Apple Butter Cheesecake Bars (Vegan/GF)

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Close up shot of a stack of vegan cheesecake bars filled with apple butter

After cracking the code on date-sweetened apple butter, we wanted to put it to use in something approachable yet delicious. We settled on cheesecake bars, vegan and gluten-free, of course.

We modified this recipe from some of our previous cheesecakes, but with a twist: swirled with apple butter and topped with an (optional but delicious) maple oat crumble. MAJOR SWOON. The best part? Simple methods and just 10 wholesome ingredients required. Let us show you how it’s done!

Almonds, apple butter, coconut cream, lemon, coconut oil, salt, cashews, almond flour, arrowroot starch, oats, and maple syrup

These bars consist of four simple components:

  • A 5-ingredient, graham cracker-like crust
  • A creamy, tangy cashew-coconut filling
  • Swirls of caramelized apple butter
  • And an optional maple oat crumble
Blender with almonds, oats, sea salt, maple syrup, and coconut oil

The crust is made in a blender and then pressed into a pan. The base is rolled oats, almonds, and sea salt with maple syrup adding sweetness and coconut oil for binding. When combined together, the taste is reminiscent of graham crackers!

Adding crust to a parchment-lined baking pan

For the filling, we used cashews and coconut to make it rich and creamy with arrowroot or cornstarch to help it thicken. Lemon juice adds tang and lemon zest adds tartness to balance the sweetness from the maple syrup.

Apple butter swirls add bites of cinnamony sweetness that further balance the tanginess of the cashew-coconut filling.

Spreading homemade apple butter over the crust

The optional crumble topping resembles that of an apple crisp and gives it that final icing on the (cheese)cake!

Sprinkling a crumble topping over cheesecake

We hope you LOVE these cheesecake bars! They’re:

Tangy
Apple-infused
Cinnamon-swirled
Perfectly sweet
Delicious
& Have a graham cracker-like crust!

They’re a decadent fall and winter dessert perfect for making ahead and enjoying any time you’re craving something sweet yet wholesome.

Pan and plates filled with apple butter vegan cheesecake bars

More Vegan Cheesecake Recipes

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Two squares of apple butter cheesecake bars

Apple Butter Cheesecake Bars (Vegan/GF)

All of the flavors of autumn packed into vegan, gluten-free cheesecake bars! Apple butter is swirled with a coconut cashew filling and baked over an almond-oat crust. Naturally sweetened and just 10 wholesome ingredients required!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Plate stacked with three apple butter cheesecake bars
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 7 hours
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 7 hours 45 minutes
Servings 16 (Bars)
Course Dessert
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 4 Days

Ingredients

APPLE SWIRL

CRUST

  • 1 heaping cup rolled oats (ensure gluten-free for GF eaters)
  • 1 heaping cup raw almonds
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 4-5 Tbsp coconut oil (melted)

FILLING

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup coconut cream*
  • 1 ½ Tbsp arrowroot or cornstarch
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (~1 lemon zested, as original recipe is written)
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice (~1 large lemon juiced, as original recipe is written)
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (plus more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

CRUMBLE TOPPING optional

  • 2 Tbsp rolled oats (ensure gluten-free for GF eaters)
  • 3 Tbsp almond flour
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 healthy pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp coconut oil (melted) or avocado oil
  • 2-3 tsp maple syrup

Instructions

  • If you haven’t prepared your apple butter yet, do so at this time and allow it to fully cool (not included in prep time). Alternatively, use store-bought to save time.
  • Add raw cashews (for filling) to a glass measuring cup or mixing bowl and cover with boiling hot water. Let rest for 30 minutes (or up to 1 hour ) uncovered. Then drain thoroughly.
  • In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and line an 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment paper.
  • Add oats, almonds, and sea salt to a high-speed blender and mix on high until a fine meal is achieved.
  • Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and add maple syrup and melted coconut oil, starting with the lesser end of the range (4 Tbsp or 60 g as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) and adding more if it’s too dry. Stir with a spoon to combine until a loose dough is formed. You should be able to squeeze the mixture between two fingers and form a dough instead of it crumbling. If too dry, add a bit more melted coconut oil.
  • Transfer mixture to parchment-lined baking pan and spread evenly. Then place parchment paper on top and use a flat-bottomed object, such as a drinking glass, to press down firmly until it’s evenly distributed and well packed.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then increase heat to 375 F (190 C) and bake for 4-6 minutes more, or until the edges are golden brown and there is some browning on the surface. Remove from oven to cool slightly, then reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F (176 C).
  • Once cashews are soaked and drained, add to a high-speed blender with coconut cream, arrowroot starch, lemon zest, lemon juice, sea salt, maple syrup, and cinnamon (optional). Blend on high until very creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed.
  • Taste and adjust flavor as needed. I added a bit more lemon zest for tanginess, or you can add maple syrup for sweetness. It should be a balanced flavor — both lemony and sweet. Set aside.
  • To the crust, add a few spoonfuls of your apple butter and spread into a thin layer (it won’t cover it entirely or evenly — that’s okay). Then pour all of the cheesecake filling on top and spread into an even layer. Tap on the counter to remove any air bubbles.
  • Add the remaining apple butter in small spoonfuls (~1 Tbsp amounts) and use a toothpick or knife to create a swirled effect.
  • OPTIONAL CRUMBLE: To a small bowl add oats, almond flour, salt, cinnamon, coconut oil, and maple syrup and mix to combine until a loose crumble forms. If too wet, add more almond flour. If too dry, add more maple syrup. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the cheesecake.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges look very slightly dry and the center appears “jiggly” but not liquidy. It will be a little golden brown on top (especially around the edges) but only slightly. Resist the temptation to overbake.
  • Let rest for 10 minutes, then loosely cover with parchment paper and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 6-8 hours or until totally set (preferably overnight).
  • To serve, gently lift out of the baking dish and slice into even bars (as the recipe is written, ~16). Store leftovers in the refrigerator (covered) for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month, though best within the first 2 days.

Video

Notes

*Our favorite coconut cream is Savoy brand. I highly recommend coconut cream over full-fat coconut milk. But if you can’t find coconut cream, buy a couple of cans of full-fat coconut milk and scoop the cream off the top.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without optional ingredients.
*In place of apple butter you could sub 1/2 batch easy baked apples (but chop apples instead of dicing). Add half to the bottom of the crust and half on top, then bake as instructed.

Nutrition (1 of 16 servings)

Serving: 1 bar Calories: 212 Carbohydrates: 19 g Protein: 3.9 g Fat: 14.2 g Saturated Fat: 6.8 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.63 g Monounsaturated Fat: 4.52 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 7 mg Potassium: 182 mg Fiber: 2.5 g Sugar: 8.6 g Vitamin A: 13.42 IU Vitamin C: 2.33 mg Calcium: 35.61 mg Iron: 1.1 mg

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  1. Hannah Hearth says

    This was great! I am not vegan, and ran out of coconut oil, so I subbed butter in a few places, and it worked great.

    My homemade pumpkin butter was moldy 😱 so I had to pivot and use some homemade blackberry jam. Excellent substitution!

    Finally, I think my lemon was quite a bit juicier than expected, so these almost tasted like creamy lemon bars, which I absolutely loved.

    So all in all, mine were definitely different, but it felt like a foolproof recipe that was super flexible.

  2. Bea says

    I made this! It was super tasty. After dessert, I let the rest of the batch on the counter and there was only one left in the morning!
    I added the optional cinnamon to the filling which turned it brown rather than white so all the layers were different shades of brown; not as pretty as in the photos.
    I also didn’t measure the amount of lemon juice (couldn’t be bothered to squeeze a lemon into a container and measure from there, squeezed it right into the mixing bowl)…so it was quite lemony.
    I also also didn’t add any dates to the apple butter, but no regrets on that front, that apply butter is amazing – will be making another batch of the apple butter soon.
    All in all, really tasty!
    Not sure if i’d make it again unless requested by family but it was fun to try out.

  3. Emilia S. says

    Hello! I just made this amazing vegan treat, and I am only annoyed that I didn’t make them earlier on the week. I did have to do some swaps, but it still came out fabulous. I had no coconut oil, maple syrup, and coconut cream, so I used tahini, honey, and soy milk respectively. Because the milk is so liquid-y, I cooked it with some cornstarch on the stovetop beforehand. It was quick so no worries!
    Thank you so much for the recipe; I can’t wait to try another one this weekend.

  4. Milan Lawrence says

    Hello!

    I saw this recipe and I knew I had to try it. I followed the directions and this dessert came out perfectly! It has a beautiful mix of apple and cheesecake. It was so delicious! Plus my family liked it! I will make it again in the future. Thanks, Minimalist Baker!! Your recipes never disappoint!

  5. Sarah says

    Looks amazing! I do have a question, do you have to bake it the second time? The filling seems similar to “raw” cheesecake recipes where it chills to set. Thoughts? I plan to make it with a passionfruit butter instead of apple, hi from Tanzania!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Sounds amazing! If you’d prefer not to bake it, we’d suggest leaving out the arrowroot starch and adding slightly less coconut cream. You can refrigerate it overnight and then if it is still too soft, pop it in the freezer for an hour or two to help it firm up. Let us know how it goes!

  6. Sara says

    These were absolutely delicious and one of my favorite desserts I have ever made. The apple butter took awhile but it was WELL worth the wait (and ended up with extra too!) Something I would try next time is to make them in a larger pan as the crust was a bit thick in some areas. To be honest mine did not look like the recipe photos, and I was a bit worried for how they would come out, but they came out perfect! Several of my non-vegan & vegan family members wanted more. Thanks for an amazing recipe and perfecting the dessert of my dreams!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you and your family enjoyed them =) Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Sara!

  7. Laura says

    Hi. This recipe sounds heavenly, however I am allergic to maple. Do you have any suggestions for a substitute? Thank you!

  8. Baiba says

    Dear Dana,

    Once I saw the pics and went through the ingredients it was clear I am making this ASAP.
    I am used to your recipes being quick, so just watched the videos and started to cook. I was so surprised that I have to cook the apple butter for 2 hrs :D Well, ok, it’s still morning, so it’s fine. Once that was done, I started on the cake. When I took it out of the oven, I was in for yet another surprise – the cake should be refrigerated for at least 6 hrs. I have never waited for a food like that in my life :D But it was more than worth it!

    I must admit that the cake being square doesn’t do it justice – I made it round, it looks as fancy as it tastes that way, so this will be a legit b-day cake on my very lonely b-day party aka Corona style :)

    P.S. I suggest to add the apple butter with tsp, not tbsp, so it would be easier to swirl for us beginners :)

    6 stars from me
    xoxo

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review, Baiba! We’re so glad it was worth the wait =) Happy birthday! xo

  9. ERodMcG says

    Made this last night and it’s to die for! I subbed coconut sugar for some of the maple syrup in the crust so it would dry out faster. I also used some homemade coconut yogurt in the filling for tang. So delicious!!!

  10. Franki says

    I made this recipe this week – it was fabulous! We were surprised by how creamy and delicious it was as it was my first time making or eating a vegan cheesecake, and I shared it with my friends. We did a couple things differently. First of all, we didn’t have any almonds in the cupboard for the base, so I just used pecan instead… I think it may have been even better than it would have been with almonds!? Also, we used a combo of leftover apple sauce and about 3 apples because that was what we had in the house, and next time I would want to make the amount specified in the recipe because dang that apple butter is good. I will definitely be making this again!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Amazing! Thanks so much for sharing, Franki! And agreed – the apple butter is slightly addictive =)

  11. Nic says

    Some of the best emails that I receive are new recipes from you guys! I just had to make this last night. I had to make a few substitutions to work with what I had at home. I used pumpkin butter instead of apple butter (amazing) and I had to reduce coconut milk on the stovetop since I did not have coconut cream.. and it worked like a charm!

    I also had a gluten/dairy eating family member go back for seconds.

    Thank you for another amazing recipe!

  12. Tiina says

    Holy moly these sound amazing, I can’t wait to try! What do you think of adding a little vanilla to the filling? Would it clash with the lemon?

  13. courtney says

    i’m allergic to cashews, but can have other types of nuts. is there something else you think i could use instead? these look amazing btw!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Anna, we haven’t tried it, but maybe try sunflower seeds or buckwheat groats? Let us know how it goes!

  14. Renee says

    I can’t tolerate oats or almonds, do you have any ideas on subs for the crust? I would love to try this recipe!!!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Debbie, it’s tricky to replicate the thickness of coconut cream. Your best bet would probably be a thick cashew cream or dairy-free yogurt, but we haven’t tried it that way and can’t guarantee results.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Bella, we haven’t tried it this way, but perhaps try subbing nut butter? It’ll probably turn out more tender instead of crisp, but still tasty. Let us know if you try it!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hm, perhaps! But the apple butter adds a nice sweetness. We think another fruit purée would be better if apple butter isn’t available.

  15. Cat says

    This looks amazing! I am looking for a substitute for the cashews, I have a cashew allergy. Any thoughts? Perhaps pine nuts or raw sunflower seeds? I’d appreciate any feedback.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Cat, we’d say macadamia nuts or perhaps sunflower seeds, but haven’t tried it ourselves. Let us know if you do!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Shelley, we haven’t tried, but think pecans or walnuts might work (though you may need to reduce the coconut oil if using pecans). Let us know if you do some experimenting!