Grandma’s Hello Dollies

There is one thing that I truly associate with the holidays. It’s not eggnog or peppermint or gingerbread, although all of those things carry their holiday nostalgia as well. No; for me, the most Christmasy thing I can imagine is my late grandmother’s Hello Dollies.

Once a year, every year, when Christmas rolls around, I break out her handwritten recipe on a faded note card and bake up a batch of these nostalgic treats. Like most handed-down recipes, the instructions are rather vague. And yet, I’ve never once messed them up. It’s almost as if I have her spirit to guide me through.

It’s strange how that little note card seems so fragile. It is from another time and place entirely, and to hold it in my hands feels slightly surreal. It is as if I must handle it with the greatest care or risk it shattering in the palm of my hands. Every time I look at it, I envy my grandmother’s perfect, dainty handwriting (mine is all over the place). Unlike a recipe from a random cookbook or website, it feels as if she’s actually speaking to me. I can see her in her kitchen, many years ago, preparing these beloved cookies for my father and his brother, who to this day cannot get enough of them. It’s slightly eerie, but a special experience indeed. No matter how fancy or impressive a cookbook is, it will never come close to the special feeling of following a hand-written family recipe.

I have written the recipe more coherently below for your benefit, but I hope you’ll remember to thank my late grandmother when you taste these. A Hello Dolly, in the most simple terms, is a layered bar cookie. But, my little cookies, it is so much more than that. You begin with a buttery graham cracker crust and build upon it with shredded coconut, milk chocolate chips, and walnuts. Then, a blanket of indulgent sweetened condensed milk tucks in all the delicious layers, acting as a sweet binder. Finally, you bake these beauteous bars until golden brown. After you let ’em cool and slice ’em up, you’re left with ooey gooey, chocolaty, nutty heaven like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.

It’s incredible.

Although this recipe yields such impressive results, it is about as basic as basic gets. You use two of everything: two cups of coconut, two cups of walnuts, two cups of graham cracker crumbs, two sticks of butter, two cans of sweetened condensed milk, and two cups of chocolate chips (although I usually wind up using about three cups when it come to the chocolate). And you really don’t have to put forth much effort; you just layer it up and toss it in the oven. Allow me to channel my inner Ina Garten and inquire, “How easy is that?”

These bars are cosmically good; they’re out of this world. It’s one of those deals where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (although the sum of its parts is pretty bangin’ to begin with). If you make these chewy, chocolaty, coconuty treats, I guarantee they’ll become apart of your family Christmas too.

Say “hello” to the Hello Dolly, and you will never, ever want to say goodbye.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. If we’re being completely honest, you really don’t need measurements for this. All you have to do is cover the pan in an even layer with each component, and you are golden.
  2. These freeze fabulously. 3-4 weeks is the norm, but my uncle claims to still have some in his freezer from last Christmas, which are supposedly fine.
  3. You can use dark or semi-sweet chocolate if you wish, but I think milk chocolate is so luscious, creamy, and perfect in these bars.
  4. Don’t leave out the nuts. My sister always forces me to make a nut-free batch for her, and they don’t come out the same. They overcook and the texture is different. Plus, you’re missing a whole layer!

Hello Dollies

Recipe by The Smart Cookie Cook


  • Two sticks of butter (1 cup), melted
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • 2-2 ½ cups milk chocolate chips (depending on how chocolaty you want it)
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 2 14-oz. cans of sweetened condensed milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour the butter into a baking sheet. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs in an even layer over top, followed by the coconut, the chocolate chips, and the walnuts.
  3. Evenly drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over top, making sure to reach the edges. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the temperate down to 325 and bake for an addition 10-15 min. or until golden brown and bubbling.
  4. Let cool. Before completely set, cut into squares and refrigerate.

Hello Dollies are very near and dear to me. They’re my father’s favorite, dating all the way back to when he was a kid, and continuing to be delicious to this day. If there’s one cookie you should make this Christmas, it’s a Hello Dolly!

Posted in Cookies, Dessert, Holiday, Snacks, The Smart Cookie Cook, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , .

Colleen Bierstine


  1. “buttery graham cracker crust and build upon it with shredded coconut, milk chocolate chips, and walnuts. Then, a blanket of indulgent sweetened condensed milk tucks in all the delicious layers”

    Oh my Goodness!!! These hello dollies sound very rich and superrrrr delicious! God bless your grandma!

  2. I am with you on the handwritten family recipes. I was making a recipe of my grandma’s this weekend from a handwritten card and I was sooo paranoid that I was going to spill on it, or accidentally throw it in the garbage or rip it or…whatever, so I put it in a plastic baggie and taped it to the cupboard! It made it through unscathed.
    I’ve had a bar similar to these and they are so sweet and decadent and perfect. I would love to try your version!

  3. Mmmm… They loo sper yummy! My mom usually maes English Toffee Bars for the holidays, they look very similar to this. They are soooo good… :)
    -Haleigh <3 :)

  4. Pingback: Hello Dolly Ice Cream «

  5. I was introduced to this cookie by a scottish aunt. She made them with butterscotch chipits and I adore them as did my late Father. I still make them every Christmas in memory of him. I like chocolate but I loooooovvvvvveee butterscotch.

  6. Perhaps I did not see the pan size, it must be larger than 9×13…..yes……..
    my mum also made these for uchildren…….ah.. memories…

  7. These are like the 7-layer or magic bars–recipe often found on sweetened condensed milk labels. I’ve made them for years and have to send them to my nieces and nephews–they look forward to them as much as any gift. The 7th layer is butterscotch or peanut butter chips. I forget because I’ve used both. I also use different nuts, too. But I like that this is in a larger pan (1/2 sheet pan?) and will make this larger version so don’t have to dirty so many 9×13″ pans.

  8. I also bake these wonderful bars. My recipe came from my Mother, who passed last December 23, 2012. We put butterscotch chips along with the chocolate chips. So good!! The only problem I have is either letting them bake too long or letting them cool too long. Either way they are really hard to get out of the pan for me! I’m still making them again this year!

  9. Wow! Talk about a blast from the past! Hello Dollies were a staple in our house at Christmas as well. My grandmother’s recipe also had orange frosting ( plain frosting with finely grated orange zest). Personally, I have always preferred them without, but give it a try & see what you think!

  10. My sister and I have this very same recipe from our grandmother from years and years ago. She called them magic cookie bars. They are still one of our childhood favorites.

  11. These cookie bars look fantastic. As for one comment about being hard to get out (I haven’t tried the recipe yet) of the pan, what about using overlapped parchment paper in the bottom of the baking pan before adding anything. Maybe that would help with removal. Just a thought…

  12. I also wondered about the pan size. If you look real close at the picture in the pan, the edge of the pan says 15.25 x 10.25
    I am going to try something close to that. They sound great. Thanks

Comments are closed.