With the holiday season here, sugary sweets and treats tend to surround us whether we like or not. But if you're looking to steer clear of unhealthy refined sugars, dairy and gluten, look no further. We've rounded up some of our favorite healthy desserts that would fool even the most discerning baked goods lovers with decadent, natural sweetness. Read on for 6 naturally-sweetened, vegan and gluten-free desserts to serve at this year's holiday celebrations.
Almond Cranberry Cookies
With just a food processor, some fruit and nuts you can create a batch of healthful, anti-oxidant-filled cookies. These can be cut into a variety of shapes for any holiday. They are addictively delicious, but completely guilt-free so feel free to eat as many as you’d like.
2 cup almonds, process into chunks
1 cup cranberries
1 cup coconut, shredded
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon almond extract
Watch our how-to video to learn the incredibly simple recipe.
These make ahead, no-bake bars contain all the sweetness of pecan pie, minus the unhealthy corn syrup or refined sugar. They are raw, sugar-free and gluten-free, yet incredibly rich — surefire favorite holiday recipe to add to your annual repertoire.
1 cup pecans
1 tsp liquid coconut oil
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup pecans
3/4 cup cashew butter
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup liquid coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tsp coconut oil
Check out the complete recipe right here.
‘Fudgy’ Avocado Chocolate Cake
This gluten-free chocolate cake from the Minimalist Baker is incredibly decadent, acquiring natural sweetness from ripe bananas and maple syrup. The avocado base makes it especially fudge-like and absolutely divine.
1/2 cup gluten free oat flour
2 Tbsp coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tsp each baking powder & baking soda
1 medium ripe avocado
1.5 medium very ripe bananas
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Vegan butter (for greasing the pan)
Move rack to the middle of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch round baking pan (or 8×8-inch rectangular pan) with vegan butter. Coat the entire pan with a bit of gluten-free flour and remove any excess. Set aside while you prepare the rest. In a large mixing bowl, mash the avocado and bananas. Add the maple syrup, vanilla, coconut oil and stir well. In a small bowl, mix the almond milk with the vinegar. Let the mixture set for a minute or so then add to the large mixing bowl and whisk. Add the baking soda and powder and mix until well combined. Sift cocoa powder, salt, gluten free flour blend, and coconut flour over wet ingredients(leaving the oat flour aside since it’s more coarse). Whisk very well to combine. Add the oat flour and stir. Taste the batter and add more maple syrup if necessary. Then pour your mixture into your prepared baking dish and smooth the top over using a rubber spatula. Bake for 40-48 minutes or until done (insert a toothpick into the center – the cake is done when it comes out clean). Don’t worry about cracks in the top of the finished cake – that’s expected. The edges should also slightly drift away from the sides. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for just an hour. Loosen the sides with a knife, place a plate on top and flip it over gently. Repeat this with another serving plate to serve it right side up. Dust the top with a bit of cocoa powder (if desired) and serve immediately. The cake can remain in the fridge for a few days, or can be frozen longer.
No-bake Pumpkin Pie Truffles
Maple syrup, pumpkin pie, and chocolate come together in these marvelously simple no-bake, vegan and gluten-free truffles. These healthy bonbons are so easy to make, they can be whipped up and served within the hour.
2 1/2-3 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup coconut flour, plus more as needed
2 Tbsp coconut oil (liquified)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 plus 1 Tbsp coconut oil (in liquid form)
3 Tbsp maple syrup
For the complete instructions, head on over to our full feature right here.
Chia Seed Bars
These deletable bites from nutritionist Kimberly Snyder will give your oven a rest as they require no baking at all. Medjool dates, coconut nectar and pecans give them such a delightful burst of sweetness, you’ll swear there was sugar inside.
1 1⁄2 cups raw pecans
1 1⁄2 cups pitted medium Medjool dates
1⁄2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tablespoon coconut nectar or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons chia seeds, soaked in 1⁄4 cup filtered water for at least 1 hour
Line a 9-inch square with parchment paper. Mix all the ingredients (except for the chia seeds) in a food processor until well combined. Add the chia seeds and process until the mixture is well combined and has a slightly wet consistency.
Spread the mixture into the bottom of the baking dish lined with parchment. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Once the mixture has completely set, slice it into about eighteen 3-inch x 11⁄2-inch bars. The bars may be served right away, or stored in the refrigerator or freezer for up to a month.
Quick Pumpkin Pie
Baking a pie doesn’t get much easier than this. Try this quick recipe for a simple, delicious homemade vegan pumpkin pie that garners sweetness from just a bit of maple syrup.
1 15 oz. can organic pumpkin puree
1 package soft organic tofu, drained
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (Mixture of cinnamon, ginger, clove, and all spice)
1 tsp salt
1 pre-made vegan gluten-free pie crust
Blend all the ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Pour into baked pie crust and bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350 degrees F. Test pie with toothpick to make sure it is done. Then leave overnight in the refrigerator to cool and set the pie. Serve cold with vanilla ice-cream.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
During the holidays we love starting the day off with dessert, but instead of indulging in sugary cookies and treats, try this hearty vegan and gluten-free quick-bread adapted from the Ambitious Kitchen. Who wouldn’t love waking up to freshly baked banana bread on a snowy winter day?
4 medium ripe bananas, mashed (3 large would work fine)
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond butter
Vegan egg replacer (2 tbs ground flaxseeds mixed with 6 tbs of water)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 8×4 inch or 9×5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and grease with vegan butter or cooking spray. Combine bananas, honey, vanilla and almond butter in an electric mixer mix until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add in the pre-mixed egg replacer and stir on medium speed until well combined. Add in coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and mix on medium-low speed until just combined. Then gently fold in chocolate chips. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick or tester comes out clean when inserted into the center. Remove from oven, place on wire rack, and cool for about 20 minutes. Then carefully remove from the pan by inverting the bread. Place it back on the wire rack until it is cooled completely before serving.
Lead image via Shutterstock
Here’s a clever crustless alternative to pumpkin pie that we adore. Whip up this indulgent, yet light and sugar-free dessert in no time.
1/2 block organic soft/silken tofu (8 oz.), drained
2 1/2 Tbsp. grade A Dark Amber maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground allspice
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
Pinch of salt
Check out our tutorial for making this decadent vegan pumpkin pie mousse right here.