Although these bars are in the sweets section, they would actually make a great breakfast on the go.–Sarah Britton

A plate with parchment paper filed with squares of vegan walnut fig bars.

Vegan Walnut Fig Bars

5 / 2 votes
These bars are a not-too-sweet treat that really highlights the delectable dried figs in the rich and gooey filling. The crust is made of oats and walnuts, all ground up with chia and applesauce to bind the ingredients together.
David Leite
CourseDessert
CuisineAmerican
Servings16 bars
Calories207 kcal
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients 

For the crust

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds*
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups raw walnuts, chopped
  • 2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling

Instructions 

Make the crust

  • In a small bowl, combine chia seeds with water and let rest until gelled, 5 to 15 minutes.
  • Put 1 cup of walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, place in the oven, and set the oven to 350°F (180°C). Toast walnuts while the oven is warming up (depending on how fast your oven heats up, this could take 5 to 15 minutes—just keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn!) Let walnuts cool but keep the oven on.
  • In a food processor, process 1 cup of oats on the highest setting until you have a rough flour, about 30 seconds. Add toasted walnuts and blend again until you have a sandy-textured meal. Add chia gel, applesauce, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla. Pulse until moistened.
  • In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup rolled oats, salt, and baking powder. Add processed oat mixture and use your hands or a spatula to fold until thoroughly combined.
  • Take about 2/3 of the crust mixture and press it firmly into an 8 inch (20 cm) square baking pan. (It helps to wet your hands so that the dough doesn’t stick.)

Make the filling

  • Wipe your food processor clean (no need to wash it). Roughly chop figs and add them to the food processor, along with the cinnamon, ginger, applesauce, lemon zest, and salt. Blend on the highest setting until the desired consistency is reached, 30 to 60 seconds. (I leave mine a little chunky, but you can make it completely smooth.) Spread filling evenly over crust base.
  • Roughly chop 1 cup walnuts and sprinkle over top; firmly press nuts into filling. Drop the remaining crust mixture in small chunks all over the filling, covering as much of it as possible.
  • Bake until slightly golden on top, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Let cool completely before cutting into 16 bars. Store in refrigerator, covered, for up to 5 days.

Notes

*What are chia seeds?

Chia seeds are an ancient food but they’ve seen a healthy resurgence in the past decade. A Central American seed related to mint, chia seeds are known for being hygroscopic (The ability to absorb and hold moisture) and they can absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid.
In this recipe, the chia seeds are used to give the squares a more solid base. When soaked, chia seeds develop a gelatinous texture that adds firmness to baking in place of eggs.
My New Roots Cookbook

Adapted From

My New Roots

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 barCalories: 207 kcalCarbohydrates: 25 gProtein: 4 gFat: 12 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 2 gTrans Fat: 1 gSodium: 149 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 12 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2015 Sarah Britton. Photo © 2015 Sarah Britton. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I expected these to be like a Fig Newton in bar form, but it turns out they are better than Fig Newtons (much to my relief, as I’ve never been a big Fig Newton fan).

First off, there are all these toasted walnuts involved, and how can that be bad? Then there is the applesauce (I used a homemade one), which adds something without being prominent. I thought the amount of cinnamon would be overpowering, but it turned out to be subtle, as did the ginger. Somehow all the flavors in these bars melded in a way such that nothing dominated, and the bar took on its own identity.

Not overly sweet, these will pair perfectly with coffee or tea, for a breakfast on the run, or a mid-morning office snack.

We really liked these bars! They are great when you want “just a little something” to help you start your day, hold you over until dinner, or enjoy as a treat later in the evening. The gently sweet and gooey filling and the plentiful walnuts make these morsels quite satisfying—hard to believe there is so little added fat and no refined sugar in them.

The recipe lists a lot of ingredients, but you’ll appreciate the time-saving method of using one mixture for both the crust and the topping. The only thing that could be improved was the roughly chopped walnuts on top of the bars; they kept falling off, making it a bit messy to eat. Next time I’ll chop the nuts smaller and press them deeper into the filling.

The description for these bars described them perfectly as “a not too sweet treat”. These would be perfect as an on-the-go breakfast or an afternoon pick me up that doesn’t feel like a sugar bomb.

The crust and filling come together easily and it’s nice that you only end up dirtying the food processor bowl. My only complaint was the walnuts on the top fall off when you cut and eat these bars. I pressed them down firmly into the crust, but they didn’t want to stick. All in all, a nice healthy treat to savor at any point in the day.

These walnut fig bars were classy, not too sweet, and so full of good things I didn’t feel bad about eating quite a few of them. Mine were quite moist and crumbly, so I wouldn’t consider them a grab-on-the-go snack, but the figs I used were quite moist so that could have been the issue.

When making these, I’d recommend starting the nuts, then the chia seeds, then preparing the rest of your ingredients (zesting the lemon, etc.) so there is less empty time when you’re waiting around for the nuts to cool.

We read the ingredients for these bars and immediately knew we wanted to make them, and we are glad that we did. The flavor is wonderful.

However, we didn’t read through the recipe fully before starting – this is relevant, because we don’t have a food processor. Instead, we used a blender to pulse the oats, which worked just fine. For the figs, we chopped them as best we could, and pressed them with the zest and other filling ingredients into the crust, topped off all with walnuts and extra crumble, then pressed again.

We baked the bars for 30 minutes (the house smelled heavenly), and the result is quite delicious. Our version is more of a crumble than a bar, which will be just fine on applesauce and yogurt in the morning. We definitely will make these again.

These walnut fig bars were a snap to make and were praised by my sugar-loving friends as “seriously so good.” Any recipe I can throw together as a grab-and-go breakfast using my normal pantry staples is a win.

For the filling, it doesn’t seem that the fig mixture would ever come out too smooth. I think it is a better texture for chewing as well as spreading as a filling if it remains chunky when blended.

Gluten-free, low-sugar, healthy fats, high-fiber, and high-protein! Homemade energy bars? Grown-up, vegan Fig Newtons? Off the charts in belly-friendly fiber, such as oats, figs, and chia, and packed with omega-3s. What’s the bad news? Well, if you’ve got a food processor and a scale, there really is none.

If you liked Fig Newtons as a kid, you’ll love this recipe. They’re chewy and not too sweet, but can easily go between a breakfast bar and an after-meal sweet treat. The recipe is written well and is very easy to follow. Definitely a keeper!




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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