These vegan and gluten free apricot oat bars are a healthier take on one of our all-time favorite family recipes. They’re buttery, slightly tart, just sweet enough, and they’re also nut free. Whether you call them apricot squares or bars – they’re the perfect way to use up all of those fresh, juicy apricots!
We love taking on the challenge of revamping one of our classic family recipes to be gluten free and vegan. It’s not always easy – especially when it comes to baking – but it’s a fun way for us to relive childhood memories and try out a new recipe! These raspberry oatmeal crumble bars were a particular challenge; it took us about 10 tries to get them right.
Apricot squares have always been a family favorite. Since going gluten free & vegan a few years ago, we haven’t been brave enough to take a stab at the grandma’s classic recipe. This summer, we’ve been determined to get it right, and we’re super excited to finally share the recipe!
We tested this 4 times before landing on our favorite version. The first two times were complete failures. They didn’t taste too bad, but the texture was way off. The third time was a success, but our very ill-behaved puppy (Oliver) got ahold of the pan and ate half of the top layer of streusel before we could stop him. *Sigh.* If anyone has tips for counter-surfing dogs, please let us know.
The fourth and final test was perfect. Just the right amount of buttery oat streusel and a tart, rich apricot filling that’s good enough to eat on its own!
Apricot jam filling
Our old family recipe calls for dried apricots, but we really wanted to take advantage of the gorgeous fresh apricots we’ve been buying in bulk at the store.
Seriously, how beautiful are these? I could stare at them all day, but let’s get on to this apricot oat bar recipe.
The first few tests turned out too soggy as a result of not cooking down the apricots enough prior to baking. The key to the perfect jammy texture is to let these cook down for up to an hour. We add roughly chopped apricots to a large saucepan with sugar, orange zest and Grand Marnier (an orange-flavored liqueur) for extra depth of flavor.
Bring everything to a simmer, then gently mash the apricots. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let it continue to cook down until it’s thick and jammy. I can’t help but sneak a spoonful or two while it’s cooking. So flavorful!
Meanwhile, get started on the crust…
A buttery oat-based crust that’s both gluten and nut free
Sounds impossible, right? Most gluten free/vegan crusts involve some kind of nut to add extra moisture and texture. Since we have a nut allergy in the family (my older brother), we try to sub nuts whenever possible.
Sunflower seeds are the perfect alternative in these gluten free apricot bars. They have a subtly nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with the tart, sweet apricot filling. They’re also relatively soft (compared to other nuts and seeds), so they incorporate well into the crust. If you don’t have any on hand, you could try substituting with almonds, cashews or pecans.
The crust couldn’t be easier to make. Simply pulse everything in a food processor until it forms a crumbly texture that you can press together between two fingers. Note: be sure to chill your vegan butter before adding to the crust!
Once the crust and filling are ready, simply press about 2/3 of the crust into a parchment-paper lined pan. Spoon in the filling, top with remaining crumble and off to the oven it goes!
The final step…be patient!
It’s going to be very tempting to cut into the apricot oat bars as soon as they get out of the oven, but try to exercise a bit of patience. They need time to cool and fully set up unless you want a huge mess on your hands. We let these cool for about 35 minutes before removing from the pan.
Once cool, we highly suggest topping these vegan and gluten free apricot oat bars with a big scoop of your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream. Check out this post for a few of our top recommendations!
More of our favorite vegan apricot recipes
I was telling Lizzy the other day that whenever I eat fresh apricots, I eat about 5 at a time. I can’t just eat one – they’re so addictive! The same goes for peaches and nectarines. What can I say? I’m a stone fruit fanatic. I’ll definitely be making these vegan apricot bars again soon!
If you, too, love apricots, here are a few more ways you can cook and bake with them this summer:
- Vegan Chocolate Tarts with Apricots via Occasionally Eggs. OMG. These look so good. I’m so intrigued by the combination of chocolate and apricots!
- Grilled Apricot, Corn & Arugula Salad via How Sweet Eats. I’m ALWAYS down for grilled stone fruit. This recipe calls for fresh mozzarella, but you can easily sub with your favorite vegan option.
- Bourbon Peach Smash. Okay, so this doesn’t technically involve any apricots. But you could easily substitute apricots for peaches one-to-one and it would be fantastic!
- Vegan Apricot Ginger Cobbler via The Viet Vegan. I was in at the first sentence: “Apricot and ginger mingle and marry beneath a layer of fluffy, ginger-scented biscuits”. Someone please deliver this to me.
- Cardamom Poached Apricots via The Broken Bread. One of the most creative uses of apricots I’ve seen. These look AMAZING.
These vegan and gluten free apricot oat bars are a healthier take on one of our all-time favorite family recipes. They’re buttery, slightly tart, just sweet enough, and they’re also nut free.
Apricot Jam Filling:
- 3 lbs. fresh apricots, quartered
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/3 cup cane sugar
- 2 tbsp Grand Marnier (or other orange-flavored liqueur)
- 1/2 tbsp fresh orange zest
- 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp white rice flour
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
- 1/3 cup hemp seeds
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup vegan butter, chilled and cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- Cut apricots in half and remove pit, then quarter or roughly chop.
- Add to large saucepan with coconut sugar, cane sugar, and orange liqueur. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often.
- Gently mash apricots as they soften with the back of a wooden spoon. Continue to simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in orange zest towards the end of cooking time.
- Remove from heat and let cool at least 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Add oats, rice flour, coconut sugar, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt to a food processor. Pulse to combine.
- Add in vegan butter, honey or maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Pulse until crumbly, but well incorporated. You should be able to press the dough together between two fingers without too much crumbling.
- Line a 9 x 9 pan with parchment paper. Press half of crust mixture into pan.
- Top with apricot filling, spread evenly, then top with remaining crust.
- Bake for 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown.
- Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Let the apricots simmer and soften for at least 20 minutes before gently mashing them with the back of a wooden spoon. If you’d like, you can puree the filling once it’s finished cooking, but we like to leave some larger apricot pieces for a bit of texture.