These simple apple butter bars will become a quick favourite. Full of apple flavour, a simple vegan snack bar that will remind you of a classic date square. These bars are the perfect use for that jar of apple butter hanging out in your pantry.
I love making apple butter! When I have a pile of apples I will either cook them down for apple sauce or apple butter. Admittedly, once I get the apple butter into a jar I don't always know what to do with it. It's a labour of love and I don't want to see those pretty jars going to waste.
What is apple butter?
Apple butter is made by cooking down fresh apples until they basically resemble a thick spread that is well, just like butter. You can use apple butter as you would peanut butter or even instead of butter. It's yummy stirred into yogurt. Or just eat it out of the jar I guess, I wouldn't know.... ahem.
But baking with fruit butter is pretty special. The fruit flavor is concentrated and rich. I don't usually add too much sweetener to my fruit butter. I find fruit cooked down like this rarely needs much. In baking, fruit butter is a healthier and vegan stand-in for actual butter. Resulting in a reduced-fat baked good that is still moist and rich. Try these pumpkin butter muffins too (also vegan).
I intend to share a post about making fruit butter eventually, but in the meantime, take a look at Food In Jars apple butter posts.
How to make apple butter
This is the method I use most often:
- Core and chop apples. No need to peel them. Then throw them into a slow-cooker with a stick of cinnamon and just let them cook on low for hours. This first pass, I usually let them go on low for 5-6 hours. At which point I remove the cinnamon sticks and use my immersion blender and puree the apples, skins and all. Puree until you have something that looks like baby food (sorry for the visual).
- Once pureed you can add a little bit of sugar, or rum or whisky, vanilla, etc... Whatever floats you boat that day.
- Then I turn the slow cooker back on and let it cook on low for another 4-8 hours. How long will really depend on how juicy the apples are. I find it helps to prop the lid open a bit so more steam can escape. This can help the apple butter thicken and reduce a bit faster.
- A full 6-quart crockpot of apples will cook down to about 2-3 cups of apple butter.
- If it doesn't seem thick enough and you want to go to bed, no worries. Just remove it from the heat. Turn the slowcooker off and allow the crock to cool for a bit. Then put the whole crock insert (with lid) with the half-made butter in the refrigerator for the night. The next day (let the crock warm up a little of course) but it back in the slow cooker base and turn it back on low for while.
Sometimes I will water bath process the resulting butter. Often it feels inefficient since I only get a couple of jars. And a jar will keep for several months once refrigerated.
If you are new to water bath canning and want to know more, check out this post for step-by-step instructions and some basics you will need to get started.
Anyway, this was not a post about how to make apple butter -- who knows maybe someday it will be, this is a post about what to do with apple butter.
Apple Butter Bars
This recipe makes a 8 x 8 tray of apple butter bars and uses about 1 cup of apple butter. The bars themselves remind me of date squares or these rhubarb crumb bars I made a few years back. Basically, just oats held together with a little bit of vegan butter and sugar, with apple butter sandwiched between the layers.
Super simple and if you have the apple butter already made, you can have this dessert made in about 40 minutes, about 10 minutes of on-hand time.
Feel free to use any kind of fruit butter you have on hand. I have some peach butter in the cupboard, that I did actually water bath process, which would be lovely here.
How to make vegan apple butter bars
Lately, I've been reaching for Becel Plant-based butter sticks for baking instead of other options. I like that they are already soft (I don't have to wait for the butter to be a room temperature) and they are nicely measured the way butter comes in sticks.
This recipe uses ½ cup of vegan butter or one stick. You can substitute any other variety of vegan butter that you prefer or use melted coconut oil in its place. Coconut oil will add a slight coconut flavour to the bars. Of course, you could also use regular dairy butter if you are not concerned about whether or not the bars are plant-based or dairy-free.
For sweetener, I used brown sugar. You can also use coconut sugar or organic cane sugar. Same amount. I like the flavour that brown sugar provides. Maple sugar would be lovely if you can get your hands on it. Yumm.
For the oats, I like old-fashioned, large flaked oats best. But if you only have quick oats, you can use those as well without any concerns. Do not use instant oats.
Apple Butter Bars
- 1 cup whole wheat flour you can use all purpose flour as well
- 1 cup old-fashioned / rolled oats
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup Becel plant-based butter, unsalted, melted regular dairy based butter will also work, but of course the bars will not be vegan, choose unsalted
- 1 cup apple butter or other fruit butters
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare an 8x8 baking pan by lining with parchment or coating cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl mix together flour, oatmeal, sugar and salt. Stir well to mix evenly. Add melted plant-based butter and mix thoroughly. Oats should be evenly coated and mixture will slightly stick together, forming clumps.
- Press slightly more than half of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking tin. Pressing to fill the corners and slightly packing down to form a crust. Spread the apple butter evenly over top of the bottom crust. Sprinkle the remaining oatmeal mixture over top of the apple butter. Gently press to flatten, but do too firmly or the oats will sink into the apple butter.
- Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until the oatmeal crust is golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing into squares.