When Aaron asked me what recipes we would be photographing this past week, I told him “a stew that I think you’re going to love, and vegan lemon meringue pie—my magnum opus.” I’ve been wanting to make a lemon meringue pie sans eggs for the last six years and every time I put it on my content calendar, I would get cold feet and swap it for something else. Vegan lemon meringue pie is a tall order because the traditional version relies so heavily on egg yolks in the filling and egg whites in the meringue. But a few years ago, after a whole lot of practice, I finally got good at making pie crust, and a year after that, I discovered the magic of aquafaba (aka chickpea liquid) and nailed a vegan pavlova. When I told Aaron lemon meringue pie was my magnum opus, his response was that he was surprised I hadn’t made it immediately after the pavlova win. I think I would have, except we left for our epic year of road tripping soon after and there was no way this pie was happening via tiny hotel kitchenette or a questionable airbnb rental.
It sounds kind of silly to say this, but I tackled this recipe the way I do most other lofty goals: I broke it down into mini steps and gave myself pep talks along the way. “Okay, so your crust looks pretty good. Now all you need to do is make a lemon filling that holds its shape but isn’t too firm. You’ve made puddings and lemon bars before…you can totally make pie!” (please tell me you also have these kitchen talks with yourself?) Six years and many anxious trials later, I finally did it. I made vegan lemon meringue pie!
Similar to my pavlova, this pie recipe is actually rather simple. It looks more daunting than it is because there are multiple components, but if you take each one step-by-step (and give yourself a little pep talk in between each), you’ll happily be eating lemon meringue pie in no time. I tried to be extra thorough and detailed in my instructions because while it is a simple recipe, it does require some precision, especially when it comes time to make your aquafaba meringue.
If you’ve baked with aquafaba before, you probably know that it has a tendency to get super fluffy and dreamy, and then almost as quickly deflate into a puddle of liquid. In order to avoid that, I decided I would try reducing the chickpea liquid to remove a lot of the water, then follow my usual recipe as-is. And hooray, it worked! The consistency is much thicker—very similar to flufernutter—and even after several days in the fridge, it still hasn’t deflated much.
Here are a few other learnings you’ll want to keep in mind, since I know I’ll get questions:
- You can definitely buy a pre-made pie crust and bake it according to the package instructions if you don’t want to make your own. Just make sure it’s large enough to hold the filling (about 9.5 inches in diameter).
- The filling relies on agar agar flakes and arrowroot powder as thickeners. Agar flakes are not the same as agar powder so please don’t use them interchangeably (agar powder will almost certainly work, but I haven’t tested it to determine how much less you would need). If you don’t have arrowroot, cornstarch works just as well.
- For the meringue, it’s imperative that you reduce the chickpea liquid and then fully chill it in the fridge or it won’t reach the necessary stiff peaks stage. You also need to use fine white sugar to avoid grittiness from the sugar not dissolving. Don’t replace the white sugar with liquid sweetener—it won’t work.
- If you want those pretty toasted meringue swirls like you see in the photos, you need to swirl your meringue before you broil it. You want shallow peaks to create some dimension, but not any bigger because the topmost peaks will burn before the rest of the meringue can brown.
- And finally: watch the meringue like a hawk while you’re broiling it! Take it from me, it can burn in under 10 seconds and fill your oven with smoke. I happen to like mine a little burnt (it’s how I always make my s’mores), but if you don’t and this happens to you, you can always use a spoon to scrape off the very top layer, re-swirl your meringue, and broil it once more…this time more carefully. Alternatively, a butane torch is probably a more easily controlled way to go.
I’m currently working on an agar-free filling to eliminate the need for a specialty ingredient, so I’ll plan to update this post with that filling recipe once I figure it out. In the meantime, happy vegan lemon meringue pie making! Reach out if you need clarification on anything and I’ll do my best to help!
- 1¼ cups unbleached white all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup vegan salted butter
- 5-6 tablespoons filtered water, ice cold
- liquid from one 15-ounce can of unsalted chickpeas (about ¾ cup)
- ½ cup organic fine white sugar
- ½ tablespoon arrowroot powder
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1½ cups + 1 tablespoon plain unsweetened almond milk
- 3 tablespoons agar agar flakes (NOT powder)
- ⅔ cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons organic cane sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric (optional, for color)
- 1½ tablespoons organic lemon zest (about 2-3 lemons)
- pinch of sea salt
- Make the crust: Add the all-purpose flour, sugar, and salt to a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Using your fingers, pinch the vegan butter into the flour mixture until it's about the size of peas. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, and mix with your fingers until the dough holds together. Repeat this until five tablespoons of water have been added. If the dough sticks together when you pinch it, don't add the additional tablespoon of water. If the dough crumbles, add another tablespoon of water and mix until incorporated. Knead the dough a few times (not more or it will become tough), and form it into a flat disc. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for about 45 minutes, or until firm and cold but still pliable.
- Reduce the chickpea liquid for the meringue: Add the chickpea liquid to a small saucepan and bring to a boil uncovered over high heat. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until the mixture has been reduced by about a third. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, then pour into a jar and refrigerate until fully chilled.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly flour a rolling pin and large piece of parchment paper. Use the floured parchment paper to roll the pie dough into an 11-12 inch circle (it should be a couple of inches larger than an upside-down 9.5-inch pie plate). Place it in the pie plate, pressing it firmly against the bottom and sides. Fold and roll the dough under to form the crust, making it even with the edge of the plate. Use your fingers to crimp the edges. Prick the bottom and sides of the dough thoroughly with a fork, then bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn off the oven and let cool on a cooling rack.
- Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, soak the agar flakes in the almond milk for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the arrowroot into the lemon juice until it's fully incorporated. When the agar has been soaked for 15 minutes, bring the mixture to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally, until the agar is completely dissolved. Whisk in the sugar and turmeric (if using) and boil until they dissolve, about 3 minutes, still whisking constantly. Add the lemon juice mixture, lemon zest, and sea salt. Continue to whisk constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust. Let cool for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until the filling has set.
- Make the meringue: In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, arrowroot powder and salt. Set aside. Pour the chilled chickpea liquid and lemon juice into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at low speed, then slowly increase the speed to high. Beat for 5 minutes, until soft peaks have formed and the mixture has become very light and fluffy (it should expand to more than quadruple in size). Turn the speed down to medium-high and start adding the sugar one heaping tablespoon at a time. Once all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed back to the highest setting. Continue to whip until stiff, glossy peaks form and hold their shape (about 3 minutes). You should be able to hold the mixing bowl upside down and have the meringue stay in place. Stop the mixer and pour in the vanilla. Beat for another 10-15 seconds until incorporated.
- Set the broiler to high. Remove the pie from the fridge and carefully pour off any liquid/condensation that has collected. Spoon the meringue on top of the pie filling, making sure to cover the filling completely. Broil for 30-60 seconds—watching the pie the entire time—or until the meringue is toasted. Allow to cool completely then serve.
I adapted the aquafaba meringue from my vegan pavlova recipe.
If you don't have arrowroot powder, an equal amount of cornstarch will also work.
It's imperative that you use fine white sugar in the meringue so that it dissolves. Otherwise, your meringue texture will be gritty.
This is not a low sugar recipe. I'm working on an agar-free lemon filling that's hopefully lower in sugar, if I can swing it.
Leftover pie should be stored in the fridge. It's best the same day you make it, but it will keep for several days. Keep in mind that the meringue will deflate and soften a little the longer it sits.