Rich and satisfying, fast and easy to make. You will love these Gluten Free 7 Layer Congo Bars! Perfect for picnics, lunch bags, snacks, dessert buffets – you name it, they fit the bill.
My mom was really good at a lot of things but did not like making our holiday pies, birthday cakes, and baked goods for school fundraisers. When I was ten I made my first cake all by myself (from a box mix) and was incredibly proud.
Within a couple of years, I was making everything from scratch like my grandmother had taught me. And by the time I was a teenager I was pretty fearless in the kitchen, happily experimenting with any recipe that looked interesting. My mother gladly turned over the family baking to me, relieved not to have that responsibility anymore.
Surprisingly, Congo Bars were not part of my childhood. My brothers and parents were not as crazy about chocolate as other people and being the youngest, I followed their lead. It is funny that I would grow up to write Chocolate Mondays. I had to become an adult before I got to taste and fall in love with these wonderful snacks!
Regular bar cookies are pretty sturdy, but when you convert them to gluten-free, they can become more fragile. Don’t be surprised if these are a little crumbly as you lift them out of the pan and they may be challenging to cut cleanly. But no matter what, they are still delicious!
The Artist and I like any dessert that are in individual servings, making it easier to sneak little bites when no one is looking. 🙂 I love having treats for friends and neighbors who drop by and small bites are easy to take to events, parties, and picnics.
I decided to add a little more chocolate to these bars – who doesn’t want more chocolate? So, I melted a small amount extra chocolate chips in the microwave. Melting chocolate in the microwave can be deceiving. The chips look like they are still solid, but they are melted inside and collapse the second you touch them! Heat in bursts of about 20 seconds at a time and check the chips between each heating. You definitely do not want to burn the chocolate! And if you do, throw it away and start over.
The next time you are looking for the perfect after school snack for your kids, a sweet treat to finish your picnic, or having something for those chocolate cravings we all get, give these Gluten Free 7 Layer Congo Bars a try. I think you will find they are the perfect choice!
Happy Chocolate Monday!
Key Ingredients for Gluten Free 7 Layer Congo Bars:
- Butter or margarine
- All-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend
- Baking powder and salt
- Almond meal and brown sugar
- Unsweetened coconut
- Dark chocolate chips and white chocolate chips
- Sweetened condensed milk
- Chopped nuts, optional
What’s the difference between Evaporated Milk and Sweetened Condensed Milk?
Sweetened condensed milk is not the same thing as evaporated milk. Evaporated milk has reduced liquid, making it a little thicker than regular milk but very similar. Sweetened condensed milk is very thick, extremely sweet, and sticky. The two are not interchangeable.
If you want to serve these in triangles instead of squares, cut the block into slightly larger squares and then cut each square from one corner point to the opposite one to create triangles.
How to make Gluten Free 7 Layer Congo Bars:
- Make the crust and press into a parchment-lined baking pan; bake 10 minutes then cool about 45 minutes
- Stir together the filling ingredients with 3/4 cup of the milk, adding more if needed; press gently into the cooled crust
- Bake bars for 20 minutes then cool at least 2 hours to fully set the filling
- When cooled and firm, pop the bars out of the baking pan and cut into squares or triangles; drizzle with chocolate if desired and serve
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I just swapped out my favorite gluten-free flour blend for the all-purpose flour called for in the original recipe. As long as yours has a little xanthan gum or guar gum in it, the crust will hold together. If your blend does not include it, add 1/4 tsp to the dry ingredients.
- 5 tbsp butter or margarine, melted, plus more for the pan
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend
- 1/4 tsp xanthan gum, only if your gluten-free flour blend doesn't include it
- 1/4 tsp baking powder, gluten-free if needed
- 1 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
- 1 cup almond meal (Bob’s Red Mill is certified gluten-free)
- 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1-1/4 cups unsweetened coconut
- 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 to 1 cup sweetened condensed milk or sweetened condensed coconut milk for dairy-free (see Note below)
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds, optional
- Extra chocolate chips for drizzling over the top, optional
- Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan. Line the pan with a sheet of parchment, leaving two ends hanging over the ends of the pan. This will create a sling to help you remove the bars from the pan. Butter the parchment and add an extra layer of butter to the two sides of the pan not covered with parchment.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of your food processor. Add xanthan if using. Pulse a few times to blend. Add the almond meal and brown sugar, and pulse to combine. Pour the butter over the top and pulse until the butter is completely incorporated and the mixture starts to clump together.
- Spread the crumb mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking pan, pressing down gently with your hands. Spread to the edges of the pan to fully cover the bottom.
- Using your food processor, quickly chop the pecans or other nuts for the filling and set aside.
- Bake the crust for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool at least 30 to 45 minutes on a wire rack to firm up. The crust is delicate and needs time for the butter to harden again. You can also refrigerate to speed things up if you want.
- Make the Filling: While the crust is cooling, in a large mixing bowl, stir together the coconut, dark and white chocolates, salt, and the nuts, if using. Add 3/4 cup of the condensed milk. Stir well using a flexible spatula until all the coconut is moistened. Using a spatula to fold the ingredients makes it easier to be sure you’ve incorporated all of the coconut. If the mixture is too dry, add the rest of the condensed milk. The mixture will be heavy and very sticky.
- Drop dollops of the filling around the crust and then use an offset spatula to gently press the mixture together and into the corners. Try to get it fairly evenly spread over the top.
- Bake the Bars: Place in the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the top is set and light brown. If the edges start to get too brown, tent loosely with foil. When the center is set, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to fully cool and let the filling firm up, at least 2 hours before cutting. If desired, once it has cooled to room temperature you can place it in the refrigerator to speed up the chilling.
- When the bars are completely firm, run a knife around the edges not covered with parchment and lift the block out of the pan using the parchment paper as handles of the sling. Cut into squares or triangles for serving.
- If desired, you can melt some more chocolate, pour into a resealable plastic bag, press it into one corner and snip off a bit of the point of that corner. Set the cut pieces onto a wire rack set over a sheet of parchment. Drizzle the chocolate over the pieces in a random pattern.
- NOTE: To make your own sweetened condensed coconut milk for a dairy-free version of recipes, check out this article from Detoxinista.
Adapted from a recipe by David Leite
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 462Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 290mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 6gSugar: 21gProtein: 7g
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This post was first shared in Feb 2015. The article was updated in 2020.