November has arrived. Which means my wedding is almost here. I can’t believe it. I still remember the day we got engaged like it was yesterday.
THANKFULLY we aren’t taking our honeymoon right away, but instead plan on taking a small mini moon, then coming home and simply relaxing, celebrating Thanksgiving with our families and being officially husband and wife.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, what’s on your menu this year? Have you started planning yet? Each year we do a little something different: A fall salad that I like to mix up, Tony’s mom’s delicious creamy mashed potatoes, my sweet potato casserole and homemade cranberry orange sauce and of course, whatever ridiculous dessert I dream up.
Last year I made a fresh cherry pie (my mom’s favorite pie!) and my brown butter apple crisp — both SO freakin’ good. The year before that I made a blueberry pie with a crumble topping. And the year before that I made banana cream pie and salted caramel apple. Obviously dessert is my favorite part about Thanksgiving.
This year I wanted to switch it up from indulgent and share a special healthy recipe in partnership with Northwest Cherries for all of you who are vegan, gluten free and/or have dietary restrictions. I’d like you to meet my vegan cherry cheesecake bars with a raw brownie crust.
I know what you must be thinking. How are these vegan? What’s the cheesecake if there’s no cream cheese? WHAT IS HAPPENING?
Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all my secrets…
Let’s talk ingredients!
Sweet cherries: Dark sweet Northwest cherries are the star of this recipe. I buy dark sweet cherries frozen and LOVE using them not only because of their flavor profile but also because they add additional natural sweetness to these bars. Cherries are incredibly good for the body and boast a variety of health benefits. In fact, did you know that cherries have a lower GI index than almost any other fruit and boast anti-inflammatory properties? They also include plenty of fiber and can even help you sleep better. If you get a chance, visit NWCherries.com to learn more about the health benefits of sweet cherries. (I love including cherries in my morning smoothies too!)
Cashews: These particular nuts help to create a natural creaminess in the bars that resembles cheesecake. Just soak your nuts overnight OR add them to a bowl with boiling water and let them soak for an hour. I know it sounds crazy but it works.
Coconut milk: Coconut milk helps the filling to process but also helps the bars harden. I advise only using full fat coconut milk for the best flavor.
Maple syrup: Pure maple syrup is the way to go, but you could also use coconut palm syrup or date syrup. Up to you.
Lemon juice: To keep them fresh and delicious with a little tang. Don’t worry, you’ll love it.
Oh and the crust is TO DIE FOR. It basically tastes like a FUDGY BROWNIE! I write that in caps because it makes me SO excited.
QUESTION FOR YOU: What’s your favorite cherry recipe?! Or what do you normally use sweet cherries for?
I hope you love these bars as much as I do. Enjoy and don’t forget to tag #ambitiouskitchen on Instagram if you make a recipe of mine!
More vegan desserts to try:
Feel Good Vegan Cherry Cheesecake Bars
- For the crust:
- 1 cup pitted medjool dates
- ¾ cup raw almonds
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon melted virgin coconut oil
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- For the filling:
- 1 ½ cups raw cashews
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup full fat coconut milk
- 1 ½ cups frozen dark sweet cherries, divided
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- For the topping
- 2 tablespoons vegan dark chocolate chips
Place cashews in a large bowl, then add 3 cups boiling water and let the cashews soak in the hot water for approximately 1 hour. Alternatively you can soak your cashews overnight in room temperature water so they are already ready to go. Once you are ready to use your cashews, be sure to drain them.
Line an 8x4 or 9x5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
Make the crust by adding the dates and almonds to the bowl of a food processor and process until chunky, then add in cocoa powder, coconut oil and sea salt.
Process again until mixture is slightly clumps together into a ball. Add the mixture to the prepared pan pressing evenly towards the sides.
Next make the filling: add (drained) cashews, maple syrup, vanilla, coconut milk, lemon juice and 1 cup frozen cherries to a high powered blender (such as a Vitamix); blend until smooth and creamy. If it is way too thick you can add another few tablespoons of coconut milk to help process.
Pour ½ of the filling mixture over the crust. Add ½ cup frozen cherries over the filling layer. Top with remaining filling and smooth the top.
Make the chocolate filling by adding chocolate chips to a small saucepan and placing over low heat; stir frequently until chocolate chips are completely melted. Alternatively you can microwave the chocolate chips in 30 second increments until smooth. Drizzle melted chocolate over filling.
Place in freezer for 4-6 hours to harden. Once ready to serve cut into 10 bars. Enjoy! Bars will keep in freezer for up to a month if covered correctly.
Recipe by Monique Volz // Photography by Sarah Fennel
This post is in partnership with Northwest Cherries. Thanks for supporting AK and the brands who help make this site possible. Visit NWCherries.com to learn more about sweet cherries and their health benefits.