The other week I was searching for a dessert recipe and somewhere along the way, the interwebs suggested the Pioneer Woman’s lemon bars recipe to me. Immediately, I had an intense craving for lemon bars. But of course, most lemon bars are made with egg yolks and butter, and I wanted vegan lemon bars. Not just any vegan lemon bars, but the best vegan lemon bars.
I’ve made vegan lemon bars a couple of times. But in my experience, most vegan lemon bar recipes are raw and made from soaked cashews or almonds.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m down for a raw dessert now and then, but to me, the custard-like texture of the lemon bar filling was missing from the raw nut-based recipes I’ve made.
I also longed for that shortbread-like crust you find in traditional lemon bar recipes. So, I set out to make my own lemon bars with a shortbread-like crust and a creamy dreamy luscious lemon filling.
How did I do it? Well, I made vegan shortbread using vegan butter, and then I used tofu, lemon juice, sugar, and corn starch to make the filling.
And it worked quite well! These tofu-packed lemon bars are pleasantly tangy, and have the custard-texture I was looking for. The bars taste a bit like lemon bars, and a bit like cheesecake, in the best way possible. As an added bonus, they just happen to pack a plant-based protein punch, too.
I made this recipe in a cupcake pan to make mini ‘bites,’ but an 8×8 inch pan will work, too. You may notice bars these are not a vibrant yellow hue; that is because I did not use egg yolks nor food coloring in my bars.
If you’d like them to be more yellow, feel free to use a drop or two of plant-based yellow food coloring. But otherwise, know that they taste great despite the pale color!
I hope you make these lemon bars – which are the best vegan lemon bars as far as I’m concerned – and I hope you like them! Please leave comments, questions, or post suggestions down below in the comments, and/or reach out to me on Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube.
The Best Vegan Lemon Bars
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
INGREDIENTS – Shortbread Crust:
- 1/2 cup cold vegan butter, cubed (I used Earth Balance)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1-2 tablespoons cold water
INGREDIENTS – Bars:
- 1 12-ounce package of firm silken tofu
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (from about 3-4 medium/large lemons)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare crust in a large bowl: whisk together flour, granulated sugar, and lemon zest. Cut cold butter into small cubes. Fold butter cubes into flour mix. Cut butter with a pastry cutter (or mash butter cubes with the back of a fork), to spread the cold butter. You may also squish butter with your fingers. Continue to cut/squish butter and mix into dry ingredients until a crumbly dough forms.
- Once a loose crumbly dough has formed, add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition, until a dough forms.
- Press crust batter into a greased 8×8 inch baking pan, or 9 lined or greased compartments of a cupcake tray.
- Bake prepared crust for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Allow crust to cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare filling.
- Wash lemons well. Zest lemons into a small bowl and set aside. Juice lemons into another bowl.
- Add tofu, sugar, corn starch, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest to a food processor or high power blender. Blend until smooth, about 4-5 minutes.
- Pour lemon batter into cooled crust (either the 8×8 baking pan or the cupcake tray). Bake for 18-22 minutes until lightly golden and the top(s) have a visible film forming. The bars or bites should wiggle a little bit upon shaking, but not be fully set nor liquid.
- Allow to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, before serving. Store remaining bars in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.