Vegan Lemon Bars are the perfect Summer dessert! They are naturally sweetened, and have a creamy lemon layer with no cornstarch or eggs. They remind me of a cross between cheesecake and lemon bars, which is a delicious combination.
These vegan lemon bars are actually adapted from an old recipe that I used to call “Lemon Meltaways.” I would pour the creamy lemon filling into mini muffin cups, and eat it straight from the freezer without a crust! You can totally do that, too, if you want a super low-maintenance dessert.
Ingredients You’ll Need
To make vegan lemon bars, you’ll need just a handful of simple ingredients to make the lemon filling.
- Cashews (use raw for the most neutral flavor)
- Lemon juice + zest
- Maple Syrup
- Coconut Oil
That’s it! Because this recipe doesn’t use eggs or a starch to thicken the filling, you’ll need to serve them cold. I store mine in the freezer so they’ll stay extra-firm. They will soften up relatively fast at room temperature, so don’t leave them out for more than 20 minutes or so, if you’re serving these to guests.
How to Make Them
To make the lemon bar crust, preheat the oven to 350ºF and mix together the almond flour, maple syrup, coconut oil, and salt.
Press the crust into a lined 8-inch square pan. It won’t feel like there’s a ton of crust, but it should spread out over the entire bottom of the pan. I also tested this crust recipe with 1/4 cup more almond flour, but I prefer this smaller amount, so the crust flavor doesn’t overpower the lemon layer. Feel free to use more almond flour, though, if you prefer a thicker crust.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are golden. This will give you a crispy, shortbread crust! Be sure to let the crust cool completely before you add the lemon filling on top.
To make the vegan lemon bar filling, combine the cashews, lemon juice, zest, maple syrup, and oil, and blend until very smooth. Stop and scrape down the sides, to make sure you don’t miss any large cashew pieces.
Pro Tip: Grind the cashews into a powder first, to help avoid missing a large cashew. Even in my Vitamix, I missed a few while testing this recipe.
Pour the lemon filling over the cooled crust, then smooth the top. Place the pan on a flat surface in your freezer to freeze until firm, about 4 hours.
When the lemon filling feels very firm to the touch in the center of the pan, you can slice the bars and serve chilled!
Note: We eat these without any powdered sugar on top, because they’re already sweet enough, but I couldn’t resist adding a little powdered sugar on top for the photos. Feel free to serve them either way! Look for an organic sugar to make sure it’s vegan.
How to Store Them
These vegan lemon bars need to be stored in the freezer to keep their firm texture. You can move them to the fridge up to an hour before serving, if you want a softer texture.
Be sure to transfer them to an airtight container once they are sliced, so they won’t pick up any extra flavors from the freezer. They should keep well for at least 3 months frozen, but I bet you’ll eat them all before then!
Need to make a swap? Here’s my best guess on what might work here.
- Cashews. You can use cashew butter instead of whole cashews here. This will work best flavor-wise if you use raw cashew butter, rather than roasted. Otherwise your lemon bars will also taste “roasted.”
- Coconut Oil. This type of oil is solid when chilled, which is necessary for this recipe. You can use a vegan butter as a swap, or you might try blending this recipe with 2 to 3 tablespoons of arrowroot starch or cornstarch, to see if that might act as a binder instead. (This is untested, so experiment at your own risk!)
- Maple syrup. You can use honey, if you don’t need this recipe to be vegan. I think honey is stronger in flavor, so you might want to use a little less, to keep the flavor mild.
For a nut-free crust, try my oat flour pie crust as an alternative.
Note: You can enjoy the lemon filling on its own, similar to Almond Butter Fudge, if you want to skip the crust!
Vegan Lemon Bars
Almond Flour Crust
- 1 cup whole cashews (not roasted; 142 grams)
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (118 grams)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (5 grams)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup (155 grams)
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil (53 grams)
- To prepare the crust, preheat the oven to 350ºF and stir together the almond flour, oil, maple syrup, and salt. Stir until a thick dough is formed. It should stick together when pressed between your fingers.
- Line an 8-inch square dish with parchment paper. You can lightly spray it with oil, then add the parchment paper to help it hold in pace. Press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan evenly. It won't be very thick, but it should cover the bottom of the pan. Bake this at 350ºF for 15 minutes for a lightly golden crust. Let it cool completely.
- To make the filling, add the cashews to a blender and blend briefly. (This way you won't get big chunks of cashews in your filling.) Add in the lemon juice, zest, maple syrup, and oil, and blend again until silky smooth, with no visible chunks.
- Pour the filling over the cooled pie crust then smooth the top with a spatula. Set the pan on a flat surface in your freezer to set until firm, about 4 hours, or overnight.
- When the filling feels firm to the touch, slice into 16 small bars and serve chilled. These bars will soften if they sit out at room temperature for too long. For a softer filling, you can serve them from the fridge instead. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Update note: This recipe was updated in May 2021 to be bars, rather than just lemon filling in muffin cups. If you miss the original recipe, you can use 1/2 cup cashew butter, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons raw honey, 3 tablespoons coconut oil, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and 2 teaspoons of lemon zest to fill 12 mini muffin liners. Freeze until firm, and garnish with extra lemon zest, if desired.
If you try these Vegan Lemon Bars, please leave a comment below letting me know how you like them. And if you make any modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too!