I hesitated to share this recipe at first. I like to keep my recipes and ingredients fairly accessible, so “weird” things like puffed quinoa don’t often make it on to the blog. But I also like to include the occasional unique ingredient, because hey, I really like cooking that way. It’s fun. And besides, these salted caramel bars are absolutely the shiz.
My recipe tester used a different word, but we’ll go with “shiz.”
Before we get going, there are a few things I want you to know about these things:
- They are vegan, gluten free, and refined sugar free.
- They have only FIVE ingredients, not including the optional date caramel sauce (which is also vegan, GF, and refined sugar free).
- They take 5 minutes to make and require NO baking.
two times three times time I made these salted caramel bars last week, we didn’t even put the caramel sauce on top. They’re totally delicious without it if you feel like you just want to whip something up in 5 minutes and eat it right away. But if you’re up for spending an extra minute and a half making them, and you want that sweet, delicious, drippy salted caramel sauce, head over to see the one I used from Brewing Happiness. It’s equally as simple as these bars, and sweetened only with medjool dates. For the non-dairy milk, I used coconut milk in my version. But you could use almond milk, or whatever you like!
Now, let’s talk about this puffed quinoa goodness. I got mine at Whole Foods, so you may be able to find it at your local health food store (or big chain as I did, though I prefer local whenever possible). I prefer puffed quinoa for this recipe because 1) quinoa is a whole grain, and 2) I love the pearly texture. But if you really want to make these bars and you can’t get your hands on some puffed quinoa, you can use puffed rice instead. I recommend puffed brown rice, and choosing a brand that doesn’t have preservatives or any unnecessary ingredients. The “health food” brands are probably your best bet. I wouldn’t recommend using a certain popular breakfast cereal version, for many reasons.
But if you CAN get that puffed quinoa in your possession, DO IT.
The stuff is good.
And in these salted caramel bars it’s REALLY good.
These bars a treat, yes. But they’re healthy as far as treats go, and they’re suitable for a variety of special diets, so you can enjoy them no matter your restrictions. I haven’t personally tried it so I can’t vouch for this, but you may even be able to substitute sunflower seed butter or pumpkin seed butter for the peanut butter if you’re looking to make them nut free.
Me, I’m a peanut butter woman. But I’m not allergic to nuts, of course.
So, long story short: make these healthy pb salted caramel bars made with delicious, practically-magical crispy puffed quinoa. Don’t eat the whole batch at once. Or maybe do.
Just kidding, try to make them last at least a day or two. 😉
Easy, 5-ingredient healthy salted caramel bars made with crispy puffed quinoa, peanut butter, maple syrup, and an optional silky date-caramel sauce. Vegan, GF, refined sugar free. Makes 8 bars.
- 2 cups puffed quinoa
- 1/2 cup UNSALTED natural peanut butter (nothing but peanuts)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- coconut oil for greasing dish
- optional: 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- optional: salted caramel sauce (see bottom of post for link to Brewing Happiness)
Grease a square 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish (I used glass) with coconut oil and set aside.
Place the puffed quinoa in a large mixing bowl.
Combine the peanut butter and maple syrup in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula, until they are thoroughly combined and beginning to bubble around the edges. Stir in vanilla, sea salt, and cinnamon if using.
Pour the maple syrup and peanut butter mixture over the puffed quinoa and fold them together and until completely combined. Immediately transfer everything to the greased dish.
Using the silicone spatula, compress and smooth the bars, packing the mixture down as tightly as possible. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 15 minutes.
If you're making the caramel sauce, mix that up now while the bars chill in the fridge. When the bars have set (they're firm), cut into either 8 bars (as in my pictures) or 16 by cutting each larger bar in half to make mini-bars. Drizzle with the salted caramel sauce and try not to eat them all at once.