These bars are just heaven in every bite. They’re like a fusion of pumpkin pie and sugar cookies! A chewy, date-sweetened crust holds it all together and each bar is topped with a tangy, maple cream cheese. Four layers of different tastes and textures (and colors!) coming together in perfect harmony. Mm-hm.
Fall Colored Pumpkin Cookie Bars [Vegan, Gluten-Free]
For the Crust:
- 1 cup raw pecans
- 8 Medjool dates, pits removed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Cookie Layer:
- 2 cups almond flour
- 1/2 cup rice flour
- 1/4 cup cashew butter
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons beet juice
For the Pumpkin Layer:
- 1 can pumpkin purée
- 1 cup raw cashews and 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 cups almond flour
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
- 2 tablespoons flax meal
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon beet juice
For the Topping:
- 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese
- 1 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Line a 9 1/2 by 7 1/2 by 3-inch casserole dish with a sheet of parchment, letting some of it hang over the sides. On each end, where there is no paper, grease the sides of the dish lightly.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Juice one medium-sized beet and set the juice aside.
- For the crust, combine all crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is sticky and coming together in a ball.
- Press this down into the casserole dish. Use a pastry and pizza roller, if you have one, to smooth it out evenly.
- For the next (cookie) layer, combine all the ingredients, except the beet juice, in a food processor. Pulse just until the mixture comes together. It will be quite thick and sticky.
- Transfer it to a bowl and gradually mix in the beet juice, leaving it streaky in spots (don’t totally mix it in). Use your hands to smush it all together because it is easier than trying to stir it. Press this dough into the casserole dish, again using the pastry roller to flatten and smooth.
- For the pumpkin layer, soak the cashews for about 3 hours, then blend with as little water as possible to make a smooth texture. I used about half a cup of water. Then mix all pumpkin layer ingredients, except the beet juice, together in a large bowl. Make sure it’s thoroughly mixed. Again, add the beet juice last and fold it in so that you see streaks of it but it’s not totally mixed into the batter.
- Pour the batter on top of the cookie dough layer and smooth out with a spatula.
- Mix the cream cheese with the syrup and add some dollops onto the top of the pumpkin layer, then spread it around in a decorative fashion. If you are using store-bought cream cheese, add a bit of water to thin it out some–it needs to be thin enough to spread out easily on top of the pumpkin.
- Bake for 1 hour.
- Cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight.
- Loosen the sides of the pumpkin that were touching the casserole dish, if necessary, with a sharp knife or spatula, then carefully lift the uncut bars from the dish using the parchment paper.
- Slice the bars into 20 equal squares with a very sharp knife.