Welcome to October! It’s time to start planning your holiday meals and sweets, preparing for visitors, and testing new recipes to make sure you serve the best of the best. Maybe you want to try something new this season, or perhaps everyone has their old favorites that are a hit year after year.
One of my holiday favorites is pie. I love pie, and I really only ever eat it during the last quarter of the year. It’s tasty any time of day – in the mornings with your tea or coffee, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or after dinner as you’re sitting around the table with your family, watching days get shorter and shorter.
As much as I love pie, I’ve never been great at making it. Mainly because I believe a pie deserves a really great, fatty, crispy, flaky crust. It’s not something you can just buy from the store. Those pre-made pie crusts in the pan are dry and crumbly. So, you may have the best, most scrumptious filling, but if your crust is dry, then all of a sudden your pie is just mediocre.
My dad’s mom, who we call Bunya, didn’t make her own pie crust. She bought the frozen dough that needed to be slightly thawed and rolled out to fit in your pie pan. As a child, I watched in amazement as she carefully cut and pieced together two packages of dough to fit her pie pan. Maybe it was a really big pie pan. I don’t know why the dough needed to be bigger! She said that’s the way her mother always did it. I’m sure you understand. We all learn from the best 😉
If you need to buy a pre-made crust, then opt for the dough in the freezer section. It isn’t too dry and your pie won’t be ruined if you use it.
I’m stubborn. If I can’t make the crust, which I can’t, then I won’t make it at all. That’s why I choose to make these vegan pecan pie bars, instead. The crust is very simple. The recipe makes more servings than your typical pecan pie, and it’s delicious.
My Mamaw made the best pecan pie. Apparently, I’m influenced a lot by her cooking. I didn’t realize it until I started writing my own recipes! I always looked forward to eating a half of her pie at Christmas. She always made two. And she used Caro syrup. Not that there’s anything wrong with Caro syrup, but it’s very sweet – too sweet for me now, personally. These vegan pecan pie bars are made with maple syrup, instead. Way to get into the fall spirit, am I right?
Before you begin making your pie, you will need to prep your coconut milk. We use the fat from full-fat coconut milk in this recipe as a heavy cream replacement. (Yes, it sounds strange. But it works so well and because we don’t use very much, you can’t taste it.) Remove the the lid from a can of full-fat coconut milk and place it in the refrigerator until the fat rises to the top. This can take 1-3 hours. Be patient. You want the fat to be as thick as possible.
Now you’re ready to make your vegan pecan pie bars! Start by making the dough. Brown your butter or other vegan margarine in a saucepan for 7-8 minutes. It’s possible to brown Earthbalance, it just takes a bit of time. Be sure to watch your vegan margarine carefully and stir frequently. Once it starts browning, it can burn quickly.
Once it’s browned, remove from heat and let cool for 5-10 minutes.
Mix together the vanilla and sugar in a medium bowl. Once the vegan margarine is cooled, mix it into the vanilla and sugar. Slowly add all purpose flour until well combined. Your dough should stay formed, but be very soft.
Gently press the dough into the bottom of a lightly greased 9×13 baking pan. I prefer to use parchment so I can remove the bars more easily. It helps with storing them (if there’s any left, of course), and also allows me to use my baking pan if I have other things to make!
I used my fingers to press the dough into the pan, but if you prefer a smooth texture, use a small glass or shot glass to roll your dough into the pan.
Bake your crust for 15 minutes. It shouldn’t be golden brown.
While your crust is baking, whip up your filling!
Check to make sure your coconut milk is nice and thick. In the image below, it’s thick, but gets much thicker if you leave it in the refrigerator for longer.
Chop your pecans to desired consistency. Mamaw put her pecans in the food processor. (She loved that thing). Doing this makes for a smooth pecan pie top. I don’t like whole pecans in my pecan pie bars, so I roughly chop them – well enough to be able to see they are pecans.
Heat your vegan margarine, brown sugar, maple syrup, pumpkin puree, and coconut milk fat over medium heat until the filling thickens, about -7-8 minutes. Don’t be afraid to let it simmer – this is how it gets thick!
Remove from heat and stir in your chopped pecans.
Evenly spread your pecan pie filling over your crust and bake for 35-40 minutes. A knife or toothpick inserted will come out mostly clean when it’s finished.
Let cool and enjoy! The brown sugar and maple syrup has a tendency to turn these bars dark brown. If you’re worried about your bars burning, lightly place a piece of aluminum foil over the top.
Using parchment paper also allows your vegan pecan pie bars to cool faster because you can simply lift them from the pan.
Serve with freshly whipped vegan cream, your favorite vegan ice cream, or eat on their own!
Did you make these for your family? Let me know in the comments below.
Vegan Pecan Pie Bars
For the crust:
- 3/4 cup Earthbalance, browned
- 6 tbsp cane sugar
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
For the filling:
- 1/2 cup Earthbalance
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup pumkin puree
- 3 tbsp full-fat coconut milk
- 3 cups pecans, chopped
- Remove lid from can of coconut milk and place in fridge until the fat rises to the top. It will be thick and have the consistency of whipped cream. This could take anywhere from 1-3 hours. You will need to scoop the fat from the top to be used in the filling.
Make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish or cut parchment paper to fit your dish for baking.
- Cut Earthbalance, or other vegan margarine, into tablespoons. Melt over medium heat for 7-8 minutes, or until browned. Careful not to burn the Earthbalance. Otherwise, your crust will taste burnt. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, mix together sugar and vanilla. Add cooled, browned Earthbalance and mix until combined.
- Add flour and mix until combined. The dough should be soft, but formed.
- Gently press the dough into the bottom of your 9×13 pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
Make the filling:
- Chop your pecans to desired coarseness.
- In a medium saucepan and over medium heat, melt Earthbalance.
- Whisk in brown sugar, maple syrup, pumpkin puree, and fat from coconut milk.
- Allow to simmer for 7-8 minutes, until filling thickens.
- Remove filling from heat, and stir in pecans.
- Add filling to crust and bake for another 35-40 minutes.
- Let cool before cutting and serving. Enjoy!