combined.
- Then gently mix in coconut, nuts, and chocolate chips.
- Spread the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top. Maybe a few extra chips and nuts pressed into the top, for looks.
- Bake about 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cookies comes out a tiny bit moist, with only a few crumbs still attached.
- Cool in the pan until you just can’t resist them any more, then cut into bars. The foil lining makes the bars easy to remove.
Now that you know what Congo Bars are, all you have to do is join the fan club and share the recipe with all your favorite people.
Congo Bars vs. Blondies:
What is the difference between Blond Brownies and Congo Bars? Not a whole lot, especially since the two recipes have so many variations between them. For example, if you like your Blondies with coconut and pecans…or if you like your Congo Bars without coconut…well, then, it’s just a matter of what you like to name your recipe. The cookie doesn’t care, as long as you enjoy it.
Most people think that a Blondie or Congo Bar is just a chocolate chip cookie dough pressed into a sheet pan. It’s actually only partially true. The batter starts with melted butter instead of creamed butter and sugar, so it’s even easier to make than a cookie.
Congo Bars Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled (1 1/2 sticks)
- 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar packed
- 2 large eggs
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups toasted shredded coconut (sweetened)
- 1 cup toasted pecans (4 ounces)
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (3 ounces)
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (3 ounces)
- Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan with a foil sling and coat with nonstick spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugar. Whisk in eggs and vanilla until combined.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in coconut, pecans, and chips.
- Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly moist with a few crumbs attached, about 22 to 25 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking time.
- Cool completely in pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove from pan using foil sling and cut into 24 squares.