My friends have repeatedly raved about the lemon bars at Starbucks. I haven’t tried one because I’m assuming they’re not vegan, but I do love citrus desserts (so crisp and refreshing yet sweet and indulgent!), so I decided to try to make my own raw, vegan, and gluten-free lemon bars. I adapted this recipe from a recipe for raw key lime pie. There is some prep work involved, but that taste (and texture) payoff is major.
Lemons are wonderfully inexpensive, yet they’re such a nutritional superstar. Bursting with liver-loving enzyme-strengtheners and antioxidant vitamin C, lemon is a kitchen staple for glowing skin, strong digestion, and a healthy body. Although this recipe isn’t completely guilt-free (there is a little bit of low-glycemic sweetener), there’s a good chance that these vegan lemon bars are a bit healthier than they’re conventional counterparts.
Gluten-Free Lemon Bars
Prep time: 1 hour (including soak time + chill time)
Cook time: none
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: 9 servings
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 15 minutes and rinsed
¼ cup coconut oil
juice of two large lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoon coconut nectar
1 tablespoon lemon zest (plus more for garnish)
1 cup oats
¾ cup pecans, soaked for 15 minutes and rinsed
½ cup walnuts, soaked for 15 minutes and rinsed
⅓ cup coconut nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Soak nuts for at least fifteen minutes. This will help them blend more easily. Feel free to soak them for longer. Pecans and almonds may be soaked together in one bowl, but cashews should be soaked separately because they go in a separate part of the recipe. Rinse and drain nuts thoroughly.
2. In a food processor or high-speed blender, process the crust ingredients until fairly smooth—a little bit of chunkiness is nice for texture, however. Scoop the crust into a 9” x 9” pan (or 9” pie mold) and press into an even layer. Set aside. (Tip: If you’re using a blender like a Vitamix, make oat flour first, dump into bowl, and then blend the coconut nectar, vanilla extract, pecans, and walnuts. Once those are mostly processed, add the oat flour while the blades are running on low.)
3. Blend filling ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender until ultra creamy. The texture should be like that of cheesecake. If you prefer a thicker consistency, add more cashews. Scoop the mixture out, spreading it evenly over the layer of crust in your pan.
4. Allow to cool in the fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes. If you’re freezing for longer than 1 hour, allow the mix to warm at room temperature for 5 minutes before digging in.
5. Garnish with lemon zest as desired and slice into serving-size squares. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer.
Related: Classic Carrot Cake
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Photos: Mary Hood Luttrell