Here’s the thing: I like dessert. I like it a lot. Very few days go by when that sweet tooth of mine doesn’t receive at least some nourishment. Some days, that’s as simple as a few squares of dark chocolate dipped in nut butter. Other days, I pull out all the stops and bake an epic cake, like this one from Kathy Patalsky at Healthy Happy Life.
And since embracing a more plant-powerful way of eating, I have been elated to discover that creating healthier versions of my favourite treats isn’t very challenging at all. With a few simple ingredient swaps, it’s easy to produce crave-worthy variations on non-vegan desserts.
Case in point: these Peanut Butter Caramel Bars. Initially, I had wanted to recreate these vegan Snickaroos that a lovely coworker bought for all of us to try a few weeks back. They were TO DIE FOR, so naturally, on my next day off, I set about recreating them. But then I decided that I wanted a variety of textures, so I added a press-in walnut-coconut ‘cookie’ crust, then made a date-peanut butter caramel as the middle layer and, of course, doused everything a generous layer of chocolate because, well, that’s the kind of gal I am.
For these Salted Peanut Butter Caramel Bars, you will need:
-Cacao powder or cocoa powder
Equipment that you will need:
Start by pulsing the rolled oats in your food processor until a coarse flour forms. Then add the walnuts and coconut and pulse to grind. Incorporate the coconut oil, salt, and vanilla.
Once the dough begins to pull together, stop the food processor and transfer the dough to a lined square baking dish. Press in with your fingers and bake it for 15 minutes.
Then, make the date caramel. Start with dates that have been soaked in hot water for 15 minutes to soften. Place them in the food processor along with some peanut butter (you may use any nut or seed butter you like if allergic to peanut butter), lemon juice, and salt. Process until very smooth and creamy.
Once the cookie crust has cooled slightly, scoop the date caramel on top and smooth with a spatula.
Finally, make the almost-raw chocolate topping by melting the cacoa butter, then whisking in the cacao or cocoa powder, maple syrup, and almond milk.
Perhaps the most challenging step of all is waiting for the bars to set in the fridge before slicing and
inhaling eating. Go for a run or do some chores to distract yourself during this rather painful waiting period.
Do you love these bars? Then I think you’ll also love these healthier desserts:
Salted Peanut Butter Caramel Bars
- 1½ cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup walnut halves
- 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Salted Peanut Butter Caramel
- 1½ cups pitted Medjool dates (measured after pitting)
- 1/4 cup smooth organic peanut butter
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt (if using unsalted peanut butter, add 1/8 tsp more sea salt)
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3-4 tbsp water, as needed to thin
Almost-Raw Chocolate Topping
- 1/3 cup cacao butter (I use Organic Traditions brand)
- 3 tbsp raw cacao or cocoa powder
- 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1½ tbsp non-dairy milk
- Line a 9×9-inch square glass baking dish with parchment paper, leaving some overhang to allow you to easily lift out the bar, and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the pitted dates in a bowl and cover with hot water for 15 minutes.
- Make the crust: Place the rolled oats in a food processor fitted with the S blade and pulse until a coarse flour forms. Add the coconut and walnuts and pulse until they are both ground. Then add the coconut oil, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla and process until a dough begins to form.
- Transfer the dough to the lined baking dish and press it in with your fingers, ensuring that the dough is evenly distributed within the pan. You may need to wet your fingers to prevent sticking. Pierce it all over with a fork and bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- Make the caramel: Drain the soaking water off of the dates. Place the dates in a food processor fitted with the S blade, along with the peanut butter, vanilla, salt, and lemon juice. Process until very smooth and creamy (see photo for reference).
- Once the crust has cooled completely, scoop the date caramel on top and smooth with the back of a spoon or a spatula.
- Make the almost-raw chocolate topping: In a small double boiler or a small heatproof bowl that can be place over a pot of water, warm the cacao butter over medium heat. Once melted, remove from the heat and whisk in the cacao powder, maple syrup, and milk. Pour over top of the caramel layer.
- Leave the square in the baking dish and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, or until the chocolate topping has set.
- To slice, lift the bar out of the pan using the parchment paper as handles and cut into 12-16 squares.
If you make these Salted Peanut Butter Caramel Bars and post a photo on Instagram, tag #upbeetkitchen and @upbeet.kitchen so I can see!