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
Vegan Caramel Pecan Cheesecake Bars
- Total Time: 1 hour + 2 hours chilling
- Yield: 8 bars
These vegan caramel cheesecake bars are no bake, gluten free, and naturally sweetened. Made with a sweet cinnamon pecan crust, caramel cashew cheesecake filling, and vegan caramel pecan topping, these bars turn out so rich and creamy.
- (1) 14 oz can full fat coconut milk
- 3/4 cup (135g) coconut sugar, or light brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
Cinnamon Pecan Crust
- 3/4 cup (75g) raw pecans
- 4 large pitted medjool dates
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp melted coconut oil
- 1 cup (150g) raw cashews, soaked in water overnight*
- 1/2 cup (120g) coconut cream**
- 1/4 cup (60g) vegan caramel
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 heaping cup (150g) pecan halves
- 3/4 cup (180g) vegan caramel
- Flaky sea salt for finishing (optional)
- Add the coconut milk and coconut sugar to a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk to combine.
- Continue to heat, stirring occasionally, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Allow it to simmer for about 25-30 minutes, or until darkened and thickened into a sauce consistency.
- Remove from heat and whisk in the salt and vanilla.
- Pour the caramel into a glass jar and chill in the refrigerator, uncovered, while we make the crust.
Cinnamon Pecan Crust
- Add all of the ingredients to a food processor, minus the oil. Blitz on high until finely ground.
- Add the coconut oil and blitz again to bind the crust together.
- Grease and line a 1 lb loaf pan with parchment paper. Allow the paper to hang over the sides for easy removal. Press the crust into the bottom of the pan and freeze while we make the cheesecake.
- Add all of the ingredients to a high speed blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour over the crust and spread even. Freeze the cheesecake for about 1-2 hours, or until frozen solid.
- Add the pecans and caramel to a bowl and stir to combine.
- Spread the pecans over the frozen cheesecake. Drizzle with more caramel if desired, as you should be left with about 1/2 cup extra.
- Chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour, or until the topping has thickened. Then sprinkle with sea salt if desired.
- To serve, cut the bars when chilled but allow them to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before eating. When thawed, they have a super creamy cheesecake consistency.
- From here, you can either store them in the refrigerator to keep that soft consistency or store in the freezer for longevity. They’ll keep in the fridge for about 5 days, but the freezer for about 6 weeks.
*CASHEWS – It’s very important that the cashews soak in water overnight in the refrigerator. This softens and plumps the cashews so they can blend into a smooth consistency. You can also boil the cashews if you forgot to leave them overnight. Place the cashews in a saucepan and cover with about an inch of water. Bring to a boil, then shut off the heat and let the cashews sit for 10 minutes in the hot water. Then drain and use accordingly.
**COCONUT CREAM – This comes from either a can of full fat coconut milk or a can of coconut cream. To get this, make sure to chill the can overnight in the refrigerator. Do not shake or lay the can on its side. As it chills, the cream and liquid of the can separate, leaving the cream at the top of the can. Open the can and scrape the cream off the top.
- Prep Time: 1 hour
Keywords: vegan cheesecake, vegan cheesecake bars, caramel cheesecake, vegan caramel cheesecake, pecan pie cheesecake, pecan cheesecake bars
This recipe sounds super delicious. As GF person, it seems it’s made for me!
Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂
Iris (from Belgium)
Much like every recipe Jenna creates, these are insanely delicious. I was short on pecans, so I cheated and used crushed Annie’s gluten free cinnamon graham crackers while leaving everything else the same. It worked well but I can’t wait to try the recipe as written. Thank you for yet another incredible dairy and gluten free dessert!!
Omg that actually sounds so good! Thanks for sharing!
This cheesecake tasted so delicious and I loved the carmel sauce. Thank you for sharing such a delicious recipe!
Could this be frozen?
Yes they can definitely be frozen!