Kentucky Derby Chocolate-Pecan Cookie Bars

Prep Time 20 min.
Cook Time 18-19 min. (plus cooling)
Total Time 20 minutes
Yields 16 two-inch bars


  • 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°.
  2. In a mini food processor ( I use the smallest one from this set), process ¾ cup pecans and dates until fairly smooth (pulsing for about 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 ¾ cup brown sugar, egg and vanilla and beat on medium speed for about 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 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 a lot of difficulty with the dough being too sticky, very slightly damp fingers will help.) Smooth top with a spatula or scraper.
  8. Firmly press remaining brown sugar and chopped pecans into 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.
  10. Cool completely before cutting.
  11. Store in an airtight container.


Recipe Notes

Flour: If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour on hand, you can substitute ½ all-purpose flour and ½ 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.

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