Vegan Lemon Bars

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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.

vegan lemon bars with powdered sugar on top

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.

almond flour crust stirred together

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.

lemon bar filling in blender

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.

lemon bar filling poured over crust

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!

sliced vegan lemon bars on marble board

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!

vegan lemon bars stacked on white surface

Substitutions

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.

vegan lemon bars with crust and powdered sugar

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 with crust and powdered sugar
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4.85 from 19 votes

Vegan Lemon Bars

Vegan Lemon Bars are made without eggs or dairy, for a naturally sweet treat! The filling is made with creamy cashews, so this recipe reminds me of a creamy lemon cheesecake, too.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword Vegan lemon bars
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 16
Calories 164kcal

Ingredients

Almond Flour Crust

Lemon Filling

  • 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)

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

Nutrition information is for 1 of 16 bars. This is automatically calculated and is just an estimate, not a guarantee.
Need a lower calorie treat? Skip the crust and enjoy the creamy lemon filling on its own, like a lemon-flavored fudge.

Nutrition

Calories: 164kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 39mg | Potassium: 90mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 1mg

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.

stacks of raw lemon meltaways

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!

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Comments

Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat

These are so cute!! I really love the idea of putting the graham cracker crust in the bottom too. So light and perfect for summer!

LizAshlee

They look so tasty and refreshing! Mmmm mmm! 🙂

Madelyn

Love the post. Looks so good. I will have to try it out. I have a random question I’ve been wanting to ask you. Why don’t you eat beans? The only ones I like are garbonzo beans in my salads. I can’t do cheese because I get rashes from dairy. And garbonzo beans keep me full for a long time. What about quinoa? Just curious about your opinion. Also, do you have an advice for me. I’m getting married on September and would love to tone up and lose 5-10lb. 🙂 I eat pretty good but seem to snack healthy things a lot.

    Megan

    Beans don’t sit too well in my system, so I tend to avoid them for the most part. I do still enjoy them on a rare occasion, like at a dinner out, just not regularly.

    My best advice is to not do anything too drastic before your wedding! Brides have a tendency to fall victim to get-slim-quick plans, and can wind up miserably yo-yoing before their big day. Your skin and body will thank you for eating well and being consistent. 🙂

jeanne

Lemon in summer is so right. This looks fantastic and gives me an excuse to eat cashew butter…Thanks!!!!

Gabby @ the veggie nook

Oh my gosh, that batter (mixture? whatever it’s called lol) looks heavenly- I could eat that with a spoon!

However, I would try and refrain so I could freeze it into these morsels- looks like such a refreshing treat for summer!

Tiffany

These look yummy! Do you think I could make my own cashew butter in my food processor instead of buying a jar of it?

    Megan

    Yes, you can definitely make your own! Just make sure you don’t soak the cashews before blending– the water can affect the results.

Maria

I tried to make the cashew butter with my vitamix but I only got cashew flour, so the result was a grainy lemon meltaway. Also exchange the honey for liquid stevia. As soon as I’m done with the candida diet 🙂 I will try your original recipe. The flavor is great! Loved it ! Can you help me with the cashew or almond butter? I don’t need any more flour 🙂
LOVE ALL YOUR RECIPES ! And whenever I feel that I am falling off the wagon I start reading your old posts and rapidly get back in track. THANK YOU FOR SHARING AND HELPING SO MUCH !

    Megan

    If the nuts aren’t breaking down into a butter, I add a touch of oil to the blender, to help facilitate blending. Just add a little at a time, until it starts to break down further into the nut butter. Macadamia nut or almond oil are good options!

    Caitlin

    Hi! Can you tell me how much liquid stevia you used in place of the honey (2T seems like way too much)? I, too, am on a Candida diet and would love to make these sans honey!

    Thanks 🙂

      Megan

      Stevia is tricky to give measurements for, because it will depend on the brand you’re using, along with how sensitized you are to the sweet taste of stevia. Those who have been using stevia for a long time will need to add more than a person who just started using it. Luckily, you can just add it a few drops at a time and taste the batter as you go, until it perfectly suits your own taste!

Maria

Thank you !

Lisa

These look delicious!! I totally am obsessed with cashew butter, so these are right up my alley. I may just leave the lemon out since I’m not much of a lemon fan in desserts! And how adorable are these

    Megan

    It’s delicious without the lemon, too! Sometimes I’ll add vanilla instead, and it tastes like frosting. 😉

Anna

Do they have a strong coconut oil taste/smell?
I find whenever I make sweets with coconut oil is seems to overpower the other ingredients.

    Megan

    I don’t think the coconut oil taste is very prominent– though, I may be immune to it at this point, since I eat coconut oil so often! The tartness of the lemon is definitely the stronger flavor in this particular recipe.

    Also, different coconut oils have different tastes, so you might try experimenting with different brands to see if one has less of a coconut-y flavor for you. (I’ve heard that Tropical Traditions is good in that regard!)

maryrose

i love this recipe

siew wei

hi may i know what can i do to cover the weird odor that coconut oil produces in baking? :/

    Megan

    I’ve never noticed a weird odor while baking with coconut oil! Though, I usually add garlic to everything, so maybe that covers it.

    Since this recipe is raw, there’s no baking or odor to worry about! 😉

Tracy

Can you use almond butter instead of cashew butter in this recipe?

    Megan

    Hmm… I have no idea! Almond butter has a distinct flavor, so it may interfere with the lemon taste. I guess you’ll never know until you try!

    And please let us know how it works! 😉

    Valerie

    I want to try making these. I am allergic to cashews. Do you think sunflower seeds or sunflower butter would work instead of cashews?

Robyn

What a beautiful light/raw/healthy summer-time treat…making<3

MM

Made these for my wife last night, they came out GREAT!

Thanks, MM.

Veggie V! @ Veggie V's Vegan Adventure

Wonder how these would be with coconut butter instead of coconut oil…Love the combo of lemon and coconut! Mmmm…so refreshing!

    Megan

    I bet the coconut butter would be delicious, too! Let me know how it turns out! 😉

Jillian

These are delicious!! I tried them with almond butter, because I didn’t have cashew butter on hand, but they were so good. Thank you so much for all of your easy and delicious recipes!

Kelly

I’m about to try them with almond butter right now! Bet they’ll be great. Thanks!

Jessica Kiehn

oh my, my, my. How do you do it? Genius!

Betsy

I’m craving something like this right now! Great recipe!

Michelle Luna

I don’t like lemon, and LOVE anything that tastes like vanilla frosting. What exactly do you use instead of the 3 tbsp lemon juice for vanilla? Extract, of the same volume? I’ve got madagascar vanilla powder, which I haven’t used yet because I have no idea how to use it in place of extract… (I heard extract wasn’t as “good” tasting since it’s alcohol-based so I got a jar of this stuff to try adding to teas and vegan raw chocolate, but it’s just collecting dust so far)

    Megan

    Hmmm… I’d probably increase the vanilla to 1/2 teaspoon to punch the flavor, and maybe just try a couple tablespoons of water instead of the lemon juice? I’ve never tried the vanilla powder, either. I’d love to hear how it goes!

Jessica

I found this recipe from Pinterest and have had it on my list for a while… it took me a while to find the ingredients. I just made them tonight and mmmm they are delicious!! Once you blend it up, it doesn’t look lemony because of the cashew butter, but then you get a surprise lemony punch when you taste it. YUM! Thanks so much- this is a great way to start trying to eat more raw foods- it shows me that I can have tasty treats too! I can’t figure out how to rate it more than 1 star, but I give it 5!!

Wendy

Will you please provide nutritional information like grams of sugar,protein, carbs, etc. And what is the calorie count?
Thank you,

Trina

what can you use in place of walnuts for your recipes? I’m allergic to nuts. I’m excited to try some of your recipes.

    Megan

    There are no walnuts in this recipe, but if you’re allergic to cashews as well, it will be tricky to replicate the exact flavor. You can try using seeds, such as sunflower seeds, or maybe try something like cream cheese? It’ll definitely take some experimenting! Good luck!

Jen

What brand of cashew butter do you use? I just made these (delicious!!) but mine are a darker color. More like roasted cashews even though the jar says raw. I used clear vanilla too so that’s not it. I love all of your recipes I’ve tried so far! Thanks!!

    Megan

    I make my own cashew butter in the Vitamix, but Artisana makes a version that is very similar.

Emelie

These were seriously good! I even had a whole cup of cashew butter and it still came out great! My mum liked them too!

/All the way from Sweden

Zae

These are the most delicious treats I have ever tasted. Super easy to make and best of all they were raw.

Natalia

Mixed some of these up tonight with tahini as im allergic to all nuts and most seeds. Really excited to try them tomorow, supposed to be a hot day here.

Thnk yu for sharing such easy, healthy, adaptable recipes 🙂

Crystal

hey Megan! Could I sub soaked cashews blended in the vitamix for the cashew butter? Or is the consistency affected significantly?

    Megan

    I would thoroughly dry the cashews in a dehydrator or oven before blending them into cashew butter. Wet cashews create a very strange, gooey texture that I don’t care for in any cashew-based desserts. But, it’s definitely easy to make your own cashew butter in the Vitamix, as long as the cashews are dry. I do it all the time!

Leah

Another great recipe from you! Thank you 🙂 WIll try the crust need time and make them into bars 🙂

karen

How much raw cashews should I use to substitute for the cashew butter?

    Megan

    Typically, 1 cup raw cashews = 1/2 cup cashew butter.

Rebecca

Made these tonite… A–MAZING!! So good! I am a lemon lover and these just hit the spot. Soooo good!!

Sarah

Do you think macadamia butter would be a good substitute? My daughter is allergic to cashews, and macadamias seem like a similar nut to cashews. Maybe too oily? Anyone sub that out yet?

J

I’m allergic to cashews…any subs?

Sam

Would you not recommend omitting the vanilla extract!?! I’ve been dying to make these and now realize I have no vanilla on hand:( should I just wait and go but some?! Ha

Kendall

This was my 7th or 8th recipe I’ve tried from your website. While most of them have tasted pretty good (I have been making your muffins regularly), not one of my recipes has turned out anything like your pictures. I have no idea how you got your lemon meltaways so pale and yellow like that. :/

    Marjana

    Mine turned out brown but that’s because I used regular cashew butter instead of raw cashew butter. Maybe that’s what happened with you as well.

Kathy

My family loves this recipe! Because cashew butter is not expensive, i’ve been making these with Trader Joes cashew flour. I use either my immersion blender or the food processor and process until smooth. They have a lovely taste!

THanks so much!

Anna

These are absoulutely WONDERFUL!!! They really do melt in your mouth, and they are easy, fast, and delicous! Thank’s so much DETOXINISTA!!!

Holly

Suggestions for replacements for those with nut allergies? Thanks! (my Son is allergic to Walnuts and pecans & cashews bother him as well but not Almonds)

Cecilia

I have an oversupply of raw almond slices; I think I just found the perfect use for them! Thanks!

Kay

Wish I had read all the comments before making these. I didn’t want to spend $19.99 for a jar of cashew butter at Whole Foods so bought the raw cashews that they grind for you. The texture was not as smooth which I should have fixed with some oil, but didn’t realize that until it was too late. I did use the coconut butter instead of the oil and it tasted great. I want to try this next time with limes. Thanks for all your great recipes

Jessica

I just made these with coconut butter instead of cashew and now I have a new favourite summer treat 🙂 So delicious…

Judy

I just made these. YUM!!!

Marie

Can I substitute coconut butter for cashew butter??

    Megan

    I haven’t tried that, but please let us know how it works for you!

Arianne

What about substituting coconut butter for almond butter? Has that been tried yet?

Diane

I read your FAQ regarding nutritional information and I don’t blame you for not wanting to mess with the numbers.

Having said that, I do think it should be noted that while these meltaways are small and use raw ingredients, cashews, honey, and coconut oil are extremely high in calories and fat. This should be one of those delicious treats that are eaten sparingly.

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