These Vegan “Caramel” Mocha Coconut Oat Bars are no bake, naturally sweetened and the best healthy treat. Gluten-free.
It is always a struggle getting back into the swing of things after traveling. Whether you’re traveling for work or for pleasure, the following days at home getting back into your daily routine are always a little bit of a struggle…
Part of last week I traveled to the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, with the lovely Erin and Jess. We also got to meet other bloggers in real life for the first time, which is always fun. I had met Erin last year before Drew and I moved back to MI, while Jess and I have traveled together a couple of times (Chicago Girls Weekend!).
But the Natural Products Expo is a place where essentially ALL of the natural products in the industry come together under one roof, where buyers, wholesalers, people in the wellness field, bloggers, etc. can all take a look at what new products brands are coming out with. From my understanding, it isn’t truly a show for bloggers, but depending on what “level” of blogging you’re at, you can get in with a specific “press” badge. You can read more about that here.
ANWAYS. So the show was really great! Exhausting, but great. Walking the show floor for hours, chatting with tons of people, being in large crowds… I’m sure you can imagine that can be pretty draining. Especially if you’re an introvert 😉
Of course I was also just so thankful to be able to attend the show, get to meet some of the brands I’ve been working with in person, and make new connections. It is such a crazy world we live in… Just how much the internet and social media can play such a huge role in our lives – both personally and professionally.
After the few days spent in Baltimore I rented a car and drove up to Central PA where we used to live, and visited some friends for the remainder of the weekend. It was a weird feeling being back… It has only been a year and a half but it felt so much longer. It felt like everything had changed… Yet at the same time, like everything was the same. Do you know that feeling?
I won’t lie… I was getting awfully nostalgic. I even took some longer routes, just to drive by places I missed. It felt like home again… But it didn’t take long for me to come back around and remind myself that you have to keep moving forward in life. Me being reminiscent of those times is alright in the moment, but then you kind of have to snap yourself out of it. Because I wouldn’t be the person I am today, right now, without having left. And the chances of me being here, being able to call “food blogging” my full-time job would be slim…
SO ONWARD AND UPWARD, my friends…
So we can talk about these caramel mocha bars 😀
Confession: I made them last month and am just now posting them. Shame on me. I can’t believe I kept this goodness from you for so long. I tried hiding them in the fridge but Drew found them… And actually liked them so they didn’t last too long. I say “actually” because his sweet tooth is pretty picky, guys. As much as I want him to love and “approve” everything I make for the blog… that just does not happen. I mean, granted he still eats everything I make. But he doesn’t pay too much attention otherwise. He typically knows when something is “healthy” or tastes like it has less sugar.
I used to get annoyed and frustrated with the fact that he didn’t always love what I made, but I got over it… He just really loves the sweet stuff and that is just fine. I love the sweet stuff too… I just like to share the modified versions with you here 🙂
ALSO. Less for Mr. FMK means more for ME.
Except not in the case of these Caramel Mocha Coconut Oat Bars.
We both liked these quite a bit and I had to make sure he wasn’t going to eat all of them before I got my fair share.
Why are we so attached and protective of our food? Is it a primal instinct?
I know so many people that will hide a stash of their favorite bars and snacks from their loved ones. Myself, included. No shame.
ANYWAYS. Let’s chat about these
Vegan “Caramel” Mocha Coconut Oat Bars
what you need
They are a no-bake layered bar filled with so much goodness. You’ve got your oats, coconut, Medjool date vegan “caramel” and a mocha chocolate to top it off.
Medjool dates and some almond butter are what hold these bars together. The dates are processed into paste, then mixed in with the almond butter (or nut/seed butter of choice) before you add the oats. I came up with this recipe after I made these Apple Oat Bars and using date paste to hold bars together (versus honey, for example) has been my new favorite thing. Fiber, potassium, vitamins and minerals galore!
Next I layered in some more date past to act as the caramel layer. Kind of like I did with these.
Top it off with melted chocolate and toasted coconut flakes and you have yourself one helluva good bar!
A QUICK NOTE
To keep the middle layer from sliding out, cut the bars *just* after the chocolate has set. The bars can be stored at room temperature, but will last longer in the fridge. When going to enjoy them from the fridge, try letting them sit at room temperature so the chocolate topping softens a bit before biting into.
Be sure to let me know if you try these bars!
- 24 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked (about 2 cups packed)
- 1 1/2 cups gluten-free oats
- 1/2 cup coconut flakes, divided
- 2 tsp espresso powder, divided
- 2 TBS chia seeds
- 1/3 cup nut/seed butter (I used cashew)
- 4oz dairy free chocolate, chopped (3/4 cup chips)
- 1/2 TBS coconut oil
- Line a square 8×8 or 9×9 pan with parchment paper, or use silicone pan. Set aside.
- Make the date paste: In a small bowl soak dates in warm water for 5 minutes. If dates are fresh and juicy, no need to soak. If dates have been stored in fridge or feel dry, soak. Remove pits from dates and place in small blender or food processor. Add in 1 tsp espresso powder. Process dates until broken down and paste forms. You may need to scrape down the sides of the blender cup or bowl, and add 1 tablespoon of water at a time to get the dates moving. 2 cups packed dates should yield roughly 1 cup date paste.
- Add oats, 1/3 cup coconut flakes, espresso powder and chia seeds to large bowl. Stir to combine then set aside.
- Combine 1/2 cup of the date paste* and nut/seed butter together before combining with rest of dry ingredients. Mixture will be thick and sticky.
- Transfer mixture to prepared pan pressing evenly into all four corners. Spread on remaining date paste. Transfer pan to freezer.
- While pan is chilling, toast coconut: place remaining coconut on baking sheet and place in preheated 325ºF oven for 5 minutes – watch carefully they will burn quickly.
- Make the chocolate topping: in a small microwave safe bowl, add chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips) and coconut oil. Microwave in 15-20 second increments, stirring in between until the chocolate is fully melted. Be careful not to burn. You can also melt on stovetop stirring over low heat. Set aside.
- Remove pan from freezer and pour on chocolate topping, then sprinkle with toasted coconut.
- Allow pan to sit at room temperature until chocolate has set, about 45 minutes. Make sure chocolate has fully set before cutting into. You can also chill in fridge to set the chocolate for about 20 minutes. If the chocolate is too hard, you may have trouble when cutting the bars into squares.
- Remove bars from pan and place on cutting board. Using large sharp knife, cut oat bars into 16 squares. Enjoy!
*If looking to use less dates, you could likely sub honey or brown rice syrup for the dates in the oats mixture, and use just 1/2 cup date paste to spread as the middle layer. Let me know if you try this!
Bars can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 4-5 days, but will keep best in fridge. Allow bars to come to room temperature to soften chocolate before biting into.
SOME OF THE PRODUCTS I USED IN TODAY’S RECIPE
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