How to eat like a Midwesterner: Bars

First things first, let’s talk about what we mean when we say “bars.” In the Midwest, bars are a dessert sometimes involving Rice Krispies or Special K cereal, chocolate, peanut putter, butter, etc…and often served with coffee. You’ll usually find a few pans of bars at a potluck or church luncheon in this part of the country. 

Whether you call them Special K bars or Scotcharoos, if you live in or have even visited the Midwest, you surely have had the opportunity to try this gooey dessert that has become a staple for most Midwestern families.  Even my husband, who prefers the taste of salty chips and salsa to anything even remotely sweet will always make an exception to his traditional snacking behavior when Special K bars are present at a gathering. He has even been known to request them in lieu of a traditional birthday cake, which definitely garners intrigued looks from first-time guests to one of his birthday celebrations.  Yes, he is 32, and we still usually are required to have some sort of party in honor of his birth. 

Truth be told, these bars have become such a steadfast family tradition for us that they are my “go to” housewarming gift.  I’ll write the recipe on the inside of new Nordic Ware cake pan and give the new homeowner the pan complete with the recipe and bars inside of it.  If you haven’t experienced a Nordic Ware pan, I highly suggest you check them out sooner rather than later.  They are so much deeper than a traditional glass or other 9”x13” pan, and they come with a cover that you can stick right into the oven with the pan when necessary.  Truly, they are life changing, and the company was actually founded in Minneapolis so they are Midwestern as well!  You can pick them up at most local hardware stores or Fleet Farm.  Although if you are not from the Midwest, you probably don’t know what Fleet Farm is either.  Just think of it as an agricultural version of Menards or Home Depot.  Anyway, people seem to enjoy the bars/pan gift, or they just are nice enough not to tell me if they don’t.

Now, back to the task at hand.  As with any truly spectacular dessert, there are as many variations to this recipe as there are people who make it.  Here’s our tried and true version.  Enjoy!



  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup white corn syrup
  • 1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 cups Special K cereal
  • ½ bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ bag butterscotch chips



  • Grease a 9”x13” pan.
  • Place the sugar, corn syrup and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl. I like to use a large glass measuring cup with a handle for easy gripping.
  • Microwave on high for approximately 3 minutes. It should be boiling.
  • Measure out the cereal in a large mixing bowl.
  • Mix the vanilla in with the sugar, corn syrup, and peanut butter concoction.
  • Pour the mixture over the cereal.
  • Use a spatula or wooden spoon or whatever large utensil you have to mix the cereal until it’s evenly coated.
  • Pour the cereal into the pan and pat flat with a fork.
  • While that is cooling, pour the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips into a microwave safe bowl.
  • Microwave on high for approximately 2 ½ to 3 minutes.
  • Mix until all lumps are gone. If the chips don’t melt completely, microwave in 30-second increments until they do melt.  Be careful not to overdo it or the chocolate will burn.
  • Pour over the bars and spread with a spoon.
  • Serve warm or cooled!

Attempt to keep your family from snitching said bars until gathering or party happens.