Fall vegan desserts we learned how to make at PLANTLAB in Venice

An early Saturday morning my vegan loving travel friend @vegantravelista and I made our way to  PLANTLAB, a cooking space on About Kinney in Venice where we worked alongside 6 other partner teams to learn how to make 5 vegan desserts in 3 hours. Not only did we have fun orchestrating new recipes, but we learned about new healthy ingredients and tips that were never on my radar. Try avocado in brownies instead of oil, soak nuts to get the enzymes before making almond or cashew milk, or use cacao butter, lacuma powder, coconut sugar, or mesquite powder for health and taste reasons. Make a tasty snack like Coconut Oil Chocolate from vanilla, cacao powder, and maple syrup. Spread mixture, put in freezer and crack it to eat.

Recommended sweeteners included coconut nectar, palm sugar, maple syrup and yacon syrup. Although we have used and heard of superfoods like maca powder, chia seeds, and hemp seeds, we never knew about the benefits of lacuma powder or mesquite powder. We made Pistachio Lacuma Pudding with Cacao Cherry Lace, Pumpkin Spiced Truffles, and Caramel Apples with Pumpkin Seeds. Try making one of our favorite treats.


Caramel Apples with Pumpkin Seed Crunch.


Photo credit: @rawbonbonuk

1 small apple

Using a melon-baller, make apple balls, placing in a bowl with cold lemon water to preserve color. Set aside.


10 medjool dates, pitted and soaked* 1⁄4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon mesquite powder 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water

*Soak dates in 2/3 cup of water for about 30 minutes.

Blend all ingredients until completely smooth (adding additional water as necessary, but using as little as possible). Pour caramel into a small bowl and set aside while preparing the Pumpkin Seed Crunch.


1⁄2 cup + 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
scraped seeds from 1⁄2 vanilla pod pinch of salt

Grind all ingredients in a small food processor. Place in a small bowl, and follow assembly instructions below.


Drain and pat dry the apples with a kitchen towel. Dip the apples into enough caramel sauce to coat. Carefully remove apples, one at a time, from the caramel with a wooden or metal skewer (or a toothpick) and roll in the pumpkin seed crunch, to coat. Chill in the fridge until coating is set.

cacao cherry lace

This adds a beautiful decorative accent to desserts. The flavors of cacao, cherry and almond will complement our pistachio pudding, as well as adding a color and textural contrast.


2 tablespoons cacao powder
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons cacao butter, melted* (or 1 tbsp. coconut oil, as coconut oil does not provide as much structure)
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Drop almond extract
pinch salt

1⁄2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1⁄4 cup cacao nibs

Over a double boiler, melt coconut oil or cacao butter. Whisk in maple syrup, cacao powder, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt, until well combined. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, and drizzle chocolate mixture in patterns on the surface. Sprinkle with dried cherries and cacao nibs, and place in the freezer, to harden. Store in freezer until use.

coconut oil vs. cacao butter:
Either coconut oil or cacao butter can be used in this recipe, the main difference being the rate at which the Cacao Bark will melt, once at room temperature. Coconut oil has a lower melting point than cacao butter so will melt more quickly, and the lace will be more delicate. Cacao butter can be melted the same way as coconut oil – first chop into small pieces with a chef’s knife, and then warm in a dehydrator or in a bowl over warm water (double boiler).

*Measure coconut oil or cacao butter after is it melted. Bark made with cacao butter will melt less quickly than coconut oil at room temperature.

Lacuma Pudding with Cacao Cherry Lace. Photo credit: Melissa Curtin

PLANTLAB is an international culinary academy created to meet the increasing interest and demand for plant-based cuisine and the art of its preparation. The team at PLANTLAB emphasizes the use of whole, organic, unprocessed, plant-based foods to achieve healthy, aesthetically refined and flavorful cuisine. Coursework features intimate classes and weekend workshops which incorporate personalized instruction to allow for a successful, integrated hands-on experience in the academy’s state-of-the-art classrooms and unmatched online platform.

Learn more about PLANTLAB‘s expansion, curriculum and weekend workshops.

Have fun creating flavorful cuisine to transform your life from the inside out.




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