Desserts/ Recipes/ Vegan

Vegan Lemon Bars

Vegan Lemon Bars

Vegan Lemon Bars

I love bringing vegan desserts to social gatherings. I usually don’t mention that what I’ve brought is vegan, and nobody is the wiser. However, people that know me well know that whatever I bring will be vegan, so I do occasionally get grilled on ingredients. And I do occasionally come across a friend or family member who won’t try something on account of the fact that it contains tofu, agar, or some other thing only a vegan would put into their dessert.

Vegan Lemon Bars

It’s awesome when it works out that I don’t have to put anything unusual in. This is especially true when I go and develop a recipe expecting it to be super complicated and require some serious kitchen engineering, only to find that it comes together simply and easily with a bunch of ingredients that (relatively) normal people are likely to be familiar with.

These lemon bars are one example of such a dessert. Honestly, I expected to have to throw in some tofu, or agar, or something, because the lemon curd filling you find in lemon bars is typically made with a bunch of eggs. I did a trial run using plain old coconut cream and cornstarch instead of eggs, and was totally delighted when it worked. I was even more delighted when my husband brought them to work and everyone was shocked that they were vegan.

The crust is equally void of non-weird vegan ingredients, unless you consider coconut oil to be weird, which I don’t. A conventional crust would be made with butter, but the coconut oil and a splash of almond milk did a fantastic job of replacing that.

Vegan Lemon Bars

The bars do take some time to set, but I promise if you’re patient, they’ll do their thing. If you’re bringing them to a social gathering you may want to make them a day in advance so they have plenty of time for that.

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Vegan Lemon Bars

Vegan Lemon Bars

Coconut oil shortbread crust is baked up to tender perfection and topped with a luscious coconut cream lemon curd to make these vegan lemon bars.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 16 bars

Ingredients

For the base:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened a bit but not melted
  • 1/2 cup unflavored soy or almond milk

For the lemon curd:

  • 2/3 cup lemon juice (about 4 to 6 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch turmeric (optional, for color)
  • 3/4 cup coconut cream (see note)

For topping:

  • Powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ยฐF and lightly oil a 9 x 9 inch square baking pan.
  2. Make the base by stirring together the flour, sugar and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Add the coconut oil and cut it in using a pastry cutter or a fork, until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the milk to form a dough, continuing to stir or mix with your hands until it’s nice and uniform.
  3. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Place it into the oven and bake just until the edges begin to brown, about 20 minutes.
  4. While the base bakes, make the curd. Place the the lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon extract, salt, and turmeric (if using) into a small saucepan. Whisk until uniformly combined. Place the saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the coconut cream. Continue to whisk the mixture constantly as it heats up. The mixture should thicken up quickly once it gets to a simmer. Cook about 1 minute more, continuing to whisk vigorously, then remove the saucepan from the heat.
  5. Once the base comes out of the oven, pour the lemon mixture over it, and smooth it out into an even layer. Return the pan to the oven and bake about 15 minutes longer. You should see a few bubbles forming in the curd by this time.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer it to a cooling rack to cool. The curd will continue to set as it cools. Once it has cooled completely and the curd has set, slice into 16 bars.
  7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Notes

Look in the international foods section for coconut cream, right next to the canned coconut milk. Trader Joe’s and Thai Kitchen are two popular brands. If you can’t find it, simply place a can of full fat coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight to chill. When you open the can, it should have separated into solids and water. The solids are the coconut cream.

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Molly
    April 5, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    I am beyond excited to try this recipe! Lemon bars used to be my favorite dessert, but I haven’t had them since becoming vegan about 5 years ago. I will be making these for Easter. Thank you!!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      April 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!!

  • Reply
    Shannon
    April 5, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Sounds really good, I’ll need to make them with a gluten free flour blend, but think that should work out fine:) Thanks!!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      April 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      Thank you! I’d love to hear how the gluten-free version works out if you give it a try!

  • Reply
    cakespy
    April 6, 2017 at 6:52 am

    These look absolutely perfect. Love the idea of coconut oil in lemon bars. Aren’t you clever with the addition of turmeric too! ๐Ÿ™‚ Overall I love how these are healthier but still quite accessible.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      April 6, 2017 at 8:55 am

      Thanks so much!!

  • Reply
    Ashley Madden
    April 7, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Alissa, I love the “non weird” ingredients! I experience the same type of grilling when I bring a dish! Love how these bars don’t have too many ingredients ๐Ÿ™‚ Great post!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      April 8, 2017 at 10:23 am

      Thanks so much Ashley!

  • Reply
    megan w
    April 7, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    can this curd be used without baking? like a lemon cream? or does it get to hard or grainy if you put it in the fridge? hoping to be able to use it with aquafaba pavlova ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks!!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      April 8, 2017 at 10:28 am

      I’m not sure because mine went right into the bars. I can say that right out of the pot the texture was great, but coconut cream gets semi-solid when chilled, so if you stick it in the fridge it might firm up quite a bit. You might be able to let it soften up at room temperature or even substitute a different kind of non-dairy milk. If I have a chance to give it a try I’ll let you know!

  • Reply
    lillian hom
    April 8, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Mine are in the oven now. I can’t wait to taste it. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      April 9, 2017 at 10:31 am

      I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

  • Reply
    Hรฉlรจne
    April 10, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    I tried this recipe last night and was very excited to offer a vegan version of lemon squares for my vegan daughter. Much to my disappointment, the short bread crust was not a success….the lemon curd was amazing, but sadly, the crust was tough and stuck to the bottom. I followed the recipe exactly, and did not over work the dough but it just didn’t work for me! Also, I found that it was too thick, could have used less flour for a thinner base. Next time, I think I will use the gluten free crust from Elana’s pantry version and use this curd- as it really was very yummy.

  • Reply
    Three Brits
    April 11, 2017 at 11:42 am

    These look incredible, will add these to our list to try out!!!
    Also your pictures look amazing!!!

  • Reply
    Beth
    April 15, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    Made them today, delicious!

  • Reply
    Jessica
    December 17, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    Made these yesterday and they were delicious thanks for the recipe, I did have to bake the crust about 30 mins instead of 20 to get the edges to crisp a bit!

    • Reply
      Katie Trant
      December 19, 2017 at 7:43 am

      Hey Jessica – every oven is different so it’s great that you went with your instincts instead of following the recipe timing exactly. Glad you liked these bars as much as we do!

  • Reply
    Kaylin
    March 28, 2018 at 11:58 am

    Would I be able to substitute honey for the granulated sugar?

    • Reply
      Morgan Crutchfield
      March 29, 2018 at 7:58 am

      Hi, Kaylin. Subbing honey would make the recipe vegetarian, but not vegan. If you want to, though you’ll need to: The Rule: Substitute 1/2 to 2/3 cup honey for every cup of sugar.
      Subtract 1/4 cup of other liquids from the recipe for every 1 cup of honey used.
      Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for every 1 cup honey used.
      Reduce the temperature of the oven by 25ยฐF.

  • Reply
    Kai
    May 28, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Great recipe! I used coconut flour and it tastes yummy with the lemon curd.
    I look forward to eating the leftovers this week.
    Thank you!

  • Reply
    Kiera
    June 10, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    These bars tasted great. I tried to do them in a bigger pan, but it really didn’t work. I also used almond flour. It was ok, but I think you need a 9×9 pan. Also, it’s important to keep the curd warm and whisk it just before pouring it. If you let it sit, there are solids and it doesn’t spread evenly.

  • Reply
    Wilma
    June 16, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    This is amazing!! Hands down the best vegan lemon bars. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Reply
    Stef
    August 12, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    Kudos for the ingredients but I cannot believe how much I had to amend this recipe to be passable. Iโ€™m not a vegan but my daughter is, so i made some non-vegan lemon bars the day prior (farm eggs, lemons from moms tree in Berkeley), then tried this recipe tonight. I am all about dairy free foods but there MUST be a slight amount of chemical cooking knowledge here. First off, not nearly enough flour to overcome the oily ness of the coconut oil in the crust. I increased the flour amount by 3/4 Cup. And also, bake it for 5 minutes longer and broil it on high for 5 more minutes as to not let the lemon curd soak into the โ€œdoughโ€. On the to curd. Using only corn starch and coconut oil as binding agents, one must expect to use a significant amount of corn starch to stiffen up the curd. After following this recipe, I added 1/4 more corn starch to the pint where it had the consistency of the non-vegan bars I made the day before. Yes, they will gel up as they cool but according to this recipeโ€™s math, they will be gooey.

    I added yellow food coloring and not turmeric (WHY??) to give these a โ€œlemonyโ€ appearance. My first suggestion was blue, you know for fun.

    I truly appreciate the suggestion to substitute coconut oil vs butter as Iโ€™m super lactose intolerant already and willl likely follow this road now always. However, Do not follow this recipe verbatim unless youโ€™ve not had a lemon bar in the last decade and have forgotten how they taste. Youโ€™ll be cheating yourself out of the things that make lemon bars so special. The crust and the texture of the curd.

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