This is one of those recipes that I want to gush over. I have so much to say. Yet I know I should just let the pictures do the talking. I mean, just look at those bars. Do I really have to tell you how delicious they are? Look at that ooey-gooey caramel mixed with chocolate. They are one of the most fabulous desserts I’ve made in quite a while. So I went ahead and made these carmelitas vegan and gluten-free. How’d I do that? First, I used my two-ingredient vegan caramel sauce as a base for the caramel layer. Yes, it’s made with tahini. You can taste the tahini here, but not the way tahini tastes when it’s alone. Mixed with maple syrup it takes on a sweet, deep caramel flavor that I adore.
Even Meghan, who doesn’t like tahini, raved about these bars, so don’t worry too much about the tahini flavor. If you prefer, you can use a store-bought caramel sauce in place of the tahini+maple syrup. (vegan or regular)
In place of the butter and heavy cream, I used coconut oil and canned coconut milk. I didn’t detect any coconut flavor in the end result. I did use refined coconut oil, which is better for baking above 300 degrees and has less coconut flavor.
Usually carmelitas are made with all-purpose flour and oats. For my first trial I tried to use almond flour. The almond flour didn’t absorb enough of the liquid, so the texture wasn’t right. The bottom layer became hard, almost like toffee. Next I tried oat flour (I just blended up some oats) and that worked perfectly. To ensure these are gluten-free, make sure to get certified gluten-free oats.
After I took about a bazillion pictures of the bars, I realized there was no way we’d be eating them at that size. They are way too rich and sweet. I took the 9 bars and cut them into fourths. Much better. I left a few out for use to eat and then put the rest in the freezer so they can be a part of my Christmas dessert tray.
While these aren’t light in terms of calories, if you are going to splurge with a dessert, this is a great way to do it. They are made with no refined flour or refined sugar. And, of course, they are vegan, which means you have a dairy-free dessert as well as gluten-free. If you have friends or family who need an allergy-friendly dessert, this is a great pick!
- ¾ cup coconut oil, melted
- ¾ cup Sucunat, coconut sugar, or brown sugar
- 2 cups old-fashioned oats, divided
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup tahini
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup canned full-fat coconut milk
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup chocolate chunks (I use the Enjoy Life brand)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8X8 or 9X9 inch pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking oil. (I did not try parchment paper, but I highly recommend you line your pan)
- Melt your coconut oil in a medium glass bowl (the microwave may be used).
- Add the Sucunat and whisk to combine well.
- In a blender or food processor, blend 1 cup of the oats until they are a fine powder.
- Add the oat flour and the remaining 1 cup rolled oats to the bowl with the oil and sugar. Also add the vanilla, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and mix well.
- Press half of the oat mixture into your prepared baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
- While the first layer is baking, mix together your caramel layer. Whisk together the tahini, maple syrup, the coconut milk, and salt.
- After 10 minutes, pull the pan out of the oven. Add the chocolate chunks in an even layer.
- Next, slowly pour the caramel sauce over the chocolate chunks, ensuring it evenly covers the pan. Finally, top this with the remaining oat mixture.
- Return the pan to the oven and bake until the edges are lightly browned and the center is bubbling slightly, approximately 18 minutes.
- These need to set before they can be sliced. At a minimum, let them set in the fridge for 2-4 hours. For best results, let them set overnight before cutting (in the fridge or at room temperature). If you try to cut these early, they will not hold into bars and you'll have a mess. A tasty mess, but definitely a mess! 😉 Enjoy!