When thinking up fun dessert ideas for Cara’s gluten free and vegan Valentine’s day bake-off, I thought about romantic dessert ideas such as chopped dipped strawberries. While chocolate dipped strawberries are delicious, they have been done over and over — not creative enough for the bake off! They did however inspire these chocolate covered cherry bars 🙂
I found a package of crunchy freeze dried cherries at the grocery store, being red/pink I wanted to use them in one way or another. I ground them into a flour like consistency along with oats and cashews to make a no-bake cherry bar topped with a chocolate layer that is delicious and easy!
I understand that not everyone has the urge to run out a buy freeze dried fruit but I wanted to be inventive and creative with a different ingredient. If you would like to make your own version at home, dried cherries (or strawberries) would be a good substitute and easier to find but the amount of liquid needed will most likely need to be reduced. Hold off on adding the milk until after all the ingredients are added then use small amounts if needed.
No-Bake Chocolate Covered Cherry Bars
For Cherry Bar
3/4 cup of freeze dried cherries (strawberries or raspberries would work too) -I used Just Cherries brand*
1 1/4 cup raw cashews
2/3 cup gluten free oats
4 Tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut (or 2 Tbsp coconut flour other gluten free flour could be subbed)
1/2 tsp beet powder (optional for additional red/pink color)
dash of sea salt
2-3 Tbsp agave (or 5-6 soaked medjool dates could probably be subbed) or to taste
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 Tbsp coconut oil or Earth balance or coconut butter for more coconut taste, melted**
non dairy milk as needed (I used unsweetened rice milk)
For Chocolate Topping
2 Tbsp raw cacao powder, cocoa powder or raw carob powder for caffeine free
1 tbsp agave
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted (use refined if you don’t like to coconut taste)
tiny pinch of sea salt, optional
1. Line a loaf pan with parchment or wax paper and set aside.
2. In a food processor (a vitamix might work), pulse together freeze dried cherries, oats, cashews, coconut/coconut flour, beet powder and salt until a flour mixture forms. If you want a chunkier bar, then you can process less – just make sure not to overprocess and turn it into a nut butter!
3. Add in remaining ingredients and pulse until a ball forms. Add a small drizzle of non-dairy milk as needed just until a ball forms or the mixture holds together (you don’t want them too moist). Start with a 1/2 tbsp and increase as needed.
4. Press into loaf pan evenly and chill while preparing the chocolate topping.
5. For the topping, mix all ingredients in a small bowl until well incorporated and smooth. Spoon the chocolate topping over the cherry bars and refrigerate until hardened. (I also had a few chopped cashew pieces leftover that I threw into the topping so I didn’t waste them…those are the little chunks you may see in the topping).
6. Cut into squares and enjoy!
*if you can not find freeze dried cherries, dried cherries could be subbed but you will find you may need less liquid.
**TIP: To melt coconut oil and coconut butter, I add the oil/butter to a small oven-safe ramekin and let sit in a 180 – 200F heated toaster oven for several minutes until it’s melted.
I stored these bars in the refrigerator…but they didn’t last long at all!