These vegan lemon bars have a simple shortbread crust and a tangy-sweet lemon layer topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. This pretty spring and summer dessert is quick and easy to make. They need just 45 minutes of active cooking time (plus time to chill).
A typical non-vegan lemon bar recipe uses eggs to thicken and colour the lemon layer. In this vegan version, cornstarch thickens and sets the filling and a touch of turmeric adds the lemon yellow colour.
A bit of coconut milk in the lemon layer rounds out the flavour and makes the filling an opaque, creamy yellow. It offsets turmeric’s slightly greenish-yellow colour and cornstarch’s translucency as a thickener. The bars end up looking like lemon bars (that happen to be vegan) rather than vegan lemon bars. This is great when you’re serving someone who’s skeptical of vegan baking.
(If you want to, you can swap out the canned coconut milk and use non-dairy milk instead. I prefer using coconut milk but oat, cashew, or soy milk will work too.)
Most lemon bars are baked twice – first to cook the crust, and second to set the lemon filling. In this recipe you bake the crust while you make the filling on your stove top – like lemon meringue pie filling. Making the filling on your stove top saves time, ensures you don’t over bake the crust, and prevents the lemon layer from soaking into the crust. The lemon layer sets as the bars cool.
- The lemon bars will absorb the dusting of powdered sugar as they sit. Cool the bars uncovered to prevent condensation from forming on top and wait to dust them until you’re ready to serve them.
- For sharp, clean edges, chill the bars before slicing and wipe your knife clean between each cut.
- Thoroughly clean the lemons before you zest them.
- When adding the turmeric, less is more. The colour will strengthen as the filling cooks.
These vegan lemon bars have a simple shortbread crust and a tangy-sweet lemon layer topped with a dusting of powdered sugar.
- Approximately 3 lemons, zested and juiced, divided
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- 1 cup (230 grams) vegan butter
- ½ cup (60 grams) powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (125 ml) fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup (35 grams) cornstarch
- ¾ cup (185 ml) canned coconut cream or full fat coconut milk*
- 1 cup (215 grams) sugar
- ½ cup (115 grams) vegan butter (like Earth Balance or Melt)
- 3 tbsp lemon zest
- ⅛ tsp salt
- Pinch turmeric
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper.
- Cream together vegan butter, powdered sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Gradually mix in the flour to create a soft dough. Do not over mix.
- Press the dough into the bottom of your baking dish.
- Bake the crust for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Prepare the filling as the crust bakes.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice and cornstarch to make a slurry. Make sure there are no lumps. Whisk in the coconut milk and add the sugar, vegan butter, lemon zest, and salt.
- Turn heat to medium and stir until the sugar and butter melts. Whisk in the turmeric, adding a small pinch at a time, until you achieve a light yellow colour.
- Cook the filling, whisking constantly. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot to prevent lumps. Cook the filling until it’s thick and slightly translucent (about 15 minutes total). Once the filling begins to bubble, test it for doneness by stirring it and quickly removing your whisk – once the lines from your whisk stay visible for 7-10 seconds after pulling it out, the filling is thick enough.
- Pour the lemon filling over the shortbread crust. Set bars aside to cool slightly before chilling, uncovered. Once chilled, slice lemon bars. Dust with powdered sugar just prior to serving.
- *Canned coconut milk can be substituted with creamy non-dairy milks such as oat, cashew, soy, (or light canned coconut milk/coconut milk in a carton that’s intended for drinking).
Keywords: vegan lemon bars, vegan lemon squares