These decadent Sweet Potato Pie Squares are healthier than they look! Recently, I’ve been trying to cut refined sugar out of my diet as much as possible. Of course, I won’t deny myself a gooey chocolate chip cookie, but from day to day I wanted to reap the benefits of going refined sugar-free. About three weeks ago, I challenged myself to cut back on refined-sugar and instead use less refined sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and dates. If you think the benefits of decreasing your refined sugar intake are a myth, let me be the first to tell you that it’s worth trying the challenge for yourself. 

    Sugar has an inflammatory effect on your body, which means it contributes to breakouts, mood swings, and high blood pressure and cholesterol. After about a week, I noticed that I have so much more energy throughout the day, especially since I’m avoiding the dreaded sugar crash; my mental health has also improved and evened out, due to reduced inflammation (the mind-gut connection is REAL); AND my skin has finally started to clear and heal. 

    The benefits of reducing your sugar intake are real, but it can also be hard to satisfy your sweet tooth. The simplest solution is this: if you’re craving something sweet, have healthier options in reach. Fruit is naturally sweet, contains vitamins that are amazing for your health, and can be eaten in so many different ways (fresh, with yogurt, in a recipe, etc.). Dates taste as sweet as caramel (I’m not joking!) and contain fiber and potassium. And, my recent favorite, sweet potatoes! Now, I know you’re probably thinking I’m crazy. How can sweet potatoes even come close to satisfying your sweet tooth, right? 

    Let me explain: About a week ago, I roasted some sweet potatoes for lunch the next day. Now, since I hadn’t had much sugar the previous couple of weeks, it was almost as if my taste buds had become more sensitive to sweetness. I tried one of the sweet potatoes and it was so sweet, I started plopping the perfectly-roasted cubes into my mouth like they were candy. I recalled a sweet potato pie that my grandmother made one year for Thanksgiving that was like a subtler, yet still delicious, pumpkin pie. So, inspired by that memory and Talida’s raw vegan desserts on Hazel & Cacao, I created these vegan Sweet Potato Pie Bars, just in time for the holidays! They are so so yummy and packed with ingredients that are good for you so you can indulge guilt-free!

Sweet Potato Pie Bars

Ingredients

CRUST

1/2 cup oats
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/2 cup dates
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon all spice

FILLING

1 1/2 cups soaked cashews
1/2 cup cacao butter, melted
1 large sweet potato (about two cups), cubed
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup (add more if you’d like it to be sweeter)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon all spice

Directions

1. Add the cashews to a bowl and add enough water to just cover them. Soak the cashews for 4 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the cubed sweet potato with 1 tablespoon olive oil and then transfer to a baking sheet. Once the oven is ready, roast the sweet potato cubes for about 30 minutes, or until they are tender.

3. While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, add the ingredients for the crust to a food processor or blender. Blend until the nuts, oats, and dates are finely blended and stick together. 

4. Line an 8×8 baking pan with aluminum foil or wax paper and press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan.

5. Once the sweet potatoes are finished, let them cool to room temperature. Then, add the filling ingredients to a food processor or blender. Make sure to drain the cashews before adding them in. Blend until smooth.

6. Add the filling to the pan with the crust. Freeze for 3 hours.

7. After the 3 hours in the freezer, take out the pan and let it stand a little to defrost. Then, cut the dessert into squares and enjoy!