Need a No-Bake Dessert This Holiday Season? Try This Vegan Bark

Let me preface this entire recipe post with a fact: I know chocolate bark. 

I've eaten quite a bit of chocolate bark in my day, and not because I can't help myself around chocolate (though I seriously can't), but because I love the endless combinations and creative, often unique flavours of chocolate bark. As soon as December rolls around and the snow hits my hipster-friendly town of Hamilton, Ontario, sweet shops, candy stores, and bakeries begin making chocolate bark they seemingly can't keep on the shelves long enough. It's creamy, delicious, sweet, savory and typically comes in a range of flavors, my favorite being chocolate peppermint. 

But here's the catch: none of them are ever vegan. In fact, I've yet to find a vegan chocolate bark available in the shops near me, and the ones available in grocery stores and supermarkets are often mass produced with weird preservatives, palm oil, and lots of added sugar. There's a better, healthier way, and it's DIY Christmas bark. 

I try to make this bark every year, because not only is it incredibly simple to make, but it's no-bake, which is awesome news for those of us who suck at baking (holla) and who also are often stuck making sweets and desserts last minute to give away as gifts or to put out for guests who stop by during the holidays. You can easily throw a few pieces of this homemade bark in a mason jar and wrap it up as a gift - Faye Lesser from Sustaining Life has a simple, delicious recipe with guides on how to gift mason jar treats for everyone in your life, and it's awesome. I recommend checking it out for an easy yet beautiful gift idea. 

The recipe I'm about to share is also simple and is 100% vegan. But I promise no one will be able to tell; my father, who delights in non-vegan everything, had no idea this bark was vegan! 

The Equipment You'll Need

  • You'll need to fashion a simple bain-marie using a pot and a bowl - for a guide on how to use a bain-marie, watch this easy-to-follow video
  •  A silicone spatula (or another stirring spoon) 
  • A stove 
  • A baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or another non-stick material)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups of semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips - you can find these in most health food stores, the organic section of your supermarket or through an online health food shop 
  • 5-6 organic mint candy canes, crushed - I use TruJoy's, but you can utilize any organic candy canes you can find
  • 2 tbsp of agave nectar - I buy mine in bulk to save on cost but you can find this nectar in any supermarket or health food store
  • 1/2 tsp of organic peppermint oil
  • 3 tbsp raw, organic coconut oil 
  • 2 tbsp chocolate-flavored coffee, finely ground into a powder 
  • 1 tsp of organic chili powder 
  • 1 1/2 cups of gluten-free, vegan pretzels, crushed 

What To Do Next 

  • Using your bain-marie, melt the chocolate chips, coconut oil and agave nectar over low-medium heat, stirring constantly - it's important not to use high heat in order to prevent your chocolate from burning 
  • Once the chocolate, coconut oil and agave nectar have melted together and the chocolate is smooth and glossy, add in your peppermint oil, coffee and chili powder, stirring until fully combined 
  • Pour the chocolate mixture onto your lined baking sheet and spread it thinly but evenly using your spatula; you can make your bark thick or thin, according to your preference 
  • While the chocolate mixture is still hot, sprinkle your crushed pretzels and crushed candy canes over top, dispersing as evenly as possible to ensure all of the chocolate is coated 
  • Place your baking sheet in the freezer for 15-20 minutes until the mixture has set into a bark 
  • Remove your baking sheet from the freezer and using your hands, or the end of a cooking spoon, gently break the bark into smaller pieces or lightly tap on it using your spoon to break it apart 
  • Place in a freezer-friendly bag or container for safe keeping until you're ready to serve

Tips & Tricks

  • Because of the coconut oil, the heat from your hands can cause the bark to melt more quickly, so when breaking the bark apart, try to use leftover parchment paper or the end of a spoon to break it into bite-size pieces 
  • Ensure the chocolate chips you are using are palm-free; the ingredient list on the package is a good indicator of whether the chocolate contains palm oil or a palm derivate
  • Serve the bark abut 5-10 minutes after removing it from the freezer; it's delicious when it's consumed still a little bit cold! 

Hot tip 

You can easily customize this bark with the toppings of your choice! I keep the base recipe on hand for occasions when I need a no-bake dessert, and add different toppings each time. Two of my favorite combinations are pistachio + dried cranberry bark and rosemary + sea salt bark. Both are equally delicious and use the same base as the recipe above! The base recipe is as follows: 

  • combine the same amount of chocolate chips, coconut oil, and agave nectar in your bain-marie and melt together on low-medium heat until all ingredients are fully incorporated 
  • pour the mixture onto your lined baking sheet and top with the ingredients of your choice 
  • freeze for 15-20 minutes and break apart as normal, then store in a freezer-friendly container or bag until it's ready to be served 

The process 

The finished product

This bark is deliciously creamy, smooth and just the right amount of sweet and savory thanks to the pretzels and candy cane. The mint flavor from the peppermint oil along with the kick from the chili and richness of the coffee give this bark a seriously unique flavor profile your guests and loved ones won't forget. And the best part is that it's low on sugar, requires no baking and is completely vegan. Whip this sucker up in less than an hour for a seriously simple, vegan treat!

Jacalyn BealesComment