Chinese Chews Recipe with Coconut: An Updated Classic (2024)

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Sneak Peek: This Chinese Chews Recipe with Coconut combines a shortbread base with a coconut-pecan pie type of experience. Ingredients include flour, brown sugar, butter, coconut, eggs, and pecans.

Chinese Chews Recipe with Coconut: An Updated Classic (1)Pin

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When approaching a pan of baked bar cookies such as these Coconut-Pecan Bars, more commonly known as Chinese Chews, do you question how you’ll get the first piece out without butchering it?

I’ve got the answer. It’s not complicated. But you must remember to do it BEFORE you put the cookies in the pan.

Three Reasons Why You Will Make These on Repeat

  1. Two-layer cookies are the best–especially when one of the layers includes coconut.
  2. Making bar cookies is easier than drop cookies.
  3. Make frosting or sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  4. Have fun cutting them into squares, rectangles, or diamonds–especially nice for cookie trays or boxes.

Happy Bakers Speak Up

“I’ve made these the last 2 years and everyone loves them!”–JESSICA

Recipe Inspiration

Helen Corbitt first introduced me to a form of these cookies in her recipe, “Chinese Chews,” published in her “Cooks for Company”(paid link) cookbook. Then, when I worked at the Greenhouse (a luxury health spa from years ago), where we used her cookbooks a lot, everybody went crazy for them. It sounds crazy, but some ladies actually came there to gain weight and often requested these cookies.

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • FLOUR: All-purpose flour is always my first choice.
  • BROWN SUGAR: There are lots of substitutes for brown sugar. I would try coconut sugar in this recipe. You may need to add more butter to compensate for the moisture difference.
  • SALT: I used table salt, but sea or Kosher salt is also acceptable.
  • BUTTER: You could substitute margarine, but butter is an important part of the flavor in this recipe. I don’t recommend it.
  • EGGS: I always use large eggs.
  • COCONUT: You can leave this out if you’re not a coconut lover. The cookies won’t be nearly as chewy.
  • PECANS: Use walnuts if you prefer. Even almonds would work. No matter what nuts you use, they’re always better if you toast them first. You can toast nuts easily in your microwave.
  • CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR, aka powdered sugar or icing sugar: You don’t have to sprinkle powdered sugar on top or make the icing if you don’t have this sugar. You could also use a blender to make confectioner’s sugar if needed.
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How To Prepare a Pan for Baking Bar Cookies

You don’t have to use non-stick foil to make these cookies, but I highly recommend it. Without it, they will taste wonderful, but you will enjoy the cutting, serving, and clean-up process oh so much more.

Chinese Chews Recipe with Coconut: An Updated Classic (3)Pin

If you dread washing those sticky, gooey, and hard-to-scrape pans, this magic foil is a lazy dishwasher’s saving grace. It also makes removing the entire uncut batch from the pan crazy easy.

Chinese Chews Recipe with Coconut: An Updated Classic (4)Pin

After cooling the cookies, carefully lift the cookies out of the pan using the foil as handles. Then, peel the foil away from the cookies. Without the confines of the pan, even the first cookie you cut can be perfect.

I use this technique for bar cookies such as Peanut Butter Bars and Microwave Brownies. For a few extra pennies, it’s worth it.

More Uses for Non-stick Aluminum Foil

If you think you can use regular foil sprayed with vegetable oil, well, yes, you could. But it doesn’t work as well, according to Cooks Illustrated.

Hide this foil so the rest of the family doesn’t use it or waste it, thinking it’s just like any other foil in the drawer. It’s pricey compared to regular aluminum foil.

Steps To Assembling Chinese Chews

  1. Cover the pan with foil as described above.
  2. Combine the crust ingredients, pat into the pan, and bake.
  3. Mix the coconut-pecan layer ingredients together, pour over the crust, and bake again.
  4. Prepare the browned butter for the frosting, and add it to the remaining ingredients. Frost and serve.

How To Serve These Cookies

Serve these cookies plain, with powdered sugar, or dress them up with a browned butter glaze you can make in a microwave.

Cut them into diamonds for a party or squares for the family.

Questions About Chinese Chews

How are these different from Magic Cookie Bars?

These cookies do not contain chocolate, condensed milk, or graham crackers.

How should I store these cookies?

Because they contain eggs, they should be refrigerated.

Do these cookies freeze well?

Yes, but be sure to double-wrap them to avoid freezer burn.

Parting Thoughts: My Easy Toffee Bars and Meyer Lemon Yogurt Squares use the same shortbread base. To all of you coconut lovers: Don’t miss this Quick Coconut Cake when you need a cake at the last minute but want it to be memorably delicious. The pecan-coconut layer is adapted from the “Chinese Chews” printed inHelen Corbitt’s Cooks for Company.

Help at Your Fingertips: For questions or suggestions, email Paula at If you need help, I’m happy to troubleshoot via email (faster than leaving a comment). Attach pictures and as many details as possible for the best advice.

Chinese Chews Recipe with Coconut: An Updated Classic (5)

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Chinese Chews Recipe with Coconut: An Updated Classic (6)Pin

Yield: 16 squares

Heavenly Chinese Chews Recipe with Coconut

If a pecan pie married a shortbread cookie, their offspring might look like these rich and chewy bars with coconut added for chewiness and fabulous flavor.

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(5 stars if you loved it)

5 from 3 votes


Prep time: 20 minutes minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes minutes

Total time: 50 minutes minutes


Shortbread Crust

  • 1 cup (120 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (53 g) brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon table or sea salt
  • ¼ cup (57 g) melted butter

Coconut-Pecan Layer

  • 2 large (100 g) eggs
  • cup (147 g) brown sugar
  • ½ cup (43 g) shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (57 g) lightly toasted and chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Browned Butter Icing (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon half and half or milk
  • 1 cup (114 g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract optional


  • Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C)

Shortbread Crust:

  • Prepare an 8×8-inch square pan by lining with foil (see the picture in post), parchment paper, or spray with oil/butter mixture such as Baker’s Joy.

  • Combine 1 cup (120 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup (53 g) brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon (¼ teaspoon) table or sea salt into a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup (57 g) melted butter and lightly mix with a fork. Press evenly into the prepared pan.

  • Bake at 350˚F (180˚C)for 12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.

Coconut-Pecan Layer:

  • In a medium bowl, beat 2 large (100 g) eggs until foamy. Add 2/3 cup (147 g) brown sugar to the eggs and beat until thick.

  • Stir 1/2 cup (43 g) shredded coconut and 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour together. Combine with the brown sugar and eggs.

  • Add 1/2 cup (57 g) lightly toasted and chopped pecans, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon (½ teaspoon) salt. Spread over the baked shortbread layer.

  • Bake for 15 minutes at 350˚F (180˚C).

  • When cool, turn the entire baked cookie out onto a flat surface and peel off paper or foil if using. Flip over and sprinkle with powdered sugar or ice with Browned Butter Glaze. Cut in squares or diamonds as you prefer.

Browned Butter Icing (optional)

  • Heat 1 tablespoon butter on low in a skillet on the stove until it barely turns brown. Add 1 tablespoon half and half or milk and combine. Add 1 cup (114 g) powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract if using. If icing is too thick, add more milk. If too thin, add more sugar.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 185kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 160mg | Potassium: 59mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 144IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1mg

All images and text ©️ Paula Rhodes for Salad in a

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Chinese Chews Recipe with Coconut: An Updated Classic (2024)
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