Purple Sweet Potato Pie Bars

These vegan purple sweet potato pie bars are perfect for the holiday season. It’s an easy to make dessert that will surely wow even the most jaded guests! 

Vegan Purple Sweet Potato Pie Bars with almond butter crust.

Vegan Sweet Potato Pie Bars

Yes. These sweet potatoes pie bars are naturally purple!

I repeat, I did not use any artificial food coloring to make these super vibrant purple sweet potato bars.

Plus, these bars are vegan and gluten-free! A far cry from the usual buttery and sugar laden treats I share.

These bite-sized sharable treats are great for the holidays when you have guests that may have restricted diets, food allergies, or certain food intolerances. 

Purple sweet potato pie bars with almond butter crust. This all-natural dye-free vegan treat is great any season.

This vs That Ingredients: What makes these bars vegan and gluten-free?

  • Almond Flour 

Instead of wheat flour or ground graham crackers, these pie bars use almond flour for the crust. Almond flour is simply finely ground almonds. You may use either blanched (skinned) almond flour or almond flour with skin. 

  • Almond Butter

Real deal almond butter should only have ONE ingredient- almonds. A touch of salt makes almond butter even more delicious. 

Store-bought or homemade almond butter works well in this recipe. The almond butter replaces uses of butter in the crust. It add fat and helps to bind the crust ingredients together.

  • Ground Flax Meal

Ground flaxseed is a vegan alternative to eggs in baked goods. It is also labeled as milled flaxseed or flax meal. When combined with water, flax meal turns into a thick gooey mixture that is great at binding together ingredients.

It is often used in vegan cookies like these vegan oatmeal raisin cookies

  • Coconut Milk

The filling is primarily made from cooked sweet potato and coconut milk. Coconut milk provides fat and flavor. It is responsible for creaminess and texture. 

Be sure to use canned full-fat coconut milk for consistent results. 

  • Agar

Agar is the vegan substitute for gelatin. Gelatin is an animal product. It is derived from animal collagen, usually pork or cattle skin, cartilage, and/or bones. 

Agar is derived from seaweed. It acts the same as gelatin. You cannot omit the agar in this recipe. Otherwise, the sweet potato pie filling will not sliceable! 

new cookbook: naturally, delicious desserts by danny seo

The recipe for these purple sweet potato pie bars comes from Naturally, Delicious Desserts! It’s the newest cookbook from Danny Seo. 

NEW COOKBOOK: Naturally, Delicious Desserts

I received a copy of Naturally, Delicious Desserts from the publisher. As a fan of the tv show Naturally, Danny Seo on NBC, I was excited to peruse his new cookbook.

Danny Seo was the source of this two ingredient pizza dough recipe!  (Spoiler alert: it’s self-rising flour and Greek yogurt.)

This cookbook has 100 vegetarian dessert recipe. The recipes feature new and different ways to transform classic desserts into healthier treats. Here are a few of my favorite examples:

  • Eggplant Fudge Bars– blended cooked eggplant gives these chocolate bars silky creaminess.
  • Blue Spirulina Marshmallows– uses aquafaba (canned chickpea liquid) and agar in place of egg whites and gelatin.
  • Black Cocoa “Oreos” with Cauliflower Creme– pureed cauliflower and cashews are the base of this cookie sandwich cream filling.

Purple Sweet Potatoes

Purple Sweet Potato: Where to buy it & How to cook it

I used Stokes Purple Sweet Potato for this recipe. (Scroll down for purple sweet potato alternatives.)

These brightly colored sweet potatoes are widely available for purchase. If you are in Los Angeles, you can find this purple sweet potato at your local Whole Foods, Ralphs, Sprouts, or Gelsons. They are also available for purchase online through Friedas

Purple sweet potato is in season from September through April.

There are several ways to cook purple sweet potato: steam, boil, bake, or microwave. 

Think of all the ways you can cook potatoes or yams. You can also do it with purple sweet potato. 

Purple Sweet Potato

What does purple sweet potato taste like?

Purple sweet potato has a very mild flavor. As such, it can be easily used for either sweet or savory applications. 

It is slightly earthy like what you would expect from standard sweet potatoes.

(Don’t eat it raw! Be sure to cook it first!)

Purple sweet potato is a great substitute for ube! Fresh ube is nearly impossible to find in the United States. 

More purple sweet potato intel 

The sweet potato may expel or “bleed” white droplets. Do not be alarmed. That is simply starch escaping from the exposed sweet potato cells.

The interior may look a little dull in color like the cut sweet potato photographed above. The sweet potato will turn a richer, darker purple color after being cooked. 

Purple Sweet Potato Substitutes

  • Okinawan sweet potato has a creamy, tan flesh and a deep vibrant purple interior.
  • Charleston sweet potato has a dark purple, red skin and bright purple interior. 
  • Ube (Filipino purple yam) has a brown earthy exterior and a pale purple interior. It is very difficult to find fresh ube in the United States.
  • Orange sweet potato and orange yams. Any sweet potato or yam found at your local supermarket can be used in this recipe.

Agar sticks vs agar powder as vegan alternative to gelatin

Vegan Gelatin Substitute

This may alarm you. Did you jello, gummy candies, and marshmallows are made with gelatin? Do you know what gelatin is?

Gelatin is derived from animal collagen, usually from pork or cattle skin, cartilage and bones. This is a BIG surprise to most people. Gelatin is a magical ingredient that does wonders for many recipes.

However, if you practice a vegan diet, there is an alternative!

Agar, also known as agar-agar, is derived from seaweed. It an all natural vegan alternative to gelatin.

Agar is sold in a variety of forms: agar sticks, agar flakes, and agar powder are the most commonly sold versions. 

I suggest using either agar flakes or agar powder. They can be accurately and universally measured. Agar sticks are a bit more troublesome when it comes to measuring.

Agar Flakes vs Agar Powder

The difference between agar flakes and agar powder is the size. Agar powder is a finer milled agar flakes.

Think of agar powder as a more concentrated version of agar flakes.

When converting recipes that use either flakes or powder, use this:

  • 1 TABLESPOON agar flakes = 1 teaspoon agar powder

Almond Crust for Purple Sweet Potato Pie Bars

Assembling Sweet Potato Bars

Vegan Almond Crust

Mix together almond flour, almond butter, ground flaxseed, sugar, salt, and water to make the dough. 

The mixture will be rather crumbly. Use a tamper or the flat bottom of a drinking glass (or measuring cup) to press the crust dough into an 8-inch square baking pan.

Bake the crust for about 15 minutes until set. Cool the crust while you work on the filling.

Purple Sweet Potato Pie Filling

Use Blender to Make Sweet Potato Filling

Making the purple sweet potato filling is super easy!

Peel and slice the purple sweet potato into small chunks. Cover the sweet potato chunks with water in a sauce pot. Cook for about 15 minutes until the sweet potato pieces are tender.

While the sweet potato is cooking, combine coconut milk, agar, and agave in a separate pot. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until agar has dissolved. 

Drain sweet potato and place in a high speed blender. Add in coconut-agar mixture. Process mixture until thick and smooth. That’s it! 

Purple Sweet Potato Pie Bars

Pour thick sweet potato filling over cooled almond crust. Spread mixture into an even layer. Allow filling to cool (and release steam) for about 20-30 minutes.

Then, transfer to the fridge. Chill for a few hours to allow the agar to set up. 

Purple Sweet Potato Pie Bars

Use a sharp clean knife to slice the purple sweet potato pie into desired bar portions. 

Purple Sweet Potato Pie Bars with sweetened milk drizzle

These purple sweet potato pie bars are not very sweet. I recommend adding a drizzle of condensed coconut milk for additional sweetness and flavor. 

Storage and Leftovers

Purple sweet potato pie bars can be made in advance. Store in the fridge for up to three days before serving. Overall, the bars have a refrigerated shelf life of about 5 days. 

After the forth or fifth day, the sweet potato filling will leak, separate, or dry out. 

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.  I don’t recommend freezing these bars. Agar does not freeze well. If stored in the freezer, the sweet potato filling will expel moisture and turn gritty in texture.

Vegan Purple Sweet Potato Pie Bars

Servings 12 bars
Author Maryanne Cabrera

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 240 grams (2 cup) almond flour
  • 85 grams (1/3 cup) unsalted almond butter
  • 20 grams (3 Tbsp) ground flax meal
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 60 grams (1/4 cup) filtered water

Filling:

  • 900 grams (about 2 pounds) purple sweet potato
  • 14 oz can coconut milk, full-fat, unsweetened
  • 6 teaspoon agar powder*
  • 170 grams (1/2 cup) agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Allow parchment paper to hang over the edges of the pan. This will allow for easy unmolding. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, mix together almond flour, almond butter, ground flax meal, sugar, salt, and water until dough forms. Use a spatula or use gloved hands to bring dough together.

  3. Transfer dough to prepared baking pan. Use a tamper or the flat bottom of a measuring cup or drinking glass to press dough into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes. Set aside.

  4. Filling: Peel sweet potatoes. Cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks. Place sweet potatoes in sauce pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until sweet potato is tender. Drain well. Add sweet potatoes to a blender.

  5. Pour coconut milk, agar powder, and agave nectar in a small sauce pot. Stir contents often. Simmer until agar has dissolved.

  6. Add agar mixture, vanilla extract, and salt to blender with sweet potatoes. Process mixture until thick and smooth.

  7. Pour sweet potato puree mixture on top of baked crust. Spread filling into an even layer. Let mixture cool for about 20 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator. Chill for at least 4 hours until filling is set.

  8. Use a sharp clean knife to slice sweet potato pie into desired bar sizes.

Recipe Notes

Agar Notes:

  • Agar, also known as agar-agar, is derived from seaweed (red algae). It is a vegan alternative to gelatin. 
  • Agar sticks, agar flakes, and agar powder are the most commonly sold versions. The original recipe calls for agar flakes. 
  • 1 Tablespoon agar flakes = 1 teaspoon agar powder. 

Recipe ingredients reprinted and paraphrased with permission from Gibbs Smith Publisher 

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