When looking for a delicious and quick dessert this Holiday season, these chocolate pecan caramel bars are the perfect fix.
Growing up, I was never a huge fan of pecan pie; it always seemed just a tad too sweet and heavy, especially at the tail end of a huge Thanksgiving meal. Then, last year at Christmas, we made these Vegan Pecan Caramel Bars and I ate half of the pan in an hour. So there ya go.
First things first, homemade vegan caramel is super easy to make (only four ingredients) and it tastes absolutely amazing. All you need to make it is equal parts full fat coconut cream and coconut sugar, plus a pinch of sea salt and vanilla extract (and some patience to let it cool!). If you're planning to make these pecan caramel bars last minute, either make a batch of caramel beforehand (it stores well in the refrigerator) or use a store-bought alternative.
NOTE: We make this the night before we plan to serve them so that they have a bit of time to harden in the fridge. They're still delicious when the caramel is a bit runny, but they're a mess!
The buttery shortbread crust is completely vegan and gluten free. During a taste test with regular homemade shortbread, our youngest (and pickiest) family member declared the vegan version winner. You can also use this shortbread recipe to make regular cut-out cookies during the holidays. We actually did last year and dipped them in dark chocolate & crushed peppermint...yum!
If for some reason you don't like pecans, I'd imagine this would be quite good with chopped almonds, too! The dark chocolate drizzle is optional, but encouraged (along with the flakey sea salt!). We plan to make these pecan caramel bars for Thanksgiving instead of making regular pie. Not only are they easier to make, but they also store better and are much easier to serve than pie. We'll still be making a traditional pumpkin pie, of course, but it's always nice to switch things up! These would also be great for a Holiday cookie swap - your friends and family won't even notice that they're gluten free or vegan (which can be tough to achieve, especially in baked goods!).
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A buttery shortbread crust + pecan caramel filling + dark chocolate = dessert heaven!
- ¾ cup coconut oil (solid, but softened)
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 ¼ cups gluten free all purpose flour
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 ½ cups chopped pecans
- ½ cup melted dairy free chocolate chips + 1 tbsp coconut oil
- Flaky sea salt for topping
- In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients on low heat and stir until smooth and well incorporated.
- Bring to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and let cool while making shortbread.
- Preheat oven to 350 F and line a 9x9 inch pan with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, cream coconut oil and sugar with hand mixer or stand mixer.
- Add maple syrup and vanilla and mix until well combined.
- Add flour and mix for 10-15 seconds, or until a crumb texture forms.
- Knead dough until it forms into a ball and you can pinch the dough without it crumbling.
- Press dough into bottom of pan and slightly up the sides. Perforate with fork in a few areas before baking.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool completely.
- Meanwhile, stir chopped pecans into caramel mixture. When shortbread is cooled, pour caramel/pecan mixture over shortbread.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before slicing into bars. Drizzle with chocolate & a pinch of flakey salt after cutting. Enjoy!
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Oven