National Pecan Day is an occasion we must celebrate, because these Vegan Caramel Pecan Bars are going to change your life! They’re sweet, salty, buttery, nutty, crunchy, and simultaneously soft. With this recipe I have created the love child of pecan pie and cookie bars. These babies are incredibly decadent, yet still nutritionally sound!
Let’s start with the health benefits of our star ingredient, pecans! Pecans are a rich source of magnesium, a mineral known for it’s anti-inflammatory benefits. This includes reducing the inflammation in the arterial walls, helping to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. These nuts are also beneficial for your skin, in that they are a good source of fiber, which helps eliminate toxins inside the body and prevent breakouts, in addition to being rich in Vitamins A and E, antioxidants that fight against free radicals known for causing premature aging.
Although this is still a dessert, I have worked to make it as anti-inflammatory to the body as possible! This starts with the use of brown rice syrup as the base for the caramel pecan layer. Brown rice syrup is one of the lowest glycemic sweeteners available, meaning it is slow releasing in the body, and has less effect on your blood sugar. It’s a natural sweetener make from fermented cooked rice and is a blend of complex carbs, maltose and glucose. Brown rice syrup is one of two sweeteners Sara Wilson of I Quit Sugar allows in her program, so I feel really good about this being the main source of sugar in my recipe- as opposed to the corn syrup that would form the base of a regular pecan pie.
I also cut the sugar in the crust with stevia, the other sweetener that’s safe to add in to your diet since it’s also completely natural, derived from a leaf and contains no fructose. The simplest sugar in this recipe is maple syrup, but so long as you use pure maple syrup (no fake crap like Mrs. Buttersworth) it is still an unrefined sugar, and provides numerous antioxidants and nutrients like manganese, zinc, and potassium. Additionally, eating these Vegan Caramel Pecan Bars has an additional defense against spikes in your blood sugar by containing a lot of healthy fats from the flaxseed, pecans and coconut, all of which slow the absorption of the sugar into your bloodstream.
I don’t know about you, but I’m loving all this great news about the ingredients, because you try to stop at just one….these bars are just so damn good, you’re definitely going to go in for seconds.
It’s probably a good idea to have a glass of almond milk ready to wash them down.
The inspiration from these came from the pecan bars that we started selling at my yoga studio that were absolutely to die for! I loved how sweet and buttery they tasted, but wanted to make a few changes. First of all, I wanted to eliminate as much of the vegan butter as I could. Even though vegan butter is dairy free, it is still chemically processed, and I don’t consider it “good” for me, even though I’m willing to make an exception every now and then for special desserts. I talked more about this in my recipe for my own DIY Vegan Butter. I tried to make the cookie crust for these Vegan Caramel Pecan Bars entirely of coconut oil, but I found they end result to be too greasy. Making them entirely of coconut butter, however, didn’t provide enough buttery-ness, so alas, I ended up with a combination of the two.
To eliminate the vegan butter altogether, I tried using coconut oil in the topping, but that variation MUST be stored in the fridge, since any rise above room temperature causes the entire bar to melt. Perhaps adding additional arrowroot or cornstarch to the topping would help combat this, although I haven’t tried. So, I used vegan butter in the topping to help make these more “party” stable, meaning they can sit out for more than 10 minutes without becoming a complete puddle. The other change I made was really piling on the toppings! Toasted pecans have such an incredible flavor, I wanted there to be a pecan in every bite. The topping is really the best part anyway, so feel free to go heavy on the coconut and chocolate chips too 😉
If I haven’t sold you on this being a healthier dessert recipe yet, then they will sell themselves on taste! I mean, these leave me speechless. I’m obsessed with the combination of sweet and salty, and I just the love the layers of flavor within these bars of butter, coconut, nuts, chocolate, caramel, and just the perfect hint of cinnamon. They’re crunchy and soft (appealing to both sides of the cookie tasting spectrum) so they only thing your guests will have to fight over is who gets to take the last bar home. Ok, enough talk, it’s time for you to go whip these Vegan Caramel Pecan Bars up right now! I can’t wait for you to try them!
- Yield: 18-24 bars
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
Vegan Caramel Pecan Bars
Vegan Caramel Pecan Bars are going to change your life! They're sweet, salty, buttery, nutty, crunchy, and simultaneously soft. With this recipe I have created the love child of pecan pie and cookie bars. These babies are incredibly decadent, yet still nutritionally sound!
- For the Crust:
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated pure stevia - can sub more coconut sugar or white sugar, but will increase sugar content
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp sea salt - I always use pink Himalayan
- 1/2 cup coconut butter*
- 1/2 cup coconut oil - I use refined, but unrefined works too, it will just add more coconut flavor
- 2 tsps pure vanilla extract
- 2-4T unsweetened non-dairy milk - room temperature so it doesn't harden the coconut oil
- For the Topping:
- 2T ground flaxseed + 5T water
- 1 cup brown rice syrup**
- 1/2 cup vegan butter***
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1T arrowroot powder - can sub cornstarch
- 2 cups pecans halves - lightly chopped/broken
- 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup mini dairy-free chocolate chips****
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine the ground flax and water, set aside at least 5 minutes.
- Stir together all the dry ingredients for the crust. Microwave the coconut butter and oil in 10-15 seconds increments until softened, then stir into the dry ingredients with the vanilla. From there, add in the milk 1T at a time, only adding enough so the batter comes together like cookie dough. Press evenly into a greased 9x13 pan, it should just be about a ½ inch thick. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the butter, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Then stir in the pecans, coconut and chocolate chips until evenly coated. Pour overtop the baked cookie, then bake another 25 minutes. Allow to sit 30 minutes to an hour before serving.
- Store in a cool place, or else the coconut oil with separate. I always store mine in the fridge, then bring out shortly before serving. They freeze well too!
*I love the brand Nutiva
**I always use Lundberg Organic Brown Rice Syrup
***You can use a brand such as Earth Balance, or you can find my version with fewer ingredients here.
****My absolute favorite vegan chocolate chips are from Enjoy Life!