Sep 16 2011

A Rose By Any Other Name…

A question of utmost importance came up recently, nagging and nagging for an answer. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Somebody must know the solution! If not in real life, then out there on the internet, somewhere, this must have been addressed before:

What is the difference between a Congo Bar and a Blondie?

Congo Bars

Growing up, my mom wrote her recipes on index cards, only slightly-organized in little plastic and metal treasure boxes. They were loosely sorted by course (Main Dish, Dessert, Breakfast…), but after that, you never knew what you would find. In fact, sometimes, it could take several hours to find exactly what you were looking for if–goodness, no!–it ended up being returned to the wrong category after its last use. This wasn’t the best method, but it’s what she had, and it worked for her for many years.

One treasured recipe in those boxes was for Congo Bars. In fact, it was so treasured, she had it down twice, with only a minor variation in measurement for brown sugar between them. Before I moved out, I copied down my favorites, including both of these, as I could not see a life without Mom’s Congo Bars.

Fast forward many years later, past the widespread acceptance of the internet and newfangled ways to organize recipes, past the several years I didn’t bake while I was losing weight and trying to keep it off, past the days I worked in an office and didn’t bake much, to today. Where I now spend my days pondering which recipe to make next. Where I see infinite varieties, producing infinite varieties, of just about anything imaginable. And where I was introduced to the Blondie.

Blondies were never part of the repertoire as a child. I never even heard that term until a couple years ago when I came across them for the first time on Smitten Kitchen. And ever since then, they’ve been a bit of a nemesis for me. I never seem to be able to get them baked the way I want–you know, not completely underdone in the middle or so overdone that they could be used as hockey pucks. Why are they so elusive to me?

Recently I had a revelation though: aren’t my Mom’s Congo Bars basically just Blondies by another name? Could it be, just maybe, that like the sub, hoagie, grinder, this is just a difference of regional dialect?

I asked on Twitter and received in response that Congo Bars have coconut.


My Mom’s Congo Bars don’t.

Neither of the recipes.

Was my Mom passing off a Blondie all these years as a Congo Bar instead? Did she make her own variation to the recipe decades ago and rather than re-naming it to the acceptable colloquialism for the masses, she stuck by the original name?

Congo Bars on a plate

I don’t know. But I do know that her Congo Bars taste darn fantastic AND I never mess them up like I do with Blondies.

So who cares what they’re called anyway? As long as they taste good, that’s all that matters.

Congo Bars…that may be Blondies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Is it a Congo Bar or a Blondie? Either way, these bar cookies taste great and are super easy to put together!
Recipe type: Cookie
Serves: 15
  • ⅔ cup unsalted butter
  • 2¼ cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2¾ cups all purpose flour
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup walnut pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper, then set aside.
  2. In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. Let it cool slightly, then stir in the brown sugar.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating fully.
  4. Add the dry ingredients, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, and nuts, stirring until there are no dry spots left.
  5. Spread in the prepared 9×13 baking dish.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting.
You can get 15 very generous servings by cutting 3 across on the short side and 5 across on the long side. Or if you want more petite portions, feel free to cut them smaller.

This post is participating in Alli ‘N Son’s Sweet Tooth Friday! Check it out and see what other sweets are on the table today.

About the author

Carrie @ poet in the pantry

Carrie is a home baker and amateur photographer who dabbles in writing and poetry.


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  1. Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust

    Delicious! Whatever they end up being…they look fabulous and I’m sure they taste even better. :)

  2. Sasha @ The Procrastobaker

    This was a lovely post! Your mum was ahead of the times it seems :) these do indeed look and sound absolutely perfect, and family recipes are allwaaysss the best, so this is definitely tempting me indeed! :)

  3. Carrie @ Crafty Moms Share

    Ok, these websites seem to have an idea about the debate…don’t know how much truth there is in it.
    Hope that helps. From my quick research it could go both ways.

    1. Carrie @ poet in the pantry

      Thanks, Carrie! We came to the conclusion on Facebook that all Congo Bars are Blondies, but not all Blondies are Congo Bars… sorta like all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. ;) Whatever they’re called, they’re still pretty tasty!

  4. Bonnie

    I have had this recipe for 40 years and I have always called the Congo Bars. And aren’t they good! No coconut…

    1. Carrie @ poet in the pantry

      There you have it! She’s not the only one who had this recipe!

  5. Madison Chloe Marie

    I’ve had blondies at Ruby Tuesday’s, but I’ve never had a congo bar before, they sound so intriguing especially when I’m feeling like indulging into something sweet and fabulous.

  6. myFudo

    Congo bars – what a name,sounds very delicious.Thanks for sharing. Nice photos too.

  7. Kate @ Food Babbles

    Yum! Yum! Yum!! I need these right now!

  8. Mike @ How To Make A Smoothie At Home

    Great recipe!! Can’t wait to make it for my family!!

  9. Allison @ Alli n Son

    I agree, as long as they taste good, who cares what they are called.

    Thanks for stopping by Sweet Tooth Friday!

  10. Carmel

    I have my Grandma’s recipe for Congo Bars which is about 80 years old. It’s almost the same as your mom’s. 3 cups of flour and three tsp of baking powder and a whole bag of chips are about the only differences. Can’t beat em!

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