This dessert is comparable to classic pecan pie, but Fresh is Real’s version is also free of gluten, eggs & dairy! And, in the Maple Cream Bars, you can use whatever filling mix-ins you want. Of course, leave out the pecans if you are allergic to nuts. Alternatively, add seeds, GF oats, unsweetened shredded coconut, dry fruit, dark chocolate or a combo of a few.
Table of Contents
- Decadent Maple Cream Bars
- Perfectly Veganized Dessert
- Recipe Ingredients
- Base Crust Ingredients
- Filling Ingredients With Coconut Cream (All-In Option A)
- Filling Ingredients Without Coconut Cream (Basic Option B)
- Important Ingredient Notes
- Good-To-Know Details
- Kitchen Tools To Make Maple Cream Bars
- Maple Cream Bars Instructions
- Recipe Tips
- Storing The Maple Cream Bars
- Can I Half The Recipe?
- Printable Recipe Card
Decadent Maple Cream Bars
From start to finish, the eggless pecan pie-style bars take up to a couple of hours to make. Do plan for some chilling time, as the bars are definitely better cooled and even refrigerated. Consider baking the bars the day before you plan to serve them.
These bars might remind you of some childhood favourites, but this recipe is allergen-friendly. A perfect sweet alternative to chocolate-coconut bars, gooey layered everything bars, maple pie and pecan butter tarts.
This dessert was inspired by the popular 1-ingredient Maple Cream recipe. For the delicious maple cream recipe, the syrup boils to 234°F, and for the bars, I suggest boiling the pure maple syrup until it reaches 235°F.
Perfectly Veganized Dessert
Fresh is Real loves to veganize recipes! Heck, this dessert could almost be considered a healthy vegan pecan pie! It is sweet, but enjoying one piece at a special holiday meal is—in my opinion—a perfect treat!
When baking for others during the holiday season or special occasions, I try to include one sweeter dessert that will suit most guests. This recipe is free of all top allergens if you leave out the pecans (nuts) and include allergy-free mix-ins.
The bars are great served on their own, and some might like a scoop of vanilla ice cream—or vegan ice cream—with their piece.
Some ingredients (i.e., coconut cream, GF baking powder, vanilla extract) could be omitted if you did not have them on hand. See the details in the Important Ingredient Notes below.
This recipe DOES NOT include light or dark corn syrup, brown rice syrup, corn starch, dairy, eggs, brown sugar, coconut sugar, refined sugar, or sweetened condensed milk.
In total, this recipe includes approximately 10 simple ingredients. Some are optional, and adding more mix-ins is encouraged.
Base Crust Ingredients
Flaxseed meal: The flax act as a binder in this gluten-free, vegan dough mixture. It helps to stick everything together. A substitute would be whole psyllium husk (approx. half the quantity). If you don’t have flaxseed meal, you can fine-grind some flax seeds.
Hot Water: Not technically an ingredient but the temperature of the water in this recipe matters. Boil your water before whisking it with the flax. This crust recipe does not include cold water.
Pure Maple Syrup: A smaller can of maple syrup is about 540ml. Use 500ml for the filling and the remaining 40ml for the base crust. To save, buy a larger quantity, as you can use the rest for other recipes.
GF Flour Blend: You could try a store-bought all-purpose gluten-free flour mix (without xanthan gum) or create a custom mix with a combination of a few GF flours (i.e., light buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, GF oat flour) and starches (i.e., tapioca starch, arrowroot starch, potato starch). See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for details.
GF Baking Powder: GF baking powder is not completely necessary, but if you have some, add a tiny bit. Doing so will help lighten the texture.
Sunflower Seed Flour: With a small blender or spice grinder, you can grind organic raw sunflower seeds into sunflower seed flour. Don’t blend the seeds too long, as they could turn into sunflower seed butter. And, if you’re not allergic to nuts, almond flour is a good substitute.
Sea Salt: A good quality fine grey, fine ground or Celtic sea salt is perfect for the base dough.
Vegan Butter: Use whatever brand of vegan butter you like, or organic extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil as an alternative.
Filling Ingredients With Coconut Cream (All-In Option A)
Pure Maple Syrup: If the maple syrup you have is darker, it might take less time to boil it to thicken. I often use a dark amber syrup (grade A) to a darker syrup (grade B), and both are great.
Flaxseed Meal: The addition of flax in the mixture also helps to thicken the filling.
Organic Coconut Cream: For this recipe, add the top cream part from a can of coconut milk. This non-dairy milk creamy ingredient is optional. Don’t have coconut cream? See Basic Option B or learn more in the Important Ingredient Notes below.
Pure Vanilla Extract (or Pure Vanilla Bean Powder): Adding vanilla extract creates another level of flavour, but it is optional.
Mix-Ins: Option 1, use only one mix-in (i.e., whole and chopped pecans*) or Option 2, add a combination of mix-ins. Depending on the thickness of your maple syrup and coconut cream, you might need more mix-ins to create the right consistency. At a minimum, you will need 2 cups. Add more, up to 3 to 4 cups, to achieve a thicker mixture. See the How-To Recipe Video for helpful visuals. Mix-Ins: whole or chopped pecans*, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, GF oats (quick or large), unsweetened shredded coconut, dry fruit, and chopped dark chocolate. *Avoid pecans if allergic to nuts.
Filling Ingredients Without Coconut Cream (Basic Option B)
Pure Maple Syrup: If the maple syrup you have is darker, it might take less time to boil it to thicken. I often use a dark amber syrup (grade A) to a darker syrup (grade B), and both are great.
Mix-Ins: Option 1, use only one mix-in or Option 2, add a combination of mix-ins. Depending on the thickness of your maple syrup and if you add coconut cream, you might need more or fewer mix-ins to create the right consistency. Mix-ins: whole or chopped pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, GF oats (quick or large), unsweetened shredded coconut, dry fruit, and chopped dark chocolate. *Avoid pecans if allergic to nuts.
IMPORTANT INGREDIENT NOTES
If you prefer a gooey filling like in a classic pecan pie, adding the coconut cream will help to achieve a similar consistency. It replaces eggs and butter.
The best way to judge if you’ve added enough mix-ins for the filling is to start with 2 cups for a whole recipe. If the consistency is too thin, consider adding more. If only using nuts in your filling (or another single mix-in ingredient such as sunflower seeds), consider adding some whole and some chopped up.
Omitting the coconut cream in the filling also works well. If you leave out the cream, you will likely only need the minimum amount (2 cups) of mix-ins, as the filling will be much thicker.
A great tip if NOT using coconut cream is to mix/hand stir the boiled maple syrup (once cooled to about 90-95°F) for a minute to help thicken it. The dark syrup will transform into a beautiful golden caramel hue, then add your mix-ins.
Roasting/toasting your seeds, nuts, or even the unsweetened shredded coconut is optional but can create incredible flavours. Do so in a dry pan on low to medium heat for a few minutes until you smell the toasty aroma. Once done, turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
If this is your first time preparing an allergen-friendly dessert, ensure that all the ingredients you buy are free of the allergen you or your loved one must avoid.
Before you start, ask your family or friends with allergies if it’s ok to prepare a dessert for them. Some might prefer having you bake at their place with their pans and kitchen tools to avoid cross-contamination.
Pure maple syrup replaces the corn syrup that you would find in traditional pecan pie ingredients. But because maple syrup is thinner, boiling it until it reaches 235°F is very important.
See the recipe card at the bottom for the full instructions. The Important Ingredient Notes above also include helpful tips.
Kitchen Tools to Make Maple Cream Bars
You don’t need a food processor to make the crust for this recipe, but you will need a candy thermometer when boiling the maple syrup in a medium saucepan. You could try making the recipe without one, but only if you have experience boiling maple syrup. I wouldn’t chance to ruin two cups of gorgeous maple syrup.
My candy thermometer was less than 10 dollars, and I use it all the time now that I have it! It’s great to check the internal temperature of freshly baked loaves of bread. Digital candy thermometers are better for accuracy.
For this recipe, you won’t need a rolling pin to make the crust. Press the homemade crust with your fingers or a soft spatula into a large parchment-lined baking dish.
A wooden spoon is great for stirring in the mix-ins in the thickened maple syrup and also for transferring the mixture to the crust.
You will need a large rectangular baking dish. Ideally, one that is approx. 13 x 10 inches. My glass baking dish has rounded corners, and I think a pan with straight corners would be nicer to make bars. If making a half recipe, a rectangular tart tin or a smaller square baking dish (8 to 9 inches) would also work perfectly.
Unbleached parchment paper is essential because this dessert is sticky. It’s much easier to remove the dessert by lifting the paper out of the baking dish to then slice each piece on a flat surface. Two sheets, one in each direction, are ideal so all areas of the pan are covered.
A small blender or spice grinder makes wonderful freshly milled sunflower flour.
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Maple Cream Bars Instructions
Making this dessert includes the preparation of the crust, boiling the pure maple syrup to thicken it, adding the remaining ingredients and mix-ins to the filling, spreading the filling overtop the base and baking the bars.
Preparing the base crust involves mixing the base ingredients and pressing the dough directly into the parchment-lined baking dish. The base crust bakes for 20 minutes before spreading the maple syrup filling overtop the crust.
While the crust is baking, you can boil the maple syrup in a medium saucepan, don’t forget to have your digital candy thermometer ready. Once it reaches the right temperature (235°F), after about 10 minutes of boiling, cool the syrup to approximately 90-95°F, add the remaining ingredients and mix-ins, and then pour overtop the cooled (a bit warm is ok) base crust.
The last step includes baking the bars for 30 minutes (up to 40 minutes). More baking time might be necessary for the filling with coconut cream, and the overall quantity of mix-ins added will also affect the total baking time. If making the Basic Option B version, the final bake could take less time (20 minutes might be plenty). See the detailed instructions in the recipe card.
Making this recipe can take 1.5 hours up to 2 hours, all depending on if you roast/toast some of your add-ins. There’s also the cooling and chilling time to consider.
Love a gooey filling? Add fewer mix-ins and bake for 30 minutes instead of 35 or 40 minutes.
Optional Mix-In Toasting: It’s an extra step but pan-toasting the nuts, seeds or unsweetened shredded coconut before adding them to the boiled maple syrup is worth the extra few minutes. I often taste my seeds (or nuts) first, then decide if they need a flavour boost. To toast, heat a skillet on medium-low, add the seeds or nuts and mix around in the pan for a few minutes until you can smell the seedy or nutty aroma. Don’t over toast as it could change the texture (in a weird way) or even burn them.
Baking Tips: When in the oven, the edges of the bars in the baking pan might bake faster. If that happens, consider covering the sides with aluminum foil to encourage the middle to bake faster while preventing the edges from overbaking. You could also take another sheet of parchment paper and place it overtop the whole baking dish. This could help to bake the filling faster without overbaking the edges. I haven’t tried it but will next time.
Prevent a Potential Mess: Put the baking dish onto a baking sheet during the baking time. Another option is to place a baking sheet on a lower rack to catch any drippage from the middle rack. My filling was not close to the top edge, and yours shouldn’t either unless you use a shorter baking pan like a tart tin. No one wants to clean up a sticky maple syrup mess in the bottom of their oven!
Serving Tip: Keep the bars in the fridge until almost ready to serve. If your filling is softer because you added coconut cream or fewer mix-ins, it might be runnier once it reaches room temperature.
Top Tip: For best results, the most important step in this recipe is boiling the maple syrup to the right temperature before adding the mix-ins. Boiling the syrup on medium heat or (lower the heat if necessary to prevent boiling over) until it reaches 235°F is crucial. If the syrup is too thin, the filling won’t set properly. If you boil the maple syrup too much, it could transform into a very thick and hard-to-stir blob or even dry maple syrup sugar.
Safety Tip: Maple syrup is extremely hot once boiled. Be extra cautious when working with hot syrup! Wear oven mitts if necessary. Boiling two cups of maple syrup in a medium saucepan should be perfect but stay right beside your stovetop when boiling. Once it starts to boil, it can rise fast and boil over and make a big mess. Reduce the heat if your syrup gets too close to the edge of your pot.
Storing The Maple Cream Bars
You can refrigerate the dessert (once cooled) right in the baking dish, covered with plastic wrap or another cover, until ready to serve. Or once cooled, you can cut the bars into 16 pieces and transfer them to the serving plate or an airtight container for longer storage.
TIP: Line the bottom of the storage container with a sheet of parchment paper, as this treat is sticky. Adding a piece of parchment paper between each layer of bars is helpful if the storage container is bigger.
Refrigerate for up to 7 days, or freeze the sliced bars in a deep freezer for a couple of months.
Can I Half The Recipe?
The Maple Cream Bars recipe is easy to cut in half. Ingredients are expensive, and not everyone needs to bake for a crowd.
To do so, reduce the ingredients to half, but remember that the baking time for a smaller batch might be less. For example, the Basic Option B, prepared with only maple syrup, no cream, with a combination of mix-ins, only took 20 minutes for the final bake.
Baking in a tart tin was not the best baking dish option. See an example in the above photo. It was more challenging to remove the dessert from the dish. Because the sides are shorter, it did spill over a bit when baking. It would have worked better with two long sheets of overhanging parchment paper to contain the filling.
You’ll know it’s time to take the bars out of the oven as the side edges might start to bubble and get darker. The filling in the center will set faster, especially with more mix-ins. A version with coconut cream and only one mix-in might take a little longer.
If you have questions, leave them in the comments below.
Maple Syrup Fun Fact
My family has a hobby sugar shack in Ontario, Canada. Each spring, my dad makes pure maple syrup for us. We are spoiled to have access to such a sweet, natural, tasty treat.
How to Make an Allergen-Friendly Pie Crust
Check out the recent Gluten-Free Vegan Pie Crust recipe made with olive oil. It’s easy to make, and you can use it for sweet or savoury pies!
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Maple Cream Bars
- Prep Time: +/- 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 mins, 10 mins, 30-40 mins
- Total Time: +/- 2 hrs (plus cooling/refrigeration)
- Yield: 16 bars 1x
- Category: Treats
- Method: Stovetop, Oven-Baked
- Cuisine: Plant-Based, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Allergen-Friendly
- Diet: Gluten Free
This dessert is comparable to classic pecan pie, but Fresh is Real’s version is also free of gluten, eggs & dairy! And, in the Maple Cream Bars, you can use whatever filling mix-ins you want. Of course, leave out the pecans if allergic to nuts. Alternatively, add seeds, GF oats, unsweetened shredded coconut, dry fruit, dark chocolate or a combo of a few.
If 16 bars is too many, consider preparing a half batch. You can bake half the recipe in a rectangular tart tin, an 8-in to 9-in square baking dish or even a pie plate.
Must have kitchen tools for the recipe: medium saucepan, digital candy thermometer, soft spatula, unbleached parchment paper, wooden spoon, baking dish (approx. 13 x 9 inches), oven mitts and a small blender/spice grinder.
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (20 g)
- 1/2 cup boiling water (118 g/118 ml)
- 40 ml maple syrup (almost 3 tablespoons)
- 2 cups GF flour (240 g), sifted with a whisk; See Recipe Notes
- 1 cup sunflower seed flour (84 g), grind 84 g organic raw sunflower seeds
- 1 teaspoon GF baking powder (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (4 g)
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter, softened
Filling (All-In Option A):
- 2 cups pure maple syrup (320 g/500 ml)
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal (10 g)
- 1/2 cup organic coconut cream (120 g)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
- 2 cups one mix-in or combination mix-ins; See Recipe Notes
See the Notes below and the recipe post for Basic Option B details.
Mix-Ins Examples: 2 cups whole and chopped pecans OR 1/2 cup of raw (or roasted) sunflower seeds, 1/2 GF oats. 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, 1/4 cup hemp seeds with 1/4 cup dark chopped dark chocolate (total 2 cups).
- Pecans (whole and/or chopped) *Avoid pecans if allergic to nuts.
- Sunflower seeds (whole and/or chopped)
- Pumpkin seeds (whole and/or chopped)
- Hemp seeds
- GF oats (quick or large oats)
- Unsweetened shredded coconut
- Dry fruit, chopped
- Dark chocolate, chopped or chips
Before you begin, take a moment to watch the helpful Sweet Treat Maple Cream Bars recipe video and have a look at the process photos in the recipe post.
Step 1: Gather all your ingredients and baking tools and preheat your oven to 350°F. Line your baking dish (13 x 9 inches) with unbleached parchment paper. Ideally, 2 sheets, one in each direction covering your whole dish with a little extra on each side, folded over. The extra paper will facilitate removing the cooled bars from the baking dish. Start boiling some water for the base crust.
Step 2: Prepare the sunflower seed flour by grinding 84 g of organic raw sunflower seeds (a little less than 1 cup) in a small blender or spice grinder. Don’t blend too long, as you might create seed butter. No need to sift the flour. Set aside.
Step 3: Measure all your dry ingredients for the base crust and prepare all your mix-ins. Pan-roasting the mix-in seeds or nuts is optional, but if you have a few extra minutes, toasting them in a dry pan for a few minutes on low to medium heat is wonderful. Let them cool before chopping. You can even toast the unsweetened shredded coconut.
Step 4: To make the base crust, combine the hot water and flaxseed meal in a medium bowl and whisk. Add the remaining base crust ingredients and mix well until combined into a smooth, softer dough. Transfer the crust mixture to the parchment-lined baking dish. Press down with a spoon or soft spatula until the mixture is evenly spread in the dish. Bake for 20 minutes on the middle rack. Once ready, remove the baking dish from the oven and set it aside to cool for a few minutes. Do not remove the crust from the pan.
Step 5: While the crust is baking, find a larger pot or stainless steel bowl and fill the bottom with ice cubes and set it aside. Start boiling the 2 cups of maple syrup in a medium saucepan on medium to low heat. Have your digital thermometer close by and stay beside the stove while your maple syrup is boiling, do not mix it. If the syrup rises and is too close to the top edge of your pot, reduce the heat, as you don’t want it to boil over. After 5 minutes, check the temperature. Turn off the heat as soon as it reaches 235°F. In total, the boiling process might take around 10 minutes. Once ready, place the pot with maple syrup into the bowl with ice cubes. This will help the syrup to cool faster. Once it reaches 95-90°F, give the syrup a few quick stirs with the wooden spoon. Doing so will lighten up the colour of the thick syrup to a golden caramel colour. Add the filling ingredients (flaxseed meal, coconut cream, vanilla extract) with the mix-ins of your choice. Start with 2 cups of mix-ins and only add more if necessary to create the right consistency. Your mixture might be thicker, and that’s ok. But if it is too thin, consider adding more mix-ins. More of the same or different mix-ins.
Step 6: Transfer the filling mixture to the base crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle some unsweetened shredded coconut or more seeds to decorate the top if you wish, and bake on the center rack for 30 minutes (up to 35 to 40 minutes). TIP: place a baking sheet under your baking dish or on the bottom rack to catch potential drippage. The edges will start to bubble and get darker when it’s time to consider removing the bars from the oven. If the center of the filling is too wobbly and doesn’t look set, leave it for longer but consider covering the side edges to prevent overbaking. Or loosely place a sheet of parchment paper on the top of the whole dish to encourage the center to bake faster. Try not to bake for more than 40 minutes, as the sweet syrup on the edges will transform into a dryer, crumblier maple sugar.
Step 7: Cool the bars completely in the baking dish, then refrigerate. You can refrigerate the bars (unsliced) directly in the baking dish, covered. Best served cooled and even refrigerated. Slice the bars before serving, especially if your filling is still a bit gooey. Once at room temperature, the filling will be softer if your bars have fewer mix-ins. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Slice and freeze leftover bars for up to 2 months in a deep freezer stored in an air-tight container. TIP: layer sliced bars between sheets of parchment paper to prevent sticking. Enjoy!
Depending on the thickness of your boiled maple syrup and coconut cream, more mix-ins might be necessary to create the right filling mixture consistency. Add more than 2 cups in increments, if needed. And, if your filling is still too thin and liquid, consider mixing in even more flaxseed meal or ground sunflower seeds. The extra ingredients you add to the filling must be easy to incorporate.
TROUBLESHOOTING: If your bars are still too soft (more than just nice and gooey) and not set after the baking and cooling time, it’s possible that the maple syrup was not boiled to the correct temperature. Test your thermometer in hot water.
Read the recipe post for the Basic Option B filling details. That option includes only maple syrup and the mix-ins. That version does not include flax, coconut cream or vanilla.
Gluten-Free Flour Blend: You can make a custom blend with light GF flours and starches OR use a store-bought all-purpose gluten-free flour blend without xanthan gum. The store-bought version I occasionally use (Anita’s Organic Mill) includes brown rice flour, GF oat flour, coconut flour, potato starch, tapioca starch and arrowroot starch.
Chantal’s Custom GF Flour Blend Example (3 cups/324 g): Flour Combo: 1/2 cup GF oat flour (60 g), 1/2 cup light buckwheat flour (60 g), and 1/2 cup sorghum flour (60 g). Starch Combo: 1/4 cup tapioca starch (30 g), a little less than 1/4 cup potato starch (30 g), and Seed Flour: 1 cup freshly milled sunflower seed flour (84 g). TIP: Once all your flours and starches are combined in a bowl, give them a whisk to break up clumps.
Next, try making a Gluten-Free Vegan Pie Crust with the same GF flour blend.
Substitute pure vanilla extract with 1/4 teaspoon of pure vanilla bean powder. Substitute vegan butter with organic extra virgin olive oil. Coconut oil is an alternative, but that option was not tested.
Keywords: Maple Cream Bars, Maple Cream Dessert, Maple Syrup, Gluten-Free Vegan Dessert, Allergen-Friendly Dessert, Gluten-Free Dessert, Vegan Dessert, Dessert Bars