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Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

~ This incredibly easy, no-butter, bar cookie version of the always-popular Derby Pie is the perfect dessert for a weekday dinner or a party! Filled with whole grains, it’s fabulously decadent yet so nutritious! ~

This Recipe Is:     Make Ahead    Vegetarian  

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

I am a happy, happy food blogger when my taste-testing sessions go like this one did …

My son kinda closed his eyes in joyous delirium and said, “Best dessert. EVER.”

Hmmmmm …

Ok. Solid start.

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Then he chirped through his mouthful of crumbs, “You know what I want for my birthday treat next year? That. And ice cream … if only you could make some healthy ice cream. Please??

Ok, well. The ice cream is a whole ‘nother issue. But when a kid says something is worthy of being his birthday dessert … you know.

It seriously doesn’t get better than that.

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
The pecans and dates that form the base of these cookie bars (and replace the butter found in typical cookies) will not be completely smooth once combined in your food processor (I use the smallest one from this processor set). The texture will be just slightly grainy and very thick.

But then it did!

Because then my husband tasted it and exclaimed, “I also want him to have that for his birthday!” (As he cut himself another piece … and another …)

And then my son, who is normally about the most genuinely compassionate, sharing child you could ever hope to meet, learned that I needed to pass along some of this creation to Gretchen’s family so they could try it. My previously oh-so-generous son didn’t even hesitate: “Only give them a little bit, ’cause we want it!”

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
Photo 1 shows the thick, slightly grainy combination of pecans and dates as they look after being taken out of the food processor. In photo 2, the brown sugar, egg and vanilla have been added, and you can see that the mixture smooths out beautifully. In photo 3, the dry ingredients have been mixed into the batter, just to the point that the ingredients are thoroughly combined and suddenly come together to form a very, very thick dough.

No really, this is the kind of dessert you don’t want to share. Not even with good friends and people you like a whole lot. Even your besties just aren’t worth this.

Hide from them, and eat this all yourself.

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

I won’t tell. In fact, I encourage it. (Mostly because it will make me feel better about myself and my sweet little son!)

With the Kentucky Derby right around the corner, I wanted one thing: to concoct an utterly delicious yet much healthier nod to the famed Derby Pie.

I guess I succeeded.

I apparently also turned my son into a ruthless, un-generous little hoarder … but that seems a small price to pay, really.

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
If you have whole pecans on hand, and don’t have a nut chopper, simply use a measuring cup or drinking glass to crush them before sprinkling them on top of the dough. Press the pecans in to ensure they don’t fall off after baking.

Good Derby Pie isn’t crumbly or crunchy like a cookie, but rich and luxurious and ultra-moist. Kind of like if the best chocolate chip cookie you’ve ever tasted and a gloriously decadent pecan pie had a love child.

Created at the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky, the original recipe for Derby Pie remains a closely guarded secret. But that hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the most iconic foods of the Kentucky Derby (well, besides Mint Juleps … but that’s another story).

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

This THK version is dense and rich and chewy … bursting with chocolaty, brown-sugary, pecan-y goodness. Love child, indeed.

Yet with not one bit of butter or even oil anywhere in sight. The technique is cribbed from my beloved Pistachio-White Chocolate (No Butter!) Butter Cookies. They’re insanely good and, well … so are these.

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Too good to share, sadly.

But that’s ok – the Derby only lasts for about two minutes, so there’s really no time to invite friends over, anyway.

Ah – problem solved, then.

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

You’re welcome.

Oh! And BTW … if you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you’re a fan of delicious bar cookies … and probably also caramel-y dates. AmIright?? If so, then you’ve also gotta check out our beloved Date Bar recipe. (Sharing totally optional there, too!)

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars

Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars

Yield: 16
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 38 minutes

An easy, no-butter, bar cookie version of the always-popular Derby Pie! Filled with whole grains, it's decadently delicious yet so much more nutritious!

  Make Ahead    Vegetarian  


  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 5 whole dried, pitted dates
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped or crushed
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a mini food processor (I use the smallest one from this set), pulse 3/4 cup pecans and dates until fairly smooth (pulsing for about 2-3 minutes), scraping sides of processor occasionally as needed. (The consistency will not be totally smooth and will be a thick, slightly grainy paste like very, very thick natural peanut butter.)
  3. Transfer pecan mixture to a large mixing bowl and add 3/4 cup brown sugar, egg, and vanilla and beat on medium speed for about 2-3 minutes until very well incorporated, scraping bowl once or twice as needed.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk to thoroughly combine.
  5. Add flour mixture to pecan mixture and beat on medium-low (as low as possible without stressing the motor of your mixer) just until combined, about 1 minute. (Dough will suddenly thicken, come together, and cling to beaters.) Do not over-mix. Dough will be sticky and very, very thick.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Press mixture into an 8x8 baking pan coated with cooking spray. (If you're having difficulty with the dough being too sticky, very slightly damp fingers will help.) Smooth top with a spatula or scraper.
  8. Lightly press remaining brown sugar and chopped pecans into top of dough.
  9. Bake for about 18-19 minutes. The bars will be only very slightly golden – do not over-bake by waiting until they are golden-brown or your bars will be dry (they should be ultra-moist and chewy, kind of like a fudgy brownie).
  10. Cool completely before cutting. (We usually cut these into 16 two-inch square bars, but you can make them smaller if you prefer.)
  11. Store in an airtight container.


Flour: If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour on hand, you can substitute 1/2 all-purpose flour and 1/2 regular whole wheat flour. However, we prefer the nutritional advantage of using all whole-wheat pastry flour, and our tasters also slightly preferred the taste of the version made with whole-wheat pastry flour.

Make-Ahead Option: These freeze beautifully. Wrap each bar in plastic and store in a zipper-bag in the freezer, then thaw individually when you want a quick dessert.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 servings Serving Size: 1 two-inch bar
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 209Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 98mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 3gSugar: 13gProtein: 5g

Nutrition information should be considered an estimate only, and may vary depending on your choice of ingredients or preparation. No guarantees are made regarding allergies or dietary needs. Always consult a physician or dietician for specific advice and questions.

Did You Make This Recipe?

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  1. These are amazing! We made them for Thanksgiving, now we’re making them again for Christmas. I’m always so happy to find amazing recipes from a fellow Mediavine publisher. Hope you’re having a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

    1. Oh, Natasha – what a really wonderful message! Thank you so very much – you have absolutely made my day! We love, love, love these cookie bars – and I’m delighted you do, too. And I know what you mean about enjoying the discovery of new, fantastic recipes from fellow (Mediavine!) publishers! 😀 Thank you again for taking the time to drop me such a lovely message – you know it means the world! I hope you and your family had a very special Christmas, and that you’ll enjoy an outstanding New Year (hurray, hurray for 2021)!! ~Shelley

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