(can be vegan and/or gluten free)
Imagine a twix bar, but replace the caramel with a crunchy/chewy peanut butter filling, and that’s what these homemade squares are! With a shortbread base, peanut butter middle, and chocolate top, these bars are seriously all I could ask for in a dessert. Plus they can be made vegan, dairy free, and/or gluten free! If you are allergic to peanuts or just don’t like them, you can easily replace the peanut butter with any nut or seed butter.
Originally I made these bars with just the peanut butter as the base and the chocolate on top, and they were delicious (of course) but tricky to handle with the peanut butter as the bottom. I wanted them to have some more structure without altering the taste, so on the second attempt I added a shortbread base and it worked beautifully! Long story short – you can make these squares without the shortbread and they will still taste great, but they might be a bit messy.
Another option if you don’t want to include the shortbread base is to roll the peanut butter mixture into balls, coat with chocolate, and then pop in the freezer/fridge from there. This way they are less messy and there’s no baking involved!
However you decide to make them, this dessert is seriously delicious, and I hope you love them as much as I do! Let’s get into how to make them.
for the shortbread base
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or GF 1:1)
- 1/2 cup white sugar (or coconut sugar*)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter, chilled & diced (or vegan butter, or coconut oil, melted & cooled)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
for the peanut butter filling
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (or any nut/seed butter)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup plant milk
- 1 2/3 cup oat flour**
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup dry cereal, puffed rice/quinoa, or peanuts***
for the chocolate top
- 1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan if you want)
- 1 tsp butter, margarine, or coconut oil
- (optional) chopped peanuts to top
- Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor, electric mixer, or in a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and vanilla and mix until dough forms.
- Press the shortbread mixture into a parchment lined 8×8 pan, prick with fork, and chill in fridge for 15 minutes.
- Bake shortbread for ~20 minutes, until lightly golden at edges. Let cool, place in fridge if necessary.
- Meanwhile, prepare your peanut butter filling by mixing the peanut butter, maple syrup, milk, oat flour, and dry cereal/grain or peanuts in a large bowl.
- Spread the peanut butter filling onto the cooled shortbread base.
- To make the chocolate top, melt the chocolate chips and butter/oil in a double broiler (or in the microwave in 30s increments, be careful it doesn’t burn).
- Pour the melted chocolate onto the peanut butter filling and spread evenly.
- Top with chopped peanuts (optional). Cover the pan and place in the freezer for around 30 minutes, until just solidified. Then you can cut them easily without the chocolate cracking too much! Store in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container.
*If you use coconut sugar, keep in mind that the shortbread won’t be as soft or sweet as white sugar. It will also be a darker color!
**Make your own oat flour by blending/processing oats
***You can use really any dry cereal, puffed grain, nut, or crunchy ingredient here (chocolate chips would also work!). Keep in mind the cereals/puffed grains will become more chewy in this mixture because they absorb some of the moisture from the filling, whereas the nuts and chocolate chips will remain crunchy.