Guest Post by Alaena Haber – Cherry Pie Bars (Autoimmune Protocol Friendly)

August 9, 2014 in Categories: by

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BioPictureAlaena Haber is the creator of the Paleo and AIP recipe website Grazed and Enthused. After eating standard Paleo for two years, Alaena transitioned to the autoimmune protocol/AIP six months ago to combat lingering symptoms of Hashimoto’s, leaky gut, and histamine intolerance. Alaena’s passion for holistic wellbeing shows in her dedication to sourcing nutrient-dense ingredients for creative and flavorful recipes. She believes each meal is an opportunity to show respect for oneself and gratitude for others. Alaena hopes to reach members of the autoimmune community who need inspiration and support during their healing journey. She lives with her husband, Jeff, and cockapoo, Rafael, in Chicago while attending a full-time occupational therapy master’s program. Connect with Aleana on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

It took me a couple months of eating AIP before I realized that every meal didn’t have to be a redundant combination of meat, veggies, and broth. I initially felt disheartened without my morning eggs and butter coffee. I would have staring contests with the empty spot in my pantry where my almond butter used to sit. Constant trips to the store for fresh meat and produce became time-consuming. But my daily stomach pain, headaches, fatigue, and brain fog disappeared. I only noticed this one day, about three weeks into the protocol, when I realized I felt “normal”. I hadn’t been able to say that for several years. It was truly a victorious moment, and I continue to eat a 99% AIP diet because of the mental and physical clarity it has provided. Let’s rewind to how I ended up here, writing a guest post on Sarah’s website.

I began cooking around 8 years old…mostly kids’ lunches like sandwiches, quesadillas, and French toast. At this point, my culinary skills were limited to whatever Emeril was “kicking up a notch” during family television time. At age 15, I ordered a subscription of Food and Wine magazine, and I began voraciously cooking laborious and technical dishes for my family (ethnic cuisine to traditional American pies.) I developed my cooking skills using others’ recipes, but during my college years I found satisfaction when creating my own, often inviting friends over for dinners and happy hours.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s at age 19 during my sophomore year at University of Florida. The next 5 years were a balancing act between social obligations, career-shifting, puppy-raising, all while struggling daily with debilitating stomach pain, fatigue, mood swings, and pesky symptoms like facial swelling, skin rashes, and mouth sores. After spending thousands (yes, thousands) of hours researching autoimmunity, food intolerances, and leaky gut and even more money on Western and Eastern doctors, I realized I had to be my own advocate if I was ever going to feel freedom from disease. I began a Paleo diet in January 2012 and saw immediate relief in my constant headaches, back pain, and gastric distress. It took two more years of fruitlessly visiting many doctors and alternative health practitioners to finally decide to try the Autoimmune Protocol. It was the best decision of my life and has given me a priceless understanding of my body in both its diseased and healthy state.

CherryPieBarsSupport1My dedication to eat satisfying and flavorful food never waned throughout the years. While I certainly enjoyed standard Paleo, cooking beautiful frittatas, pancakes, and nut-based desserts, I have found much more gratification creating AIP meals that leave me feeling nourished, content, and excited for leftovers. This leads me to the below recipe: Cherry Pie Bars. I am in love with these fruit-sweetened, gooey handheld treats. Not only do they taste and feel like the real deal, but they’re made with only AIP-approved fruits and vegetables and can be packed for kids’ lunches or as an on-the-go snack bar! The dough is a base of mashed Japanese sweet potato, which you can find at most grocery stores and Asian grocers. It has a purple-toned skin, white flesh, and can be used as a substitute for white potatoes in any recipe. The pie filling consists of caramelized and macerated sweet summer cherries and Medjool dates. These Cherry Pie Bars make breakfast, snack-time, or dessert something to truly look forward to! They would be fantastic served after a meal of Sweet N’ Smokey Chicken or Grilled Skirt Steak, sweet potato salad, and coleslaw for the All-American eating experience.

  • Total prep time: 25 minutes (see tip at the end of the post to save time)
  • Total cooking time: 25 minutes
  • Makes 4 bars


Ingredients (Pie Crust)

  1. Place sweet potatoes in steamer basket set over a pot of boiling water. Cover and let steam for 13-15 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  2. Pour coconut oil into the mixing bowl and use a potato masher to mash the potatoes as smoothly as possible. Stir in coconut flour, cinnamon and sea salt and mix well using your hands while kneading the dough.
  3. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and form a compact ball with each. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, create a small 4 x 5 inch rectangle with each portion. Smooth down with hands to ensure two rectangles of even thickness and equal size. Set aside.

Ingredients (Cherry Pie Filling)

  1. Place dates in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit for 5 minutes. Remove dates from bowl, reserving the liquid.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat cherries and lemon juice over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, breaking open the cherries with a wooden spoon as they simmer.
  3. Add dates and 2 tsp reserved liquid to the pan, breaking open the dates as they cook down. Continue cooking and stirring until you get a thick paste (about 2 more minutes). Remove from heat and stir in arrowroot and cinnamon.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon cherry filling over one of the rectangles until evenly covered. Lift up remaining rectangle with a large spatula, and carefully lay it on top of cherry filling, using your fingers to smooth and seal the dough. Brush with 1 tsp melted coconut oil.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest in fridge for at least 1 hour prior to slicing. Slice with a sharp knife into 4 bars.
  • Note: The bars can be served warm or cold. I love them the most after they have been sitting in the fridge overnight. Store in refrigerator for 2-3 days.
  • Time Saving Tip: While the sweet potatoes are steaming, make the cherry filling!


Hi Julie, I have not tried this recipe with a regular sweet potato but I can guarantee the taste, texture, and look would be different! I suggested trying yuca below if you cannot find white sweet potato but you may need to decrease the coconut flour because it’s starchier than potato. Hope you enjoy!

My natural foods stores dont call them japanese i dont think. They just look more purple-ish. They are MUCH dryer than regular sweet pot. even after steaming. Now i know why you need this kind for the recipe (had my first jap sweet pot the other day! Very dry!!!!!)

These look great. I can’t wait to make them! I went to Sarah’s book singing on Thursday night. She was warm, gracious, and wonderful! And I won her new cookbook in the drawing!! Excitement reigns. 🙂 I am having a blast reading it and trying things out of it. I’m especially excited about the AIP “coffee”. Happy cooking everyone! And thanks to all of you who work to make this blog great. Here’s to getting healthy!

I made a triple batch of these tonight! Really good. I don’t even think they need to be as sweet as they turned out; maybe I will use less dates next time. Thanks for the recipe!

I think plantains would definitely work Sophie! They will actually make the recipe sweeter than if using the white sweet potato, so if you are watching sugar levels, try decreasing the dates to 3 or 4 instead! That sounds really yummy 🙂

The dough should completely cover the filling. Use your fingers to seal the edges! It’s okay if for some reason they are not completely sealed all around. They won’t ‘leak’ as they bake, they just won’t have as many crispy edges!

Would an apple filling work well instead of cherry? (not a cherry fan). Do you have a recipe for filling that might work?

Hi Chelsea,
I do not consume nuts, so I do not have experience baking with almond flour. Coconut flour is much more absorbent though, so you would need to use at least twice as much almond flour to get the same dough consistency. You can purchase Bob’s Red Mill coconut flour at most grocery stores and on Amazon, if you are having trouble finding it near you!

I made these but used a different filling.. scrumptious! I cut mine smaller, so instead of bars it’s squares. This is going to become one of my pre and/or post workout snacks.. perfect! Thanks so much 😀

This looks amazing!! I am pregnant and following the AIP and it’s so haaaard. I have been searching for something sweet for a while and this looks perfect. The only thing is unfortunately coconut is also something I can’t digest, any suggestions on an alternative to coconut flour? (No nuts allowed I’m afraid:()

Congratulations on your pregnancy and dedication to maintaining a healthy diet throughout all those hormonal cravings!! I haven’t tried the recipe with any other flours and there are not any flours that mimic coconut’s absorbent properties BUT sweet potato flour would taste delicious. You will need to increase the amount. Start by doubling and using your reasoning to decide if you need to add more. The dough should be workable and not fall apart.

I am so greatful to you for making these and sharing them. Can’t wait to make them as I’m ready for a sweet treat.

I made these today with boniato sweet potatoes (aka Cuban sweet potato) as I couldn’t find Japanese sweet potatoes. I only had chopped dates, not whole, but it turned out pretty good. I love cherries, so this was right up my alley. I’m calling these AIP Poptarts. 🙂

I cannot tolerate coconut…..or Great Lakes gelatin (which I realize isn’t in these but is in many AIP recipes). And sadly, commercial (even organic) sweet potatoes can be treated with a corn-containing agent to stop budding. My daughter is allergic to corn and we’ve discovered by elimination. Not to burst any bubbles, but for the super-sensitive, these aren’t friendly. It’s so frustrating to not even be able to tolerate the supposedly most strict recipes.

Aspen, Unfortunately we all have varying levels of sensitivity throughout our lives! It sounds like your daughter has to be very careful with corn. Is she on a strict AIP diet as well? If you’re looking for a treat to make her, can you try nut flours for her and sweet potato flour for you (assuming you do not have a corn sensitivity)? What about plantain flour or carob powder? I have never heard about a corn-contamination with organic sweet potatoes, but I guess we can never be sure about something unless we grow it ourselves!

Thank you for your thoughtful reply and apologies for my frustration. She is VERY sensitive to corn. I am doing mostly AIP with her. She’s still nursing so I try not to get any corn and believe it affects me too. I’m an extremely sensitive celiac with no gallbladder (lots of digestive enzymes) and have had flour contamination problems with some supposedly GF products. I’ll keep trying. I’ve been AIP for six months and no honey for the last month and a half (the hardest part and the missing link to healing). I got some palm shortening today and seem to be fine with it. Thanks again for the reply, I’ll let you know how it goes with substitutions on your lovely recipes 🙂

Is there much difference between a Japanese White Sweet Potato and the other White Sweet Potato I can actually find in my grocery store?

Hi Lena! You can place the potatoes in a pot filled with 1/2 a cup of water brought to a light boil. Cover and let the potatoes cook using the steam created by the water boiling. Be sure to check on them and add more water if it all evaporates to prevent burning. Before blending the potatoes, make sure you drain any excess water.

I was so happy to find your recipes, they combine ingredients in a unique way. I enjoy these bars, I used mixed berries for the filling and they are a wonderful treat. Japanese sweet potatoes are delightful, like chestnuts in taste. With the fruit I used, the filling lost it’s brightness and tang. Perhaps the arrowroot or cinnamon didn’t go so well with these fruits. I will make them again though, delicious!

Where is the recipe for the cherry tarts? also on you f b page I can’t find recipes either. I’m i missing something? I feel stupid lol

I was wondering if it was possible to use tapioca starch instead of arrowroot starch? If it makes a difference I will buy it but I already have the tapioca starch. Thanks.

Is Japanese the same as Asian yams? Also, my son loves figs, can i substitute sugar free fig preserves or us fresh figs and the other ingredients in your filling recipe instead of cherries? thanks

Hi Alaena, I’ve made your recipe several times now and have been meaning to post a comment to say THANK YOU! I love it! I’ve substituted other berries for the cherries, fresh and frozen, and it’s always turned out well. Tonight I’ve rolled the ‘dough’ quite thin in one big rectangular sheet, spread the fruit mixture on (I used blueberries and raspberries), and carefully rolled it up. It held up really well without any cracks.

Would it be possible to replace Coconut oil with lard or some other fat? If so, any ideas on the best one?

I’m making these right now! I’m super excited! Two questions:

1. Do these freeze well? Even for a few days? (I need to make now (Tues) but hoping to use for the weekend. I also want to start batch cooking and make these in advance).

2. I do NOT do well on dates (I’m AIP & feel HORRIBLE the two times I’ve tried to reintroduce). My family can have the dates, tho. Any substitute for the dates?

Thanks in advance for your response!

Thank you so much for this recipe! I love that it doesnt use any sugar and that the crust is a vegetable!! I love it!

Found this recipe this summer and love it! We’ve made several recipes, doubling and quadrupling, with frequent alterations depending on what is available and have had no misses:) Baking the potatoes instead of boiling saves a pan and doesn’t seem to cause any problems for the dough. Using frozen fruit requires a little extra cooking time. We love these. Thank you!

This is a great recipe and is very versatile. I do not use all 5 dates, only 2 or 3, as I find that to be enough. I also sub raspberries or blueberries to mix it up, always good!

These look AMAZING! Cannot wait to try them! Love that they are made with coconut flower which is SOO much cheaper than Tigernut or Cassava! AIP is so dang expensive. Looking forward to making these as a treat!

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