Hey Internet, it's almost one of the most romantic days of the year, so I wanted to give you a great last minute dessert recipe for Gluten-Free Vegan Cheesecake Bites! These delicious heart-shaped bites are too cute and also too delicious (to eat just one!).
These ones are made with (frozen) strawberries, but you can use any fruit you like! They would be especially lovely with blueberries, raspberries, or even mango! But strawberries seem to be a popular romantic fruit.
That's fine with me because I LOVE strawberries. And because they're so popular during this time of year, they've been on sale at all the markets around me, so I am serving these with fresh strawberries.
However, since I recognize not everyone has that access, this recipe is made with frozen fruit. If you would like to use fresh, I'd recommend freezing it first, otherwise the consistency may not work.
These cute little bites are great for any time of the year! You can make them in a mini muffin dish for the cutest mini cheesecakes ever!
Guess what else? You'll only need 8 ingredients (plus water) to make them!
Ingredients for Cheesecake Bites
So I mentioned you'd need the frozen fruit of your choice. I used strawberries in this cakes, but any should work.
For the filling you'll also need some coconut cream. Remember before that we've discussed coconut cream as being coconut milk's thicker cousin.
You can find coconut cream online or in the international section of your grocery store. If you cannot find it, you may substitute the same amount of soaked cashews (drain them before adding to the blender).
For that cheesecake tang you'll also need a little lemon juice. You can substitute lime juice or apple cider vinegar, if you'd like.
To get everything to blend, you'll need a few tablespoons of nondairy milk. Any will work--I used almond since I had it on hand.
For sweetness I used maple syrup in the filling. You can substitute any liquid sweetener like agave or date syrup. If using a non-liquid sweetener, you may need to add another tablespoon or two of nondairy milk.
Now, the thing that really helps the cheesecake set: agar powder (or agar agar). I used this recently in my vegan cheddar cheese recipe.
Agar powder (also known as agar agar) is naturally gelatinous powder derived from marine red algae. It doesn’t taste like anything and is a magical ingredient.
You can find agar online of course, in some baking or International sections (think Japanese food) of your local supermarket, probably in any health food store (Whole Foods carries it),
NOTE: This recipe uses agar POWDER, not flakes. I've heard that basically, one tablespoon of agar flakes is equal to one teaspoon of agar powder. So if you can only find the flakes, use this rule to modify the amount of agar in this recipe.
All you'll have to do with it is dissolve it in boiling water, but we'll talk about that in a little bit.
As an aside, you may be able to substitute the agar with corn starch or arrowroot powders as they are thickeners, however, I have not tested it. If you test it, let us know in the comments below so that others can benefit from your experiment!
Now let's talk about the crust--it's only 2 ingredients AND it's nut-free!
You'll need dates and rolled (old fashioned) oats to make this recipe. If your dates are not mushy or sticky, soak them for 10 minutes in very hot water, then drain them well. In either case, make sure to pit your dates before processing. :)
How to Make the Bites
Let's now talk about how to make these cute vegan cheesecake bites. To start things off, make the crust first.
In the food processor or blender, blend up your sticky dates briefly so that they're more of a paste. Then add the oats and combine until the mixture is soft, but not sticky.
If the mixture is too sticky (i.e. it's sticking to your fingers), add just a few more oats (like a half tablespoon a time--it's easy to do too much and start a vicious cycle of more of each ingredient until you have twice the crust you need… don't ask how I know).
If the mixture is too dry and crumbly, add more pitted dates ONE AT A TIME. Test often to make sure you have the right consistency.
Now add the crust into each little section of your pan. For mine, I used about 1 teaspoon of dough rolled into a little ball. then I pressed it to fill the bottom half of each slot.
Press it well with your fingers and try to make it smooth. Enlist the help of spouses or children if you'd like (that's Mr. Zardyplants' hand, haha).
This sounds arduous but the whole process of making the cheesecakes takes about 5-10 minutes. Then you just have to play the waiting game while it sets in the fridge.
Okay, now start bringing your water to boil in a small saucepan. I used a very small saucepan because I find it much easier to whisk the powder in when the water level isn't super low.
While the water heats up, let's make the filling. Toss your strawberries, lemon juice, coconut cream, nondairy milk, and maple syrup into the blender and give it a little blend (you don't have to be super thorough just yet). Taste it and add more maple syrup or lemon juice if desired.
Your water should now be to a boil. Sprinkle in the agar powder and whisk it in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes until the clumps have disappeared. You may want to use an oven mitt for this.
Then turn down the heat to medium and whisk it for another few minutes until the powder is fully dissolved. You'll notice that the solution has thickened somewhat.
Use a spatula to get all of the agar mixture into the blender. Now blend it well until smooth and fully combined. Quickly taste again and make sure the flavors are good for you.
Using a small spoon or spatula (I used both to try and be as neat and efficient as I could), take around 1 teaspoon of the mixture at a time and fill each heart.
As mentioned before, I made these in my Wilton Silicone Mini Heart Pan, but you can use a mini muffin tin (a regular muffin tin may also work). If you are using a silicone pan, I recommend placing it on a solid metal pan so that you can keep the filling stable while transporting the pan.
If you are using a different pan, you may need more or less filling per slot. Since this doesn't rise in the oven or anything like that, you can fill it to the top.
Try to level it off with your spatula or the back of your spoon to make for a smooth appearance when it's set. Clean up the pan a little if desired.
Now Play the Waiting Game
Put the pan in the refrigerator for at least 6-8 hours or overnight (preferable). Go do things. Read a book, play a game, watch a movie, or sleep if you're someone who needs that (I'm a robot, right? Maybe.).
If you're short on time, freeze them for a few hours, then take them out and thaw about 10 minutes before you'd like to serve them.
Getting Them Out of the Pan
When it comes to getting them out of the pan, a butter knife run around the edge helps a lot. For the silicone pan, you'll be able to push them out from the bottom (carefully).
For the metal pan, you may need to either use a long strip of parchment paper (that sticks up on either side like a tab to grab and pull out the bite), or you may choose to grease the tin.
Serving the Bites
I served up these cuties with fresh strawberries and a little bit of nondairy whipped cream! My favorite is the Coconut Reddi Whip from the supermarket. The almond is good too!
You could also drizzle these with melted chocolate (like chocolate dipped strawberries!), serve them with some nondairy ice cream, or with some wine (or nonalcoholic sparkling juice like me lol). Or all of the above. No judgement.
They make great a great party dish or potluck dessert, too!
As always, I hope you love this recipe!
Let me know in the comments below if you make it, tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!