Vegan Cranberry Cheesecake Bars
Creamy vegan cheesecake bars topped with a luscious cranberry topping. The delicious homemade oat and almond crust couldn’t be simpler! Easy to make and refined sugar free. Just a dozen ingredients. Vegan & Gluten free. <jump to recipe>
Anguel doesn’t ask for much, but when he wants something, he really goes for it. Take the past few weeks for instance. The dude’s been on my case to develop a new dessert recipe. He asks, and he asks often. Like, every single day. Not kidding. At first, I gave him some sass (exactly like this). But eventually I caved, because who can say no to dessert?
Coming up with a new dessert recipe, on the other hand, requires a lot of trial and error. Sure, it usually turns out alright the first time around. But nobody wants to be just “alright”. And Anguel’s caught onto this by now. When he asks for a new recipe, it’s not because he’s bored of his favorites (like this, this and this). Nope, he just happens to know exactly what kind of rabbit hole comes with a new recipe: one that’s filled with many do-overs and plenty of kitchen scraps. Luckily, this dude’s sweet tooth is gladly waiting on the other side.
After a couple weeks of testing, we’ve now eaten so much cheesecake that we’re pretty much one bar away from turning into cashews. And if you’re unsure why testing a cheesecake recipe requires copious amounts of cashews, then spoiler alert: this version doesn’t actually contain dairy at all! Rather, the creamy filling is made from cashews and coconut cream. A squeeze of lemon juice gives this “cheesecake” a classic tang. It’s a magical combo that’s every bit as luscious as its dairy-packed counterpart.
Beyond the creamy cashew cheesecake filling - there’s still so much more to love. These bars feature a super simple nut and oat crust that tastes kinda like graham crackers. Honestly, I had a bit of a head-start with this recipe since I started with a variation of this yummy cheesecake recipe I shared on the blog a while back. But this time around, the crust is a bit softer, which works better for these bars. I also adjusted the ratio of cashews and coconut cream to allow the filling to set up in the fridge instead of the freezer. You’ll still need to keep them refrigerated before serving, but they won’t need as much time to soften which means eating ASAP.
And let’s not forget about the topping. The fact that cranberries were on mega blow-out at the store was exactly the incentive I needed to add a third (but easy) layer to this dish. In hindsight, it’s the perfect festive touch. But on a side note, I still can’t explain why someone who spends a small fortune on her monthly nut supply is motivated by saving a couple bucks on cranberries (heh), but anyways...The luscious fruit topping comes together in a cinch: cranberries (I used frozen), orange juice and a small glug of maple syrup to balance out the naturally tart berries. The end result is a perfectly balanced fruity topping which makes these bars dangerously addictive, trust me.
VEGAN CRANBERRY CHEESECAKE BARS
MAKES 12 BARS (VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE)
1 cup oats
1 cup almonds (raw)
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked (6 hours or ideally overnight) and rinsed well*
1 1/4 cups coconut cream**
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 oz / 285 g cranberries
2/3 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
Line a 8 x 8” square baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a food processor, blend oats into a fine powder. Add almonds, cinnamon and salt. Pulse until the almonds become the consistency of almond flour. Add oil and maple syrup and pulse until the mixture forms a loose ball. Transfer the mixture into the baking pan. Use the back of a spoon to press and smooth the crust into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until the edges become slightly golden brown. Remove from oven to cool.
In a high-speed blender, combine soaked cashews, coconut cream, maple syrup, lemon juice, coconut oil and vanilla. Blend until smooth and creamy. Pour the cheesecake filling over the crust. Refrigerate until the mixture sets (~6 hours or ideally overnight).
Meanwhile, heat cranberries, orange juice and maple syrup in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Add arrowroot powder and stir thoroughly to remove clumps. Simmer for another 1-2 minutes until the mixture thickens. Transfer to a container and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, smooth the cranberry topping over the chilled cheesecake. Slice into bars and serve immediately. Extras should be stored in the fridge.
*If you’re in a pinch, you can “quick soak” cashews by pouring boiling water over them and letting them sit for ~1 hour, or until soft.
**You can either buy canned coconut cream, or use a full fat can of coconut milk where the solids have separated from the liquid. If using coconut milk, put a couple cans into the back of the fridge overnight to allow it to separate. Use only the solid white coconut cream for this recipe (coconut water can be reserved for another use).
Adapted from my "Vegan Cheesecake with Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce" recipe