With lofty aspirations of bringing something homemade to a friend’s cookout, I set out in search of a summery dessert (which typically means I browse my fave food blog Minimalist Baker) and stumbled upon these gluten-free, low sugar lemon bars.
Then I ran out of time before the cookout, and picked up a watermelon at the grocery store on my way there. Fail. But I did make the lemon bars a few days later. And they were just as rad as they sound. They’re vegan, gluten-free and naturally-sweetened, but to be honest, you wouldn’t know.
Here’s how to make ‘em. They’re a bit of a commitment (you need a chunk of hours to refrigerate them), but if you like to cook and are in the market for a healthy dessert, I think they’d be perfect for bridal showers, birthday parties, and any other gatherings you’ve got going on this summer. Mine didn’t come out looking like MB’s perfect squares, but do they ever really? They still taste good, promise.
Minimalist Baker’s Creamy Vegan Lemon Bars
Makes 9-12 (I cut into smaller squares to make more)
- 1 cup (120 g) raw cashews
- 1 cup (240 g) coconut cream (the hardened portion at the top of full-fat coconut milk)
- 2 Tbsp (14 g) arrowroot or cornstarch
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) lemon juice (~2 large lemons)
- 1 heaping Tbsp (4 g) lemon zest (~1 large lemon)
- Pinch sea salt
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup, plus more to taste
- optional: 2 Tbsp (14 g) organic powdered sugar, for topping (I omitted out of not having any on hand and they were fine without them)
- 1 cup (90 g) gluten-free oats
- 1 cup (112 g) almonds
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 2 Tbsp (24 g) coconut sugar
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) maple syrup
- 4-5 Tbsp (60-75 g) coconut oil, melted
- Add raw cashews to a mixing bowl and cover with boiling hot water. Let rest for 1 hour (uncovered). Then drain thoroughly.
- In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and line an 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment paper.
- Add oats, almonds, sea salt, and coconut sugar to a high speed blender and mix on high until a fine meal is achieved.
- Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and add maple syrup and melted coconut oil, starting with 4 Tbsp (60 g) and adding more if it’s too dry. Stir with a spoon to combine until a loose dough is formed. You should be able to squeeze the mixture between two fingers and form a dough instead of it crumbling. If too dry, add a bit more melted coconut oil.
- Transfer mixture to parchment-lined baking sheet and spread evenly. Then place parchment paper on top and use a flat-bottomed object, such as a drinking glass, to press down firmly until it’s evenly distributed and well packed.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then increase heat to 375 F (190 C) and bake for 5-8 minutes more, or until the edges are golden brown and there is some browning on the surface. Remove from oven to cool slightly, then reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F (176 C).
- Once cashews are soaked and drained, add to a high speed blender with coconut cream, arrowroot starch, lemon juice, lemon zest, sea salt, and maple syrup. Mix on high until very creamy and smooth.
- Taste and adjust flavor as needed. I added a bit more lemon zest and maple syrup. It should be very lemony, and not overly sweet.
- Pour filling over the pre-baked crust and spread into an even layer. Tap on counter to remove any air bubbles.
- Bake for 20-23 minutes or until the edges look very slightly dry and the center appears “jiggly” but not liquidy.
- Let rest for 10 minutes, then transfer to refrigerator to let cool completely (uncovered) – at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- To serve, slice and sift with powdered sugar (optional). Store leftovers in the refrigerator, covered, up to 4 days, though best within the first 2 days.