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Caramel Cashew Shortbread Squares

By April 29, 2011October 4th, 2011Desserts, Recipes


When I was little, I hated cashews. Hated the flavor, the texture, everything. Peanuts were my nut of choice. My mom used to buy bags of cashews and shelled peanuts for our camping trips when I was a kid and I made a face whenever she pulled out the cashews. As an adult though, I can’t get enough of them. I don’t know when that changed. Perhaps it was the hundreds of take-out cashew chicken dinners in college or just the general process of tastes changing, but now I eat them like it’s my job.

We’ve been slowly thinning our pantry for a while, but for some reason I still have tons of baking ingredients. Coconut, chocolate chips, marshmallows and cashews. We don’t make a lot of desserts, but I couldn’t help but think that the cashews would make a perfect somewhat light bar to give us something to nibble throughout the week. Problem is, that with finals I’ve been completely short on time. With a little searching though, I found an amazingly easy base recipe and decided to give it a go!


adapted from Brooke MClay/Babble
1 (17.5 oz.) packet sugar cookie mix (I used Betty Crocker)
3/4 cups butter, melted
2 1/2 cups whole roasted, salted cashews
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple pancake syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 cup mint-chocolate chips
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel






  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat the edges of a 7×11 inch glass baking dish, or 10″ round pie plate with cooking spray. In baking dish, use a fork to combine sugar cookie mix and 1/4 c. of melted butter. Press firmly into bottom of pan to create shortbread crust.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine cashews, sugar, syrup, vanilla and remaining butter. If you’d like to add chocolate chips whole, add them at this time. Otherwise save for the end. Pour over prepared crust. Sprinkle grated lemon peel over the top.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 22-24 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling and edges begin to set. Remove from oven, allow to cool until completely set (about 1-3 hours). If you didn’t add chocolate chips to the mixture, melt over medium heat in a saucepan and drizzle over cooled bars.
  5. Slice into squares to serve. Store in refrigerator.

These are superbly delicious for how easy they are! Neil typically doesn’t love a lot of baked goods, but we’ve easily eaten the majority of the pan over the course of the week. The combinations of flavors and textures are perfect. Smooth and creamy caramel, crunchy cashews, a hint of lemon and mint held together by a sweet and crisp shortbread crust. They are just delightful, and perfect for those busy times you want something special but don’t have the time for complicated recipes.


  • Bookmarked! This is exactly my kind of dessert – sweet and nutty! And your photos are brilliant, as always. 🙂

  • aubrey says:

    I think i just passed out, those look amazing!!!

  • Sarah says:

    These look delicious!

    And, I usually read on Google Reader, so not sure if this is something new or not, but the website design is AWESOME. I’m wowed over.

    • Jessica says:

      We’d been working on a redesign FOREVER and finally put it up about two weeks ago. We’re still adding all the features/functionality, but thanks for noticing! I probably should have posted something, but I’m still e-shy haha.

  • Scott says:

    Jessica, I wonder if you’d consider including camera settings for your photos. F-stop, shutter, etc. The shots look great and that would be an interesting addition.

    • Jessica says:

      We’re currently testing a plugin that will create an overlay on each of the photos with the EXIF data. I’d been mulling entering it manually but it just felt so tedious, and I didn’t want to crowd the posts. This would hide it until you specifically hovered over a specific area, which is nice. I can also opt to display it on Flickr, but most people probably wouldn’t know to click.

  • Kimberly says:

    Those look delish … and they have been added to my “to make” list!

    • Jessica says:

      They are perfect for all of those “year-end” events that pop up around this time. They look from scratch without the trouble of actually being from scratch.

  • Ashley says:

    AMAZING!! The first thing I thought when I saw the photo was “holy crap!” haha I didn’t used to like cashews, at all. Now I love them!

  • Brenda says:

    I MUST MAKE THESE! If I had the ingredients on hand, they’d be in process right now. Amazing! I also am wowed by your photography. Are you still a student? I’m very impressed with everything about this post!

    • Jessica says:

      Brenda, you’ll be addicted once you have them. I’m going through withdrawls myself. Just wanted you to be apprised of this before you embarked on dessert heaven:)

  • mar bhatnagar says:

    these look delish. 1. questions. do you bake the crust prior to pouring the nut mixture or do you bake all at the same time?

    • Jessica says:

      All at the same time. The consistency of the cookie crust is such that once you pack it down, it’s pretty stiff. Be prepared to have to let them set after baking through. I actually refrigerated mine for a few hours.