Salty-Sweet Peanut Butter Tahini Shortbread

Rich and Decadent Vegan Tahini Billionaire Bars: a show-stopping dessert

When Bon Appetit published its recipe for tahini billionaire bars, it received rave reviews. I made them before I was vegan and loved them so much I had to find a way to “veganize” them once I went vegan. Just a few simple swaps work smoothly to create an equally indulgent dessert that vegans and non-vegans alike will love. 

This recipe just picks a plant-based butter to replace the dairy butter in the shortbread and caramel, uses coconut cream to replace dairy-based heavy cream in the caramel, and uses ground flax with water to replace the egg yolk in the shortbread.  

One other swap this recipe makes is to sub half the original amount of tahini for creamy peanut butter. This helps soften the taste of the caramel, as tahini has a strong, bitter taste that otherwise comes through in the bars. It also creates a caramel with deeper flavors, rather than the sugar jolt of typical caramel.

Many people are unfamiliar with tahini and may ask what it is. I like to explain it to people as “peanut butter” made from sesame seeds, as it’s a sesame seed paste often used in Asian dishes.

For those who are hesitant to try vegan foods, consider waiting until after they try it to casually mention that it’s vegan. Surprise! Vegan food can be just as rich and delicious while simply choosing ingredients with compassion in mind. 

Rich and Decadent Vegan Tahini Billionaire Bars: a show-stopping dessert

Inspired by a popular recipe from Bon Appetit, but veganized! This "homemade Twix" style cookie boasts three layers of sesame shortbread, tahini-peanut butter caramel and chocolate. With the peanut butter twist, these vegan tahini bars hit the perfect notes of salty and sweet to create a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Your new go-to dessert!
Course Dessert
Servings 25 approx 1.5" bars


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds, plus 2 Tbsp to sprinkle on top
  • 1 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt; divided or 2 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal salt; divided
  • 2 sticks chilled unsalted vegan butter like Earth Balance or Country Crock
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds, plus 2 Tbsp water a spice grinder works well if your flax is not pre-ground
  • 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup coconut cream
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Spray an 8x8" baking pan with nonstick cooking oil or line with parchment paper. Even though the dough has a lot of butter, it will likely stick if you are using a glass dish. If you don't have parchment paper, be sure to spray the pan (preferable a non-stick baking pan) with cooking oil.


  • Mix ground flax with water in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Whisk flour, powdered sugar, sesame seeds and 1/2 tsp Morton Kosher or 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal salt in a bowl.
  • Cut 1 of the sticks of butter into 1/2" pieces and add to bowl. Using your fingers, work in butter until pieces are about pea-sized.
  • Now, mix in the flax-water mixture.
  • Press the dough into an even layer in the pan. Prick dough with a fork in several spots to help it stay flat as it bakes.
  • Bake the shortbread until golden brown, about 24-28 minutes (or up to 35 minutes if using a glass dish). Let cool slightly.

Tahini Caramel

  • Now, make the tahini caramel. In a medium saucepan, heat the other stick of butter and light brown sugar, whisking constantly, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. (It's important to whisk constantly at this point to create a smooth consistency.)
  • Whisk in the coconut cream and salt. Bring to a boil and cook about 10-15 minutes, whisking constantly, until bubbling becomes less frequent and caramel is thick enough to coat a spoon. When it doubt, it's better to cook it a little more, as it's better to have the caramel be too thick than too runny.
  • Remove from heat. Add tahini, peanut butter and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
  • Pour caramel over shortbread and distribute evenly. Chill until set, about 20-30 minutes in the freezer.

Chocolate Layer

  • Melt vegan dark chocolate in a microwave-save bowl, microwaving in 40 second increments and stirring in between.
  • Once caramel has cooled, pour the chocolate over it. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.


  • Chill in fridge until firm, about 1-2 hours. Use a sharp knife to cut into pieces a little over 1" wide. Enjoy!
Keyword vegan

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