Alfajores are the national cookie of Argentina and are usually filled to the brim with sugar – but this recipe uses just the tiniest bit of maple syrup and stevia to sweeten them. These Sugar Free Aljafores are also Gluten Free and Dairy Free, so if you’re an alfajor aficionado and you’ve been missing them, well, this is my gift to you. Amazingly delicious Sugar Free Alfajores!
Just say the word “Alfajores” to any Argentinean, and be prepared for a long trip down memory lane as they recount all their favorite varieties and brands. Alfajores are THE cookie of Argentina. Yes, you can find them in Peru and other South American cookies, but it is in Argentina that they have truly been idolized.
What are alfajores? They are truly swoon-worthy cookies that literally melt in your mouth due to the high proportion of cornstarch used in the dough. I can’t pretend that there’s anything healthy about these cookies, but as far as a special treat goes, these are the bomb. If someone brings you a box of homemade alfajores, then you know you have someone in your life who loves you very much.
Because alfajores are a bit of a labor of love. But they oh so worth it.
There are many variations of alfajores, but the most common and traditional is made of two tender cornstarch cookies kissed with lemon zest holding a dollop of dulce de leche (caramel) between them and rolled in coconut. The cookies are heavenly by themselves, and when you add the dulce de leche, it’s an divine combination of textures and flavors.
Alfajores originated in Arab cooking (any Spanish word that starts with “al-“ usually has Arabic roots). There are different explanations for what the cookies were actually called and what the cookies actually were, but once they arrived in Spain, they were called “alaju” which turned into “alfajor”. The Spanish brought this delicious cookie along with them when they migrated to South America.
Apparently, in the 1950s, mass alfajores production took over in the beach vacation town of Mar del Plata, south of Buenos Aires on the Argentinean coast. It was the kind of special treat that people would bring back home with them from their vacation, and soon alfajor mania took over. Now there are many brands that just make alfajores and bakeries that specialize in making only alfajores. They’re that good.
Truth be told, I never actually had a real full-of-sugar-and-gluten alfajor. I didn’t even know they existed until I met my husband and slowly began my entry into the world of Argentinean cuisine. But he grew up in Argentina and loved there well into adulthood. He has eaten many, many alfajores, and he gave his approval of this recipe that I’m sharing with you.
I may not have had the real thing, but I have to admit that I am already addicted to these Sugar Free Alfajores. Thankfully, they’re a bit fiddly to make. If they were too easy, I would be making them far too often and consuming far more than is probably healthy even with the sugar and gluten removed.
What makes these cookies so amazing? Like I said above, it’s the cornstarch. The cornstarch makes the cookie super soft and crumbly, and the cookie just melts in your mouth. Add some caramel to that, and you have the smooth, sticky texture of the caramel combined with the crumbly lemony cookie – and it’s pure heaven. I like to make these cookies small enough (about 1 inch in diameter) so that I can pop the whole thing in my mouth. It’s the best way to get all the textures and flavors together – and it’s also avoids the mess of crumbs falling on the floor, since I often find myself grabbing one (or two… or three) every time I walk past the refrigerator.
Follow the instructions below, and you’ll have amazing Sugar Free Alfajores. There are three parts – the caramel filling, the cookies, and the coconut that you roll the cookies in. Make sure you soak the dates for the caramel filling a few hours ahead of time. Then, once you’ve made the cookies, you can make the caramel filling. By the time the filling is finished, the cookies should be cool and ready to assemble.
I hope you’ll give this recipe a try and let me know how it turns out for you in the comments. Happy alfajores eating!
Why You’ll LOVE this Recipe:
- Sugar Free
- Argentina’s national cookie
- Gluten Free
- Dairy Free
- Melt in your mouth
Ingredients for Sugar Free Alfajores:
- Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
- maple syrup
- liquid stevia
- egg yolks
- whole egg
- lemon zest
- vanilla extract
- Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
- baking powder
- baking soda
- pine nuts
- coconut oil
- date soaking water
- shredded coconut
Notes on Ingredients:
Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks – This shortening is the best dairy-free alternative to butter for these cookies. The cookies can’t get too greasy, so coconut oil wouldn’t work here.
Maple syrup – These cookies need a touch of maple syrup to help the dough stay together.
Liquid stevia – Cutting way down on the maple syrup and adding a bit of stevia helps to keep the sugar content of these cookies as low as possible.
Egg yolks – Egg yolks give moisture and structure to the cookies.
Whole egg – The whole egg gives binding and structure.
Lemon zest – The lemon zest is the magic ingredient in these cookies for me. Make sure you use a microplane zester to get the zest super small and without any of the bitter rind.
Vanilla extract – For flavor.
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour – This is replacing the usual gluteny flour. These cookies are mostly cornstarch which is naturally gluten-free, so they’re actually an easy gluten-free transformation.
Cornstarch – This cookie depends on cornstarch. Don’t use anything else. Only cornstarch will give you the tender crumbliness that you want but without the whole cookie falling apart.
Baking powder – This is your leavener. Even though these cookies are thin, we still do want cookies and not flat wafers.
Baking soda – An extra leavener since we’re using lemon (an acid).
Dates – Pitted dates are what’s needed here. I have used Medjool dates and Noor dates, and both work wonderfully.
Pine nuts – Pine nuts work beautifully in the caramel filling, but they are a very expensive nut. I use them, because they’re low in FODMAPS. If FODMAPS aren’t a concern for you, you can use cashews in place of the pine nuts. Just be sure to soak the cashews for 3 hours before adding them to the food processor.
Salt – For flavor, but only in the caramel filling.
Coconut oil – A touch of coconut oil helps the caramel filling to firm up when the cookies are refrigerated.
Date soaking water – Use the water that the dates soaked in to thin out the caramel. I use ½ cup, but you can add one tablespoon at a time if you want to control the thickness of your caramel more precisely.
Shredded coconut – The shredded coconut is for rolling the alfajores in once they have been assembled. Make sure you use unsweetened shredded coconut. The shredded coconut adds a nice texture and sweetness that complements all of the other flavors in the cookie (namely the caramel filling and the lemon flavor of the cookie).
How to Make Sugar Free Alfajores From Scratch
First things first. Before you get started, make sure you soak the dates in a bowl of water for at least 3 hours before making the caramel filling. Just leave the bowl out on the counter at room temperature while they’re soaking. If you’re using cashews instead of pine nuts for the caramel filling, be sure to soak the cashews as well for 3 hours. Put them in a separate bowl of water from the dates and let them sit at room temperature for 3 hours.
Make the Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats.
You really need a stand mixer or a hand mixer for this cookie dough, because we’re relying on the mechanical action of the mixer to cream the shortening and get air into it. This would be hard to do by hand.
Cream the Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks with the maple syrup and liquid stevia. It’s important to have your Earth Balance softened before creaming it so that it really gets smooth and fluffy.
Next, add the egg yolks, whole egg, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Mix on medium to combine.
Now, get ready to add the dry ingredients. Add the Gluten Free flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix on low until dough holds together. Really, please keep the mixer on LOW while adding the dry ingredients. Cornstarch gets all over the place so easily, and if you crank up the mixer even just a bit, you and your kitchen will be covered in cornstarch. Just keep it on low.
Once the dough is holding together, roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper on a flat surface. Roll it out to about ¼ inch thickness. Don’t go too thin, or it will be impossible to transfer the cookie to the baking sheet, and the cookies risk getting overcooked as well.
Use a 1-inch circle cutter to cut out cookies. Place them on the two prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 9 minutes. Remove from the oven immediately and allow the cookies to cool completely before assembling.
Make the Caramel Filling
Drain the soaked dates (and cashews, if you’re using cashews in place of pine nuts), but save the date soaking water.
In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, dates, liquid stevia, vanilla, salt, and coconut oil. Add ½ cup of the date soaking water. Stop the food processor a few times to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Blend until the caramel filling is very smooth.
Keep the caramel filling at room temperature so that it’s soft and easy to spread when assembling the cookies. If you’re not assembling your cookies immediately, then store the caramel filling in the refrigerator. But be sure to bring it to room temperature before you’re ready to assemble the cookies.
Assemble the Cookies
Spread one cookie with the caramel filling. Sandwich it together with another cookie until the filling comes out just to the edges. Don’t worry about being super neat about this – when you roll the cookie in the shredded coconut, the shredded coconut covers up the filling.
Repeat this process until all of the cookies have been assembled into beautiful alfajores.
Put the cookies on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the cookies until ready to serve.
You can eat these cookies right away after making them, but the filling will be soft and it might be a bit messy (again, not a problem if you just pop the whole thing in your mouth). But if you refrigerate the cookies first, the filling will firm up and it makes it much easier to serve them.
However you eat them, I sincerely hope that you enjoy them and that they become a new favorite of your home as they are of ours.
More Sugar Free & Gluten Free Cookies:
Sugar Free Alfajores Cookies – Gluten Free Dairy Free
- 1 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (2 sticks),softened
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon liquid stevia
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg
- 2 teaspoon lemon zest, microplaned
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
- 2 ½ cups cornstarch
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup dates, pitted
- 1 cup pine nuts
- ¼ teaspoon liquid stevia
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
- ½ cup date soaking water
- 1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
- Soak the dates in a bowl of water for about 3 hours. Drain the dates but reserve the date soaking water.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats.
- In a stand mixer, cream the Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks with the maple syrup and liquid stevia.
- Add the egg yolks, whole egg, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Mix on medium to combine.
- Add the Gluten Free flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix on low until dough holds together.
- Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper to about ¼ inch thickness. Cut out cookies with a 1-inch round cutter and place on prepared baking sheets.
- Bake for 9 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before assembling.
- Make the caramel filling. In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, dates, liquid stevia, vanilla, salt, and coconut oil. Add ½ cup of the date soaking water. Blend until very smooth.
- Assemble the cookies. Spread one cookie with the caramel filling. Sandwich it together with another cookie until the filling comes out just to the edges.
- Roll the edges of the cookie in the shredded coconut so that the caramel filling is coated with coconut. Repeat until all the cookies have been used up.
- Put assembled cookies on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate cookies until ready to serve.
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