Salty, sweet, smoky, and rich, these salty bourbon millionaire bars are super decadent and so, so delicious. These bars consist of a pretzel shortbread crust, topped with a thick bourbon caramel, topped with bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled with applewood smoked flaky salt. These bars are like a cookie and candy bar in one, and are a total crowd pleaser. Think of these like a Twix candy bar, but a bit more fancier, and soooo much better.
About the ingredients
My salty bourbon millionaire bars have a few ingredients that really make these next level amazing. Typically, millionaire bars have a shortbread crust. In this version, I’ve added salty, crunchy pretzels to the crust. The pretzel flavor really gives these bars more depth of flavor that plays well with the smoky bourbon and salt.
The caramel layer is made with sweetened condensed milk, sugar, unsalted butter, salt, golden syrup and bourbon. Golden syrup is one of my absolute favorite baking ingredients. Similar to corn syrup, golden syrup is made from cane sugar, has an amber color and a delicious caramel flavor. It’s thicker and more stable than corn syrup and provides much more flavor. Though it is a staple in the UK, sometimes golden syrup can be a challenge to find in the US. You can find it in many stores and on Amazon, but if you can’t find it, light corn syrup will work in its place.
Bourbon gives the caramel a smoky, boozy kick. You can use bourbon, whiskey or scotch here – each will lend just a bit of a different flavor to the caramel. You can also omit it, if you don’t want to use alcohol. If you omit the whiskey, replace it with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Really though, this caramel is so good, you’ll want to eat it out of the saucepan with a spoon.
Bittersweet chocolate tops the bars, followed by smoked flaky salt. This salt is a gem, guys. I stumbled upon this applewood smoked flaky salt in my local spice shop, and purchased it, having no idea what I was going to use it for. Until, I developed this recipe. Adding finishing salt to baked goods really makes the individual flavors pop. Adding smoky, almost bacon-like flavor, takes these bars over the top. You can find a variety of smoked salts in supermarkets and online. Maldon makes a great smoked salt that can be found here.
How to make Salty Bourbon Millionaire Bars
The shortbread crust comes together easily and quickly in a food processor. Combine the dry ingredients, and cut in the butter. Pulse in pretzels, taking care to not pulverize them too much. You want them to remain in small chunks for crunch and texture. The crust is pressed into a 13×9 pan. Use an offset spatula to press the dough into the pan evenly. The crust needs to be chilled for 20-30 minutes before baking. Bake the crust until light golden brown, and allow to cool completely.
While the crust is cooling, make the bourbon caramel by combining the sugar, golden syrup, butter and sweetened condensed milk into a large saucepan and simmer until thick, fudge-y and a deep caramel color. Add the salt and the bourbon. I usually use 2 tablespoons of bourbon, but you can add an additional tablespoon or two if you prefer a stronger, boozier flavor. Pour the caramel over the cooled pretzel shortbread crust and allow to cool completely before adding the chocolate.
Once the caramel is cool, melt the chocolate and the syrup for the topping. Choose a good quality chocolate that you enjoy eating. I like using bittersweet chocolate for flavor and to cut through some of the sweetness of the caramel filling. Spread the chocolate over the caramel layer and allow to set. Sprinkle the bars with smoked flaky salt. The chocolate topping will set firm.
Sometimes I like to rush the cooling process by popping these in the fridge for a few minutes. It’s totally fine, but the chocolate will likely crack on top. To avoid this, score the chocolate into squares, when the chocolate is just set, and then pop in the fridge to firm up a bit more. Then cut the bars into squares using the pre-scored lines. It’s best to store and serve the bars at room temperature.
For more decadent, and chocolatey sweets, check out these recipes:
Salty Bourbon Millionaire Bars
Pretzel Shortbread Crust
- 1 cup (150g) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (50g) salted pretzels
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 1 can (396g) sweetened condensed milk
- 2/3 cup (140g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (75g) golden syrup, or light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2-3 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 cup (150g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 teaspoon golden syrup
- applewood smoked salt, for sprinkling
Make the pretzel shortbread crust:
- Heat the oven to 350F. Line a 8x8 or 9x9 pan with parchment paper.
- Combine the flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.
- Add the cold, cubed butter and pulse until the mixture starts to resemble coarse meal, with pea-sized butter pieces throughout.
- Add the pretzels and pulse until the mixture starts to form large clumps.
- Turn the dough out into the prepared pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan using the bottom of a measuring cup or an offset spatula.
- Chill the crust for 20-30 minutes.
- Bake the crust for 25-30 minutes or until light golden brown. Let the crust cool completely.
Make the caramel:
- In a large saucepan, combine the sweetened condensed milk, sugar, golden syrup and butter and mix over low heat until the butter has melted.
- Turn the heat up to medium so that the mixture starts to simmer. Stir the mixture over a simmer (slow bubbles) until it turns a deep golden brown and looks like thick caramel fudge, about 10-15 minutes. The mixture will start to pull away from the sides of the pan when stirring.
- Remove the mixture from the heat. Add the salt and the bourbon and whisk to combine.
- Pour the caramel over the shortbread crust and allow it to cool completely.
- Melt the chocolate and the golden syrup in a small saucepan over low heat. Pour the melted chocolate over the caramel layer. Sprinkle the smoked salt over the bars.
- Cool until the chocolate is set, then cut into squares. Serve at room temperature.