Making a dessert that tastes good… easy. Making a dessert that tastes good AND that nourishes your body… some may say that’s not always easy.
Turns out, it can be done!
Enter… lemon bars.
There are many minimally processed plants that contribute similar elements to a recipe as the normal big hitters (butter, white sugar, milk, eggs, etc.). You don’t need white sugar to sweeten something. Dairy is not required to make something creamy. You don’t needs eggs for moisture or emulsifying. I know… mind blown! ???
These plant-based lemon bars are a great example of this. You won’t find any of the typical less-than-healthful baking ingredients. Instead they’re made with a slew of wholesome, nutrient-packed ingredients that combine to make a superb lemony dessert!
This sweet treat brings together a mix of our favorite minimally processed plant-based ingredients.
- Tofu: Simply fermented soybeans, it’s versatility is impressive. We keep it on hand for making savory dishes (hello, Crispy Tofu) and sweets like these lemon bars, Decadent Chocolate Dip, Chai Spice bars and Rich & Creamy Chocolate PB & Banana Ice Cream. Find it in most grocery stores in the refrigerated meat-replacement section.
- Dates: These are our go-to sweetener. They’re a fruit that adds sweetness along with fiber and nutrients. You can find dates at most grocery stores with the dried fruit or in the bulk foods section. Or online (*affiliate link). Be sure they’re PITTED!
- Turmeric: A nutrition powerhouse, but truly it’s added to these lemon bars to get a beautiful color. The powerful health effects are a bonus! Find turmeric in the spice aisle or online (*affiliate link).
- Arrowroot powder: This ground-up root is often found in the baking section. Arrowroot powder (*affiliate link) is a natural, whole-food option meaning it has good-for-you nutrients like fiber and calcium. Though know that if you need to, corn-starch will work just fine as a substitute.
As you’ll notice, this recipe doesn’t just use the juice of the lemon to get the delicious lemon flavor. ??? The whole lemon is thrown into the food processor (except the seeds, of course). This not only results in a stronger lemon flavor, it also provides fiber, vitamins and minerals that would be tossed out ? if only the juice was used.
Something to keep in mind when using the whole lemon – you may want to consider using an organic lemon. Also, thoroughly washing the lemon prior to slicing it is a good idea.
Because we include the peel in this recipe, the lemon flavor is in full force and there is a bit of a bitter finish. If that’s not your jam, you can use a bit less of the peel, or add some extra sweetness – drizzling some maple syrup over these bars at the end or including a few extra dates in the filling will do the trick!
Rolled oats, also called old fashioned oats, are used in this recipe for the crust. While rolled oats aren’t the least processed oats you can get (that would be steel cut), they’re still a great, minimally processed whole grain option. Rolled oats are steamed and then rolled flat, so nothing has been added or taken away from them. ?
The crust for these lemon bars is so simple.. First you make date paste by blending dates and water. Then you mix everything together – date paste, oats, shredded coconut, vanilla, and a pinch of salt to help bring those flavors out. That creates a sticky dough that can be easily pressed into the bottom of the pan with your hands (getting your hands a bit wet prevents the dough from sticking to them). We do recommend using parchment paper for easy removal.
Making the filling is even easier than the crust. First, cut the ends off the lemon and then cut the lemon into wedges and remove the seeds. Next, throw the lemon along with all the other filling ingredients into the food process and blend until smooth. Make sure to stop a few times and scrape down the sides. Let the filling blend for a few minutes to make sure you get a nice creamy consistency.
After that, all that’s left is pouring the filling over the crust and baking for about 20 minutes. When the edges get crisp and brown slightly, it’s done!
As tempting as it may be, you’ll need to let it cool so it can firm up before diving it. Let it cool on the counter for about ten minutes and then place it in the fridge for about an hour. After it’s completely cooled, cut into bars and enjoy!
Plant-Based Lemon Bars
- 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking pan
- Food Processor
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Add the crust dates and warm water to a small bowl. Let soak for at least 5 minutes.15 Deglet Noor dates, 3/4 cup warm water
- Add oats, coconut and salt to food processor, process for 20 seconds or until coarsely ground. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.2 cups rolled oats, 3 Tbsp shredded coconut, 1 pinch salt
- Add dates, water and vanilla to food processor. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add to oats mixture and stir until combined.15 Deglet Noor dates, 3/4 cup warm water, 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Using your hands, press crust into the bottom of an 8x8 or 9x9 inch parchment lined baking sheet.
- Add the filling dates to a small bowl and cover with warm water (no need to measure, as this will be drained). Let soak for at least 5 minutes. While the dates are soaking, cut ends off of the lemon. Slices into 4 wedges and remove seeds. Place slices in food processor (peel included). After the dates have soaked for at least 5 minutes, drain and add to food processor.15 Deglet Noor dates, 1 medium lemon
- Crumble tofu into pieces small enough to fit into food processor. Add remaining filling ingredients (vanilla, arrowroot powder, turmeric) and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.8 oz tofu, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder, 1/8 tsp ground turmeric
- Pour filling over crust, using a spatula to spread evenly. Transfer to oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until edges begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with coconut, if desired.1 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut for topping
- Let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to refrigerator to cool for at least 1 hour prior to slicing and serving.
*We are a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to affiliated sites. We use the products and ingredients that we link to and recommend them because we believe they are the best choice for you.