If I had realized how simple it was to create delicious no-bake pumpkin bars, I wouldn't have waited so long to make them, let alone share the recipe. Fortunately, they are so easy that you and I can make them for any and all occasions this fall, from Thanksgiving to an afternoon snack (that's an occasion, right?). What's more, the tender, nutty crust and fluffy pumpkin and chai spice filling are completely free of gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, and refined sugar!
I had always assumed that pumpkin pies and bars had to be baked with ingredients like eggs and cream. Not true! These gluten-free and vegan bars come together quickly with a food processor and set up in the refrigerator overnight. Although the filling is firmer than a traditional pumpkin pie, this could also be made in a pie pan and cut into wedges instead of squares.
Coconut oil and coconut flour give the filling a creamy and fluffy texture, and a blend of chai spices evoke pumpkin pie flavor, but are made a little more interesting with the inclusion of cardamom and a trace of black pepper. Because the date-filled crust is fairly sweet, I usually keep the filling on the milder side; you can adjust to taste using maple syrup or coconut nectar.
Chai Spiced Pumpkin Bars
Makes 9 large or 16 small squares
For the crust: 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (certified gluten-free if necessary)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup pitted dates, chopped — plus a few more if needed
For the filling: 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/3 cup maple syrup or coconut nectar (or to taste)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cardamom
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons coconut flour
Line an 8"x8" baking pan with parchment paper so you can lift the bars out for cutting.
To prepare the crust, place the oats, pumpkin seeds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add 2/3 cup dates and process until well combined and sticky. The mixture may look crumbly, but it should hold together when pinched between your fingers. If necessary, add more dates to get the right consistency.
Press the dough firmly and evenly into the baking pan. Place the pan in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling, combine the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, salt, and spices in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add the coconut flour and blend until well combined. Adjust sweetener if desired.
Remove the pan from the freezer and pour the filling on top, spreading it out evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper edges. Use a chef's knife to cut the bars, wiping the knife clean between cuts. Serve chilled.
If you like, you can decorate the bars with coconut flakes, a dusting of cinnamon, pumpkin seeds, and/or a dollop of coconut whipped cream.