Nutty, Crumbly Cherry Blueberry Bars (Gluten Free, Vegan)

I’m trying to be a gardener this year, with a strong emphasis on trying. I think I’m much better skilled at pinning pictures of pretty flowers on Pinterest than I am at growing them, but I’m giving it a go. The first step in my effort is, of course, the least fun step: weeding. After a long day of weeding and sore legs, I felt like I earned a little treat. (Rewards are of utmost importance in my yard work endeavors.) I wanted something easy, something springy, something tasty. Nutty, Crumbly Cherry Blueberry Bars were just the ticket.

Nutty, crumbly cherry blueberry bars

What Makes These Nutty, Crumbly Cherry Blueberry Bars Extra Special?

These vegan, gluten-free crumble bars are a great all-purpose dessert. They feel much more indulgent than they really are, with a satisfying crunch and soft burst of fruit. This dessert will make your vegan and gluten-free eaters happy; it will please your cookie lovers and your pie fans; it will be not too sweet for more savory-inclined palates and just sweet enough for the sugar fiends.

These crumble bars are also easy to make and extremely versatile. They are delicious with a blueberry filling, a cherry filling, or a combination of both! I use whatever is in my freezer or in season. Whatever fruit you choose, both are complemented beautifully with the subtle almond flavor in the filling and crumble. The topping and crust are made from the same recipe, with nuts and pumpkin seeds added to the topping for added crunch. Is the topping a crumble? Yes. Is it cookie-like? Yes. Is it a little granola-ish? Yes, yes, yes. It is everything you want it to be.

Serving the cherry blueberry bars

Making the Filling for the Cherry Blueberry Bars

The filling for these cherry blueberry bars is like a pie filling, but without being overly sweet. There is something so satisfying about watching berries become luscious and beautifully gooey, and it doesn’t take long to get there.

Once your berries, cornstarch, sugar, almond extract, and a little bit of salt are in a saucepan, the magic happens with some heat and stirring. Cornstarch needs to be boiled for it to truly do its job–thickening–well. Without boiling the filling, your berries will remain a little soupy. After the filling mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat, and give it a little more love with time on the stove and stirring. Kind of like a custard, the filling will come away from the bottom of the pan or spatula cleanly. It’s cooking wizardry that never gets old.

Crumble Top, Crumble Crust

The crumble for these cherry blueberry bars does double duty as both the crust and the topping. Almond flour and oats make up most of the base and are a fabulous, nutty combination. Together they keep the crumble moist and tender with a slight satisfying chew from the oats. A little bit of brown sugar is added to really give this crumble the taste of a cookie, especially in combination with the vegan butter. The melted vegan butter also has the important job of binding the dry ingredients together to help form both the crust and the crumble.

You will reserve some of the crumble for the topping, and to that, you will add chopped almonds and pumpkin seeds. You have a choice here of giving your nuts an extra toast or not. To toast or not to toast? The question here is really how much nutty flavor do you want to give to your bars. Putting the almonds and pumpkin seeds in the oven for just a few extra minutes gives them a stronger toasty, nutty flavor. There is no wrong answer here; try both and see what you prefer!

Building the Cherry Blueberry Bars

Individual bowls of topping, berry filling, and crust

Now, it’s time to build! Add some of the nut-free crumble to the bottom of your pan to make the crust. I don’t know about you, but I love pressing in a crust almost as much as I love watching a berry filling thicken. The sandy texture of the crumble will hold together when packed compactly, giving you a nice, solid crust. 

The thick, soft filling is up next. Spoon it over the crust, and try not to sneak too many bites. I like using a combination of cherries and blueberries because it provides a little bit of textural contrast–the cherries are larger and a bit firmer, while the blueberries are softer and smaller. Biting into either is such a pleasant burst of sweetness.

Next, the crumble topping gets its turn as the final layer. Sprinkle the topping in crumbly clumps evenly across the top. It kind of looks like granola–a delicious, almond cookie-flavored granola.

Layers of the cherry blueberry bars

Once your layered bars are built, into the oven they go to become golden brown and bubbly. Because almond flour is so tender, it really needs to be cooled completely to hold its shape. If you want your cherry and blueberry bars to be truly bars, exercise your patience and will power and let them cool completely. If you don’t mind your bars on the crumbly side, enjoy warm. These bars are delicious both warm and at room temperature, so you can’t go wrong either way.

Vegan, gluten free cherry blueberry bars on plates with a fork

A Few Notes

  • This dessert is delicious with all blueberries, all cherries, or a combination of both. Cherries and almonds are an unstoppable flavor duo, but if you do use all cherries, give them a bit of a smash with a fork after the filling has boiled. This will help give you different sizes and textures of cherries in the filling and will help it spread over the crust.
  • Sometimes certain brands of cornstarch, almond flour, and oats are processed along with gluten products, so please be sure to read the package carefully to ensure your dietary needs are met. Not all sugars are vegan sugars, either. I’d recommend checking out this article for suggestions of vegan sugar brands.
  • Not much of a crunch fan? You can omit the almonds and pumpkin seeds from the topping for a softer texture.
  • Looking for another gluten-free, vegan dessert? Try our Quick Chocolate Lovers’ Cake Donuts.

Happy baking,
Lu

Nutty, Crumbly Cherry Blueberry Bars (Gluten Free, Vegan)

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Ifyougiveagirlanoven@gmail.com Course: DessertDifficulty: Easy
Servings

12

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

25

minutes

With a satisfying crunch, cookie base, and gooey filling, these easy gluten-free and vegan cherry blueberry bars will make everyone happy.

Ingredients

  • Fruit filling
  • 2 ½ cups frozen or fresh blueberries OR sweet cherries OR a mix of both!

  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

  • Pinch salt

  • Crumble base and topping
  • 1 ¼ cups rolled oats

  • 1 ¼ cups almond flour

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

  • 6 Tablespoons vegan butter, melted

  • 1/4 cup almonds (toasted, optional)

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (toasted, optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 6″ by 10″ baking dish with parchment paper and lightly grease with vegan butter.
  • If toasting nuts, spread almonds and pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Place in 350 degree oven for 5 minutes, then set aside to let cool. Toasting nuts and seeds adds an extra depth of toasty, nutty flavor, but the bars will still be delicious if you skip this step.
  • Place blueberries and/or cherries in a medium-sized saucepan. Add cornstarch, sugar, almond extract, and pinch of salt. Stir to combine and coat the berries.
  • Heat the berry mixture on medium to medium-high heat, stirring often to make sure the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low. Continue stirring occasionally and cook until thick and gooey (like pie filling), about 2-4 more minutes. The mixture should come away cleanly from the bottom of the pan when stirring. Remove from heat and then set mixture aside.
  • Roughly chop almonds and pumpkin seeds into small pieces and set aside.
  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add oats, almond flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Mix with a fork to combine. Pour melted butter over flour mixture, then use fork to combine. The melted butter should be evenly distributed throughout the mixture, which should be the texture of wet sand.
  • Remove 3/4 cup of the crumble mixture. To that, add the chopped nuts and seeds, and set aside. This will be the crumble for the top of the bars.
  • Press the crumble mixture (without the nuts) into the bottom of the prepared pan to make an even crust.
  • Spoon the cherry/berry mixture over the crumble crust.
  • Sprinkle the reserved 3/4 cup crumble mixture with added nuts on top of the cherry/berry mixture.
  • Bake for 23-25 minutes, until top is golden brown and the berry mixture is bubbling. Let cool in pan on a wire baking rack. For more solid bars, let cool completely. If you don’t mind a more crumbly texture, you can serve warm.

Notes

  • Sometimes certain brands of cornstarch, almond flour, and oats are processed along with gluten products, so please be sure to read the package carefully to ensure your dietary needs are met. Not all sugars are vegan sugars, either. I’d recommend checking out this article for suggestions of vegan sugar brands.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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