When life gives you lemons… make some delicious vegan lemon bars! In case you are searching for a refreshing, yummy and easy-to-make dessert, this is everything you need!
When I think of lemon bars, a few specific things pop into my mind: breezy summer afternoons, tea parties, fancy sandwich & cookie platters, the sound of birds chirping… They go hand in hand with sweet memories and have a kind of melancholic, sweet and sour vibe – just like their amazing taste.
Vegan lemon bars are, to me, a classic and sophisticated dessert. Their flavor is present, unmistakable, yet subtle and fresh. So if you’re only into extremely sweet, in-your-face desserts (such as rich chocolate cakes), lemon bars are not going to cut it. They’re meant to be savored slowly, directly from the fridge, incredibly tasty at any time of year, but definitely better on a hot summer day when you feel the need to get an energy boost.
Not much is known about the history of the lemon bars, but my assumption is that they’ve been around for a while, as their two main components, shortbread, and lemon curd, have been popular for centuries. The oldest mention of a lemon bar dates from 1962, in an edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune.
Oh, and here’s a fun fact: lemon bars even appear in the so-beloved children novel Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers, lemon cakes being a favorite of the odd, pretentious nanny. Their bright, yellow color make them, indeed, fit for the prettiest sandwich and cookie platter.
Some other popular lemon desserts around the world include lemon cakes – a favorite of Sansa Stark (if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll know what I’m talking about) and of the Brits, lemon tart (a French delight) and lemon meringue pie (always on the dinner table of the Americans, except for when they’re having another one of their favorite pies, which is blueberry).
Traditional lemon bars do have one problem, though. Their amazingly delicious, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread crust makes them far from being vegan. You guessed it – tons of butter and eggs. So how can you veganize this recipe? And I mean, in a way in which you wouldn’t guess they’re not the real deal?
Well, you can skip on the butter and eggs and use almond and oat flour, coconut oil and coconut sugar for the crust – the flavor is surprisingly similar to the original one! You can also add a bit of lemon juice or lemon zest to this mixture if you want to level up the lemon flavor.
As for the filling, the traditional way uses – you guessed it – more eggs. In fact, this is the way in which you would normally achieve this thick, creamy texture. So, for similar results, you can use a number of things such as coconut cream. Banana is also an option (remember the pancakes which substitute eggs for bananas? this works in the same way), but keep in mind that the flavor can be a bit overpowering and might tune the tanginess of the lemon down a bit.
Lemon bars are fairly easy to prepare as well, so you won’t need a ton of experience or baking skills in order to surprise your loved ones! They don’t take that much time, either – while the crust is blind-baking, you can prepare the cream, so they’re amazing for those summer days when you feel like preparing something special but you don’t want to spend your whole day in the kitchen.
Bonus points: do you even realize how healthy citrus is? Even when used into a dessert, I think that still counts, right? 🙂 Lemons are considered to have mood-lifting and energizing effects, and you’ll see for yourself after trying these bars – they’re like a long breath of fresh air.
Not to mention that you don’t need to waste any part of this delicious fruit. After you squeeze the lemons, make sure to grate them and save the zest. Store it into a mason jar or any other type of glass container and pop it in the freezer.
It’s going to last for about half a year and you can use it anywhere, from pasta and bread to cakes and desserts. It simply makes everything better and gives extra flavor and freshness to any dish. Just please make sure to thoroughly wash your lemons first, as they may be sprayed with all sorts of nasty stuff and you don’t want that in your food.
The only bad part about these vegan lemon bars? Once they’re done, there’s waiting involved. You’ll have to let them cool until they reach room temperature, then pop them in the fridge for 3 or 4 hours, but honestly, best overnight. I know, I know, this seems like torture, but trust me, it’s the only way to enjoy them properly!
The bars are going to set in the fridge, giving the most amazing ooey-gooey texture to the cream. Then all you have to do is cut them with a knife ran under hot water and dust them with powdered sugar just before eating them… perfection! 🙂
Conclusion? When life gives you lemons… I’m pretty sure you’ll know what to do.
- For the base:
- ½ cup blanched almond flour
- ½ cup oat flour
- 1 Tbsp psyllium husks
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp finely ground sea salt
- For the lemon cream layer:
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 cup coconut cream
- ¼ cup cacao butter, melted
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- 1 tsp maca powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- For the topping:
- 1 lemon, sliced
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and lay some parchment paper in a square baking pan.
- Put all the base ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix to combine.
- Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 5-10 minutes, until the top is only lightly browned.
- Once complete, remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 150°C.
- Meanwhile, make the lemon layer:
- Place the sugar and lemon juice in a sauce pan on medium heat. Let simmer until the sugar dissolves completely. Turn off the heat.
- Add the coconut cream, melted coconut oil, vanilla, maca powder and cornstarch in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth.
- Add the coconut mixture to the lemon mixture and whisk until well combined. Stir in the shredded coconut.
- Pour the lemon cream mixture over the baked base.
- Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.
- Let cool for about 10 minutes. Top with lemon slices and remove to the fridge.
- Cut into squares and serve.