These Chocolate-Swirled Vegan Cheesecake Bars are such a fun dairy-free dessert! Inspired by my original vegan cheesecake, they are made with just a handful of simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.
I love how impressive these little cheesecake bars look, but they are surprisingly easy to assemble. Each layer has only a few ingredients! There’s even a sneaky veggie hidden inside, which gives this cheesecake a more authentic texture, and a few extra nutrients in each bite.
Ingredients You’ll Need
What’s in Vegan Cheesecake Bars?
- Pecans (for the crust)
- Maple syrup
- Zucchini (yes, a veggie!)
- Lemon juice
- Coconut oil
- Vanilla extract
- Cacao powder (for the chocolate layers)
This recipe will work best if all of your ingredients are at room temperature, since coconut oil will harden when chilled. If you typically store your maple syrup or nuts in the fridge, make sure to measure out what you need and let it come to room temperature before getting started.
If you don’t have zucchini on hand, you can use another mild-flavored veggie (like pumpkin puree), or most likely a little extra water will work as a swap, to help it all blend together.
Pro Tip: If you are sensitive to the taste of coconut oil, try using refined, or expeller pressed, coconut oil. It has zero coconut flavor! I use this in Vegan Cream Cheese and my famous Vegan Peanut Butter Pie, for a better flavor.
How to Make Vegan Cheesecake Bars
1. Prepare the crust. In a food processor, pulse the pecans and cacao powder together until they are crumbly. Then add in the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, and salt, and process again until the mixture sticks together.
Lightly spray an 8-inch square pan with oil, then press a piece of parchment paper into the bottom of the pan. The oil will hold the parchment paper in place, so it won’t move around as you add in the crust.
Transfer the crust to the lined pan, and press it firmly and evenly into the bottom. Place the pan in the freezer to firm up as you prepare the next layer.
2. Make the cheesecake. To make the next layer, add the cashews, zucchini, lemon juice, coconut oil, maple syrup, and salt into a blender.
Blend until very smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender, as needed. Use a spatula to transfer the cheesecake layer to the pan with the frozen crust, since it will be relatively thick.
Smooth the top with a spatula, and leave it to rest on the counter while you prepare the last layer. (Do not put it in the freezer yet!)
Soaking Tip: If you’d like to soak the cashews ahead of time in water, you can do that for potentially easier blending and digestion. Cover the cashews with water, and let them soak for up to 2 hours. Drain off the soaking water, and rinse well, then add them to the blender with the rest of the ingredients. You may not need additional water, in this case, for blending.
3. Prepare the chocolate topping. In a small bowl, combine the cacao powder, maple syrup, and coconut oil. Everything should be at room temperature for this to mix well.
Use a whisk to stir everything together quickly, until smooth. (It may thicken up as it sits, especially if your kitchen is cold, so that’s why it’s important to move fast.)
Spoon the chocolate topping into 4 lines over the cheesecake layer, then run a knife back and forth in a perpendicular direction, so that the chocolate will have a swirled look.
Alternatively, you can just use a toothpick to swirl it around as you go.
For the best results, it’s important that the cheesecake layer and chocolate layer don’t get too cold. (I took pictures of this next to a snowy window, and mine started to firm up from the chill.)
Place the cheesecake bars in the freezer to set. It typically takes about 4 to 6 hours for the center to firm up.
Then slice into 16 squares and serve chilled. Since these bars are held together by the coconut oil, they will soften if you leave them at room temperature for too long.
You can store these vegan cheesecake bars in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. For a softer texture, you can store them in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make these without the cashews? I haven’t tested this recipe without cashews yet, but if you are willing to experiment and risk a different outcome, I’ve had success using hemp hearts as a swap in other recipes, like Vegan Ranch Dressing. Just keep in mind that hemp hearts will have a slightly different flavor and mouthfeel. (Seeds tend to be more bitter than nuts.)
Can I make a different crust? Sure! Try the date-walnut crust in this recipe, or my oat flour pie crust for a nut-free option. I haven’t tried the oat flour pie crust in an 8-inch square pan yet, so that will be a bit of an experiment, if you decide to try that. (You might need to reduce the recipe a bit, quantity-wise.)
Do you have to soak cashews? If you have a high-speed blender, you don’t need to soak the cashews for this recipe to work. You can however, soak them in water for up to 2 hours, if you are hoping for better digestion, or an easier time blending them in a standard blender. (See tips above in the “How to Make” section.)
I hope you’ll enjoy these vegan cheesecake bars soon!
Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake Bars
Chocolate Pecan Crust
Vegan Cheesecake Filling
- To prepare the crust, add the pecans and cacao powder in a large food processor fitted with an "S" blade. Process briefly, until the pecans are crumbly. Add in the maple syrup, coconut oil, and salt, and process again until the mixture sticks together.
- Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan with oil, then press a piece of parchment paper into the bottom. The oil will hold the parchment paper in place. Transfer the crust into the lined pan, then press it evenly into the bottom. Place the pan in the freezer to set while you make the next layer.
- To make the cheesecake filling, add the cashews, zucchini, lemon juice, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla and salt to a blender. Blend until very smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as needed. If you need help blending this smoothly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, until it's blending better. (If you soak the cashews first, the extra water may not be needed at all.)
- Remove the pan from the freezer, and pour the cheesecake filling on top. Smooth with a spatula, and set aside on the counter while you prepare the final topping. (Do not freeze again yet.)
- To prepare the chocolate topping, combine the cacao powder, maple syrup, and melted coconut oil in a small bowl. Whisk well until it's evenly mixed, then use a spoon to drizzle the chocolate topping over the cheesecake layer in 4 lines. (See photos in this post for reference.) Drag a knife through the lines, back and forth, creating a swirled pattern. Move quickly, as the chocolate will harden if you are working in a cold kitchen, and will be more difficult to swirl.
- Place the pan in the freezer until the cheesecake is firm to the touch in the center, about 4 to 6 hours. Slice into 16 small bars, then serve chilled. They will melt if you let them stay on the counter too long, so be sure to keep these stored in an airtight container in the freezer for the best texture. They should keep well for up to 3 months.
If you try these vegan chocolate cheesecake bars, please leave a comment and star rating below letting me know how you like them!