Let me just start out by saying that you’re welcome. Yeah. You’re welcome. I have hacked the traditional “Seven Layer Bar” or “Magic Cookie Bar” recipe to make it completely vegan, and pretty much just as easy to make as the original. If you can find vegan chocolate chips, the red box of Nabisco graham crackers (or your favorite vegan gluten free brand), and sweetened condensed coconut milk, then you’re pretty much 3/7 of the say there.
These bars are so easy to make that even a high school kid could make them. In fact, the first time I had these was when I made them in my high school “foods” class. Other than the two ingredient coconut caramel sauce that I’ve developed to take the place of the butterscotch chips, this recipe is pretty much a dump-and-bake.
Here is my veganized version of one of my favorite holiday desserts. This is perfect for giving as a gift, or serving to your guests.
- 3/4 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup vegan graham cracker crumbs - about 12-13 crackers*
- 1/2 cup virgin, or unrefined coconut oil (vegan butter works well, too)
- 1 can (11.25 ounces) Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk (Nature’s charm brand)
- 1 cup vegan chocolate chips
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 3/4 to 1 cup coconut caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
- pinch kosher salt
- 9x13 baking dish
- wooden spoon
- medium sized pot that you can use metal in
- food processor or rolling pin for crushing crackers
- candy thermometer
Have your ingredients measured and at room temperature before proceeding
Add the brown sugar to a pot on medium to medium-high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly until the brown sugar goes from looking like wet sand to a liquid. This could take between 3 to 5 minutes.
Immediately, as soon as the brown sugar turns to a liquid, lift the pot from the heat, and add the coconut milk. The coconut milk will sputter and the brown sugar that was just a liquid will probably seize up into hard chunks. Return your pot to the heat, and continue to stir with a whisk. As the mixture simmer, the brown sugar will begin to liquefy once again, and turn into a caramel. Add the salt.
Keep whisking the sauce until the mixture to reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
As soon as you see it hit 190, remove the pot from the heat, and carefully pour the molten sauce into a glass jar or heat-safe container. Do NOT let it hang out in the pot or it will continue to cook and burn. It may seem a bit on the thin side, but it will thicken as it cools. If for some reason your sauce heats beyond 200, it will still be OK. The final texture of the sauce on the bars might be a bit more like a crunchy candy instead of a chewy caramel, but will still taste great.
This caramel sauce can be made a day or two in advance. If it becomes too hard to pour or drizzle over the bars, you can microwave it for a few seconds to thin it out.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're worried about your bars sticking, line your 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper before beginning.
Place the graham crackers into a food processor, and blend until they are fine crumbs. Melt your coconut oil in a microwave safe container. Add the cracker crumbs and the melted butter to your baking dish. Stir with a fork until combined, and then press the crumbs into the bottom of the baking dish with bottom of your measuring cup
Open your can of sweetened condensed coconut milk. If it is too thick to pour easily, spoon it into a microwave safe dish, and then heat it for about 15 seconds; until it can is nice and runny. Pour the condensed coconut milk over the graham crumb base, and gently turn the baking dish until the condensed coconut milk evenly covers the crumbs. Using a spoon to spread the mixture will disrupt the graham cracker base.
Evenly distribute the chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts over the surface of condensed coconut milk. Gently press those toppings into the base using the back of your measuring cup. Drizzle your coconut caramel sauce evenly over the top. Finish off the top of the bars with a gentle sprinkling of kosher salt.
Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown, and the edges are bubbling and caramelizing. The bars may still be a bit soft in the center, but that's fine.
Allow the bars to cool to room temperature before scoring them with a knife. Place the cooled bars in the refrigerator and allow them to fully chill before trying to remove them from the pan. I find they are most agreeable to work with after they have chilled in the refrigerator overnight.
*The red Nabisco box of grahams does not contain honey.