That buttery crust and tangy filling of a lemon bar can be so addicting…
Good thing we here at Foodal like to experiment with healthier alternatives!
So, yes, these treats will have a different look, taste, and texture than the traditional lemon bars you might be used to eating. But they are just as delicious, and you can feel good about eating one or two of them.
The chewy, soft crust is made with a mixture of raw almonds, cashews, and dates. The nuts are perfect nutritional sources of protein and healthy fats, and the dates are a great alternative to processed sugars, as they contain fiber, iron, and potassium.
The creamy filling has a base of cashew nuts and coconut cream. Both help to thicken the mixture, and provide a creamy texture.
Cashews are very popular amongst advocates of vegan and raw diets, because their high fat content creates a rich and creamy texture when blended in a food processor.
And with the flavor of fresh lemons in the filling, you’ll get the full impact of this citrus’s zingy flavor that certainly can’t be replaced by any bottled variety, especially when you include the zest from the peels.
Let’s satisfy that sweet and tangy craving – make our recipe now!
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep
Line an 8×8 square baking pan with parchment paper. Be sure to use a longer piece of parchment paper, so that the paper can drape over two opposite sides of the pan, creating a sling. This will help you to easily remove the dessert once it has set.
Combine 1 cup of cashews (for the filling) and cold water in a large bowl. Let the cashews soak at room temperature for about an hour to soften them.
Juice and zest the lemons for the filling and final garnish.
Step 3 – Make the Crust
Place all crust ingredients, except the dates, in a food processor or blender. Process until the nuts are in very small pieces, like coarse flour. Add the dates, and process until the dates have evenly broken up and the mixture is sticky.
Test by squeezing a small amount in your hand. The mixture should clump together. If it is too dry and won’t stick together, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time, pulse, and check again until it does stick.
Don’t add too much water, or the crust will become soggy.
Pour out the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Press down with wet hands or a spatula to evenly spread the mixture along the bottom.
Step 4 – Make the Filling
Clean out whatever you used to mix up the crust. Then, drain the soaked cashews and place in your clean food processor or blender. Process until the cashews turn into a smooth paste.
Add all of the other ingredients for the filling: the coconut cream, coconut oil, agave nectar, vanilla, lemon juice, zest, and salt. Process until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape down with a spatula, and process again briefly.
Step 5 – Assemble and Chill
Evenly pour the filling over the prepared crust.
Refrigerate for about 4 hours, or until firm. If you’re in a hurry, place the pan in the freezer for one hour.
Step 6 – Cut
Using a sharp knife, carefully separate the set bar from the edges of the pan. Using the extra parchment paper draped along the sides, slowly lift the bar out of the pan.
Remove the parchment paper.
Cut the bar with a knife on a cutting board into 9 even large squares, or 12 smaller squares.
Step 7 – Serve and Store
Serve the squares with a garnish of lemon zest and fresh berries.
Store any leftover squares in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
A Healthy Dessert with Delicious Tang
If you’ve been eating a raw or vegan diet for years, or are just starting down the path of health and wellness, this recipe will be a fresh addition to your menu.
While traditional lemon bars may not fit within your diet plan, our version certainly will – not only are they raw and vegan, they also don’t contain eggs, dairy, flour, or refined sugars.
Enjoy them with your favorite fresh fruit to serve on the side – any kind of fresh berry is a perfect pairing with this dessert.
They will still taste like a treat, and we know you’ll love their wholesome goodness, all in a little square!
And for another citrus-happy finale to a meal, try our gluten-free mandarin orange cake.
What are your own sweet vegan adventures? Do you have any recipes to share with us? Let us know in the comments below.
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Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published April 14th, 2015 by Sarah Hagstrom. Revised and updated September 22nd, 2017.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Sarah Hagstrom
Sarah is a health food advocate and loves to spend her time whipping up something healthy and delicious in the kitchen and then sharing either on Foodal or on her own blog "The Seasonal Diet" (www.theseasonaldiet.com). She lives in Sunny San Diego with her husband, where they enjoy running on the beach and weekend adventures.