As I was getting ready to write a post about these strawberry crumb bars, I realized that this week is Valentine’s Day! I didn’t plan on my recipe this week being pink, red, or dessert themed, but it just kinda worked out that way. It was a total coincidence though, I swear!
Anyway, as I mentioned above, this week’s recipe is for sugar free, healthy strawberry crumb bars! They’re sweetened with bananas, dates, and strawberries, and that’s it. So they aren’t over-the-top sweet, but that’s honestly how I like my desserts these days.
These strawberry crumb bars would be perfect for a light dessert, or as a breakfast bar. I actually struggled to come up with a fitting name for them – strawberry crumb bars was fitting, but I think the recipe is really versatile. They could have been called oatmeal crumb bars, oatmeal breakfast bars, berry breakfast bars, oatmeal breakfast bake, etc. Any kind of fruit will work with this recipe, it doesn’t have to be strawberries. Kroger just happened to have big cartons of strawberries on sale recently!
When I told Cody I was making these, he got SO excited. At the school we went to, Michigan State University, they used to serve strawberry crumb bars like these in the dorm cafeterias. Apparently they were his FAVORITE THING EVER – and he was really excited to try these.
I think they lived up to his expectations, because he (and myself) devoured every batch I made of them as I was testing the recipe out. It took a bit of tweaking, but I think I’ve figured out the measurements that work well to get the crust dense and chewy, the strawberry jam layer syrupy and sweet, and the crumb layer crunchy.
They’re pretty easy to make too, so let’s begin the recipe!
Strawberry Crumb Bars Recipe
Step 1 is to make the crust/crumble topping. For these strawberry crumb bars you’ll be using the same mixture for the base and the top – simple and easy.
Begin by mixing your dry ingredients. If you don’t have any oat flour on hand, you can always make some by adding 1 cup + 1 TBS of rolled oats in a blender, and blending until you get a powder (oat flour). This will make the 1 cup of oat flour you need for the recipe. I have tried this recipe using whole wheat flour as well, and it came out tasty as well. So I think flour substitutions will work.
In a separate bowl, mash the banana. I use a fork, it only takes a few seconds to get it into a mush state to be used for baking. Also, ripe, brown and spotty bananas are best when it comes to baking!
Making Date Paste
You’ll also be making 2 different kinds of date paste for this recipe, though if you’re feeling lazy you can probably just do with 1 version.
Simply add 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk (or unsweetened plant milk of choice) and a heaping 1/2 cup of pitted dates to a blender/food processor and blend. This makes about 1 cup of date paste, to be used for baking. In the picture above, is what the mixture should look like.
I used a soy milk & dates combination for the date paste in the crust for this recipe, and a water & dates combination for the date paste in the strawberry jam filling. Honestly, if you wanted to just use one version over the other for both parts of the recipe, I think that would work well. Basically, you just need the correct amounts of date paste though, so whether you use plant milk or water, I don’t think will make that big of a difference. When I make this in the future, if I”m feeling lazy (and I often am!) I may just use a water + dates combo. Just remember that 1 cup of some kind of liquid + 1/2 cup of dates = date paste for baking! You may need to make 2 batches of it for this recipe. The leftovers can be stored in a container and used for future recipes, in smoothies, or over oatmeal throughout the week which is what I do.
After you’d mashed the banana and made the date paste, combine the rest of the crust/crumble ingredients together with the dry ingredients, and mix well until a crumbly mixture forms. Take 2/3 of this mixture and press it into an 8×8 baking dish. Save the remaining 1/3 for the crumb topping.
Strawberry Chia Jam
Next up for these strawberry crumb bars is the strawberry chia jam! You’ll need about 3 cups of diced strawberries, or 1 regular sized carton from the grocery store. The steps are simple – dice strawberries into very small pieces, add all chia jam ingredients to a pot, boil/simmer for a few minutes to let everything “gel” up, and then pour the mix on top of the crust in the baking dish.
When I first made this recipe, I diced each individual strawberry by hand (you want to dice it pretty finely), and it took awhile. Being the somewhat lazy person that I am (noticing a theme with my cooking style yet? Haha), the next time I made these strawberry crumb bars I put all of the strawberries (minus about 4) in my blender and blended them for a few seconds to get them broken down. This saved sooooo much time! With the remaining four, I diced them by hand (way faster than dicing an entire carton by hand), and then added it all to the pot with the rest of the chia jam ingredients.
The point of boiling/simmering the ingredients is to break the strawberries down into a more liquid form, so that they can gel with the chia seeds and create a thick “jam” like consistency. By blending the strawberries (for a few short seconds) on the second time around I made these, I saved a lot of time. So if time-saving is your thing too, maybe give the blender technique a shot as well!
Another note: In the recipe I used tapioca starch to give the chia jam another thickening boost. I did this because I just happened to have tapioca starch on hand that I wanted to use up. Potato starch, or corn starch should work just fine as well, but if you want to omit this ingredient, I think adding a few extra tablespoons of chia seeds in place of the starch will achieve the same thickening result.
Assembling The Strawberry Crumb Bars
After boiling/simmering the strawberry chia seed jam for about 5-10 minutes, pour it on top of the crust. Finally, take the last remaining portion of crumble mixture, and spread it over top.
The photo above is what the final dish should look like just before you put it in the oven – crust, jam layer, crumb topping. Bake at 360 F for 20-25 minutes. At the end of the baking time, the oats on top should start to have a nice golden coloring, which will give the top layer a bit of nice “crunch.”
Healthy Sugar Free Strawberry Crumb Bars
With this recipe, I think it’s best if you let the bars cool almost completely before serving. This will make slicing them into squares and getting them out of the dish much easier.
You can serve these with more fresh strawberries on the side, or drizzle some of that leftover date paste on top (yum!) for a sweetener boost.
Overall, I’m really happy with how these strawberry crumb bars turned out. Like I said, they’re not super sweet, but that’s to my liking. I think that makes them more versatile, where they could be a dessert or a breakfast dish. If you want to make them more sweet though, I would just increase the amount of dates used in the recipe for the crust and/or chia jam.
I’m excited to try these crumb bars with other fruits as well! I think blackberry crumb bars, blueberry crumb bars, raspberry crumb bars, apple crumb bars, etc. are all in my near future!
Anyways, I hope you enjoy this healthy sugar free dessert recipe. If you try it and have any feedback, please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading, and Happy Valentine’s Day. <3
Strawberry Crumb Bars
- 2 cups rolled oats*
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 cup oat flour
- 1 banana
- 1/2 cup date paste (see below)
- 3 cups diced strawberries*
- 1/3 cup date paste (see below)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 6 tsp chia seeds
- 3 tsp tapioca starch*
- 1/2 cup dates
- 1 cup unsweetened plant milk or water*
- Start by making your date paste, which you'll need for the dough and strawberry filling. Combine a heaping 1/2 cup of whole pitted dates with 1 cup liquid of your choice in a blender and blend until smooth. I used unsweetened soy milk, but water can be used as well.
- Combine all dry ingredients for the dough in a bowl and mix. In a separate bowl, mash your banana with a fork, then add it and the date paste to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Press 2/3 of the dough evenly into an 8x8 baking dish. Set the remaining amount aside for now.
- Take your carton of strawberries, and either dice them finely by hand, or put them in a blender/food processor and blend for a few seconds to break the strawberries down. I used the blender technique, and saved 4 strawberries to chop by hand so that my filling would have some chunkier/larger pieces of strawberries in it (my personal preference for jam).
- Add all strawberry filling ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Then let it simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't burn.
- Pour the strawberry filling over the crust in your baking dish. Then, crumble the remaining 1/3 dough on top.
- Bake in the oven at 360 F for 20-25 minutes.
- Gluten free oats can be used instead
- For the date paste, either unsweetened plant milk or water can be used depending on your preference
- 3 cups of diced strawberries is equal to 1 regular sized carton from the grocery store
- If you don't have tapioca starch on hand, it can be replaced in the recipe for an additional 3-4 TBS of chia seeds instead
- To make 1 cup of oat flour, blend 1 cup + 1 TBS of rolled oats in a blender - other flour substitutions should work fine as well