No-Bake Cookie Dough Bars (Vegan & Gluten-Free)
I am so excited to be sharing my new favorite easy dessert recipe with you today! I’ve been making these healthy No-Bake Cookie Dough Bars for the last couple months, and literally everyone has loved them, from junk food addicts and omnivores to health-conscious vegans and food snobs (hello, that last one is me). I put together a quick and easy video so you can see what the bars should look like, but the full recipe and instructions are down below.
Back to these bars. It is not surprising that everyone who has tried these has absolutely loved them because…what’s not to love? This recipe features a vegan, gluten-free, and oil-free cookie dough that is not only healthy and safe to eat but also tastes like real cookie dough! Then the cookie dough is turned into bar form and drizzled with melted chocolate! Are you drooling yet?
And these cookie dough bars couldn’t be simpler to make! The dough takes 5 minutes to come together in the food processor and they require no baking, making them a perfect summer dessert idea.
Now let’s talk about the ingredients in these easy no-bake cookie dough bars! If we don’t count salt and the one optional ingredient, there are only SIX INGREDIENTS. Yes, just six ingredients! I can be skeptical of many recipes that have just a handful of ingredients because that often means they skimp on flavor or texture, but you really don’t need more than these basic six ingredients to make these delicious cookie dough bars!
And while I don’t shun oil in my cooking and baking, I have received a considerable number of requests for more oil-free recipes and I love finding creative ways to make healthier treats, so these are oil-free. Here, the use of Medjool dates, tahini, and maple syrup form a sticky enough dough such that oil is not necessary.
Medjool dates: These sweet and sticky gems are going to help sweeten the dough and also bring it together. The stickiness of the dates, in part, makes the addition of oil unnecessary. Be sure to use soft Medjool dates though. If your dates are not very soft, soak them in hot water for 5 minutes, then drain and pat dry. I’d avoid using the smaller, drier Deglet dates because the dough won’t come together as smoothly.
Rolled oats: If you can believe it, oats are actually the primary ingredient in this cookie dough! So, I guess you could say these cookie dough bars are healthy enough to eat for breakfast, right? You can certainly use store-bought oat flour if you have it, but it takes 2 minutes to make your own oat flour using traditional rolled oats (as you’ll see in the video). Be sure to buy certified gluten-free rolled oats if you or someone you are making these for has a severe gluten intolerance or allergy.
Tahini: I LOVE tahini and I really love the way it pairs with Medjool dates, salt, and vanilla to make this cookie dough taste like actual cookie dough. Just be sure that your tahini is smooth and somewhat runny, not thick and chunky (usually, the bottom of a jar of tahini is left with thick chunks). The tahini is also the major source of fat here, making the use of oil unnecessary. If you don’t have tahini, you can easily substitute a smooth almond butter or cashew butter. You can try peanut butter if you love peanut butter, but the peanut-y taste might overwhelm the cookie dough taste.
Maple syrup: This is my go-to sweetener in the kitchen. Plus, using a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup also helps the dough come together in a way that obviates the use of oil. If you’re wondering why the recipe has 4 1/2 tablespoons of maple syrup, it’s because I found that just 4 tablespoons was slightly under-sweet, and that extra half tablespoon made a noticeable difference.
Vanilla: Any cookie dough recipe needs a good-quality pure vanilla extract.
Vegan Chocolate Chips: These are chocolate chip cookie dough bars, after all! I love the vegan mini chocolate chips from Enjoy Life, but you can use any dairy-free chocolate chips (or even chunks) you can find. I use half the chocolate chips in the dough, and reserve the remaining half for the chocolate topping.
To make these bars, start by pulverizing the rolled oats in your food processor until they turn into a fine flour. This should only take 1-2 minutes with a high-powered food processor. If you’re using store-bought oat flour, obviously skip this step. Then add in the Medjool dates, tahini, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt and pulse together until a sticky dough forms. Usually it will come together into a ball (it shouldn’t take very long).
Transfer the dough to a bowl and stir in half of the chocolate chips by hand. If the dough is too sticky to handle with your hands, pop the dough in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to help firm it up. Then press the dough into a parchment paper-lined loaf pan, using your fingers to smush it into every corner. If you don’t have a loaf pan, you can also use a similar-sized Tupperware or glass storage container. If you only have a square baking pan, you can use that too, but the bars won’t be as tall as they are in these photos.
Freeze the cookie dough for 30 minutes to set it, and then pour or drizzle on the remaining melted chocolate chips. If you want to keep these cookie dough bars entirely oil free, just melt the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after every interval (or using a double boiler on the stove). But if you want a glossier, firmer chocolate that’s almost like a hardened ganache and don’t mind a little oil, then add the optional coconut oil to the chocolate when you melt it.
That’s all you need to know about these Vegan, Gluten-Free No-Bake Cookie Dough Bars! If you try them out, be sure to tag me on Instagram so I can see them and drop a comment below with your feedback!
What you need to make this recipe
No-Bake Cookie Dough Bars (Vegan & Gluten-Free)
1 cup soft Medjool dates (about 8 ounces), pitted
2 3/4 cups rolled oats (about 2 1/4 cups oat flour), certified gluten-free if needed
1/4 cup smooth tahini (or almond butter or cashew butter)
4 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup vegan chocolate chips, divided (I use these mini chocolate chips)
2 teaspoons refined coconut oil, melted (optional; omit for oil-free)
If the dates are not very soft, cover them with hot water for 5 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
Place the oats in the bowl of the food processor and pulverize them until you have a fine oat flour. Alternatively, you can use store-bought oat flour.
Add the pitted dates, tahini, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt to the oat flour. Pulse until the mixture forms into a sticky dough (it should turn into a ball). If it feels dry, add a spoon of plant-based milk a teaspoon at a time until the dough just sticks together when pressed.
Fold in 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips using a silicone spatula.
If the dough is too sticky to handle with your hands (this is more likely if your kitchen is warm), place the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm it up a bit.
Line a 9x5-inch or 8x4-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang. You can also use a similar-shaped glass storage container or an 8x8-inch square baking pan (if you use the latter, the bars won’t be as thick though). Spread the dough into pan and smooth the top out evenly, pressing all the way into corners. Use a flat-bottomed glass to get the mixture even on top. Place the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes (or longer) to set.
Using the parchment paper as handles, lift the cookie dough out of the pan.
Place the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl with the coconut oil, if using. Microwave on high in 30-second intervals until the chocolate is almost melted. Use a spoon to stir the chocolate until it is melted. If you omit the oil, the instructions are the same.
Pour the melted chocolate on top of the cookie dough. Since the bars are cold, the chocolate will harden on top. Slice into 8 bars and serve immediately. Store leftovers in the freezer.