Will Travel for Vegan Sweets
Surely you know that “plant-based” is a thing that’s not going away anytime soon, right? From Carl’s Jr. serving up Beyond Burgers to the vegetarian meat section blowing up in grocery stores, today’s consumers are focused on plants for a number of reasons: health, allergies, environment, and animal welfare. Whatever the motivation, there’s one food group that doesn’t typically come to mind when folks hear the word “vegan” — dessert. There was a time when plant-based connoisseurs were happy to settle for frozen banana blended into soft serve ice cream, chocolate mousse made with avocado, and brownies featuring black beans. Hey, we’ve had them all and we’re not knocking them, but let’s just say that the plant-sourced dessert scene has been elevated by creative bakers and foodie entrepreneurs. Sweet, decadent (or not) treats are far more easily found, including in Southern Colorado.
In Colorado Springs — home to six vegan restaurants and numerous uber-vegan-friendly spots — the sweet treats are as diverse as the dining venues. At the Burrowing Owl, the city’s first “vegan dive bar,” comfort food is the name of the game and that’s what you’ll find on the dessert menu, too. Brownies and cookies, sweets at their simplest, are covered in icing because, well, icing. You can even get that brownie served up in an ice cream sundae, too.
If ice cream is the name of your sweet tooth game, Frozen Gold — the newest niche ice cream shop in the Springs — makes one of the best vegan desserts in town: the Samoa Samoa. A nod to a Girl Scout cookie, this coconut-based vegan soft serve is covered with goodies including caramel, Rice Krispies, and fudge.
For a treat twist, the Empanadas de Plátano at traditional Salvadoran Monse’s Pupuseria is the perfect sweet ending to any of the vegan savory plates. In this case, the empanadas plantain crust is filled with sweet corn pudding or cinnamon and sugar. And while you’re in the Old Colorado City neck of the woods, keep going west to Manitou Springs. Adam’s Mountain Café always has a vegan cake special: the baker’s cake rotation includes gingerbread, orange, vanilla strawberry, chocolate, lemon blueberry, carrot, and more.
The allergen-free diner does not get slighted in Colorado Springs. Sweet Elizabeth’s Organics — a plant-based, allergy-friendly, gluten-free bakery and café — fills the bakery case daily with fresh-out-of-the oven donuts, scones, cookies, cupcakes and, not to be missed, Mini-Bundt Cakes and Whoopie Pies. It’s an ideal spot for a family-friendly breakfast or lunch. Find even more enticing gluten-free treats at Coquette’s Bistro & Bakery where there are always at least three flavors of vegan cupcakes available, ranging from the infamous Chocolate to the Almond Joy and Vanilla Berry. And for the sporty types, after rock climbing at CityROCK, duck into The Ute & Yeti for their vegan and gluten-free P-Nut Butt Pie — a nearly healthy serving of peanut butter and chocolate in a pine nut and oat crust.
The plant-based fun isn’t limited to Colorado Springs. Further down I-25, vegan dessert vibes can also be found. In Pueblo, you’ll find a gluten-free and vegan Macaroon with an Espresso Chocolate Grenache at Solar Roast Coffee. For those of you who ride the savory-sweet dessert train, it’s all about the vegan bagels at The Hanging Tree Café, which could be considered a meal or a dessert (our favorite dilemma). The Buddha Bagel is drizzled with olive oil and served with avocado, diced apples, blueberries, cracked pepper, sea salt, and a heavy-striped drizzle of their house made blueberry hibiscus. Kick it up a notch with the Flaming Lips bagel starring peanut butter, fresh sliced jalapenos, and pear sage glaze with some diced pear.
Even further south, slip back into the traditional treats in Trinidad. At Sita’s Kitchen, a vegan spot just off the highway, you can feel good about ending your wholesome meal with their sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, Coconut Lemon Bundt cake, or even a Chocolate Silk Pie. With ample gluten-free options and nearly all organic ingredients, the desserts are made with “integrity and love.”
To the west, farm-to-table Teek: That Eatery in Cañon City proves that vegan dessert is never boring (hello, aquafaba, you darling bean-based egg replacement). The daily desserts vary so don’t get your heart set on one. Just get excited because whether it’s the vegan Chocolate Mousse, the vegan Meringue Pie or any another plant-based creation from the chef, your sweet tooth will be satisfied.
In Buena Vista, you’ll find continued proof that plant-based is trending: The Evergreen Café recently transitioned to 100 percent vegan, and that means their desserts are plant-based, too. Using whole foods like oats, flaxseed, applesauce and plant milks, you’ll always find a tantalizing treat; from cookies, cake, muffins, and baklava to — we’re looking at you, health nut — chia and hemp seed Super Energy Balls.
There was a time when making a vegan request at a restaurant, café, or bakery got a seriously hard eye roll. These days, you’re far more likely to receive an enthusiastic response because the times they are a-changin. And they are changing sweetly in Southern Colorado.
Words by JL Fields