These caramel pecan cheesecake bars are so creamy that you would never even know they’re vegan! Made with a sweet pecan crust, vegan caramel no bake cheesecake, and vegan salted caramel pecan topping, these cheesecake bars are loaded with both sweet and savory flavor. They’re also completely gluten free and naturally sweetened!
How to make vegan caramel sauce
The big flavor component of this vegan cheesecake recipe is the caramel. It’s in the cheesecake filling as well as the pecan topping, meaning it’s very important to get just right! Luckily it’s super easy to make and consists of just 4 ingredients:
- Canned Coconut Milk
- Coconut Sugar (or brown sugar)
- Vanilla Extract
Canned full fat coconut milk replaces the heavy cream aspect of traditional caramel. It’s rich and creamy, so it provides the perfect base for this caramel. Coconut sugar is added for natural sweetness, but if you don’t have a need for a naturally sweetened dessert you can also use light brown sugar.
The two are added to a saucepan over medium heat. As the mixture bubbles and steams, the sugar will dissolve and the water evaporates from the coconut milk. After about 20 minutes, the caramel thickens into a sauce.
Salt and vanilla are added for extra flavor. As the caramel cools it will thicken even further, making it the perfect consistency for the topping.
Although the two main ingredients are coconut-based, the caramel does not taste like coconut. It actually has a unique nutty flavor that tastes a bit deeper than traditional caramel.
What is vegan caramel cheesecake made of?
As you may know, I’ve cut gluten and dairy out of my diet within the past couple years due to a digestive sensitivity. Cheesecake was one of my FAVORITE desserts so I knew I had to make a dairy free version that tastes just as good.
The secret? Cashews! Due to their mild flavor but creamy and fatty texture, they’re the perfect substitute for cream cheese when paired with the right ingredients. The trick is to hydrate the cashews before use, as this will help create a really smooth cheesecake texture once blended.
To hydrate, you can either allow the cashews to soak in water overnight OR boil them for 10 minutes before use. I tend to forget to prep them the night before, so I typically opt for boiling. Either way, the water helps plump up the cashews, making them soft and pliable.
After they’ve boiled, the cashews are drained and added to a high speed blender along with coconut cream, lemon juice, the vegan caramel, and vanilla. The coconut cream helps enrich the batter, while the lemon juice adds that signature cream cheese tang.
Once blended, it turns into an ultra creamy batter that’s ready to be poured into your loaf pan. Refrain from eating it straight out of the blender with a spoon…you’ve been warned.
Why are the vegan caramel cheesecake bars frozen?
The delicious creamy texture happens when the cheesecake batter is chilled. To speed up this process, the bars are frozen until solid. This just ensures they’re fully set and ready to eat.
But rather than eating them frozen, transfer the bars to the refrigerator after the caramel pecan topping is added. After about an hour, leave the bars at room temperature for about 20 minutes. This slowly thaws the bars into that soft and creamy texture. From here, the bars can either be left in the fridge for easy access, or placed back in the freezer to keep for about a month.
What can I substitute for coconut cream?
Coconut cream can be found in a can of coconut milk that has been chilled overnight. When chilled, the liquid of the milk sinks to the bottom, while the cream floats to the top. It’s thick and lush, kind of like yogurt.
If you can’t get your hands on coconut cream, you can also sub in 1/2 cup of vegan cream cheese.
Can I double the recipe?
Yep! If you want to make enough for a crowd, double the recipe and use an 8×8 square baking dish in place of the loaf pan. All other instructions remain the same.
Do I have to add the pecans on top?
If you prefer to have a more caramel-forward cheesecake, omit the pecans from the topping and simply drizzle the frozen cheesecake with about 1/2 cup of the vegan caramel (or as much as desired). Freeze for an hour, then transfer to the refrigerator to thaw into the perfect soft and creamy consistency.
For more vegan dessert recipes, check out my:
- Vegan Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
- Vegan Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Bars
- Vegan Snickers Bars
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Healthy Cookie Dough Bars
Make sure to tag me @butternutbakery on Instagram and comment below if you make these vegan caramel pecan cheesecake bars. To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card or on any of the photos above. Happy baking!Print