Salted Caramel Peanut Bars

in Candy, Chocolate, Cookies and Bars

Pay Day candy bars are one of my guilty pleasures. When we take a road trip, there are three things that we have to grab at a quick pit-stop before getting on the highway: A bag of Funyuns, a Diet Pepsi, and a PayDay. When it comes to sitting in the car for hours, I prefer to spend the time honing my “empty calorie intake” skills.

It ain’t fancy. It’s probably more than a little shameful. And it’s a lot salty. But it’ll serve as lunch between here and Austin, a trip that takes far too long when you’ve got a big bowl of Kerbey Queso in the front of your mind and a teething toddler in the backseat.

Salted Caramel Peanut Bars

These Salted Caramel Peanut Bars are a dressed-up version of a treat we saw in an issue Everyday Food a while back. We used homemade salted caramel that was studded with pretty flecks of vanilla bean, added more peanuts, and added a chocolate layer. It’s fancier. And still probably more than a little shameful. But it’s delicious.

Salted Caramel Peanut Bars

A simple candy bar gets a makeover with salted caramel, chocolate, and vanilla bean.


  • 2 1/2 cups roasted/salted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 recipe caramels (or see note below)*
  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • Cooking spray


  1. Liberally grease the bottom and sides of an 8x8 pan.
  2. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of peanuts over the bottom of the pan (the bottom should almost be completely covered).
  3. Pour caramel sauce over the peanuts, tilting the pan to spread it evenly.
  4. Heat chocolate in the microwave in 30 second bursts until completely melted. Pour over the caramel layer and spread evenly.
  5. Immediately top with remaining peanuts and let completely cool. Cut into 8 bars (or 16 squares) and store individually wrapped for a to-go treat. (I kept them in the fridge.)


Yields: 8-16

Inspired by Everyday Food

Estimated time: 30 minutes

*If you want a faster version, the original recipe called for cooking 50 unwrapped caramels, 1 cup mini marshmallows, and 1 Tbsp of water over medium heat until melted and combined. You can still add a pinch of salt and vanilla bean scrapings to the quickie version for a more flavorful caramel.

27 comments… add one
  • Oh memories. I used to dash away to the basement of my dorm in my first year of undergrad to buy a payday more times than I can remember. Such a delicious treat, and now I can make it at home? Watch out world.

  • What a perfect bar! These look so much better than a packaged Pay Day. Of course, I’d be in danger of eating the entire batch!

  • Paydays were a candy bar I didn’t like when I was a kid.. Didn’t like peanuts!! But now I like them. Love the chewy center and the peanuts just had a nice salty touch. These homemade bars look so good!

  • These look fab!! And like something that I could gift near the holidays and realllllly wow people! Those co-workers that doubt my skills… 🙂

  • These look so good! Beautiful pictures! I agree with Kim – perfect for gifts 🙂

  • These look delicious! Salt makes anything better expecially peanuts and caramel!

  • Uh these look AMAZING. And we are the same on road trips – we need our truck stop foods. Iced animal crackers, peanut m&m’s and the biggest diet coke we can find…!

  • YUMMY!! …now I just need a roadtrip planned so I can have an excuse to make a batch!

  • These look heavenly!

  • Brandi

    Seriously, why do you do this to me? This is all I’m going to think about until I make them… Urgh. MUST HAVE NOW.

  • I think the fact that you made it yourself makes it INFINITELY less shameful. (At least that’s what I tell myself every time I bake!).

    And really, you had me at salted and caramel. Done deal.

  • I’m the same way with the snacks on road trips – it’s the only way to go 🙂 These look phenomenal, and I just so happen to have leftover salted caramel in my fridge.

  • Those look SO good. Nuts, Caramel, and Chocolate is one of my favorite combos ever! 🙂

  • Sarah

    I have a batch cooling right now. I made a full recipe of the caramel so they’re going to be kinda huge 🙂

  • I love homemade versions of candy bars – and this one looks even better than the original!

  • These look fabulous girl! I am a huge PayDay fan so I know I would love these!

  • Um, yes please! These look fantastic. New to your site, and I’m already a fan!

  • WOW! These are beautiful- I can’t wait to try it. Chocolate is the way to my heart. 😉

  • Oh my goodness, how incredibly simple and easy to make, yet what sounds absolutely scrumptious!

  • These look so good! And I’m not even a peanut fan. This is my first time here, and I like so far 🙂
    Come stop by and say hello if you can.

    love, dana

  • shannon

    I have made a version of these and they are delish! I did the same thing with the peanuts but instead of a caramel sause I poured a can of condenced milk over the peanuts then baked it until it had a caramel like thickness then poured the chocolate over it and baked for a few more minutes until the 2 melded together then popped it in the freezer!

  • Michelle Blackburn

    I made the caramel and it seemed to be softer than I liked (for individual caramel candy) Did I not make it hot enough even though my candy thermometer said it is? Help I love caramel but failed in the recipe ;-(

    • Michelle – the caramel didn’t get hot enough. If you make it again, go up another 2-3 degrees and you should be fine!

  • foodlvr

    When I go on the annual road trip, I always stock up on foodie items from our trip – Cheerwine from North Carolina, hot sauces and bbq sauces made locally in the vacation spot, candy from any place we stop on the way (like the Savannah Candy Kitchen) and anything else – local cookbooks for one. I come home and want to re-make everything I tried on vacation. It takes months to eat all the sauces, condiments, candies that we collected on our trip. Sometimes longer. I just finished a bottle of hot sauce I bought 6 years ago in Nova Scotia!

    These sound amazing. I have to try them. I also love Payday Bars but my real favorite candy bar is a Goo Goo Cluster and I can only find them down south. Have you ever made one of those??? OMG.

    • @foodlvr – That sounds a lot like us! I love grabbing local eats I can’t find near home. I have never heard of a Goo Goo Cluster, though – I’ll have to be on the look-out for those!

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