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  • Writer's pictureKelly

Healthy Cookies & Cream Pop-Tarts (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Fruit-Sweetened)

Am I an adult? Yes. Do I like sophisticated things? Yes. But do I like homemade Pop-Tarts? HECK YES!! This is a no-judgement zone where you can be an adult and like Pop-Tarts and other kid-friendly things. Who ever said that "kid-approved" recipes should only be for kids? They don't get to have all the fun, if you ask me! So allow yourself to unleash your inner child for a day and break out the rainbow scratch art and multicolored disco ball and make these Pop-Tarts!! These decadent Cookies & Cream Pop-Tarts have a soft, chocolatey crust with a luscious date sugar cream filling and are topped with a DIY vanilla glaze and my homemade Healthy Oreos. Drooling yet? The best part is, these Pop-Tarts are entirely vegan, gluten-free, and sweetened strictly with dates (filling, Oreos, and all!). Translation: a childhood classic that's guilt-free. Prepare your tastebuds for a nostalgic and exquisite experience. For grain-free and paleo options for these Pop-Tarts, check the "Substitutions" section of this post.



This is the third and certainly not the last Pop-Tarts-gone-healthy recipe here on The Dimpled Date (see my Healthy Raspberry Pop-Tarts and Healthy Cinnamon "Sugar" Pop-Tarts for more Pop-Tarts goodness). If you have any requests for healthier copycat Pop-Tart flavors, leave your suggestions in the comments! I have quite a few new ideas for more Pop-Tart flavors, but in my eyes the more ideas, the better!


And, if I'm not mistaken, I believe this is the first recipe on The Dimpled Date that makes use of date sugar. I plan on making many, many more recipes with this unrefined sweetener, but first I want to demystify just exactly what this type of sugar is.


Date sugar is essentially dried and ground date fruits. That's it. The resulting product is finely ground bits of dates resembling sugar granules that can be used as an unrefined sweetener. So it's not a true sugar but rather dehydrated and pulverized dates. For those of you who can only use fruit as a sweetener, fret not! Date sugar still complies with this dietary restriction because it is a whole food sweetener that contains all of the fiber from the dates along with that natural fruit sugar. The only thing that's missing is the water, which is dried out of the dates. So this is still compliant for my readers who sweeten their treats with fruit (like me! :)).



Date sugar is not to be confused with date palm sugar (AKA palm sugar), which is a refined sugar made from the boiled down and crystallized sap of the sugar palm tree. If you're unsure of which type you have, read the packaging and the ingredients list or visit the product website and look for information that says the product is made with dried and ground dates.


Believe it or not, I went for years on my vegan/gluten-free/sugar-free diet without knowing that date sugar was compliant on my diet. All those years I missed out on such a great sweetener! Date sugar is absolutely delicious and adds a rich sweetness with light caramel notes to desserts and other baked goods.


The date sugar is used to make the date sugar vanilla cream filling (filling option #1) in this recipe, but it can also be used to make the chocolate crust. I have also provided multiple filling options, so there's options for different availability of ingredients and for different tastes. Go with the date sugar vanilla cream filling (filling option #1) for a rich, über sweet, very vanilla-y, ultra creamy filling with light caramel notes. Go with the vanilla cream cheese filling (filling option #2) for a cream cheese flavor and if you only have whole dates as opposed to date sugar. I personally prefer the date sugar vanilla cream filling (filling option #1) because it's very sweet, and I'm Team Cream when it comes to the cookie versus cream debate, but both fillings come out great.


These crave-worthy Pop-Tarts are the perfect balance of vanilla and chocolate and are sure to please even the pickiest of eaters and non-vegans! These Pop-Tarts have not been tested by kids yet, but I would be willing to bet that these Pop-Tarts are kid-friendly based on how delicious they are.


Ditch the dairy, eggs, sugar, and gluten and embrace the fun side of healthy with these Cookies & Cream Pop-Tarts! These Pop-Tarts are technically more of a dessert than a breakfast item. But truthfully, NO ONE here will judge you if you pop one of these for breakfast. Why? Because health. BOOM.



Nutritional Profile of Healthy Cookies & Cream Pop-Tarts


Vegan butter- vegan butter (like Earth Balance or Miyoko's) is typically made of healthy vegetable oils and/or plant milks. Vegetable oils are chock-full of healthy fats that promote heart, brain, skin, and hair health. Plant milks are usually good sources of healthy fats, protein, fiber, and calcium (if fortified). Protein helps build muscle, fiber promotes gut health, and calcium helps build and maintain strong bones. Tip: when purchasing dairy-free butter, opt for a healthy vegan butter like Earth Balance or Miyoko's instead of margarine. Margarine is extremely detrimental to heart health due to its being made of hydrogenated oils which are high in unhealthy trans fat.



Medjool dates- Medjool dates (or the "King of Dates") are one of the largest and sweetest varieties of dates in the U.S., and are incredibly soft with rich caramel notes. They are my absolute favorite type of date, and my preferred variety to use on the blog. Dates are antioxidant powerhouses that are also rich in fiber, protein, potassium, and iron. Fiber slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream and aids digestion. Protein builds and maintains muscle mass. Potassium regulates blood pressure and balances electrolytes. Iron builds red blood cells that transport oxygen through the body. Antioxidants in general help protect against numerous diseases because of their ability to fight disease-causing free radicals in the body. Dates also benefit bone health, can help regulate blood sugar levels in moderation (believe it or not!), help promote healthy bowel movements, may help alleviate symptoms of PMS, and show potential as a way to naturally induce (or at least shorten) labor, according to emerging research. Opt for organic dates with no added sugar to reap the maximum benefits of the dates (I use Natural Delights' Whole Fresh Medjool Dates that are grown with zero pesticides and have no added sugar).


Cacao powder- cacao powder is full of antioxidants, iron, fiber, and beneficial plant compounds. Cacao powder is basically un-processed cocoa powder and is good for relieving PMS symptoms, improving mood, raising HDL (good) cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and fighting free radical damage.


Sea salt- sea salt is better for you than table salt because the former is much less processed than table salt. Sea salt balances electrolytes, may benefit adrenal health, and nourishes the body with various micronutrients. Choose a healthy sea salt like Himalayan pink sea salt, sel gris (gray salt), or Hawaiian red alaea sea salt. My go-to is Himalayan pink sea salt (just make sure you know which type of sea salt is right for your recipe, as some varieties like Hawaiian black lava sea salt or smoked sea salts can add a pungent flavor to your dishes).


Almond flour- almond flour is a great source of healthy fats, protein, fiber, iron, and vitamin E. Healthy fats are good for your heart, brain, and complexion. Protein builds muscle and is responsible for nearly all bodily processes. Fiber is good for the GI tract, can lower cholesterol levels, and nourishes the good bacteria that reside in your intestines. Iron builds red blood cells. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that benefits skin and hair health externally and internally. Almond flour is gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, and keto due to its being a nut flour and having a high-fat, medium-protein, low-carb ratio. Superfine blanched almond flour is preferable for a light, delicate texture to your baked goods, as opposed to almond meal.


Oat flour- oat flour is an excellent source of healthy carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and iron. Healthy carbs provide long-lasting, high-quality energy, while fiber stimulates digestion. Protein builds muscle and iron forms red blood cells. Make sure you buy certified gluten-free oat flour if you're strictly gluten-free because even though oats & oat flour are naturally gluten-free, they can be cross-contaminated with gluten-containing crops. Pro tip: don't have oat flour or ran out? Make your own! Simply place the amount of oats equal to the amount of oat flour you need in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend on high until ground to desired consistency (grind to a fine powdery consistency to make it more like store-bought oat flour).



Date sugar- refer to the nutritional profile for Medjool dates, above, as these two ingredients will have the same nutrition and health benefits.


Full-fat coconut milk/coconut cream- full-fat coconut milk is packed with healthy plant-based saturated fats (which actually may have health benefits), protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and electrolytes. Coconut milk benefits heart health, is good for brain health, boosts skin & hair health, aids digestion, has anti-inflammatory properties, helps with hydration, and may have antimicrobial properties. Be aware that if a recipe calls for coconut cream, it most likely means you need to use the hardened white cream that floats to the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk or a can of coconut cream after it's been refrigerated for at least 24 hours. The coconut milk/coconut cream will separate into cream at the top of the can and water at the bottom of the can. You don't have to worry about discarding the coconut water at the bottom of the can though! The coconut water can be used in smoothies, juices, wellness shots, and even desserts! This recipe requires the hardened white coconut cream that floats to the top of the can.


Vanilla beans- vanilla beans (and thus vanilla bean powder, which is just the seeds scraped and separated from the pod) are rich in the natural plant compound vanillin (you may have heard of vanillin from the synthetic version that's used as imitation vanilla flavor). Natural vanillin has potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. My go-to ground vanilla bean powder is Native Vanilla's Vanilla Bean Powder (it's 100% pure ground vanilla beans and, thus, is sugar-free and vegan).


Unsweetened almond milk- unsweetened almond milk is chock-full of vitamin E, vitamin D, and calcium (if fortified). Vitamin E is an antioxidant that is good for your skin and hair. Vitamin D and calcium help build healthy bones, and vitamin D is good for the immune system. Choose unsweetened almond milk with minimal additives or opt to make your own!



Substitutions


For the Pop-Tart dough, the vegan butter cannot be substituted because it is key for the texture of the dough. Cold, cubed vegan butter is used in the dough, so coconut oil cannot be used. Any variety of whole dates will work for the crust, like Medjool dates or Deglet Noor dates. OR, you can use 1/2 cup date sugar in place of the whole dates. Potentially, you could attempt to use another sweetener to sweeten the crust. Possibly, a sticky sweetener would work such as 1/2 cup maple syrup OR 1/2 cup coconut nectar OR 1/2 cup date syrup OR 1/2 cup agave OR 1/2 cup honey (if not strictly vegan), plus more to taste with varied results. OR perhaps an unrefined granular sweetener would work, such as 1/4 cup coconut sugar OR 1/4 cup maple sugar OR 1/4 cup turbinado sugar, plus more to taste with varied results. For 100% sugar-free, you could attempt to use 1/4 cup erythritol OR 1/4 cup Granular Swerve OR liquid/powdered monk fruit to taste OR liquid/powdered stevia to taste, plus more to taste with varied results (***PLEASE NOTE: I HAVE NOT tried any of the sweetener substitutions mentioned in this paragraph and therefore CANNOT guarantee the same results. I know the dates and date sugar will work and I am fairly confident these other sweetener suggestions would work, but I just haven't tried any of them***). If you try any of the sweetener substitutions mentioned in this paragraph, let me know how it turned out in the comments!!


The cacao powder can be substituted with regular cocoa powder OR dark/Dutch-processed/alkalized cocoa powder. You can't really leave out the cacao/cocoa powder because this is a recipe for Cookies & Cream Pop-Tarts and chocolate is kinda imperative for cookies & cream. However, if you have an allergy to or don't like cacao, you may use 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup carob powder per single batch with varied results. Please be aware, however, that using carob in place of cacao/cocoa will change the flavor of these Pop-Tarts. (***PLEASE NOTE: I have not tried these Pop-Tarts with carob powder and CANNOT guarantee good results***). If you try these Pop-Tarts with carob instead of cacao/cocoa, let me know how it turned out in the comments! Or another option if you're not big on chocolate is to check out my Raspberry Pop-Tarts and Cinnamon "Sugar" Pop-Tarts!


For the flours, you may use 2 cups almond flour (along with the 1/2 cup arrowroot flour) instead of 1 cup almond flour and 1 cup oat flour per single batch (***PLEASE NOTE: using entirely almond flour will work [I've done it before], BUT it will make the dough extremely soft and supple and very difficult to work with. It is possible to make Pop-Tarts with it, but it's even more difficult than the already-difficult-to-work-with combo of almond flour and oat flour. If you're willing to put in the effort, however, it is worth it***). Using just almond flour and arrowroot starch will make these Pop-Tarts grain-free, but it won't make them paleo, since there's vegan butter in these Pop-Tarts. The only way you can make these Pop-Tarts paleo is if you make your own homemade vegan & paleo butter (make sure your recipe makes a firm vegan/paleo butter // see the "Substitutions" section of my Date-Sweetened Chocolate Chip Cookies post for suggested vegan/paleo butter recipes) and you use that in the crust, if you use entirely almond flour with the arrowroot flour, and if you go with filling option #1 (date sugar vanilla cream filling).


Alternatively, you could try using 2 cups oat flour and 1/2 cup arrowroot starch (and no almond flour) per single batch for the dough with varied results (***PLEASE NOTE: I have not tried this recipe with only oat flour and therefore CANNOT guarantee the same results. My guess is that using only the oat flour & arrowroot flour and NO almond flour would yield a more firm and easier-to-work-with dough***). The arrowroot starch may be replaced with tapioca starch OR possibly cornstarch OR potato starch with varied results (***PLEASE NOTE: I have not tried cornstarch OR potato starch in place of the arrowroot/tapioca flour and therefore CANNOT guarantee the same results***). If you try any of the flour substitutions mentioned in this paragraph, let me know how it turned out in the comments! For Pop-Tarts made with other types of gluten-free/grain-free flour(s), stick around as I plan on making new Pop-Tart recipes with different flours.


The vanilla extract can be replaced with an equivalent amount of scraped vanilla bean, pure ground vanilla bean powder, OR sugar-free vanilla paste/syrup. I do not recommend replacing the vanilla with another flavor or omitting it because it is key to contrast the bold flavor of the cacao. The sea salt can be replaced with table salt or may be omitted with varied results.


There are two filling options for these Pop-Tarts: Date Sugar Vanilla Bean Cream Filling and Vanilla Cream Cheese Filling. For the Date Sugar Vanilla Bean Cream Filling, you can replace the date sugar with an equal amount of coconut sugar OR maple sugar OR erythritol OR possibly maple syrup. You CANNOT substitute the coconut cream as it's key for the texture of this filling. The pure ground vanilla bean powder can be substituted with an equivalent amount of vanilla extract OR scraped vanilla bean. For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Filling, the dates should not be replaced. If you must, replace them with one of the sweeteners mentioned previously in this paragraph. The cream cheese cannot be replaced, as it's a cream cheese filling. The pure ground vanilla bean powder can be substituted with an equivalent amount of vanilla extract OR scraped vanilla bean. Any type of unsweetened plant milk may be used.


For the vanilla glaze, any type of unsweetened plant milk may be used. The vanilla extract can be replaced with an equivalent amount of scraped vanilla bean OR pure ground vanilla bean powder. The vanilla should not be replaced with another flavor or be omitted. The date paste can be replaced with 1 Tbsp of your sweetener of choice (maple syrup, powdered coconut sugar, Swerve Confectioners, organic powdered sugar, etc.), plus more to taste. I get my date paste recipe from Detoxinista.


As far as the crumbled Oreo topping goes, I highly recommend using my Healthy Oreos (which are vegan, GF, grain-free, and sweetened entirely with dates). But if you must, you may use store-bought vegan/gluten-free chocolate vanilla creme sandwich cookies (sugar-free as needed) or use your favorite recipe for vegan/healthier Oreos. And of course, you don't even need any kind of Oreos to top the Pop-Tarts. You can simply just top them with the vanilla glaze or use other toppings and they'll still be great! Some other topping suggestions: crumbles of leftover baked chocolate Pop-Tart crust from this recipe, vegan chocolate sauce, chopped vegan cookies & cream truffles, cacao nibs, mini vegan chocolate chips, my Date-Sweetened Dark Chocolate shaved on top, vegan/natural sprinkles, etc.


For brushing the Cookies & Cream Pop-Tarts for assembling, you may use melted vegan butter OR melted coconut oil.



More Recipes Are Baking


I have tons of new recipes that I've both perfected and am still working on for you all to "ooh" and "ahh" over! Everything from refreshing summer treats to year-round classics, from decadent desserts to light breakfast baked goodies, from savory snacks to thirst-quenching smoothies. Keep posted for all the healthy goodness!


Thanks for visiting my little healthy nook on the internet, I hope to see more of you! :) Feel free to give this post a like and leave a comment if you tried this recipe!


As always,

Enjoy! <3

-K.



Healthy Cookies & Cream Pop-Tarts (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Fruit-Sweetened)



Prep Time*: 1 hour 20 minutes

Chill Time*: at least 1 hour

Cook Time*: 18 to 22 minutes

Total Time*: at least 2 hours 38 minutes to 2 hours 42 minutes

Servings: 7 to 8 Pop-Tarts


Ingredients (for the chocolate cookie crust):


-3/4 cup cold vegan butter, straight out of the fridge (like Earth Balance or Miyoko's)

-1 cup dates OR 1/2 cup date sugar (date sugar NOT date palm sugar)

-1/3 cup cacao powder (can sub regular cocoa powder OR dark/Dutch-processed/alkalized cocoa powder)

-1 tsp vanilla extract

-1/4 tsp sea salt

-1 cup superfine blanched almond flour, lightly packed (NOT almond meal)

-1 cup gluten-free oat flour

-1/2 cup arrowroot starch/flour (can sub tapioca flour)


Ingredients (for filling option #1: date sugar vanilla cream filling):


-3/4 cup date sugar (date sugar NOT date palm sugar)

-3/4 coconut cream (the hardened white cream that floats to the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk/coconut cream that's been refrigerated for at least 24 hours)

-1 1/8 tsp pure ground vanilla bean powder


Ingredients (for filling option #2: vanilla cream cheese filling):


-1/2 cup dates

-1/2 cup vegan cream cheese (like Kite Hill's or Daiya's)

-1/2 tsp ground vanilla bean powder

-1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk, to thin (can sub unsweetened plant milk of choice)


Ingredients (for the vanilla glaze):


-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (can sub unsweetened plant milk of choice)

-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-2 Tbsp date paste (check out Detoxinista's "How to Make Date Paste" recipe!)


For topping (optional):


-1 batch my Healthy Oreos OR 7 to 8 of your store-bought vegan/gluten-free chocolate vanilla creme sandwich cookies of choice (sugar-free, as needed)


For brushing:


-1 Tbsp melted vegan butter OR 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil


For rolling:


-arrowroot flour or gluten-free oat flour


Directions:


1. If using my Healthy Oreos for topping these Pop-Tarts, whip up a batch ahead of time. You will have leftover Oreos. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or two large silicone baking mats. Soak the dates in hot water for 5 to 15 minutes (if using whole dates).


2. Blend the soaked & drained dates in the food processor until a paste forms, scraping down the sides and re-blending as necessary. Set aside.


3. In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, oat flour, cacao/cocoa powder, date sugar (if using date sugar), arrowroot flour, and sea salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.

4. Cube the cold butter (it should be straight from the fridge) by slicing the butter into 1-Tablespoon sized pats, and from that, cubing the butter into 1-centimeter sized squares, with each pat forming 9 squares (Tip: stack up multiple pats and cut through them all simultaneously to save yourself cutting time).


5. Cut in the cold cubed butter and incorporate the date paste (if using) and vanilla into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter, fork, and/or your hands. You'll know you're done when a dough/batter is formed.


6. The dough will be more like a batter consistency right now and that's OK. Place the dough in an airtight container, cover, and refrigerate or freeze (for quicker results) the dough for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Keep in mind that the longer the dough is in the fridge/freezer, the more it will firm up. If it's in the fridge/freezer for a longer period of time, you may need to defrost the dough at room temperature until it's soft enough to work with.


7. While the dough is chilling, make the filling: for filling option #1 (date sugar vanilla cream filling), simply combine all the ingredients (date sugar, coconut cream, and vanilla bean powder) in a food processor and blend until smooth and uniform, scraping down the sides and re-blending as necessary. Transfer to a bowl or airtight container, cover, and place in the fridge until ready to use. You may have leftover filling with filling option #1. This would go great on top of cinnamon rolls, atop waffles, or as a fruit dip!


8. For filling option #2 (vanilla cream cheese filling): soak the dates in hot water for 5 to 15 minutes. Blend the soaked and drained dates in a food processor until a uniform paste forms. Add the cream cheese and vanilla bean powder and blend until incorporated. Add the almond milk/plant milk and blend to thin out the filling. Transfer to a bowl or airtight container, cover, and place in the fridge until ready to use.


9. After the dough is done chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the dough from the freezer. Turn half of the Pop-Tart dough out onto a cutting board floured with arrowroot flour/starch. Place the other half of the dough back in the freezer to keep cold.


10. Flour a rolling pin and the top of the dough you're working with. Roll the dough into approximately a 9 1/2" by 12 1/2" rectangle, about 1/8" thick.


11. From this large rectangle, use a pizza cutter to cut smaller rectangles, each 4" by 3". Place each small rectangle on a baking sheet or lined plate and place in the fridge in between rolling and cutting (this will ensure the dough doesn't get too soft).


12. Re-roll the dough as needed, and if the dough gets too soft, put the dough you were working with in the freezer and take the dough that was in the freezer out and start rolling and cutting that. Alternate between the dough you're working with and the dough in the freezer, re-roll the dough as needed, and keep cutting the dough into small rectangles until there's no dough left.

13. Melt 1 Tbsp vegan butter OR 1 Tbsp coconut oil in a small saucepan on the stove over very low heat OR in the microwave. Set aside.


14. To assemble the Pop-Tarts: use one of the small 4" by 3" rectangles as the base for one of your Pop-Tarts and place it on a lined baking sheet. Spoon approximately 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp of whichever filling you picked (1 1/2 Tbsp if you're Team Cream) into the center of the Pop-Tart, leaving 1/2" of plain dough on the outer edges of the Pop-Tart. Brush the outer edges of the bottom piece of the Pop-Tart with the melted vegan butter OR melted coconut oil and take another rectangle of dough (without filling) and brush the outer edges of it with melted vegan butter/coconut oil. Flip and place the rectangle without filling butter-side down on top of the rectangle with filling. Use a fork to press around the outer edges of the top piece of the Pop-Tart to seal and connect the pastry. Repeat this process with the rest of the rectangles. Make an "X" on the tops of each of the assembled Pop-Tarts by gently scoring the tops with a knife (this will allow steam to escape).


15. Bake in the preheated oven (at 350 degrees F) for 18 to 22 minutes, until golden brown around the edges, the tops look solid, and the Pop-Tarts are fragrant. The time largely depends on your preference, If you want softer Pop-Tarts that are less-well-done, go for 18 to 20 minutes. If you want Pop-Tarts that are slightly more crispy and that are more well-done, go for 20 to 22 minutes. The tops of the Pop-Tarts may not be solid to the touch when they first come out of the oven (because they will still be hot), so go by appearance to judge how solid the crust is.


16. Allow the Pop-Tarts to cool completely.


17. While the Pop-Tarts are cooling, make the vanilla glaze: in a small bowl, combine the almond milk and vanilla extract. Whisk or stir to combine. Lastly, add the date paste and whisk/stir very well until smooth and mostly incorporated (it won't be 100% incorporated and that's OK).


18. Chop my Healthy Oreos or store-bought Oreos into sixths or eighths. You'll need a total of 7 to 8 Oreos per single batch of Pop-Tarts (1 chopped Oreo per Pop-Tart). Spoon a little of the glaze on top of each of the Pop-Tarts and sprinkle the chopped Oreo crumbles (1 Oreos-worth per Pop-Tart) on top of the wet glaze. Alternatively add your desired toppings on top of the wet glaze, or go without toppings.


19. Allow the glaze to harden.


20. Serve with a tall glass of your unsweetened vanilla plant milk of choice, crumbled atop vanilla bean coconut milk ice cream or vegan frozen yogurt, with a vegan/paleo caramel macchiato, as a topping for freakshakes, pancakes, or waffles, or on its own or store in the fridge for later use. Enjoy for an indulgent breakfast or as a dessert. Enjoy!


Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

*Please note: the prep time, chill time, cook time, and total time doesn't include the amount of time it takes to make my Healthy Oreos for the topping for these Pop-Tarts


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