For all the times you’ve thought, wow I could totally go for [insert name of your favorite dish here] only to realize that it seems impossible to cook yourself at home, this new series is for you. Cook Like A Chef is dedicated to giving you the recipes from the places and chefs you love and also the tricks to make it taste as close to their version as possible.
Next up is Chef Samah Dada. As former NBC page and Today Show production assistant, Dada used cooking and food as a way to connect to her Indian heritage and de-stress from her crazy schedule of beginning work at 3 AM. She started taking photos and began a blog, bringing in treats from home, and hosts like Savannah Guthrie and others noticed. Now, Dada is the host of NBC’s Digital Show, #Cooking with Samah Dada, where she shares her plant-based recipes inspired by her food inspirations of London, New York, and California.
From her first cookbook, Dada Eats Love to Cook It: 100 Plant-Based Recipes for Everyone at Your Table, Dada shares her recipe for Salted Peanut Butter Caramel Bars, which is vegan, gluten, and refined sugar-free (if you care about that sort of thing). “I have been obsessed with peanut butter since I was little. The best combination on earth is chocolate and peanut butter -- this recipe makes it the star but puts a special twist on it with a delicious shortbread crust,” Dada says. Here is how to recreate it perfectly at home yourself.
Get Yourself Some Dates
You can get some pretty good dates at any grocery store and they're key to this recipe. Dada explains, “They’re naturally very sweet and have a caramel undertone that in the place of refined sugar, creates a golden sweet taste.”
If you’ve never had a date, Dada recommends you try snacking on them first. “If anyone is intimidated by it, try stuffing them with peanut butter and then sprinkling it with sea salt.” You’ll want to first de-pit though, which you can easily do with your hands or a spoon.
Use Your Hands
Your hands are the second-best kitchen tool, after the blender. The bar’s shortbread crust, which only contains four ingredients, was designed to be super malleable. Get in there to form it into a dough and press everything into the pan. “The more evenly you distribute it, the better the bake is going to be, making it a better home for the caramel.”
Get Out the Blender
One of Dada’s favorite kitchen tools is the blender. You don’t need any sort of fancy KitchenAid for this recipe. The filling, a key component of this recipe, comes together seamlessly in a blender, even if it’s not a super high-powered Vitamix. “If there are little pieces of dates, don’t worry. I love texture, I encourage it in any aspect.”
Pulse the filling until it becomes a texture that’s almost like caramel. You can use a food processor if you don’t have a blender too. When you add the filling on top of the crust, tilt the pan back and forth to ensure it distributes evenly. Use the back of a spoon or a spatula for help. But most importantly, don’t worry too much. “The hardest part of this recipe is making sure the filling gets to the bar before you eat it all.”
Salted Peanut Butter Caramel Bars
Makes 16 servings
For the Shortbread Crust - ⅓ cup coconut oil, softened - ¼ cup honey - ⅔ cup almond flour - ⅔ cup coconut flour
For The Peanut Butter Caramel Filling - 6 large Medjool dates, pitted - ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut oil - 3 tablespoons coconut sugar - ¼ teaspoon kosher salt - ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk - ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
For the Chocolate Layer - ½ cup chocolate chips - 1 tablespoon coconut oil - Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
To make the shortbread crust:
Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare an 8-inch square cake pan by lining it with parchment paper. Ensure that some of the parchment paper hangs over the sides of the pan so you can use the flaps to lift up the bars when you’re ready to enjoy them.
In a medium bowl, combine the coconut oil and honey, and mix until smooth.
Add the almond flour and coconut flour.
Fold together until everything is fully incorporated and you have a nice malleable dough.
Press the shortbread dough into the parchment lined cake pan and pack it in tightly, flattening it with your hands until the crust is evenly distributed throughout.
Bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges are nice and golden brown. Let it cool completely in the pan.
To make the peanut butter caramel filling:
In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine the dates, coconut oil, coconut sugar, salt, almond milk, and peanut butter. Blend until completely smooth.
Once the shortbread crust has completely cooled, pour the Peanut Butter Caramel Filling over it and smooth it with the back of a spoon until it reaches the edges and is evenly distributed throughout the pan.
Place the pan in the freezer and chill for 30 minutes for the caramel to firm up. While it’s in there, you can prepare the chocolate layer.
To make the chocolate layer:
Melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil together, either in a double boiler or in a microwave oven in 10-second increments, stirring after each increment, until the mixture is melted and glossy.
Remove the pan from the freezer and pour the chocolate on top until it completely coats the caramel. Sprinkle with some sea salt and place the pan in the freezer once again.
Freeze for 1 hour, until the chocolate has completely hardened.
Remove the bars from the pan by lifting the parchment paper flaps. Cut into bars and serve! Store any extra in the freezer for up to a week
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Dada’s book contains over 100 recipes (such as Cauliflower Cacio e Pepe and Spicy Eggplant Masala), that are often vegan, gluten-free, allergen and grain-free.
If you can’t find dates at your local supermarket, you can get them shipped to you.
This affordable, high powered blender will blend your filling beautifully. Plus, it's also great for frozen cocktails and smoothies.
You'll need sturdy sheet pan that won’t warp. This one comes in lots of fun colors such as blueberry and broccoli.
These enamel bowls are beautiful and multi-functional. You can use them for both food prep and (thanks to the lids), food storage.