I found a way to use up all my apples this year. Date-Sweetened Apple Crumble Bars. I’m making these on repeat until I’m done with the 20lbs bag of apples we picked.
I should start by saying that these apple crumble bars are not only sugar-free, but they’re also gluten-free, vegan and nut-free! Most importantly, they’re incredible (despite what you may think of something that’s gluten-free, vegan, nut-free and sugar-free). To be honest, Shaun and I ate 2/3 of the recipe over the first day I made it. It’s another one of those addictive dessert recipes. If I learned something since I stopped eating sugar, it’s that you can still make sweet, addictive recipes sweetened with fruit. Of course most of those recipes include dates. They’re (obviously) my favorite way to sweeten desserts.
These apple crumble bars are inspired by one of my favorite recipes from the blog: My Nut-Free Strawberry Vanilla Crumble Bars. If you haven’t tried those already, then you have no idea what you’re missing. My favorite part of the recipe is the crumble. Crumble has always been my favorite dessert. When I was in high school and living at my parents’ place, I was always the one making desserts for the family. Every fall, I would make several apple crumbles (and eat most of them myself). I was never one to make apple pie, it was always an apple crumble or crisp. And when I make it, I always want more crumble than apples. I don’t care how unhealthy it can be. I want all the crumble!
When it comes to this crumble though, I don’t have to worry about the amount of sugar or fat that’s added to it. Yes, it is still a treat (dates make them sweet enough), but it is high in fiber and has no ADDED sugar. I also used a small amount of margarine (don’t get me started on the whole “margarine is one molecule away from plastic” thing). So while it does have fat, it doesn’t have any saturated or trans fats. If you’re absolutely set against using margarine, you can always use butter or coconut oil.
The making of these bars is very similar to the making of my strawberry crumble bars. I first use a food processor to make the crumble. All the crumble ingredients (except one cup of the oats) go in the food processor. I process the ingredients until I get a crumbly (of course) mixture. A food processor is important in this recipe as you need to process the dates and sunflower seeds. I then add the last cup of oats in the end and pulse it a few times to mix it in.
A side note: You can use nuts instead of sunflower seeds if preferred. Pecans would make it very fall-like. I think almonds would be nice in this recipe as well, but I’ve never tried it. I also like to use dry roasted sunflower seeds to save some time.
To continue, I put aside one heaping cup (or 1.5 cups) of the mixture (which will be used for topping), then press the rest to the bottom of a baking dish. At this point, I either make the applesauce filling or use some that I made in advance. I use this spiced chia applesauce in this recipe.
The applesauce filling goes on top of the crumble that’s pressed in the baking dish. Finally, sprinkle the remaining 1.5 cups of crumble and bake for 15 minutes. DONE.
It may sound complicated with the applesauce and all, but trust me, it can take less than 30 minutes. To save some time, make the applesauce in advance and use dry roasted sunflower seeds.
Date-Sweetened Apple Crumble Bars
- 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 batch (2 cups) spiced chia applesauce (recipe on the blog)
- Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking dish with margarine or butter. Set aside.
- Spread the sunflower seeds on a baking sheet. When the oven is preheated, roast the sunflower seeds for 10 minutes until lightly golden. When the sunflower seeds are done roasting, remove from the oven.
- Place the roasted sunflower seeds and dates in a food processor. Process until crumbly. Add 2 cups of oats, melted margarine (or butter), vanilla and salt. Add water and process until the mixture sticks together when pressed. Add the remaining 1 cup of oats and process for a few seconds until combined. You want the mixture to stick together, while still having texture.
- Press the oat mixture at the bottom of the greased dish, leaving 1.5 cups for topping. Spread the applesauce evenly on top of the bottom layer. Finally, crumble the remaining oat mixture on top.
- Bake for 15 minutes, uncovered at 325F. Let cool 30 minutes-1 hour before cutting. This helps the bars stick together.
You can find the recipe for my spiced chia applesauce here.
If you try this recipe, make sure to tag your photo #unsweetenedcaroline on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Don’t forget to also tag me @unsweetened.caroline on Instagram so I can see your creations!