Creamy vegan passionfruit bars with a luscious custard layer and refined sugar free, crunchy and slightly chewy shortbread base! In Australia, this would be called a ‘vegan passionfruit slice’ but I’m calling it a ‘bar’ as I know that’s more universally understood. The bar is like a classic Aussie vanilla slice but easier as you don’t have to deal with temperamental pastry as it has a classic shortbread base :).
Custard in the Vegan Passionfruit Bars
I tested the custard filling over 6 times to get it right. I wanted to make sure it was:
- Creamy and thick
- Not too gelatinous
- Free of coconut
- As close as possible to the custard of a conventional vanilla slice
Most recipes for vegan custard or vegan vanilla slice use only plant-based milk and corn starch. However, I found that these custards are not very rich and do not always set. The quality of corn starch varies a lot depending on the brand. And the custard is more likely to set if you cook it for a long time…. like 30 minutes… I don’t always have that level of patience!
But how do you actually make vegan custard?
Vegan custard is basically plant-based milk thickened with one or more ingredients. I used three ingredients to give the custard a wobbly, creamy and rich texture:
- Cornstarch to give the custard a wobbly texture and to thicken the mixture
- Agar powder to make sure the custard sets
- Cacao butter to add a creamy and lush richness which cannot be replicated by cornstarch or agar
Custard with just cornstarch is overly wobbly and does not always set. Cornstarch and agar creates a custard which sets but does not have a creamy richness. However, custard made with cornstarch, agar AND cacao butter is perfect!
Look at that creamy wobbly goodness!
The gluten-free vegan base
The base is like a traditional shortcrust cookie only with a touch of chewiness from the liquid sweetener. The liquid sweetener is essential as it helps all of the ingredients stick together!
A short crust pastry with gluten can normally be made using wheat flour, sugar and oil/butter. However, gluten-free flour (such as rice flour or almond meal) cannot be substituted 1:1 for wheat flour. A short crust pastry made with only rice flour/almond meal, oil and sugar will end in a crumbly mess.
I made a gluten-free and vegan short crust pastry for my cookbook. However, the pastry requires 3 types of flours which can be a little tedious. To simplify things, in this vegan custard slice recipe, I used a liquid sweetener to help bind the crust ingredients.
Of course, you can use a chia or flax egg, but that’s more effort than just using a liquid sweetener ;).
I hope you enjoy this recipe!
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Vegan Passionfruit Vanilla Bars
- 1 1/2 cup (150g) blanched almond meal, or substitute for more rice/all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cups (105g) white rice flour, or all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (100mL) any light-coloured liquid sweetener, such as rice malt syrup or maple syrup, as needed
- 3 tbsp (50mL) light-tasting vegetable oil, such as sunflower or rapeseed
- Pinch of any good-quality salt
- 3 cups (750mL) plant-based milk, such as almond, soy or coconut
- 2-4 tbs (50-100mL) any light-coloured sweetener, such as rice malt syrup or maple syrup, to taste
- 1/4 cup (65g) corn flour or corn starch
- 1/4 cup (55mL) melted cacao butter
- 2 tsp vanilla bean powder or extract
- 1 tsp agar agar powder
- Pinch of any good-quality salt
- Pinch of black salt, optional*
- 3-4 medium-size passionfruit, puree only
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 20cm (8-inch) square baking pan with baking paper.
- To make the crust: In a large bowl combine all the crust ingredients until well combined (start with 2tbs or 60mL of sweetener). The mixture should roughly stick together when pinched between two fingers. If the mixture is still a bit dry, add some extra liquid sweetener or water and mix until the ingredients come together. Firmly press the mixture into the bottom of the lined cake tin. Bake the crust for 10-15 minutes or until it is golden brown.
- To make the filling: Add all ingredients to a medium-size saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil while whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer for 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. If your custard has any lumps, blend it with a stick blender until smooth.
- Pour the filling onto the crust and allow it to cool at room temperature for at least 1 hour. When it has cooled, place the slice in the fridge to set further.**
- When you are ready to serve the bar, remove it from the tin. Spread the passion fruit puree on top and cut. The slice can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.