Sugar free and vegan puffed quinoa bars made with raw cacao, dates, and nut butter. These no bake snacks are a healthier gluten free riff on a prairie classic, puffed wheat squares.
Bringing a prairie classic, puffed wheat squares, over to the healthy-ish plant based world with some chocolate puffed quinoa snack bars. You know what? I love them even more than the corn syrup laden version I grew up (obsessively) eating.
This version is sugar free, made with whole dates to hold everything together and adding that delicious caramel flavour. Using puffed quinoa makes these gluten free, and they’re oil free to boot.
The bars take about five minutes to make, then half an hour in the freezer before they’re ready, but still, no bake and so simple. Try storing them in the freezer for a chewy chocolate bar. So good.
If you like rice crispy squares, you’ll like these puffed quinoa bars. They’re not super crisp but have the same kind of idea behind them – definitely on the softer side, but so is puffed quinoa to start with. If you have had puffed wheat squares, they’re pretty spot on. If you want a really crisp bar I’m afraid this isn’t that, as the dates do create more of a chewy treat.
Scroll to the bottom of the post or click “skip to recipe” above to see the recipe card with full ingredient measurements and instructions.
- Puffed quinoa
- Soft dates
- Nut or seed butter
- Non-dairy milk (I use oat milk)
- Cacao or cocoa powder (see substitutions)
- Sea salt
Line a square tin with parchment paper and set aside. Add the quinoa to a large mixing bowl.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, blend the (pitted) dates, and nut butter until a smooth paste forms. (You mix these before adding the milk to avoid a milk explosion.) Add the milk, cacao, cinnamon, and salt, and blend again until incorporated.
Scoop the date mixture into the bowl with the puffed quinoa and mix very well, until fully combined. You may need to use your hands.
Press the mixture into the prepared baking tin. I recommend using slightly damp hands to prevent the quinoa sticking to your fingers, or use one of those little roller tools.
Place the tin in the freezer for half an hour, then remove from the tin and cut into small squares. Store the bars in the freezer in a sealed container for up to a month. Topping with melted chocolate is optional but pretty and tasty!
Tips and Notes
You can find puffed quinoa online and in most health food stores. It’s also often available in the GF section, or with the baking supplies, in grocery stores.
If you have a high powered blender, you can blend the date mixture instead. In that case, all of the ingredients (minus the quinoa) can be added at once rather than working in two steps as with the food processor.
No blender or processor? That’s okay! You can mash the dates by hand before mixing in the other ingredients with a fork. If your dates aren’t completely soft, simply soak them in hot water for an hour before beginning.
The salt added should be adjusted based on your personal taste and whether salt is added to the nut or seed butter you’re using. If you like salty-sweet, go for the 1/2 teaspoon. Otherwise stick with 1/4, or omit it altogether if the nut butter is salted.
The tin size doesn’t really matter because the bars aren’t baked – you can press the mixture into just about any form you have on hand and then slice into bars the size you’d like. A bread tin works a treat.
Any type of milk can be used here, even full-fat coconut milk, though that will make for a rather rich dessert. The type of dates doesn’t matter as long as they’re very soft. I usually use deglet noor but had medjool on hand when shooting.
Cacao and cocoa powder are interchangeable here, but make sure you’re not using hot cocoa drink mix (there shouldn’t be any sugar or milk powder added). Cacao is a little bitter and regular cocoa is slightly sweeter, so go by your preference.
Cinnamon is optional but adds a nice flavour! You can sub vanilla or other spices if you’d like.
More Fruit Sweetened Desserts
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- 100 grams (3 cups) puffed quinoa
- 130 grams (1/2 cup) soft dates, seeded
- 150 grams (1/2 cup) runny nut or seed butter
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) non-dairy milk
- 20 grams (1/4 cup) cacao powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon sea salt*
- Line a 20cm (8 inch) square baking tin with parchment paper and set aside. Add the puffed quinoa to a large bowl.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, add the dates and nut butter and mix on high speed until a rough paste forms.
- Add the milk, cacao, cinnamon, and salt. Blend again until smooth.
- Add the date mixture to the quinoa puffs and mix until combined. You may need to use your hands to fully mix.
- Press the bar mixture into the lined baking tin. Use damp hands to really press it in and try to make it as even as possible.
- Place the tin in the freezer for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for a couple of hours, before cutting into 16 squares. These are best stored in a sealed container in the freezer.
** The amount of salt can be reduced here if your nut butter includes salt or if you prefer a lower amount.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 98Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 90mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 3g
This data is provided by a calculator and is a rough estimation of the nutritional information in this recipe.
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This post was originally published in April 2018. It has been updated with new step-by-step photos and changes to the text as of September 2020.