I’m partnering with Red Blossom to bring you today’s recipe! I’m obsessed with their fresh strawberries — they’re the sweetest and juiciest ones I’ve ever tasted! They’re perfect for both snacking and baking!
Almost every 4th of July throughout my childhood (and some Memorial Days and Labor Days too!), my parents pulled out our trusty old ice cream maker. It consisted of a large cylindrical metal tub with a handle fixed to its lid situated inside of a wooden bucket, and there was just enough space around its sides to pour in ice chunks and generously shower them with rock salt.
We usually prepared the same simple recipe that we found in an ice cream cookbook, an eggless vanilla base with plenty of heavy cream and sugar, because it was so quick to throw together. No eggs meant no cooking on the stove… We just added everything to a bowl and whisked!
After pouring it into the metal cylinder, we headed into the backyard and positioned the wooden bucket next to an outdoor drain so the salt water from the melted ice wouldn’t kill any plants. We placed a little stool next to the bucket to sit on, and then we each took turns spinning the handle, periodically adding more ice and rock salt when the levels started to drop beneath the cylinder’s top rim.
As it grew progressively harder and harder to crank, Dad jumped in for one final turn. When he deemed it done, he quickly pulled the metal cylinder out of the wooden bucket, placed it on a rimmed baking sheet, and carried it inside to start scooping the ice cream into bowls.
With the consistency of soft-serve and a flavor richer than anything we ever found in grocery stores’ freezer aisles, we quickly devoured every single drop of ice cream from our bowls… And sometimes every last spoonful from the cylinder too. Even though the recipe was meant to serve 8-12 people, it never tasted quite as good the next day, so we reasoned it would just be better to eat it all that evening!
One year, we tried getting a little fancy and added sliced fresh strawberries to the cream mixture before hand-cranking our ice cream, thinking maybe it would result in a deliciously sweet and creamy strawberry flavor. However, half an hour later when we tried our first spoonfuls…
We realized that wasn’t the brightest idea. The fruit bits were hard and icy, and it felt just like we were eating sliced strawberries straight from the freezer. Oops!
So since then, we’ve either topped our bowls of ice cream with fresh berries…
Or I’ve baked a fun berry-filled treat to serve alongside our vanilla ice cream, like these Healthy Strawberry Crumble Bars! They have a soft sugar cookie base as the “crust,” a juicy strawberry filling, and spiced oat streusel on top. Quite a delicious mouthful!
Even better? These healthy strawberry crumble bars contain no eggs, dairy, refined flour or sugar… And they’re 79 calories!
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY STRAWBERRY CRUMBLE BARS
Let’s go over how to make the best strawberry crumble bars! They’re perfect for the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day… Even Mother’s Day (which is quickly approaching!) or just any ol’ day you’re craving berries and something sweet!
You’ll start by making the oat streusel topping. It’s super simple to make… Just mix the ingredients together in a bowl with a fork and you’re done!
For the streusel’s dry ingredients, you’ll need oats, a touch of whole wheat flour (or gluten-free, if needed!), and cinnamon. I always use Saigon cinnamon because it tastes stronger, richer, and sweeter than regular cinnamon. I love the cozy flavor it adds!
For the oats, both old-fashioned rolled oats and instant oats (also called “quick cooking” or “one minute” oats!) will work. Just use whatever your normally keep on hand!
Tip: Instant oats are smaller and thinner than old-fashioned rolled oats, and I’ve found they don’t clump together quite as much when it’s time to sprinkle the topping over the filling. So I typically use them to make these healthy strawberry crumble bars!
For the streusel’s wet ingredients, you’ll need pure maple syrup and a teensy bit of melted butter or coconut oil. Many traditional streusel or crumb toppings require cutting cold cubed butter into the dry ingredients, but… I’m lazy, and that takes too much time and energy. With melted butter or coconut oil, I can simply stir everything together with a fork in a matter of seconds!
Now set that bowl aside, and let’s turn to my favorite part…
The fruit filling! I used Red Blossom’s fresh strawberries to make it, and they’re the sweetest and juiciest fresh strawberries I’ve ever eaten. I had the hardest time saving enough to make these healthy strawberry crumble bars… I couldn’t stop snacking on them straight from the clamshell!
Fun Fact: Red Blossom handpicks and field-packs all of their berries, some of which are actually grown just a little north of where I live in California. They have a neat little feature on their website here where you can trace your berries and see exactly where they came from too!
Because Red Blossom’s strawberries are already so sweet and juicy, you don’t need any additional sweetener in the filling. Just dice the strawberries so they’re about the size of mini chocolate chips (this ensures your bars bake evenly and slice easily!), toss them with a bit of cornstarch (to thicken the juices the berries release while baking!), and you’re done!
Then it’s time to make the last component… The sugar cookie “crust” of your healthy strawberry crumble bars! This starts with white whole wheat flour, along with a pinch of salt and a teensy bit of baking powder. Not too much baking powder — just enough to give the crust a bit of a lift so it’s soft, chewy, and not overly dense!
In case you haven’t heard of it before, white whole wheat flour actually exists… And it’s not a combination of white (aka all-purpose) flour and regular whole wheat flour! Instead, it’s made by finely grinding a special type of soft white wheat (hence the name!), whereas regular whole wheat flour comes from a heartier variety of red wheat. They both have the same health benefits (like extra fiber!), but white whole wheat flour has a lighter taste and texture… Which lets the soft texture of your sugar cookie crust and the deliciously sweet flavor of the strawberries truly shine!
Unlike traditional sugar cookie recipes that call for lots of butter, you just need 1 ½ tablespoons of butter or coconut oil for this particular recipe. That really helps keep your healthy strawberry crumble bars low calorie and low fat! Even better? You get to melt the butter, so you don’t have to wait for it to soften and you don’t need a mixer! Don’t you love easy shortcuts like that??
Instead of eggs, you’ll add a bit of unsweetened cashew milk to your bowl instead. That’s right — these healthy strawberry crumble bars contain no eggs! Don’t have cashew milk? That’s totally fine! Any milk will work. Just make sure it’s at room temperature so it doesn’t re-solidify your melted butter or coconut oil!
Tip: If you use coconut oil (or stick-style vegan butter!), then your healthy strawberry crumble bars will be eggless, dairy-free and vegan!
To make this dessert taste extra fancy and special, I actually skipped the vanilla extract… And I used almond extract instead! It’s my favorite baking extract. I love its sweet and sophisticated flavor, and I think it makes these healthy strawberry crumble bars taste like they came from a gourmet bakery!
If you just used pure maple syrup (the kind that comes directly from maple trees, not pancake syrup or sugar-free syrup!) in the crust, you’d need about ¾ cup to get the right sugar cookie sweetness level… And that would add way too much liquid to the cookie dough. It would have the consistency of cake batter, and your crust would be cakey or bready instead of having that soft, chewy cookie texture. Not good!
But if you only added just enough maple syrup to get the correct soft and chewy cookie texture, the crust wouldn’t be nearly sweet enough… And it would taste like you were eating regular sandwich bread. Also not good!
So that’s where the liquid stevia comes in! Stevia is a no-calorie, plant-based sweetener that contains nothing refined or artificial (aka it’s clean eating friendly!), and it’s also highly concentrated. By stirring in 1 ¼ teaspoons, you add the sweetness equivalent of 10 tablespoons of maple syrup!
The moral of the story? When you use maple syrup and liquid stevia, you get the perfect sweetness level and the perfect soft, chewy sugar cookie texture in the crust. Yum!
Now it’s time to assemble your healthy strawberry crumble bars! You’ll start by gently pressing the crust into the bottom of a square pan lined with parchment paper. It takes a little massaging to spread it out in a thin and even layer, but I promise there’s enough cookie dough to cover the pan!
Next, pour your strawberry filling on top, and spread that out in an even layer too. I gently press it down with the back of a spoon so the top of the filling is level before…
Sprinkling the oat streusel on top! The streusel tends to clump, so break it up into tiny pieces before showering it over the strawberry filling. I also gently press the streusel into the filling with my palms just before sliding the pan into the oven to bake.
I know it feels like pure torture, but you must let these bars cool completely to room temperature AND rest for at least 3 hours once they’ve reached room temperature before cutting into them. The cornstarch in the filling needs time to thicken those strawberry juices, so if you cut into your bars too early, the juice and filling will ooze out all over the place. (But if you’re in a rush — or just impatient! — you can put the pan in the refrigerator to speed up the process a bit!)
Then serve yourself a bar (or two!) and enjoy! And when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy strawberry crumble bars!
Healthy Strawberry Crumble Bars
FOR THE TOPPING
FOR THE FILLING
FOR THE CRUST
- 1 ¼ cups (150g) white whole wheat flour or gluten-free* flour (measured like this)
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tbsp (21g) coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tbsp (45mL) unsweetened cashew milk, room temperature
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 ½ tsp liquid stevia
- 2 tbsp (30mL) pure maple syrup, room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line an 8”-square pan with parchment paper (or coat an 8”-square pan with nonstick cooking spray).
- To prepare the topping, stir together the oats, flour, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center. Pour in the maple syrup and coconut oil or butter, and stir until all ingredients are completely incorporated.
- To prepare the filling, gently toss together the strawberries and cornstarch.
- To prepare the crust, whisk together the flour, baking power, and salt in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil or butter, milk, almond extract, and liquid stevia. Stir in the maple syrup. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated.
- Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan into a thin, even layer using your hands. (If it sticks to your fingers, then moisten your fingers with a tiny bit of water, and continue as needed.) Spread the filling evenly across the crust. Sprinkle the oat mixture on top of the raspberries. (It tends to clump, so break it into really tiny pieces as you go!) Bake at 350°F for 32-37 minutes or until the topping feels firm, the strawberry juices look thick, and the crust appears to be done. Cool completely to room temperature in the pan, and let the bars rest for at least 3 hours once at room temperature before slicing and serving.
This recipe was sponsored by Red Blossom. As always, all opinions, text, recipe, and photographs are my own. Fun tip: find out exactly where your hand-picked Red Blossom strawberries came from here on their website!
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy Peach Crumble Bars
♡ Healthy Raspberry Crumble Bars
♡ Small Batch Blueberry Crumble Bars
♡ Small Batch Apple Crumble Bars
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Apple Crisp
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Blueberry Crisp
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Peach Crisp
♡ Healthy Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp