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  • Writer's pictureGutsy Baker

Healthier Homemade Payday Bars (Vegan, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free)

These homemade Payday bars will remind you of your childhood favorite candy bar. They are made with a sweet fudgy cashew caramel and covered in dry roasted peanuts. So soft and creamy, salty and sweet I actually think these are better than the originals!

an overhead view of healthy peanut candy bars

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1. Coconut cream can be swapped out for coconut milk, the full fat kind in the can.

2. Coconut sugar can be swapped for maple syrup, or you can use a 50/50 blend of both. Maple syrup will give the bars a softer caramel center.

3. Cashew Butter can be swapped with peanut butter but the taste will be more true to a real Payday bar if using cashew butter. Using peanut butter will give a stronger peanut butter flavor of course. I think smooth creamy almond butter will work here too but cashew butter gives the best texture and taste when tested!

4. I suggest almond flour or unflavored protein powder as the flour in the caramel layer. DO NOT use gluten free flour or any regular flour besides almond (or oat), these flours cannot be consumed raw! Protein powder will give them more of a nougat texture and almond flour will give them a softer, darker texture. I used unflavored pure pea protein by Nuzest, I couldn't even taste it!

5. Dairy free butter may be omitted, it just gives the caramel a nice flavor.

a bite shot of a payday bar with peanuts and caramel


  1. Sweet and salty with a creamy caramel nougat center covered in crunchy dry roasted peanuts.

  2. They will remind you of your childhood favorite, but made cleaner and healthier.

  3. Only 6 INGREDIENTS (7 including salt).

  4. High protein, low carb! Full of healthy fats.

  5. So easy to make! A no bake recipe.

  6. Made with no refined sugar, no gluten and no dairy. But still kid and hubs approved.

a pile of homemade Payday peanut bars


1. Make sure the caramel is fully simmered before removing from stove and adding in nougat ingredients. This will take 25-30 minutes depending on brand of coconut cream used and your stove. It will be thicker, darker in color and bubbling when ready.

2. The caramel layer needs to be fully set before cutting into bars for clean easy cuts. This usually takes 6 hours up to overnight.

3. I like using cashew butter as the nut butter in the filling. It's creamier and more neutral flavor so these taste more true to the real Payday. You may also use creamy natural peanut butter but the taste will be different.

4. Use either almond flour or protein powder as the bulk in the mixture (as noted in recipe below). Almond flour will keep them more of a caramel texture and darker in color, where protein powder will give them more of a nougat texture. I honestly love both and can't decide which I like best!

a bite shot of a homemade Payday bar


Can I replace the cashew butter?

You can replace it with another nut butter, but keep in mind the flavor and texture will change! I tried peanut butter and almond butter and thought cashew butter gave the best flavor, more true to the original, and texture.

Can I replace the peanuts?

You can replace the peanuts for any nut or seed of choice! They just won't be true to a real Payday but still delicious!

My bars are too soft to cut!

This could be because the caramel wasn't ready before removing from stove. The caramel will take at least 25 minutes, even up to 35 minutes depending on the stove and brand of coconut cream. It will be darker brown and will leave spoon trails when stirred when it's ready.

This could also be because they weren't in the freezer long enough. I found up to overnight gives nice solid bars! Freeze for at least 6 hours.

How to make Payday bars lower in FODMAPs?

You can replace the cashew butter with peanut butter or almond butter to make these Payday bars lower in FODMAPs. You can also replace the coconut sugar with maple syrup!

Can healthier Payday bars be made paleo?

Replace the peanuts with chopped almonds or any other nut and these will be paleo friendly! If you cannot find a dairy free butter that is paleo compliant, you can omit completely.

If you make these homemade Payday bars, leave me comments or ratings below! And as always, tag me on Instagram of your creations at gutsy_baker!


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