These sweet and salty healthier homemade payday bars are super similar to the classic candy bars, but are vegan, gluten and refined sugar-free, and made with only a few ingredients.

Tray of healthy homemade payday bars

Growing up, my dad was the biggest payday fan. He’d always have them around, so they’re so nostalgic to me. I knew I had to make a homemade version with better for you ingredients and I couldn’t be happier with these! I am all for treating yourself to the real deal, but once I made these at home, I never wanted to go back to the store-bought option. These just taste so much fresher and aren’t full of unnecessary additives. Let’s take a peak at the ingredients:

Classic Payday bar: Peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, skim milk, vegetable oil (palm oil, sunflower oil), contains 2% or less of: salt, carrageenan, mono- and diglycerides.

These homemade payday bars: Peanuts, peanut butter, canned coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, sea salt.

As you can see, the ingredients in these homemade payday bars are so much simpler than the classic payday bar. A lot of homemade payday bar recipes include marshmallows, but this version is made without marshmallows to keep them refined sugar free!

Payday bar recipe video

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Super simple and easy to make!
  • They’re vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free.
  • Tastes even better than the classic Payday Bar!
  • Made with 6ish simple, wholesome ingredients.
  • They’re versatile, so you can use cashews instead of peanuts to make them peanut-free.

Texture of a payday bar

The texture is pretty similar, however, because I wanted to keep the ingredients short and sweet, these come out just slightly different. I feel like the originals are a little more chewy, while these are a bit more fudgy. Regardless, the flavors are on point and they are so similar! If you did want a chewier payday bar, you could try subbing half of the maple syrup with coconut sugar – I think this will help!

How to make payday bars



  • Peanuts: I love using roasted peanuts for a deeper flavor, but any will work! If you can’t have peanuts, you can substitute another nut, like almonds.
  • Peanut Butter: I always opt for an all-natural peanut butter with only peanuts or peanuts and sea salt for ingredients. If you need to substitute something for peanut butter, almond or cashew butter work great.
  • Canned coconut milk: Full-fat canned coconut milk will create the best results. I don’t recommend using light coconut milk.
  • Maple Syrup
  • Coconut sugar: You can also try using regular sugar or brown sugar if you aren’t refined sugar-free.
  • Vanilla extract & sea salt
Healthy payday bars without marshmallows

Steps to make payday bars

  • Step one: Make the caramel layer by combining the coconut milk, maple syrup, coconut sugar, vanilla, and sea salt in a small saucepan. You’ll bring it to a boil over medium heat. Stirring constantly, let the mixture boil for 5 minutes. Then reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 35-45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to reduce and deepen in color.
  • Step two: Next, you’ll remove it from the heat and stir in the peanut butter.
  • Step three: Then you’ll add a layer of peanuts to the bottom of a lined loaf pan, before pouring the peanut butter caramel mixture over top. Then you’ll top the caramel layer with some more peanuts, pressing them down into the top, gently.
  • Step four: Pop the tray in the freezer to firm up for 3-4 hours before cutting into pieces!

Storing Healthier Homemade Payday bars

These are best stored in an air-tight container in the freezer! They should last up to a month (if not longer, but ours never last that long!)

FAQ’s, tips, & tricks

  • Be patient! Sometimes the mixture can take awhile to thicken. Even if it seems like it never will, don’t give up! If after 35-40 minutes your mixture still hasn’t thickened a bit, turn the heat up just a TINY bit, continuing to stir frequently.
  • Store them in the freezer: The texture of these is formulated to be kept in the freezer. Storing them in the fridge will make them too soft.
  • Can I swap the peanuts for another nut? Yes! If you have peanut allergies, feel free to swap in cashews! They are delicious in this recipe. You can use cashew butter or almond butter in place of peanut butter.

Other homemade candy recipes you’ll love!

Healthier Homemade Payday Bars

These sweet and salty homemade payday bars are super similar to the classic candy bars, but are vegan, gluten and refined sugar-free, and made with only a few ingredients!
4.50 from 4 votes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Freezer time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 35 minutes
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 12 Squares
Calories 1 kcal


  • 2 cups peanuts
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt


  • Add the coconut milk, oil, vanilla, sea salt, maple syrup, and coconut sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Let the mixture boil for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  • Let the mixture simmer for 35-40 minutes, until it deepens in color and starts reducing. Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter until smooth.
  • Line a bread loaf pan with parchment paper. Add 1 cup of peanuts to the bottom, spreading them out evenly.
  • Pour the caramel mixture over top of the peanuts, spreading it out evenly.
  • Top the caramel layer with the remaining 1 cup of peanuts, pressing them super gently into the top.
  • Place the pan in the freezer for 2-4 hours, or overnight, before cutting into pieces.


Store these in an air-tight container in the freezer.
Keyword caramel, healthy dessert, homemade candy, payday, Peanut Butter, vegan dessert

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    1. Hi! So happy you liked them!! They may melt in the fridge! I recommend storing them in the freezer and letting them thaw in the fridge a bit if you want a softer texture!

      1. Thank you for replying. I thought that might be the case, but wanted to confirm. Do you think if they were covered in chocolate they would not melt in the fridge?

  1. 3 stars
    I found the oil separated when I stirred the peanut butter in 🙁
    Then more separation after freezing, when I turned the block out the pan, the oil in the coconut milk had left a white layer coating the top, bottom and sides of the mix. What did I do wrong?

    1. Hi victoria! Oh, no! So sorry you had an issue. I haven’t had anyone else tell me they’ve experienced this, so i’m not quite sure what would have caused it.. Was the coconut milk mixture thickened when you removed it from the stove?

          1. Hi Shirley! You can use either. I used raw peanuts but the roasted peanuts could also give more flavor and would still be delicious!

  2. 5 stars
    I made a batch of these for a get together/girls night and literally everyone wanted the recipe. Thank you!

  3. The directions in the recipe don’t say when to add the coconut sugar, do you boil it with the other ingredients?

    1. Hi Jennifer! I’m Sorry, it automatically does that! I skip the nutritional facts as I know the numbers can be a little triggering for some! I focus on using high quality, nutritious ingredients & want everyone to be able to enjoy treats without focusing on the numbers! (: But I totally understand some people like to keep track – Because different brands contain different nutritional profiles, the numbers are never accurate anyway unless you’re using the same exact brands I do, so I always recommend plugging the recipe into my Fitness Pal with the brands you use so the numbers are accurate for you!

    1. Hi Lone! You want to use a can of full-fat coconut milk – so the liquid and the cream from inside the can! And yes, any granulated sweetener would work – brown sugar, etc.

  4. I am going to try these omitting the P-nuts and substituting another nut butter and pecans hoping they will turn out more like a praline log. (We have family with severe P-nut allergies, so I never have any P-nuts in my home). Great idea. Love your recipes! Thank you for sharing your great ideas.

    1. Hi Penny! Aw, that sounds great! I’ve actually made these with almond butter and cashews as the nuts and they were amazing! Let me know if you use pecans and how that works! Appreciate you!

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