With a crispy oat cracker crust and a luscious veggie-laced lemon filling, these tasty Vegan Lemon Bars are like no citrus dessert you’ve had before!
If we were to play a round of Guess the Secret Ingredient with this recipe it would be a short game. There are only so many things you can hide under the delicate color and flavor of lemon.
Banana would cancel out the citrus in a second. Tofu is not something I really use in my recipes these days. Dates aren’t a sneaky secret around this site at all. Pineapple, while surprisingly good with lemon, is not it. Beans in desserts isn’t really my style. And we are just about out of light-colored, mild-flavored possibilities already.
Except one. One that starts with a C and rhymes with sour. One that made this milkshake so thick and this pudding so creamy. One that had I mentioned it in the title might have sparked an involuntary ewwww! reaction–hence the mysterious name. You have my (not so) tricky lemon bar secret all figured out by now, don’t you?
But that is not the only thing that makes this recipe special.
So before we talk about how I steamed cauliflower and blended it into the lemon layer and it made for the most amazing creamy texture and you can’t taste it at all, let’s talk about that crispy oat crust…
To tell the full story of how this crust came to be, we have to rewind all the way back to June of last year when I went to Oregon to visit my sister.
The very first day I was there, we went into a health food store for some mid Portland-wandering fuel and I came out with fresh blackberries, oat crackers, and dark chocolate. I wish I could remember which health food store it was, but since I went into pretty much every single one I saw (and since it’s Oregon, that’s A LOT!) I can’t keep them all straight. Sitting on the sidewalk snacking, getting funny looks from many humans and envious looks from many dogs, I discovered my favorite store-bought cracker: Nairn’s Organic Oat Crackers.
And while that may sound a bit dramatic for a story about crackers, I am not exaggerating one bit. I went through 3 whole boxes on that trip and I was only there for 4 days. And when I got home I immediately stocked up on them from Amazon. It was cracker love level = obsession.
So when Nairn’s reached out to me it was an obvious YES. Because me and these crackers have a history and I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to share their delicious crunchy snack-perfection with you.
Although I must admit, now that I have tried their Oat Grahams too the crackers have some stiff snack competition. Because those grahams are subtly sweet and scrumptious!
Oat cracker crust. I have complained in the past about how oat flour crusts never have the crispy texture that I am looking for as the base of a bar or pie. But I discovered that oat cracker crusts have exactly the crumbly toasty texture I want while still keeping things oat-based and easy.
The crust of these lemon bars is made of oat crackers ground into crumbs plus maple syrup to sweeten and hold it all together. The texture is reminiscent of a graham cracker pie crust and the taste is a little salty + a little sweet, which compliments the creamy citrus top layer beautifully.
The ingredients in these crackers are pretty simple: oats, oat bran, oil, and salt. While they are not oil-free, they are still quite low in fat. And it’s that little bit of oil that makes them a much better crust base than plain oat flour, which just turns chewy when you bake it. So I do not recommend subbing in oat flour here.
If you don’t want to use the crackers for the crust, I would suggest switching to this almond flour crust instead.
Lemon cauliflower cream. The filling gets some of it’s creaminess from the cauliflower, but there is coconut involved too. I first tried using coconut milk in this recipe, but with all the lemon juice it was just too much liquid. So I switched to coconut cream, a.k.a. the thick part scooped out of a can of full fat coconut milk that has spent a night or two in the fridge. Thickness and richness without all the extra liquid.
In addition to the creamy coco-cauli base, there is lots of lemon flavor with a combination of lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice, maple syrup for sweetness, and arrowroot starch to help the bars set and slice cleanly.
A quick note! The first batch of these bars I made in the smaller rectangle pan you see in the video, but the crust was too thick and I had extra filling that would’ve overflowed the pan. The second time I used a larger square pan and it worked perfectly. So don’t let the pan in the video confuse you–8×8″ square is the way to go!
These bars need to be baked and chilled overnight, so they aren’t exactly the quickest of desserts. But the wait is worth it my lemon treat lovers! Maybe make some oat graham ice cream sandwiches in the meantime.
P.S. Thank you for all the love and support on my last post. You guys are seriously amazing!Print
(Secret Ingredient) Vegan Lemon Bars
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 60 minutes
- Yield: 9 bars 1x
With a crispy oat cracker crust and a luscious veggie-laced lemon filling, these tasty Vegan Lemon Bars are like no citrus dessert you’ve had before!
Oat Cracker Crust*
- 1 1/2 cup Nairn’s Oat Crackers, ground ((about 18 crackers))
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- Cream from a 15oz can of full-fat coconut milk ((chilled overnight))
- 2 cups cooked cauliflower
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- Zest from one lemon
- 3 tbsp arrowroot starch
- 1/4 tsp turmeric ((optional for color))
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- For the crust, grind the crackers in a blender or food processor and slowly drizzle in the maple syrup until you have a sticky crumbly mixture.
- Press into an 8×8″ square pan lined with parchment paper. Set aside.
- For the filling, blend all the ingredients on high until smooth and creamy.
- Pour on top of the crust.
- Bake for 45 minutes at 375F.
- Cool then chill overnight.
- Slice into squares and enjoy! Keep in the fridge.
*Alternatively you could use this almond flour crust
Leah M | love me, feed me says
These are actual magic! The texture of the lemon layer looks so dreamy. And it has vegetables which means I can eat the whole batch right?? 😉 Such a perfect spring treat!
I’ve never seen those crackers before, but I’m going to be on the look out for them now!!
Can and SHOULD eat the whole batch!! Oh yay, I hope you can find them. I haven’t spotted them here yet at my one health food store, but I’m pretty sure any city with a respectable number of natural grocery stores should have them?
Hi there, any substitute for arrowroot starch? As amazon is not my options in my country. Could i just simply substitute it with corn starch instead?
Yes corn starch will work too!
I’m super excited, I can buy Nairn’s so easily in the UK. I love lemon flavoured cakess mmmm
You are lucky, I have a little bit of cracker-selection envy to be honest 😀 Enjoy the lemony treat Emma!
The Vegan 8 says
Well, what do you know, I just bought 4 bags of cauliflower florets today, haha! I can’t believe it took me until this year to like cauliflower but I’ve been using it in savory recipes now and really enjoy it! These look amazing in the lemon bars!! The color is so vibrant, springy and gorgeous. I can totally see how you wouldn’t taste it either because cauliflower basically tastes like nothing! And so much better than banana, because like you said, there would be no disguising the banana against the lemon. Those crackers look and sound amazing and that is how I am with crackers by Crunchmaster…I seriously want to eat the entire bag in like 30 seconds! These look just as delicious! And I’m suddenly in the mood for some major lemon…we are HUGE lemon lovers in this household, all 3 of us!!
I think it has become my favorite veggie, and not just because you can make desserts with it 😀 I love it in savory stuff as well, my freezer is full of it right now too! And it is so easy to hide, although I did have to add more maple and lemon juice than I probably would’ve with just a coconut base, but I’m okay with that. Not gonna lie, baked banana bars of a similar style actually sound pretty yummy to me because the banana would get all sweet and caramelized mmmm… But lemon is much more classically springy! You need to whip up something lemony soon, I would love to see it 🙂
The Vegan 8 says
Oh, it’s coming very soon my friend! I did a lemony treat this week, but it’s not a typical dessert though as one would think! It was literally a spur of the moment decision…hahaha, aren’t those the best?!
Yayyyyy!! Can’t wait! Yes those are often my favorite recipes too–strike while the inspiration is hot?
I love hiding cauliflower and zucchini in my lemon smoothie bowls, so why not in lemon bars too??!! These look so refreshing, and the crust looks perfectly crispy and graham cracker like! I actually just made a batch of enlightened lemon bars from the Blissful Basil cookbook and topped them with some blueberry nice cream, which totally rekindled my love for lemon. Have to make these next – I bet they’d be great with other citrus juices too =)
Wow I don’t think I have ever made a lemon smoothie bowl, but I definitely need to now! I will sometimes put a little lemon in smoothies, but never let it be the main flavor. I love lemony desserts and sweet stuff though, so that sounds so good. Maybe add some crunchy granola/rawnola on top and it would be like a deconstructed lemon bar but for breakfast 🙂 Ooooh those bars sound amazing too, I adore lemon + blueberry! And pretty much anything Ashley makes. You have just made me very hungry 😀
Droooooooling!!!!! My Mom used to make lemon bars all the time when I was a kid and I haven’t had them since and for some reason, never ventured out to make a vegan/gf version. So, thank YOU! 🙂 I’m seriously dying over that crust…those crackers make the perfect crust! I swear, sometimes just that little bit of oil takes a recipe from good to amazing – especially when a crispier crust is what you’re after – which is my favorite kind. Then there’s this dreamy lemon filling!!! Cauliflower has become quite the secret magical ingredient – I love it! And combined with coconut has to make it ultra creamy. I’ve added these to my list to try ASAP and I’m wondering how they would work with more of a shortbread crust???? Hmmm, like say your tigernut flour shortbread cookies 😉 Hahaha! can you tell I’m obsessed with those cookies? <3
OH! Josh came over to the computer while Willow and I watched your video and he commented on how awesome it was! It's been a while since he's seen a video of yours and he said he's loving the editing and style. I'll let you know how these turn out when we try them!
I think this might be my first time making a v/gf version too, which is weird because I love lemon bars. Sorry lemon bars, you are just a little…forgettable as a dessert lol. I blame chocolate 😀 YES to the tigernut shortbread cookie crust–that would be perfect!!! My cookies or your cookies, either would work! I actually would happily just take a spoon to a big baked dish of the lemon filling no crust required…not that I did that. I have been actually really loving video editing lately and trying to be more unique and creative with it, at least a little bit 🙂
I can’t have coconut cream, so can I substitute cashew instead?
That should work fine, yes!
Demeter | Beaming Baker says
Oh my sweet, sweet lemon desserts… these look AH-mazing! You know, I was totally thinking about making a lemon bar recipe, but now that I see yours, I’m just gonna have to put that away. Haha. Just, could you send some of these over for me instead? 😉 Meanwhile, this game of Guess the Secret Ingredient would be sooo much more fun if I were there in person. To help you taste “test” all iterations of these would be secret ingredient bars. You know, for research purposes, of course. Also, just so you know, I’d totally be ready to warm that sidewalk spot (is that an ew or what??) next to you, making other humans weirded out, and dogs envious, whereever we went. 😉 Happily snacking on everything awesome we found! Glad you and your sister’s snacking adventures led to these incredible bars! Droolworthy is the only way to describe them. Love ya! xoxo
Nope, sorry can’t send any because I NEED to see your BB lemony version!!! Do you have anything lemony on the blog yet? ? I can’t think of anything, which needs to change stat. No bake bites or bars or one of your gorgeous beverages–so many citrus-ibilities! Lolol to the “warm sidewalk spot”?? Not the best mental image, but it’s the thought that counts. Two weirdos just sitting on the ground snacking on sweet stuff enjoying the moment while everyone else is in a hurry somewhere or another–yep sounds perfect? xoxo
Letty / Letty's Kitchen says
Excited to try these. I recently put cauliflower in some chocolate brownie muffins to much success!
It’s a brownie and a muffin in one?!? And it counts as vegetables? This sounds like something my life has been missing for much too long!! Will be hunting that recipe down very soon 🙂 Thanks Letty!
Gabriel @ One Clever Chef says
I’ve never thought of using cauliflower in my clean sweet recipes! There are so many options to add texture to a healthy dessert, but cauliflower? That is a new one for me, love it!
I’m all in for a “Guess what’s in there” game when the food looks that good.
There are tons of options, although I find the color issue to make things tricky with these light colored recipes. But I have been loving cauliflower in smoothies lately so why not!? It would’ve been a fun game to do in person instead of answering myself lol? Hope you give it a shot!
audrey @ unconventional baker says
I knew the secret ingredient straight away — brilliant use of it too. They look so good and everyone always seems to be looking for a good lemon bar, so I think these will make a lot of people happy ?.
P.S. I must walk into every health food shop I come across too ? — I’m not even really sure what it is I’m looking for, but I always have the feeling like there might be a new magical ingredient that will be just perfect for… something ?
Hehe no ingredient is really a “secret” with you anymore when it comes to funky things in desserts. As for health food stores, it’s just the possibility that there may be something inside I’ve never seen before…can’t resist 🙂
Pamela @BrooklynFarmGirl says
These lemon bars look delicious I would have never thought they have cauliflower in them!
So sneaky but so good! It just adds a little extra thickness and umph to the lemon layer, plus makes me feel healthy while I indulge 🙂
Krishna Gelda says
Is there a way to estimate how much “2 cups of cooked cauliflower” is?
You can just chop and roughly measure the florets, a little less or a little more won’t hurt. It’s probably about 1/2 of a large head or so, maybe a little more 🙂
I’m not at all familiar with the recipe development process so forgive me if I don’t understand how much more effort this would be, but for many recipes and particular ingredients, all guessing could be eliminated with the simple addition of a gram measurement. The stress induced in some of us at having to guess the amount of cauliflower, etc. is terrible, especially if we’re making the recipe for the very first time and have guests coming over.
In your estimation of 1/2 of a large head of cauliflower, my experience was almost half of that amount. I think I used around 1/4 of a medium head. This can make a huge difference in the flavor in the end. The other thing was the coconut milk. Even though I used full fat, there was no liquid in the can after taking out of the refrigerator. Then I was left to wonder if I should less than the whole can so as not to over-coconut flavor the bars (I don’t really want them to be too coconutty).
So, please forgive my rant. It’s just such a joy to follow a recipe that takes all the guesswork out, at least for the first time making it.
Thanks for listening! (oh, and I LOVE these bars!!)
I include weight measurements in all my more recent recipes, I love cooking/baking by weight too actually! Just not how I grew up/was taught so took me a little while to come around to it 🙂
That’s wonderful! And I completely understand. Thank you for your quick response! My lemon bars are chilling in the fridge right now and I can’t wait to dig in. I think they turned out well. My girlfriend made these for my birthday and they blew my mind! Thank you, thank you!
HI Natalie, it is alright that 1 cup ≈ 240ml in all your recipes? I usually use gram for exact calculation, so it would be a little confused about conversion. Thanks in advance.
I think 1 cup is a tiny bit under 240ml technically (236) but, yes that will be fine! Hope that helps🙂
Alexandria Phillips says
Can I make a substitution for the crust? I have never seen those crackers where I live.
Absolutely! My favorite crust is this almond flour one: https://www.feastingonfruit.com/blueberry-magic-cookie-bars/ Or if you want an oat option, this cookie dough can actually be used as a crust too: https://www.feastingonfruit.com/homemade-vegan-golden-oreos/
Alexandria Phillips says
these were pretty good. I have an issue with most sneaky cauliflower recipes. They always have an after taste of cauliflower. I am going to play around with it a bit more. I LOVE lemon bars. 🙂 Thank you so much for this recipe!
These look DELISH!! Love lemon “anything” and can’t wait to see the cauliflower in action, haha! Do you know of an oil-free cracker/cookie that might work as a substitute in the crust??
Hi Arose! I don’t know of any store-bought oil-free cookies. You could try it with these homemade ones: https://www.feastingonfruit.com/homemade-vegan-golden-oreos/ although i realize that’s a lot of work. Or you could just use this crust recipe instead: https://www.feastingonfruit.com/sweet-potato-pumpkin-pie/ You could probably half it though for these bars. Hope that helps!
I’d like to try these using sugar-free maple syrup. Will it change the consistency or affect the result in any way?
I have never worked with sugar free maple syrup so I can’t say for sure, but it should be okay and not affect the texture. Good luck!
Roseann Stewart says
Just curious what it’s sprinkled with in the picture….coconut?
BTW made and loved them (2nd batch in the fridge right now), confused because they taste sinfully too good!! Gave them to my brother, mother and father who all swooned over them and then told them what they were made of, which made them want seconds even more so lol. Thanks for sharing your creation!!
I make mine with lemon oil instead of the lemon zest to avoid the bitter taste that can develop in the peel a few days later.
Woohoo I am so happy you like them Roseann!! And shared too, did anyone guess the secret ingredient or were you kind enough to tell them first?😉 Yes, that is just shredded coconut sprinkled on top. And great idea to use lemon oil, I really need to get a little bottle of that😊 Thanks for the feedback and happy friday!
Christina Muscat says
Hi Natalie, I will be making this soon but I have a couple of questions; the coconut cream can, do I discard the liquid (using only the hardened part) and can I use the stem of cauliflower florets? Thanks!
Hi Christina! Yes you want to use just the hardened part and discard the water for the coconut cream. And I recommend sticking with just the florets, the stem can have a bitter flavor that may be detectable in the finished product. Hope that helps!
I made it and was surprised at how good it tastes! However, I was wondering if I could substitute maple syrup with dates for the filling, if yes, what measure would you suggest? Thanks !
You could, but I chose not too since they will throw off the color and make it a weird shade of brown. But if you don’t mind that, I would recommend about 1 cup dates or so 🙂
Do you have a recipe for a healthy lemon curd? I can’t find one anywhere.
Ha funny enough I was just thinking about doing a lemon curd soon, but no I don’t have one at this point. Not sure exactly what you are looking for, but maybe this one would work: http://wallflowerkitchen.com/vegan-lemon-curd/
Your lemon bars look delish! I love the way you snuck in veggies. However, is there a substitute for the coconut cream?
You need some sort of higher fat ingredient to make them creamy and set properly. You could try cashew butter, but the flavor doesn’t pair as well with lemon so I really recommend sticking with coconut. Sorry!
Thanks so much Natalie!
Hi just to confirm it’s coconut cream not milk right? I read your notes and you mentioned that coconut milk didn’t work si cream is better. But your ingredients say coconut milk.
It’s coconut cream, yes. The ingredients say “CREAM from one can of coconut milk” so just the solid part not the water 🙂
How’s the turmeric taste in the dessert? Does it give a spice? Would you recommend the suggested amount of turmeric?
You barely taste it, it’s really just there for color, but if you don’t care about them being as yellow as pictured you can skip it!
Mary in Ireland says
Any chance that you and also your collagues would use metric/imperial measurements as well as cups, Please. I never know what size cup to use, a choice would be great.
Many thanks for reading this and hope Pinterest might also take it on board.
Mary in Ireland
I do include weight/gram measurements in all of my recipes now, there are just some older ones that don’t have it unfortunately. To convert to metric you could easily plug into google to find the conversions!