Trick or Treat! 5 Plant-Based Halloween Goodies
If there’s one holiday that brings out the kid in everyone, it’s Halloween. No matter how old you are, it’s hard to resist the chocolate, candy, popcorn, caramel apples, and other sweet treats that are handed out this time of year.
But for many of us, that sweet tooth comes with a guilty conscience. Commercial candy often comes loaded with preservatives, animal byproducts, artificial flavors and colors, GMO ingredients and other products you might not feel good about. Fortunately, it’s easier than you might think to make delectable Halloween desserts that will satisfy your cravings while being friendlier for the planet!
Don’t worry, there’s no trick — these treats don’t taste like health food! They’re the same decadent goodies you love, but without the products you don’t.
Read on for a take on Halloween that’s as sweet as can be!
Sweet and tart, sticky and crunchy, gooey and crisp: caramel apples are the perfect union of two different worlds. Healthful apples provide the bulk of this confection, but the caramel coating is so indulgent, no one will notice! By swapping out dairy cream for coconut milk, you can keep all the richness without any of the factory farming. If you’re unsure about whether your sugar is fully vegan, opt for an organic brand; the USDA prohibits the use of bone char in the production of organic sugar.
We recommend using Granny Smith apples because their tart flavor gives a perfect contrast to the sweet caramel, but a red or red-yellow varietal makes for a lovely color palette. Use any apple with a sweet-tart profile.
You will need:
- 4 medium-sized apples
- Popsicle sticks, chopsticks, grilling skewers, twigs, or any sturdy, clean stick
- Caramel sauce (recipe below)
To assemble caramel apples, insert a stick into the bottom of each apple, so that it almost the entire fruit is skewered. Dip apples on their sticks in caramel that has cooled slightly but is still hot, then place on a greased baking tray to harden. If desired, garnish with small pieces of nuts, candy, dried fruit, or other edible decorations of your choice. If you want to add chocolate, wait until caramel has cooled so that it doesn’t melt.
- 3/4 cup cane sugar
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar or light brown sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1/3 cup coconut milk
- ¼ cup vegan butter or margarine
- Pinch of salt
1. Melt sugar and water in a medium saucepan or pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
2. Stop stirring, turn heat to med-low, and boil until golden in color, about 10 minutes. If the bubbles get high, swirl the pan to prevent the syrup from boiling over.
3. Once sugar syrup is a rich golden color, add coconut milk, vegan butter, and salt. The mixture will bubble up; remove from heat for a moment if necessary while it subsides.
4. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is a deep golden color.
Natural food colorings have come a long way in recent years. Where once the only available products were muddy-looking, pale — and pricey, there are now multiple brands (including generic store brands) of natural food dyes that yield vibrant, intensely colored results at affordable price points. By using healthful, plant-based colorants like turmeric, beet, radish, and spirulina, this version of food coloring is one that will actually give your diet a boost!
It might take a minute to get the hang of piping these candy bracelets. When you’re forming the rings, err on the side of making wider circles, as the candy will spread inward as it hardens. Make a few test circles to practice your technique before continuing the rest. This recipe was inspired by Fork & Beans.
- 1 cup vegan powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp tapioca syrup, rice syrup, or agave syrup
- 1 tbsp + ½ tsp non-dairy milk
- Several drops extract of choice: berry, vanilla, and/or citrus
- Natural food coloring, as desired
1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until uniform in texture.
2. Separate into bowls for different colors, and add food coloring one drop at a time, until desired brightness is achieved.
3. Transfer each color into its own sturdy zipper-lock bag, and snip off a tiny corner for piping.
4. On a parchment or wax paper lined tray, pipe ¾ inch wide small rings by running the open tip of the bag in a circle on the paper.
5. Allow to set for a full day at room temperature, then string onto bracelets or necklaces.
S’mores Popcorn Balls
The traditional s’mores components of graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows get mixed up with popcorn for a hand-held treat that tastes even better than its campfire namesake. You don’t have to sacrifice indulgences when eating more plant-based foods. Case in point — the existence of vegan marshmallows! This version, which is available at grocery stores like Trader Joe’s, contains no animal gelatin but still melt down nicely. Popcorn is a light, healthful snack with lots of fiber; choose plain popped corn either by air popping your own or buying a plain bagged variety.
These popcorn balls will keep for several days in an airtight container, but the chances of them staying around that long without being eaten are pretty slim!
- 6 cups popped corn
- 1 10-oz bag vegan marshmallows
- ½ cup vegan butter or margarine such as Miyoko’s
- 3 graham crackers, broken into small pieces
- ½ cup chocolate chips or melted chocolate
1. Melt vegan butter in a medium sized pot over medium heat.
2. Add marshmallows and melt, stirring occasionally, until they reach a gooey, fluff-like texture.
3. Pour marshmallow-butter mix over popcorn, add graham crackers, and stir to combine.
4. Let sit up to five minutes, until cooled to a temperature you can handle, then form into balls and place on a parchment lined tray.
5. Once thoroughly cooled, dot with chocolate chips or drizzle with melted chocolate (or both!).
Many of us have never outgrown our love of peanut-butter-and-jelly, and peanut butter chocolate cups are a Halloween staple. Mix those two ideas together and you get these super simple PB&J Cups that, if you’re feeling extra decadent, you could definitely take for a dip in a chocolate pool. Even without anything cacao, these cups taste so yummy that no one you serve them to will realize they are protein-packed and full of fruit (if made with fruit-only spread)!
This recipe was developed with natural peanut butter, which contains only peanuts and salt. If you’re using commercial peanut butter, which contains added oil and sugar (check the ingredients), halve the amount of oil and sugar you use in the recipe.
- 1 cup natural peanut butter
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup jam (fruit spread, jelly, or preserves work equally well)
1. Melt coconut oil and sugar in a pan over med-low heat until liquid, about 1 minute.
2. Stir in peanut butter.
3. Spoon peanut butter mixture into muffin or mini muffin-sized paper cups; use enough to fill bottom and line the sides.
4. Freeze for 10 minutes.
5. Remove from freezer and scoop enough jam/jelly into each cup to reach the middle of the cup.
6. Top with peanut butter mixture, filling the cup ½ to ¾ full, depending on size. Place back in freezer, and serve frozen.
Chocolate Crunch Bars
With a ratio of equal parts chocolate chips and crispy rice cereal, this version of a chocolate bar is about as lightened up as could be. The recipe works with any rice cereal you choose: white or brown, conventionally prepared or sprouted, plain or flavored.
Chocolate is typically thought of as a “guilty pleasure,” but the reality is that cocoa products contain antioxidants and a variety of beneficial mood boosting compounds. Chocolate also contains the “love molecule” phenylethylamine, which explains why it’s historically been used as a gift for those we want to woo.
For a result closer to a Nestle Crunch bar, you can use less cereal — but we think you’ll enjoy this extra-crispy version!
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 cups crisp rice cereal
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
1. Melt chocolate chips with oil in a pan over low heat.
2. Stir in cereal until well coated.
3. Pour mixture into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap and pat down until top is even.
4. Place pan in fridge to harden for one hour, or let set at room temperature for 3-4 hours, then remove from pan and slice into bars.
Food styling by Ariane Resnick, C.N.C.