Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars (Refined Sugar-Free, Grain-Free) | picklesnhoney.com

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars (Refined Sugar-Free, Grain-Free) | picklesnhoney.com

Before we talk about these gluten-free and vegan lemon bars, I feel like I need to acknowledge what a whirlwind this last week has been. As I mentioned in my vegan chocolate cake post, things took an unexpected turn for the worse at the end of last week with sudden swelling in my neck which landed me at urgent care, then the emergency room, then an overnight stay at the hospital, and then at an endocrinologist appointment yesterday. It was my first time in the ER and oh boy, have I learned a lot in a very short time about the variance in care in one hospital versus the next. If you ever find yourself needing to go to the ER but you have a choice in where you go, choose wisely.

Normally, I wouldn’t name names, but if you’re in Boston, I would stay far away from Mount Auburn Hospital. I waited around for hours, there was a revolving door of eight bumbling, incompetent doctors lacking any kind of empathy, they mistakenly ordered me a chest x-ray (which I declined), I sat in a wheelchair in the hallway for twelve hours before getting a room, only to be woken up hourly for blood draws and vitals checks, and they told me I couldn’t eat or drink anything the entire time I was there (I stopped listening after a full day because no water for that long is just stupid, especially with no IV fluids—though they insisted I keep an uncomfortable IV in the entire time).

We called around Monday morning to the big Longwood Medical area hospitals and Beth Israel scheduled us in immediately. They even pulled up all of my medical records over the phone, and yesterday I went in for an ultrasound and met with an endocrinologist—who saw me early and called to follow up before we were even home to tell me it’s a common type of thyroid cyst that she’s not overly worried about. I go in tomorrow to finally have that biopsy (for which there are no food or drink restrictions! WTF) and hopefully put all of this to rest.

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars (Refined Sugar-Free, Grain-Free) | picklesnhoney.com

In the midst of all of this chaos and stress I:

  1. Slept for a solid 11 hours when I got home from the hospital. Like, passed out didn’t even change positions, then thought about sleeping some more.
  2. Made a giant list of what Aaron and I need to do to take our epic road-tripping adventure this spring/summer. (list-making is calming to me)
  3. Baked vegan lemon bars that are gluten-free, grain-free, and refined sugar-free (well, minus the optional powdered sugar, which is entirely for looks). These bars took me quite a few trials, but I was so determined to get something right. I needed these bars to be awesome!

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars (Refined Sugar-Free, Grain-Free) | picklesnhoney.com

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars (Refined Sugar-Free, Grain-Free) | picklesnhoney.com

And awesome they are!

Awesomely simple (less than 10 ingredients), awesomely wholesome, and awesomely delicious. If there’s one flavor I love almost as much as chocolate, it’s lemon, and these gluten-free and vegan lemon bars are extra lemony. I used Meyer lemons because that super saturated, sunny yellow is most welcome this time of the year. I think I need a giant bowl of them on our dining room table at all times.

I hope these lemon bars will bring you a little extra sunshine just as they did for me!

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars (Refined Sugar-Free, Grain-Free) | picklesnhoney.com

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars (Refined Sugar-Free, Grain-Free) | picklesnhoney.com

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Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars (Refined Sugar-Free, Grain-Free) | picklesnhoney.com

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars

Gluten Free, Vegan,

Serves: 12-16 lemon bars


Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 45 mins

Total Time: 1 hour

Vegan lemon bars that are perfectly tart, sweet, creamy and so easy to make! Just 8 ingredients, gluten-free, grain-free AND refined sugar-free.

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars (Refined Sugar-Free, Grain-Free) | picklesnhoney.com

Gluten-Free Vegan Lemon Bars

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Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 cup almond flour (from blanched almonds)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons melted unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

For the filling:

  • 1 1/3 cups firm silken tofu (such as Mori-Nu)*
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons meyer lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh meyer lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric (optional, for color)
  • pinch fine grain sea salt
  • vegan powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Cuisine: Gluten Free, Vegan Servings: 12-16 lemon bars

Prep Time: 15 mins Cook Time: 45 mins Total Time: 1 hour

Vegan lemon bars that are perfectly tart, sweet, creamy and so easy to make! Just 8 ingredients, gluten-free, grain-free AND refined sugar-free.

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8 inch baking dish with parchment paper and set aside. You will want to lay parchment paper in two pieces so that there is extra around the edges of the pan to lift the bars out later.
  • Add the crust ingredients to a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine. Transfer it to your prepared baking dish. Use your hands to firmly press it down and flatten it out. Bake for 10-12 minutes and then remove it from the oven. While the crust bakes, begin making the filling.
  • In a large mixing bowl, use an electric hand or stand mixer to whip the tofu (about 1 minute). Add the remaining filling ingredients. Beat for 2-3 more minutes, then pour the mixture over the baked crust.
  • Bake for 35 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the center is mostly set. Let it cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the filling to fully set before slicing the bars. Cut into rectangles. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving and enjoy!

Notes [1]

It’s very important that you use firm silken tofu and NOT silken tofu. Otherwise, the consistency will be more like a pudding and the bars won’t retain their shape. Look for firm silken Mori-Nu (or another brand) in the non-refrigerated tofu section. It’s often found in a cardboard box by other Asian foods. If the tofu comes packed in liquid, you will want to drain it.

Copyright © 2019 Amanda Maguire for Pickles & Honey

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  1. Stefania Creatura says

    These look absolutely amazing!! Is there anyway to make them without tofu? I’m allergic to soy… I’m dying for an amazing gluten free, vegan and sugar free lemon bar recipe and these would be perfect (and they look so scrumptious) minus the soy. Let me know if there’s anything I could try to substitute for the tofu! Peace. Love. Happiness. Always! xo

    1. Amanda says

      Hmmm, I’m not sure about replacing the tofu. I chose it in place of eggs for the consistency and some binding ability. I’ll give it some more thought though and let you know if I think of anything!

      1. Shana says

        I have no idea if this would actually work because I’ve never tried cooking with it, but maybe non-dairy yogurt could work in place of the soy? I thought maybe it would still bind since you have additional arrowroot powder. And if not, knife and fork lemon bars could be just as good!

      2. Amanda says

        That’s a good suggestion. And maybe increasing the arrowroot a little would help too.

      3. Sheryl says

        Did you press the liquid out of the tofu ?

      4. Amanda says

        Hi Sheryl! If there’s any liquid, you will want to drain it. You can gently press the tofu as well. Just be sure it’s firm silken and not silken tofu or the bars won’t hold their shape.

    2. Lois says

      Stefania try The Frosted Vegan, Abby Thompson has a recipe for vegan lemon bars with shortbread crust that does not use tofu and looks delicious.

    3. Cara says

      I have the same problem and was thinking of trying white beans and maybe adding grass feed gelatin into the mix

    4. laura says

      i used a coconut whipping cream
      and it worked fabulously!

      1. Amanda says

        Good to know! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  2. Oh Amanda, I’m so sorry to hear you went through all of this! I’m glad you finally got to a place that was competent and seems to be able to solve the mystery of what is going on, but geez! On another note, I can see why these brought a little sunshine into your life..hope you are doing better! xo

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Abby! Mentally I am doing so much better after switching hospitals. I really hope tomorrow’s appointment goes well and I can just put this behind me. xo

  3. Caitlin says

    that sounds absolutely horrible. it must have been so tempting to just get up and leave. but, they also scared the crap out of you with the whole cancer thing, so…

    lemon bars remind me of my brother. even though our relationship is a little rocky right now, these pictures make me smile and think about our childhood and how he’d eat an entire pan of these in one sitting. i miss those days..

    1. Amanda says

      We did try to get up and leave several times, but the doctors really had us worried that it was going to get bigger and block my air flow (“if you don’t stay overnight, you could stop breathing in your sleep”) and that it was urgent that I get a biopsy because of cancer (but not urgent enough for them to call someone in to do it!). When I think about it, I’m furious. They had the means to diagnose it and they just stressed me out and wasted time/money.

      That’s such a sweet memory of your brother. I hope your relationship gets back to more solid ground. xo

  4. Rachel R. says

    What a shit-show indeed. I’m sorry you had to go through all that – emergency room situations are never, ever fun anyway, and add incompetence to that, and well, you’re screwed. I’ve had to make a few emergency room stops the last few years, and I always go to the same hospital for this exact reason! I’m so glad to hear it’s nothing serious, though, and you are back home and making lists!

    1. Amanda says

      Aww, thanks Rachel. <3 I had never given any thought to hospitals before this--just assuming that they're all pretty comparable. As you said, that's SO not the case!

  5. First off – I am right there with you on docs and hospitals! Still haven’t figured out whats wrong with me. And AMEN to no food or liquid restrictions for your biopsy, that was my least favorite part of all the tests (!!!). Hope you get some clarification too and hang in there. And your camping adventure?! And these lemon bars?! This may be my favorite post yet.

    1. Amanda says

      I didn’t realize you were also dealing with health issues. I’m so sorry, Jessie. I hope you’re able to figure things out soon. The waiting is hard.
      We’re so pumped to get out of here for a while and have a fun adventure exploring! I’m totally going to hit you up later for recommendations. You guys visited a lot of the same places we’re hoping to see! Yosemite, Big Sur, Death Valley, Joshua Tree…we have the most epic list of like 70 parks alll over the country, but tons and tons on the West Coast. We want to see it all!

  6. Kait says

    ::HUG::

    Thats all I got tonight. xo

    1. Amanda says

      Thank you for the hug. <3

  7. Laura says

    Oh my golly – these look AWESOME!! I lived in Australia for a while, and lemon slice is all over the place there – not in vegan form of course though!!! Now I get to try them out:) Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Donna says

    I’m definitely going to makes these. They look too good! And it seems like the recipe could be reworked with other flavours as well (pumpkin, etc.)

    1. Amanda says

      Ooooh, I bet other flavors would be great!

  9. Natalia says

    OMG! I can’t believe they are real, they look so good!
    Hope you are doing better, Amanda!

    1. Amanda says

      Thank you! And yes, I’m doing much better. Hopefully back to normal soon.

  10. Kay Horn says

    Oh my goodness. A deep sigh.
    REALLY sorry that this happened to you and to Aaron.
    I pray that you may have peace as you wait to hear and that you have a loving doctor going forward.

    Your gentle, loving and gracious nature shine through in your posts.
    I’m sure some of your sunshine will have made an impression on all the medical staff.

    Yellow is such a happy and uplifting colour esp if it’s cold and grey. Savour your delectable creations!

    Sending you lots of Cape Town sunshine and cheer.

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks for the super sweet and kind words, Kay. I had a really good team of doctors for my appointment today who said they’re 99.9% sure it’s benign even without the biopsy results. Huge relief!

  11. I’m so glad to hear things are moving in the right direction now. Has the swelling gone down any?

    He,he about the lists – I’m the exact same. My motto is “I don’t exist without a list.” and I have being making lists of all the recipes I want to try and you wouldn’t be surprised to know that I have a lot of yours on my list. These lemon bars will go straight to the top and may make it off the list faster than they stay on it. I happen to have tons of meyer lemon juice (which I’m totally obsessed about, as well as blood oranges) and all the other ingredients. I predict a baking session in the next couple of days.
    Just a P.S. I have a meyer lemon tree and last year had 21 lemons, so I juiced what I didn’t eat right away and froze them in 1/2 cup packs. I did the same with the blood oranges. It makes me happy that I will never run out and I’m so proud that the lemons were from my very own tree.
    Good luck with the biopsy! xoxo Kellie

    1. Amanda says

      Love that you have a meyer lemon tree!! I’m jealous. Also, I bet these bars would be great with blood oranges…and probably a really pretty color too.

      The biopsy/aspiration, while uncomfortable, was not too bad. I’m sore, but the swelling is so much better! I’m really hoping to be back to my normal self soon. And the good news is that the doctors feel confident that it’s going to turn out to be benign even without the biopsy results.

      1. That is fantastic news Amanda. I was going to make a comment the other day about it being benign but didn’t because I’m no expert but I’ve had my thyroid disease for 20 years now and what I’ve learned is that it is generally thought that something that comes on really fast and is “large” is usually benign. It’s the small hard nodules that can potentially be a problem.
        I am really glad you had a clinician who took all the factors and put them together for you. I’d be doing a little dance of joy! There is nothing worse than waiting for test results to come back. I hope you get lots of rest.

  12. Shana says

    So sorry to hear you went through all that! I’m glad you took your anger out in the kitchen and made these awesome bars though. It’s inevitable that I’ll get a hankering for lemon bars in June and can never find a good, vegan recipe!

  13. Ick, that sounds terrible! The worst medical experience I’ve had involved three/four doctors from the same hospital who all misdiagnosed my urinary tract infection, which led to me getting an awful kidney infection. They just kept giving me painkillers so I thought hey, I’m getting better, even though it was just the painkillers doing their job. Hope you are feeling better! The bright side is that you have these delicious lemon bars. I love that the filling is made with tofu. Pinned and can’t wait to try!

    1. Amanda says

      Ugh. Misdiagnosing a UTI seems pretty bad. I feel like those are usually easy to pinpoint and treat!

  14. These look awesome! I have such an obsession with lemons right now. Yummmmm!

  15. Shit show indeed – I am so, so sorry to hear about your awful experience with healthcare lately. At a time that you really needed competence and assurance, it’s ridiculous what you went through! I work in healthcare (though in Canada, so there are differences) and I know that the stress of it all is amplified when information is lacking or incorrect. No wonder you needed to sleep so much when you finally got home! Glad to hear that things are turning around for you though and that you found success in the kitchen – baking can be so meditative! These look amazing. Lemon is right up there with chocolate for me too!

    1. Amanda says

      You’re so right about the stress being amplified due to lack of information and just plain wrong information. Had I seen the doctors at the second hospital first, I would have avoided so much unnecessary stress, testing and medical bills. It’s really unfortunate that the care is so lackluster (and actually harmful) depending on where you go.
      Baking is definitely my meditation. I’ve needed it big time this week. <3

  16. Lemon bars are my absolute favorite and I’ve missed them since going Vegan. Thank you for taking the time with all going on to bring them to us…YUM!
    Feel better soon.
    Angela

    1. Amanda says

      Happy to share the lemon bars! Getting these right was a welcome distraction.

  17. Oh my! It seems like so many doctors are incompetent today. I hope you’ll recover quickly and feel much better soon!

    1. Amanda says

      I’m not even sure if the problem is the doctors, the training, the system, all of the above…it’s so hard to find doctors who are looking at patients as individuals and thinking critically. Something needs to change.

  18. These look wonderful! And your pictures are stunning! I’ve never tried tofu this way, but now I can’t wait to try it out 🙂

  19. Jen says

    Sorry to hear about your terrible hospital experience. I feel like I often hear horror stories about hospitals. My partner had to have shoulder surgery once upon a time and they marked the wrong shoulder! He’s the one who pointed it out to them!

    On another note, lemon bars are just about my favorite thing ever. I think I’ll make them this weekend with all those Meyer lemons I’m seeing about.

    1. Amanda says

      Oh my gosh, marking the wrong shoulder?! Yikes. That could have been very, very bad.
      It’s a good time to make lemon bars. 🙂

  20. Ceil Tulloch says

    Dear Amanda,

    It’s been a while. I’m soo sorry to read about your recent medical condition. As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. Anyhow, I’m delighted that you’re on the mend and doing what you love best – creating delish, nutritious and inspiring recipes. 🙂
    Take excellent care of number 1 and keep up the great work.

    Truly,
    Ceil (still in Oman)

  21. Meredith says

    Since my family has a history of thyroid cancer, I get annual ultrasound check-ups, and once had to get a biopsy. I hope everything is OK and it was just a (really bad) scare. *hugs!*

  22. Marika says

    I’m so glad to hear you’re getting more on the ball care—I hope you get answers soon. Thank you for sharing these fantastic bars—they look like perfection: the only flavour that comes close to challenging my love for chocolate is lemon. These will definitely be made soon. Take care of you. I’m looking forward to a positive update.

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  24. Sondi says

    I’m sorry to hear you had such a terrible experience! It’s stressful to go through a health crisis even with compassionate care and open communication, so I can imagine your stress was amplified by having the runaround. I can’t believe you had the energy and creativity to bake these stunning bars – I would have been a bumbling zombie in your place. Take care, and I truly you are back on your way to wellness very soon.

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Sondi. My stress levels were definitely (definitely) amplified by that hospital experience. I’m so glad to be out of there! I was a zombie for sure, but I credit sheer willpower and my love of lemon bars for this recipe.

  25. Tedi says

    This must have been so scary and stressful for you! Wishing you good health. And thank you for sharing this recipe. Looks incredibly delicious.

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Tedi! P.S. Love your blog. And your foster puppy…I would be a foster mom fail because I would keep her all to myself. <3

      1. Tedi says

        Thank you for checking out my site! And omg this is certainly leaning toward a foster fail…I thought she was going to be adopted yesterday and I literally cried ALL day. Still trying to decide what to do. All the best to you!!

  26. Georgie says

    These lemon bars look amazing! I’m planning to make them this weekend, could I make them the day before & leave them overnight in the fridge?
    Thanks!

    1. Amanda says

      Awesome! Yes, you should be able to make them the day before. Just be sure to wait to sprinkle on the powdered sugar (if you use it) until just before serving so it doesn’t get absorbed into the bars.

  27. Vanessa says

    Sorry for your troubles with the medical system. I went through an endoscopy/colonoscopy recently that was unpleasant due to several incorrect assurances the medical staff gave me. I know the details probably sound really glamorous and fun, but I think I’ll skip them.

    Anyways, these lemon bars tasted divine. They didn’t set very well though. Particularly when I removed them from the pan. I am in the habit of pressing firm tofu, but not silken. Is there an extra step needed here?

    1. Amanda says

      I’m sorry you’ve also had trouble with the medical system. It’s really frustrating and stressful.

      I’m so happy the lemon bars tasted divine, but that’s a bummer they didn’t set! What brand of silken tofu did you use? And was it firm silken? You definitely need firm silken tofu as opposed to silken. Mori Nu, which is found in a box (not refrigerated), is what worked well for me.

      1. Vanessa says

        I saw you recommended Mori-Nu, I didn’t see it. But now that I think on it, I was only looking in the refrigerated section. Doh! I used Nasoya silken. I may have just breezed past the “firm silken” part of your instructions.

        It’s no worries, as someone complained that they didn’t get any, so I’ll probably make another batch very soon. Baking has become akin to a missionary activity for me since I became vegan.

      2. Amanda says

        I think the Nasoya silken explains why the bars didn’t set. Although, I bet lemon pudding consistency was still pretty delicious!
        Also, I love that you said vegan baking is akin to a missionary activity–there’s no better way to change people’s minds about vegan food!

      3. Vanessa says

        Oh, the taste was wonderful and the color was great. I’m definitely making these again this weekend with some firm silken.

        A male friend who is very “It’s not food without meat” came over last weekend and complained I had no homemade vegan treats set out for him. It’s working!

  28. Smadar says

    This is a good recipe! I like the end result. However, as someone who loves non-vegan lemon bars and was looking for a vegan recipe that would yield very similar results, I have to confess the recipe didn’t meet my expectations. I found the coconut flavour is a bit strong. I’m generally a big fan of coconut flavour but I guess for me the lemon should be the star. I think next time I’ll replace the shredded coconut with another nut flour or maybe just the usual graham crackers and that way there will only be a hint of coconut from the oil. The tofu holds up well. Overall a nice healthy dessert!

  29. Carol says

    I just wanted to comment and say I made this last week for a work pot luck and it was a big hit! My co-workers really enjoyed the coconut and lemon flavors and they were impressed that the bars were vegan and GF (I have a co-worker who can’t have gluten). Like you mentioned, you have to add the powdered sugar right before you serve them because it absorbs fast. I’ll definitely make this recipe again.

  30. Oana says

    Beautiful photography, I’m smitten by your blog. Well done!

    1. Amanda says

      Thank you so much, Oana!

  31. Awdur says

    Is there any flour that could be substituted for almond in this recipe? We have almond allergies in the family. :/
    Thanks!

    1. I haven’t tried this myself, but I would think another nut meal (perhaps cashew?) could be used in place of the almond. Let me know if you give that a try. 🙂

  32. Julie says

    These turned out great! I accidentally used extra firm silken Mori nu tofu, so the filling looked very crumbled as I was mixing it. I used my immersion blender in it though and then it smoothed right out. Thanks!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that, Julie! Good call on using your immersion blender to smooth out the tofu filling. 🙂

  33. Sarah says

    Hi! When you make this recipe do you need to press the tofu? When whipping will it become creamy or mostly still the texture of ricotta cheese? I’ve not baked with tofu before and want to get it right! These look great!

    1. Amanda says

      Hi Sarah! No need to press the tofu. 🙂 You want a creamy consistency.

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