Paleo lemon bars with a super creamy, cashew-based vegan and no-bake topping! Full of lemon flavor and maple-sweetened.
I’m back! The past three weeks have been really tough and baking was the last thing on my mind. I hope to make up for my lack of posting with these seriously delicious bars. :)
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These pictures and the video don’t do the bars justice. At all. They’re really so much better than they look!
I tried to make them a pretty, bright yellow color like regular lemon bars so I added some turmeric but I could definitely taste it. It wasn’t strong but I didn’t want anything messing with the lemon taste. I doubt anyone will care about the drab color once they’ve had their first bite!
First of all – if you haven’t tried my paleo key lime pie, you need to do that! The filling really tastes just like regular key lime pie filling.
This recipe is based off that one. One difference is that I needed a little more sweetener, which I find really odd. Is lemon more sour than lime? I also 1.5x the recipe so that the bars would be super thick.
The size of the bar in the picture is ridiculous. To be honest, it’s probably 50% larger than it should be. The plate I wanted to use was huge so I had to cut a giant piece so that the bars wouldn’t look dinky.
Lemon bars can sometimes be sickeningly sweet. I love lemon curd but regular lemon bars are just too much for me. These lemon bars are definitely different!
Imagine key lime pie – but with lemon. There’s no maple or cashew taste. Just lemon. That said, if you hate cashews, don’t make these.
Also be sure to use light maple syrup! While my bars didn’t taste maple-y, I’m guessing yours will if you use a darker grade maple syrup.
I first made these paleo lemon bars with raw unsalted cashews. If you want to make raw lemon bars, go ahead and use raw cashews and untoasted coconut.
If you don’t care about them being raw, definitely go with roasted cashews and coconut! It adds so much flavor.
The other thing to remember is salt. Don’t be skimpy with the salt, especially in the filling. If your filling tastes flat or boring, you’re missing salt. My cashews were super salty and I know every brand is different, so I can’t give you an exact amount of salt.
I also tested these paleo lemon bars with partly bottled lemon juice and not using the full amount of zest and I don’t recommend futzing around with that.
They last for several hours at room temp. It’s 70 degrees F in my apartment and I’ve had them out all day. They’re best when still at least a little chilled, though.
They freeze great! They take about 2 hours to defrost at room temperature (in the winter). You can also let them defrost overnight in the fridge.
If you’ve ever tried no-bake vegan or paleo crusts, you’re probably familiar with how wet or even soggy they can be.
Not this one! It’s not crisp like a baked wheat-based crust but it’s definitely not soggy. At least it’s not as long as you don’t over-process the crust mixture in the blender.
If you prefer a whole wheat crust, use the coconut sugar cookie crust I used in my gluten-free key lime pie bars. It’d go great with this filling!
These blueberry lemon oatmeal bars also look fantastic and I’m pretty sure they could be made with white whole wheat in place of the AP flour. These blackberry lemon cheesecake bars also look dreamy. Just use gluten-free or whole wheat graham crackers in place of the regular ones.
Whether or not the filling for these bars works in a food processor, I don’t know. One of the commenters in the key lime pie recipe did it with success but I just can’t imagine them coming out 100% creamy with no chunks of cashews. I’d love for someone to prove me wrong, though. :)
No-bake Paleo Lemon Bars (vegan, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free)
- Prep Time:
- Cook Time:
- Ready in:
- Yield: 16 bars
- 3/4 cup (65 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 1/2 cups (218 grams) roasted cashews
- 2 tablespoons + 3/4 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups (218 grams) roasted cashews, soaked for 1 hour1 (there's no sub for the cashews)
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (252 grams) unrefined coconut oil, very soft or melted (do not use cold coconut oil!)
- 6 tablespoons (90 grams) coconut cream (the top, solid part from a can of full-fat coconut milk that's been refrigerated overnight)
- 3/4 cup (180 milliliters) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2/3 cup (158 milliliters) maple syrup (don't use a darker grade)
- 3 tablespoons (12 grams) lemon zest
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- pinch of salt, or more to taste
For the crust:
For the filling:
- Line an 8"x8" pan with a piece of parchment paper.
- Prepare the crust. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add the coconut. Stir frequently until nicely toasted. Do not walk away from the pan as the coconut starts to burn very quickly! Pour the coconut into a small bowl and let cool for about 5 minutes. You can skip the toasting step but I think it adds so much flavor to the crust!
- Place all the crust ingredients in a high-powered blender and process at low speed until the mixture starts to clump together. Don't process so long that it becomes pasty. When you pinch some of the mixture between your fingers, it should easily clump together. If it doesn't, add a tiny bit of water and process again until it does.
- Press onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Make sure there aren't any holes and really press down to compact it.
- Place the pan in the freezer while you prepare the filling. The fridge will also do if you don't have space in the freezer. It should be firm before putting the filling in.
- Wipe out the blender jar using a paper towel and place all the filling ingredients in there. Blend for about 30-60 seconds at high speed until totally smooth.
- Pour the filling over each crust.
- Refrigerate for about 4 hours or until firm. If you're in a hurry, place the pan in the freezer.
- Refrigerate bars an airtight container for up to 3 days. If you freeze them for a while, they'll need about 70-80 minutes at room temperature to defrost or about 1 1/2 - 2 hours in the refrigerator. Once properly defrosted, they should be totally creamy.
- Place the cashews in a small pot, pan or mug and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 1 hour. Drain the water.
- While I'm sure the crust can be made in a food processor, I'm not sure about the filling. It definitely wouldn't be as smooth (using a high-power blender, it's totally smooth) and it may not work at all. If you try it anyway, let us know how it goes!