Pecan Pie Shortbread Bars (Vegan + Gluten Free)

It’s Thanksgiving weekend! While I’m all for the traditional (vegan) Thanksgiving dinner foods, I will always be all about that dessert. It’s no secret that pumpkin pie is the star of Thanksgiving, but we can’t forget about all of the other delicious holiday flavours! Pecan pie is a Thanksgiving classic, and I decided to make a more approachable version of this dessert, in the form of squares with a gluten free shortbread cookie crust! Seriously, you guys do NOT want to skip out on this one. If you have a sweet tooth, you need to stop what you’re doing right now and make these.

I have used this shortbread recipe a couple of times during past holiday seasons, and have slightly tweaked it each time, now making it gluten free. It’s melt-in-your-mouth soft, while still having that classic crumbly shortbread texture.

These squares have been a huge hit with my family (and myself – I can’t stop eating them SOS) and I’m already adding them to my Christmas baking list. According to my sister/taste-tester, they taste like Christmas. So even if you’ve already gotten your fill of Thanksgiving treats, remember this recipe for the rest of the holiday season!!

Vegan Buttery Sticks

In a recipe such as shortbread, using buttery sticks is preferred over vegan margarine, as it has more stability. Margarine (my go to is Becel Vegan) will do the trick, but it will not form the same lumpy consistency in the dough as you lightly mix it with a mixer. It has a more oily consistency, and does not hold structure as well as the sticks intended for baking, and for making things such as buttercream that require this stability. I have used both Earth Balance and Melt vegan buttery sticks in this shortbread recipe and both worked great!

Coconut Cream

This ingredient works wonderfully in homemade vegan caramel, and the crazy part is that you don’t even really end up tasting the coconut! As I’ve mentioned a time or two in previous recipes, it is very important to use full fall coconut cream to get the best result. Go for a canned coconut cream that is free of emulsifiers, which prevent it from separating when cooled. We want the separation so we can scoop out the solid cream for our caramel sauce! Some canned coconut creams will separate without even being cooled – give the can a shake and if you don’t feel liquid moving, you’ve probably found one one that’s separated! Otherwise, a day in the fridge will be all your coconut cream needs to separate from the water! If all else fails, it will not be the end of the world if your coconut cream is not in solid form! Just stay away from light coconut cream or coconut milk, as they will not give you a rich and creamy caramel.

Recipe Notes:

  • This shortbread is gluten free, but if you are not concerned about gluten, you can easily substitute the flour for regular all-purpose flour with a 1 to 1 ratio!
  • As always, in an attempt to be eco-friendly, I opted out of using parchment paper for this recipe. I gave my baking dish a good spray with cooking oil and hoped for the best. I was a little nervous as the shortbread dough is quite soft and crumbly, but it ended up coming out of the baking dish just fine! Parchment obviously makes life easier, as you can lift the entire dessert out of the pan to cool and cut, but I always encourage taking the low waste option over convenience!
  • Be sure to let the dessert cool fully before cutting. The cookie crust will crumble if too warm, and the caramel sauce will spread if it is not given a chance to firm up. Patience is key!
  • To make this recipe grain-free, you may substitute the cornstarch for arrowroot flour, tapioca starch, or potato starch. The purpose of this ingredient is to thicken the caramel sauce, so any of these will do the trick!
  • If you would prefer more of a crunch to your shortbread cookie crust, I would suggest baking the shortbread for about another 5 minutes or so on top of what is recommended in the recipe instructions. The way that I have made it gives a soft, crumbly, airy cookie crust, but I think it would be delicious to make it with more of a crunch to these squares as well!

Pecan Pie Shortbread Bars (Vegan + Gluten Free)

vegan • gluten free • dairy free • soy free

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Yields: 9-16 squares

Prep time: 15 minutes

Bake time: 45 minutes

Total time: 6o minutes


For the shortbread:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose gluten free flour
  • ¾ cup vegan butter (I used Melt buttery sticks)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar

For the Filling:

  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • ¾ cup pecans, roughly chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°, and spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking oil, or line with parchment paper.
  2. Make the shortbread. In a medium bowl, add all shortbread ingredients (flour, vegan butter, vanilla, salt, brown sugar). Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, mix ingredients until vegan butter is broken up and small lumps of dough are formed, but not so much that it is a creamy dough.
  3. Press shortbread dough evenly into your lined or greased baking dish, and bake for 30 minutes.
  4. While the shortbread is baking, make the caramel pecan filling. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine brown sugar, coconut cream, and sea salt, until dissolved into a creamy caramel sauce. Mix in cornstarch, and bring to a gentle boil. Immediately remove from heat and add in chopped pecans. Let sit until shortbread is done baking.
  5. Remove pan from the oven, and pour caramel pecan filling evenly over the shortbread crust. Place back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, and let cool completely before cutting. The caramel filling will set as it cools. When partially cooled, the pan can be placed in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes in the fridge before serving (longer is preferred).
  7. Cut into squares – 16 smaller squares is recommended if these are for lighter snacks or for a dessert platter! Finish with an optional sprinkle of Maldon sea salt flakes.

Enjoy, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

With love and lattes,


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