One of my Aunt Deb’s most-loved recipes, these Special K Bars are made simply from corn syrup, cereal, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. The result is a crispy, chocolatey, and butterscotchy dessert also known as scotcheroos in the Midwest. And bonus: It has an easy cleanup rating!
It takes only 15 minutes to make this butterscotch bar recipe from start to finish, and they get devoured almost as quickly. The cereal inside stays crispy and crunchy, while the chocolate butterscotch topping is soft and melts in your mouth. I love these with a sprinkle of flaky salt on top to balance out the sweetness! These are just as easy to make as my ritzy fudge bars, which are made with a quick and easy fudge and topped with caramel and Ritz crackers.
Before she passed away from breast cancer, my aunt Deb was a home economics teacher and everyone’s favorite baker. I inherited some of my love for baking from my aunt, and I thought adding one of her recipes to my website would be a meaningful way to honor her memory this Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You can see a photo of us in my video showing how to make these Special K bars.
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Ingredients for Aunt Deb’s Special K Bars
These Special K bars, or scotcheroos, are a nostalgic Midwestern treat made with seven or eight ingredients. Most of these ingredients are pantry staples, but you may have to run out to the store to grab butterscotch chips if you don’t normally keep those on hand!
- Granulated sugar. When melted, the sugar helps to hold these Special K bars together.
- Light corn syrup. Just enough syrup to coat the cereal and help them stick to each other.
- Creamy peanut butter. In addition to thickening up the base of the bars, peanut butter adds a necessary saltiness to balance out the sweetness.
- Vanilla extract. Any vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste will elevate the flavor.
- Special K cereal or corn flakes. Aunt Deb specified Special K as her cereal of choice, but corn flakes will give you a slightly crunchier texture.
- Chocolate chips. I used chopped milk chocolate because I was out of chocolate chips. Try this with dark chocolate for a little less sweetness.
- Butterscotch chips. These add a caramelly flavor to the tops of the bars when mixed with chocolate.
- Flaky sea salt (optional). My addition to the recipe: A pinch of flaky salt on top of the bars adds a delicious touch of extra saltiness.
Quick Tips for Prepping Special K Bars
These cereal bars are made more quickly and most easily with a microwave, so that’s what I used! You can also watch a short video on how to make these Special K bars.
Stir the sugar and corn syrup together with a spatula, then microwave for about 90 seconds until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth.
Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the Special K cereal. It can take quite a bit of stirring to ensure the cereal is evenly distributed!
Depending on how sweet you want the bars, you can use 4 or 5 cups of cereal. For these images, I split the difference at 4 ½ cups of cereal. My mom prefers the taste and texture with 4 cups.
Once the mixture looks homogenous, pour it into a greased or parchment paper-lined 8″ (20 cm) square pan. Press it down firmly into the pan with the spatula. For a flat top that allows the chocolate to glide on later, you can press the bars down with a piece of parchment paper.
Quick Tips for Frosting Special K Bars
Melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips in a small bowl in the microwave for one minute to start and an extra 30 seconds if lumps remain. Stir together until smooth, then pour over the cereal bar. Spread with a spatula or offset spatula, then sprinkle with a pinch or two of flaky salt.
To chill and set the chocolate quickly, place in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour. If you aren’t in a hurry, allow the bars to set at room temperature for a few hours. Then, remove the bars from the pan, slice with a sharp knife on a cutting board, and serve!
Other Recipes You May Enjoy
Almost as quick to put together as this recipe and just as delicious: My ritzy fudge bars are made from five-ingredient fudge and topped with Ritz crackers and salted caramel.
If you’re looking for a chocolatey snack bar that can easily replace a meal, no-bake protein granola bars are made with rolled oats, protein powder, and chocolate for a delicious snack that gives your body fuel!
You can see all of my bar recipes here.
Dish Cleanup: Not Too Bad
I rate my recipe cleanups on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 is only a handful of dishes, and 5 is everything including the kitchen sink.
These Special K bars have a cleanup rating of a 2. There’s only one large bowl to mix the cereal bars together and one smaller bowl to melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips together. I was left with just a few measuring cups, a knife, and a cutting board when I photographed these, but I had even fewer dishes when I reused a (mostly clean) measuring cup here or there during testing.
Aunt Deb’s Special K Bars Recipe
For the Special K Bars
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 g)
- ½ cup light corn syrup (170 g)
- ¾ cup creamy peanut butter (225 g)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla (3 ml)
- 4-5 cups Special K cereal or corn flakes (120-150 g)
For the Chocolate Butterscotch Topping
- 1 cup chocolate chips (140 g)
- ½ cup butterscotch chips (80 g)
- Flaky sea salt (optional)
- Grease or line a square 8" (20 cm) pan with parchment paper.
- In a large, microwave-safe bowl, combine sugar and corn syrup with a spatula. Microwave for 1 ½ to 2 minutes until simmering.
- Stir in peanut butter and vanilla extract with a spatula until smooth.
- Add in 4 cups of corn flakes for sweeter bars or 5 cups of corn flakes for slightly less sweet bars. Stir until well-combined, then press the mixture into the prepared pan. Press down on the bars with a sheet of parchment paper for a flat, even top.
- In a small, microwave-safe bowl, add chocolate and butterscotch chips. Microwave for 1 minute, then stir to combine. If not fully melted, microwave for an additional 30 seconds, then stir again until no lumps remain. Spread the chocolate mixture over the tops of the bars and sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if desired.
- Allow to cool at room temperature for an hour or two until set, or place in the fridge for about half an hour to speed up the process. Once set, cut into 16 to 32 pieces and serve.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge for up to one week.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 366Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 386mgCarbohydrates: 59gFiber: 2gSugar: 30gProtein: 10g
The nutrition facts are estimated and may vary based on specific ingredients used.
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