Sweet-Tooth Friday: Vegan Cranberry Spinach Bars

[christine with cranberry bars photo]Hey guys, it’s Christine here wishing you a happy Sweet-Tooth Black Friday!  I hope you had a nice veggie filled Thanksgiving yesterday.  If you are taking a break from shopping and noshing on leftovers already, be sure to set some cranberry sauce aside for today’s recipe, Vegan Cranberry Crumble bars, made with a secret helping of spinach!

The Sweet Side

Now you may be tired of cooking after yesterday’s big meal, but this Cranberry Crumble will carry you all the way to Christmas.  The tart flavor adds a nice contrast to both savory dishes and desserts.   Best of all, this berry packs a powerful nutritional punch.  Besides being filled with vitamin C, cranberries also have phytochemicals that act as antioxidants.  Cranberries can even fight bacteria, like the ones that cause gum disease and urinary tract infections.  Their bright red skin adds a splash to any holiday table, but more importantly, that red color comes from anthocyanins, another super powerful antioxidant.

Environmentally speaking, cranberry bogs offer a couple of benefits as well.  Cranberry bogs need quite of bit of surrounding land to support the wetland, which provides homes for other wildlife.  These wetlands help prevent the spread of urban sprawl.  With some pressure from the EPA, cranberry farmers are starting to use natural methods for controlling pests and weeds.  For example, instead of pesticides, they apply a thin layer of sand to the cranberry vines which buries insect eggs, fungus spores, and seeds that may compete with the cranberries.

The Sour Side

Unfortunately, the enviromental effects of cranberry bogs aren’t all so sweet.  Farmers still use pesticides directly in the fresh water that covers the cranberries, and this water runs off into other streams and river.  Even when chemicals aren’t used, cranberries bogs can still affect local water.  Farmers need to keep running water over the vines to keep them from freezing.  The addition of this running warmer water heats up other local water sources, which can harm species that need cold water for survival, like trout.  Finally, cranberry bogs are rarely constructed from scratch.  They are usually built on top of natural wetlands, an already endangered environment.  Check out this cool article from TLC and How Stuff Works for more information.

On the baking side, although there are many benefits to cranberries, there is always one prevailing problem: sugar.  Cranberries need a lot of sweetening to be palatable in desserts.  But with the increasing availabilty of stevia and agave nectar, there are lower sugar ways of solving the tart issue.

Vegan Cranberry Crumble Bars

For my first cranberry dessert of the season, I decided to rework an old favorite: Vegan Blueberry Crumble Bars.  When I first made that recipe, I liked it so much I vowed to make another variation of it.  This time, instead of the blackberry jam and fresh blueberries, I used a can of Organic Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce.  If you are using fresh homemade cranberry sauce, you may need to increase the arrowroot or cornstarch to thicken it up.  To make a more seasonal dessert, I substituted a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice for the teaspoon of cinnamon, and used pecans instead of almonds.  Finally, instead of almond extract, I added a teaspoon of orange liqueur to better complement the cranberries.  I went for “bars” this time instead of “wedges,” and found that in the 8 inch square pan I used needed another 5-10 minutes of baking.

The result?  A delicious and healthy dessert that definitely got me in the holiday spirit!  The darkness of the cranberries worked well with the spinach, and just like last time, the spinach was totally undetectable in both taste and appearance.  These Vegan Cranberry Crumble bars would be a super way to introduce something healthier to your cookie exchange!

[cranberry spinach bars photo]

Ok that’s it for this week!  I just wanted to say thanks to Matt and Erin for the delicious and healthy Thanksgiving dinner; I know they worked really hard preparing it.  The Spicy Curried Pumpkin Soup and the Pecan Brussel Sprouts were just to die for.  Thanks guys!!

Check back in next week for some “sweet” homemade Christmas gift ideas!

xoxo Christine

AG_logo_OGSFAmazing Grass Sale

Hey everybody, it’s Matt.  Just wanted to let you know that the nice folks at Amazing Grass, who did a giveaway on this blog a few weeks back, asked me to pass along the message that they’re having a Black Friday sale today.  30% off anything except combos and sale packs, today (11/27) only.  Just use the coupon code “greenfriday” at checkout.  A lot of you said that the price of Amazing Grass was the only thing you didn’t like about it, so here’s your opportunity.  And if you go there right from my site, I’ll get credit for the referral, so by all means, do that!



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  1. These look so good! I love that you changed up the ingredients to make them perfect for fall into winter. Hope you had a nice thanksgiving. Mine was very fruit and veggie filled 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for the heads up on Amazing Grass! I placed my order (and even accidentally added a second tub of Amazing Meal….!! Spent way more than I should have, oops!) Oh well – at least now I’ll be stocked up for winter!
    .-= Shari B.´s last blog ..Thanksgiving Full of Kale =-.

  3. Nice spin on your other recipe! I like when things can be adapted so easily to the changing seasons.
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..Top Ten Ways to Keep Warm in the Winter =-.

  4. Your recipe seems delicious and your commentary was very thoughtful. However, it might interest you to know that Agave Nectar is not particularly healthy to consume and the lining of the cans used to hose the cranberry sauce may contain a toxic residue called BPA. Lastly, cooking the cranberries and spinach for long periods of time, may produce a palatable desert, but essentially render the nutrients null and void. Have you tried/considered experimenting with a raw or less processed version of this desert?

  5. I made these last night, with a few variations, and they turned out great! I added an egg, 3 T pumpkin seeds, 2 T flax, and a scoop of chia seeds to the crumble mix. I used 1/4 cup raw sugar and 3 T agave rather than a full 1/2 cup sugar. I used homemade cranberry sauce and used 1.5 T corn starch, which was perfect – good call on increasing that. I also used walnuts on top. No longer vegan, but really dang tasty.

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