Maple Walnut Bars {gluten-free}


Maple Walnut Bars

I’m a terrible daughter. My dad’s birthday falls on or around Thanksgiving every year, and even though walnut desserts (namely walnut pie and Walnettos) are his favorite, I always bake him a pecan pie instead. The sole reason being that my namesake passed her award-winning pecan pie recipe down to me and the recipe calls for pecans, not walnuts. This is a pitiful excuse, I know. Not this year. Nope – this is the year I turn things around. I’ve got walnuts on the docket and I’m mixing things up with these easy-to-eat maple walnut bars.

Partially because my dad deserves it, but mostly because my kitchen is overflowing with walnuts. A couple of weeks ago, Diamond of California invited me and ten other bloggers to tour their walnut orchards during the peak of harvest and see their processing plant, where they sent us home with a holiday-supply of nuts.

Maple Walnut Pie Bars

As a girl who learned how to hunt for Easter eggs in the branches, tree roots, and tractors of my Great-Granny’s 20-acre almond orchard, I was so there.

I grew up in a town that greets visitors with miles of nut orchards lining both sides of the highway on their way in. There’s a row of almond trees (that’s pronounced “Am-und” in my family) across the street from my childhood home and up until this past year, a walnut grove kissed the back of the property with a branch of stray nuts dropping over the fence.

Walnut Orchard

Yet, surprisingly, I knew very little about the process of nut harvest. You know those pick-up claw tools people use when they’re too lazy to bend over and pick their socks up off the floor? (That’s their primary use, I’m sure of it). Well imagine one of those – except monster-sized and manned by a tractor – grabbing on to a tree trunk to shake the walnuts right out of the branches. Makin’ it rain on the family farm!

Walnut Harvest Tree Shake

Another tractor sweeps the walnuts into tidy rows, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake. The final tractor sucks up the nuts and loads them onto a truck for their way to the huller where they’ll be stripped of their green jackets and sit in a 105°F sauna to dry before heading over to Diamond for processing.

Walnut Harvest OrchardWalnut Harvest SweepWalnut HandsWalnut TruckWalnut Harvest HullingWalnut Hulling

After a nut-filled lunch, we got to taste-test walnuts (belly = so fulllllll). Fun fact: There are more than 10 varieties of walnuts (probably way more, but that’s how many I tried) that range in size, shape, color, and taste. Because certain varieties do better than others some years, farmers grow multiple varieties in a single orchard, but by the time they get to your bag in the store they’re all mixed up together. Let’s just say: There are lasers involved.

About a week after I got home from the trip, my aunt shipped me a large priority mail box filled with shell-on organic chandler walnuts from her boyfriend’s orchard. So now I’ve got a shelf in my cabinet dedicated only to nuts and there are no complaints.

Maple Walnut Bars Shortbread

You’ve been patiently waiting to hear about these maple walnut bars.

Picture pecan pie but sub in walnuts, and instead of pie, imagine cut and serve easy-to-eat bars. Pecan pie meets lemon bars, but with maple walnut flavors. There’s a flakey tender all-butter shortbread crust on the bottom coupled with a sweet maple pie topping with crunchy chopped walnuts.

Gluten-free Walnut Shortbread BarsWalnut Maple Bars

Raise your hand if you’ve ever made a pie (or two or three) for Thanksgiving and the sad leftovers sat on the counter for a few days waiting to be eaten?

Yeah, that doesn’t really happen at my house either – I love pie.

BUT, I’d love it even more if I could just walk by and grab it on my way to the living room to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade. Pre-cut, no plates involved (napkins necessary). My dad will surely eat no less than 6 of these grab-n-go treats during the Thanksgiving football games.

Gluten-free Maple Walnut Pie Bars

Also, don’t wait until Thanksgiving to try these – that’s WAY too far away. Better make a test-batch first.

Gluten-free Walnut BarsWalnut Blogging Tour

For more nut inspiration, check out the group of nutty bloggers I got to hang out with in the orchards (from L to R):

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Maple Walnut Bars {gluten-free}
Yields: 9 bars
Shortbread Crust
  • ¼ cup millet flour *For non gluten-free, replace the millet flour, oat flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, and xanthan gum with 1 cup all-purpose flour.
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons oat flour (I make my own by grinding oats in my food processor)
  • ¼ cup sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice flour)
  • ¼ cup tapioca starch
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
Maple Walnut Filling
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca starch
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use Rodelle vanilla)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 8x6 glass baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the millet flour, oat flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, and brown sugar.
  3. Add the vanilla and unsalted butter and use your fingers to work the butter into the flour, until it becomes a crumbly dough.
  4. Press the dough into the parchment paper and bake until set and begins to turn golden brown, about 14-17 minutes. Let cool for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, beat egg in a bowl. Whisk in the tapioca starch until completely combined.
  6. Add the maple syrup, dark brown sugar, melted butter and vanilla to the eggs and mix thoroughly.
  7. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts in the par-baked shortbread-lined baking dish.
  8. Evenly pour egg mixture over walnuts.
  9. Bake until the filling is completely set, about 20-25 minutes. If the center of the filling still jiggles a bit when the pan is moved, then return to the oven until set, about 5 minutes longer.
  10. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

*I was not compensated to write this post. Diamond of California gifted me some nuts and hosted me on the tour, but as always, the opinions expressed here are solely my own.

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  1. How fun to visit the walnut orchards! These bars look delish! And a perfect way to use up all of those walnuts. Pinned!

  2. What an amazing post! Your photography makes me melt every time, and the trip looks so fun! Some of the best bloggers around in that group! Thanks so much for sharing :)

  3. What a cool experience! And I love your bars too, so great that they are GF! I bet your dad will love them ;)

  4. Min says:

    Haha you’re not a terrible daughter at all! But I have no doubt you’ll be getting some bonus points from your dad this year ;). Boy is he in for a treat hehe. How awesome is it that you grew up near nut orchards!! Love getting a glimpse into your childhood. More than 10 varieties of walnuts? Crazy! I’d like to taste them all although I wonder if I’ll be able to pick out the differences..Pies def do not stick around for long at my house and neither will these bars! Mmm..pinning!! Hope you have a wonderful Monday, Sarah!

    • They gave us a sheet to write down the differences and although I could take some MINUTE differences, I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what I was tasting besides: buttery, bitter, dry, smooth. Haha. I have the same problem when trying to think about the subtle differences in wine!

  5. Okay, that’s really neat you learned about nut farming and picking. Did it smell really good there? Another great recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Wow! They look amazing!!! Great pictures! :-)

  7. These look freaking fabulous Sarah! I am ALWAYS okay with portable pie. Your pictures are gorgeous, as usual! So glad we got to do this together!

  8. Sarah Kat says:

    Wow! My grandparents own 25+ acres of pecan trees. It’s not really an orchard since they don’t really run it as one, but it has a lot of pecan trees. The trees are so old that it would take three of me hand-in-hand to circle one of the trunks!

    I know they have a guy who harvests for them in exchange for half of the nuts, it’s a pretty efficient system for both parties. They always send us home with bags of pecans, so it works out for us too!

    • Woah! That sounds like a great deal! (For you AND the harvest guy!). I tried to get someone to use my backyard to grow their wildflowers for their business once just so I could enjoy the beauty of the flowers – ha! I wasn’t so successful at selling my FREE land space.

  9. 1. Your poor poppa.
    2. No bunnies on your farm? (Ah-munds.)
    3. I’m just gonna eat all these bars now.
    4. Pe-CAN or Pe-KAHN?

  10. These maple walnut bars look so delicious Sarah. I can definitely see myself devouring a couple – just need to get my hands on the ingredients so I can make the recipe. Great pics too!

  11. Andrea says:

    It it 1/4 tsp of tapioca starch? The recipe just says 1/4
    I’m going to add these to my Thanksgiving menu – thanks!

  12. You’re still so sweet for even baking your dad SOMETHING! I bet you’re way ahead of the game on that one that most people, heh! And omgness a nut trip would be kind of amazing. That sentence sounds strange. Errmm okay I was saying, I can’t believe you got to see this process! I honestly never have seen a nut tree and if I did I probably just zoomed past it. And what a beautiful recipe–sounds soooo comforting!

    • Haha – the nut trip involved a bunch of NUTTY bloggers CRACKING so many nut jokes. ;) I grew up with nut trees, but I still hardly paid attention to the process – I learned so much on the trip! And thank you:)

  13. Mira says:

    It looks like you really had a wonderful experience there! The bars look amazing and gluten free is even better! They are just great for fall and can easily be added to a Thanksgiving menu!

  14. this looks amazing sarah! and you’re not a bad daughter at all! the fact that you even bake him something from scratch is awesome already. love the pics and seeing the process. i had no idea! would be so good with some allegro coffee ;)

  15. This looks like such a fun adventure! Maple walnut bars sound amazing!

  16. Oh my gosh Sarah – these are amazing! I would love to have a few of these bars right now. Pinned!

  17. I love love walnuts! These bars look so tempting!
    Love the photos from walnut farm! How cool!

  18. these maple walnut bars look fabulous!!! your trip with Diamond Nuts to tour their walnut orchards and their processing plant looks really fun!!! good times! Happy early birthday to your father and hope he enjoys these maple walnut bars!!!

  19. Sheri says:

    These look amazing! Your dad is going to love them!

  20. Well your dad is in for a real treat this year when he gets a dessert with his favorite nut! These maple walnut bars sound delicious! Especially since you got walnuts right from the source. Your tour of the walnut groves sounds so fun! And guess what? My grandpa calls them “ah-munds” too, and I love it.

  21. Aaw, your dad will love these bars, they look amazing! Portable bars beats pie any day to me :) Yay, the Diamond tour looked like so much fun!

  22. Wow so cool! I never knew anything about nut harvesting either… loved all your photos of the process… that’s the coolest thing I’ve seen in awhile! I know, apparently my life is kinda lame hahaha

  23. Christie says:

    Oh my goodness, these sound and look AMAZZZING!! Definitely serving these for Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing!


  24. Rachel says:

    Getting to see the walnut orchard was so interesting. It shows much more depth into the recipe and how everything comes together. So excited to read this.
    Also adding this one to my must-make-list. They look so yummy! Maybe they can be my contribution to Thanksgiving dessert?!


  25. Your trip sounds amazing, Sarah! What an awesome way to learn about foods we regularly eat. These bars are calling my name big time. I’d have a hard time containing myself with a pan of these around! :)

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