These Caramel Apple Pie Bars are gluten free, vegan, and absolutely decadent! They’re such a delicious fall treat. My favorite way to eat them is with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream and some coffee, because why not?
We were inspired to create this recipe from one of our favorite recipes we made last Spring. These Raspberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars were a huge hit! But now apple season is somehow already knocking on our door. So it’s time to bring this gluten free recipe into the new season. Enter: buttery vegan caramel apple pie bars.
How to Make A Buttery Vegan/Gluten Free Crust
Both the crust and the topping on these decadent vegan apple pie bars is one recipe. That means there’s no need to get out yet another mixing bowl for a streusel topping. Yet you get to enjoy the same crumbly, buttery deliciousness of streusel.
The secret to a celiac-friendly crust that will please everyone is a few key ingredients:
- Rolled Oats. These provide the crumbly texture. Plus, there’s just something so warming about the combination of oats and apple filling. By the way, roll oats are the same as old-fashioned oats. Just don’t go for quick-cooking or instant, and you should be good!
- Sweet Rice Flour. We like Bob’s Red Mill. Rice flour is a lighter gluten free flour option. It won’t weigh down these caramel apple bars.
- Pecans. Mixing these creamy nuts right into the crust for these vegan bars is the key to a rich dessert without extra butter. Pecans have such a nice buttery flavor on their own.
- Coconut Sugar. This gluten free dessert recipe calls for a mixture of regular and coconut sugar. The coconut adds a nice browning because of its lower heat point. Also, the subtle coconut flavor is so nice alongside the cinnamon, apples and caramel.
- Ground spices. Like any good fall dessert, these caramel apple bars bring in all the warming spices. We’re talking cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
- Almond butter. This is the key to a gluten free crust that stays together. We like a creamy almond butter without added sugars. Justin’s is a great option.
How to Make Easy Vegan Salted Caramel Sauce
We love the vegan salted caramel in these apple pie bars. We love it so much that we added it to the apple filling and then drizzled over everything at the end. There’s nothing like gooey salted caramel for a finishing touch on a vegan dessert.
There are a few great vegan caramel brands we like. One is from the date lady. Of course, it’s also super easy to make delicious homemade vegan caramel. You can try our recipe here. Our vegan caramel sauce is only 4 ingredients! And it takes just 15 minutes start to finish.
Warning: you might start needing this salted caramel sauce on every dessert. It would be especially good on top of vegan cookie dough ice cream.
The Perfect Vegan Apple Pie Filling Recipe
Let’s talk vegan apple pie filling. The recipe for these bars is similar to a classic apple pie filling. We made a few changes to keep it dairy-free and gluten free.
First, we skip the butter. There’s no need to add extra butter when there’s already so much richness in our crust. Remember: pecans, vegan butter and almond butter? We’re covered on the butter front 🙂
Secondly, we boost our apples with spices. A dash or two more cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg never hurt a warming fall dessert right?
A squeeze of lemon juice in our apple pie filling does a few things. First, it keeps the apples from turning brown after we cut them. It also gives the filing a hit of acid, which balances all the sweetness.
Speak of sweetness, we like a mixture of different flavored sweeteners. The apples, of course, add their own natural sweetness. Then we use a bit of maple syrup for that extra fall flavor. We always choose pure maple syrup. For more on that, see here.
Finally, arrowroot flour is the secret to gluten free apple pie filling that holds together. It acts as a binding agent so these bars are nice and firm.
What kind of apples are best for baking?
We highly recommend firm apples for baking. Anything known for its crispness will do the trick. Granny Smith apples are an excellent choice for baking. They hold up well, without falling apart in the heat.
Honeycrisps are another great option. They’re sweet and tart and a little more expensive than other apple varieties. They also taste amazing. So we don’t blame you if you end up eating your honeycrisps as-is 🙂
Other great baking options include Pink Lady, Braeburns and Gala apples. You don’t want to use soft apples for baking. These include Red Delicious and Golden Delicious.
Why make bars instead of pie?
We love a good pie here in the Crowded Kitchen. Even an apple crisp! Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a classic fresh-from-the-oven apple pie. And I bet that this recipe would also make a great pie. However, we just love eating our dessert with our hands.
In addition, bars are easier to serve and store. They’re especially great if for a large crowd. You can pack these bars up and serve them at a school, pot luck or dinner party.
Also, our vegan and gluten free crust and topping lends itself better to bars than pie. Our topping is crumbly and buttery, so bars allow the apple pie filling to mix into the crust a little more.
At the end of the day, the perfect vegan fall dessert combines oat-y, nutty topping with melted apple pieces in one hand-held treat. In fact, I bet these would be just a big a hit at your Thanksgiving table as any of the pies.
Here are some other vegan and gluten free dessert bars we’re loving:
- Vegan Four Berry Pie Bars. A classic Michigan dessert turned gluten free and packable.
- Apricot Oat Bars. This is the perfect late-summer stone fruit dessert. Or breakfast–why not?
- Raspberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars. These are a lot like our caramel apple pie bars. We like to think of them as the summery version. But we’ll gladly eat them any time of year.
- Chocolate Pecan Caramel Shortbread Bars. If you’re on a caramel and pecan kick after these apple pie bars, then look no further than this recipe. It has it all, plus chocolate and shortbread. Need we say more?
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Much easier to make than homemade apple pie, these caramel apple pie bars are a delicious way to use up seasonal apples.
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup sweet rice flour
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 coconut sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1 cup dairy free butter, chilled and cut into pieces. We like Earth Balance Buttery Sticks.
- 4 tbsp creamy almond butter
Apple pie filling:
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- To make crust, combine all ingredients except butter and almond butter in food processor and pulse until well combined. Add butter and almond butter and continue to pulse until it forms a coarse crumble.
- Press 1/2 of mixture into pan. Reserve rest of mixture for topping.
- To make filling, add apples, sugar, maple syrup and lemon juice to a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant and slightly softened. Add spices and arrowroot powder and bring to a simmer. Stir often until apples are completely softened and mixture has thickened.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Spread filling over crust in an even layer, then drizzle with vegan caramel, then add remaining crumble topping.
- Bake for 30-32 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.
- Serve with more vegan caramel and some vanilla ice cream!
Arrowroot powder is a pantry staple in our house – similar to cornstarch, it helps thicken this apple pie filling. You can find it at most specialty food stores.