a stack of congo bars on a platter.

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Soft, chocolate gooey, and chewy, these good old-fashioned lemon infused Congo Bars are going to knock your socks off! Similar to a blondie in texture, they are jam-packed with chocolate chips, a lovely walnut crunch, and are taken to the next yummy level with a touch of lemon zest! 

a stack of congo bars on a platter.

The Best Congo Bars Recipe

Open up an old vintage cookbook and you’ll probably find a recipe for congo bars, which are basically a cross between chocolate chip cookies and blondies. So they are super tasty cookie bars that are a little lighter in texture and loaded with chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.

But here’s the thing. My congo bars are the best. Why? I’ve added lemon zest instead of the traditional orange zest. The bit of acid from the lemon zest brightens up the bars and contrasts beautifully with the rich chocolate flavor. In fact, I find that it adds a touch of refined flavor to these downhome delicious chocolate chip bars. 

You can serve the bars out of the oven as is or dress them up a bit with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream! I also love to top them with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.

a stack of congo bars on a plate with a scoop of ice cream.
ingredients needed to make congo bars.
  • Butter – Always use unsalted butter to control the amount of added salt. It needs to be at room temperature for this recipe. You can also use shortening as a substitution needed. 
  • Brown Sugar – It naturally has a bit of molasses in it, which adds to both the texture and taste of the chocolate chip cookie bars.
  • Eggs – Ideally they should be at room temperature. 
  • Vanilla – Pure vanilla extract is the best choice if you have it on hand.
  • Lemon Zest – Adds a touch of acid that contrasts well with the chocolate.
  • Salt – An important ingredient that is used to balance the sweetness.
  • Flour – Simple all-purpose flour is all you need.
  • Baking Powder – Used as a leavening agent to give the bars a bit of rise.
  • Walnuts – I like to use walnuts, but any type of chopped nuts can be used. Pecans are another great option. 
  • Chocolate Chips – Semi-sweet chocolate chips are called for in this recipe, but you can also use milk chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips if you prefer. And of course, chocolate chunks work as well.

This recipe is super easy! It’s basically like making chocolate chip cookie dough. Yet, once the dough is made all you have to do is spread it out into a pan and bake!

To begin, preheat your oven temperature to 350°F (177°C) before you begin the recipe so that it’s ready to go! Then line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. If you don’t have any parchment paper on hand you can also spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray or grease it with oil.  

process shots showing how to make congo bars.

Next, let’s get the dough started! Add the butter, light brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest to a large mixing bowl. Then beat everything together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Remember the butter must be at room temperature. This step can be done using a mixer or by hand.

process shots showing how to make congo bars.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. You need to beat everything together until the flour mixture is fully incorporated and a soft dough has formed.  

process shots showing how to make congo bars.

Now it’s time to add the goodies! Once the dough is formed, stir in the chopped walnuts and chocolate chips. Do your best to evenly distribute them throughout the dough. You want to get a bit of chocolate chip and nut in each bite.

process shots showing how to make congo bars.

To bake, first spread the dough out evenly into the prepared pan. Then transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. When the congo bars are finished baking, allow them to cool in the pan before cutting.

What Can I Add To The Bars?

Pretty much anything you like! Spices can be mixed into the dough. Dried fruit, coconut, and peanut butter chips are yummy additions too. Just keep the ratios in mind. The amount of dough the recipe makes is enough for about 3 cups of mixed in ingredients. 

Can I Make Gluten-Free Congo Bars?

Probably yes, but I’ve not tried. Just make sure to use a 1-to-1 gluten-free flour that has xanthan gum in it, which acts as a replacement for the gluten that is naturally in all-purpose flour.

congo bars cut out on a cutting board.

Storage

The bars can be stored in an airtight container for about 3 days at room temperature or for about a week in the fridge. To warm them up, you can put them in the microwave for about 15 seconds or in the toaster oven for about 2 to 3 minutes.

You can also wrap the bars well in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer for about 3 months. Then just allow the frozen bars to thaw out at room temperature for about an hour before reheating.

a stack of congo bars on a plate.

Other Delicious Desserts To Try

Congo Bars

Prep 15 minutes

Cook 25 minutes

Total 40 minutes

Soft, chocolate gooey, and chewy, these good old-fashioned lemon infused Congo Bars are going to knock your socks off! Similar to a blondie in texture, they are jam-packed with chocolate chips, a lovely walnut crunch, and are taken to the next yummy level with a touch of lemon zest! 

Notes

  1. Quality ingredients matter. Higher quality unsalted butter and chocolate chips are going to produce richer, better tasting cookie bars. 
  2. Room temperature ingredients. The butter needs to be soft and the eggs should be at room temperature so that the dough binds together properly. 
  3. Cool on the pan. Allow the cookie bars to cool in the pan before cutting them into squares. They need this time to set so that they don’t fall apart.
  4. Store in an airtight container for about 3 days at room temperature or for about a week in the fridge. To warm them up, you can put them in the microwave for about 15 seconds or in the toaster oven for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1squareCalories: 254kcal (13%)Carbohydrates: 37g (12%)Protein: 4g (8%)Fat: 11g (17%)Saturated Fat: 5g (31%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 26mg (9%)Sodium: 40mg (2%)Potassium: 183mg (5%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 23g (26%)Vitamin A: 99IU (2%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 49mg (5%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.

a stack of congo bars on a platter.

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