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!
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
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!
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.
The optional crumble topping resembles that of an apple crisp and gives it that final icing on the (cheese)cake!
We hope you LOVE these cheesecake bars! They’re:
& 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.
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!
Apple Butter Cheesecake Bars (Vegan/GF)
- 3/4 cup apple butter (or sub pumpkin butter for another fall flavor variation)
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
*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.
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