Vegan Life > Recipes > Desserts & Sweets > Vegan Lemon Tart

Vegan Lemon Tart

March 16, 2021

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A top-down view of a lemon tart topped with lemon slices and flowers; a kitchen towel and lemons to the sides.

This lemon tart is a vegan take on a classic French recipe (tarte au citron). It's made with a slightly sweet shortcrust (pâte brisée) and a lemon curd filling with a base of coconut milk and coconut cream.

For the pâte brisée, I used Earth Balance sticks instead of butter. It's traditionally made by mixing the butter into the dry ingredients with the fingertips, but Earth Balance softens quicker than standard butter, so I used a fork to keep the dough from softening too much. Since the filling doesn't need to be baked, we'll blind-bake the crust (bake it without the filling). You'll need pie weights or dry rice or beans to keep the crust from expanding while it's baking.

Tart crusts get their shape from fluted tart tins. I have tested this vegan tart recipe with both a full-sized tart pan and with mini tartlet pans. I had good results with the Wilton pans with removable bottoms. The crust came out of the pan very easily and cleanup was simple. Here's the 9-inch tart pan I used, and the 4.75-inch tartlet pans. This recipe was made for the 9-inch pan, so if you want to convert it for the smaller pans, please read the section below called "making lemon tartlets."

The tart filling has a base of lemon, sugar, and canned coconut milk and coconut cream, and it's thickened with cornstarch and agar agar. Agar is an ingredient derived from red algae that is similar to gelatin. (If you're looking for agar in the supermarket, I found it in the Asian section at my local store.) Both the cornstarch and agar need to be heated to thicken the filling.

A slice of lemon tart on a plate with the whole tart and lemons to the side.
Impress your guests with a French lemon tart that's 100% vegan!

Making lemon tartlets

This recipe is made for a 9-inch (23-cm) tart pan, but it can also be used to make 4.75-inch (12-cm) tartlets. The crust recipe will make about 4 tartlets as written, but the filling recipe will fill about 5 tartlets. So I'd recommend multiplying the filling recipe by 4/5 and keeping the crust recipe the same (for 4 tartlets). See the conversion below for the exact filling amounts.

Most of the procedure will be the same as described in the recipe below, but after you form the dough, you should divide it into 4 discs before refrigerating it. Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes instead of 30. Then roll out each disc individually.

The baking time is approximately the same, just keep an eye on the crusts towards the end to get them to the color you'd like. And the tartlet filling may cool and firm up a little faster than a standard tart.

Conversion for reducing filling for 4 tartlets

  • 124 mL (1/2 cup plus 1 tsp.) full-fat canned coconut milk

  • 124 mL (1/2 cup plus 1 tsp.) unsweetened canned coconut cream

  • 36 g. (3 tbsp.) vegan granulated sugar

  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1 1/3 tsp. lemon zest

  • 1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

  • 1 1/4 tsp. agar agar flakes (or 1/2 tsp. agar agar powder)

Close-up view of a lemon tart
This lemon tart is made with a base of coconut cream and coconut milk, which firms up nicely in the refrigerator thanks to cornstarch and agar.

FAQ

Can I use just coconut milk or just coconut cream? It's possible, but the combination of both provides the best texture. Using coconut milk alone results in a filling that's a little bit runny and more Jell-O-like. Using coconut cream alone produces a very thick filling that has a little bit of grittiness to it.

How do I zest a lemon? If your lemons have a wax coating, you should remove that first. Boil a pot of water, then pour the hot water over the lemons and scrub them with a vegetable brush. Use a microplane zester (or the smallest holes on a box grater) to gently scrape the sides of the lemon, only including the bright yellow part of the peel (the zest), not the inner white part (the pith, which is bitter). Be careful to keep your fingers away from the grater.

Can I make the filling more yellow? Traditional lemon tarts are brighter yellow than this vegan version because the lemon curd contains egg yolks. If you'd like your vegan lemon curd filling to have a similar look, you can add a pinch of turmeric into the filling, adding more as needed until you reach the color you want.

What do I do if my crust cracks in the oven? First, try to prevent this by rolling the dough gently and avoiding breaking the dough when transferring it to the pan. If the crust still cracks, though, don't worry! You don't have to toss it! If you still have some scraps of dough, you can patch the crust with that; if you threw the scraps away, just mix up some flour and water into a paste and press it into the crack. After patching, put the crust back in the oven until the patch is dry (about 5-10 minutes).

Vegan Lemon Tart

Yield1 tart

Prep Time45 minutes

Cook Time30 minutes

Total Time6 hours

Ingredients

Pâte Brisée (Crust)

  • 200 g all-purpose flour
  • 40 g vegan powdered (icing/confectioner's) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 105 g cold vegan butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 tsp. cold water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Lemon Curd Filling

Instructions

  1. Add the flour, powdered sugar, and salt to a medium mixing bowl and mix. Add the pieces of cold vegan butter and cut (mix) with a fork until the mixture is crumbly with small lumps.

    Flour, sugar, salt, and vegan butter in a bowl after being mixed
    Your dough should look crumbly, as shown, before moving on to the next step.
  2. Mix water and vanilla in a small bowl, then add to the flour and butter mixture, mixing until a dough is formed. Shape the dough into a ball, then flatten into a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (If you’re making tartlets, divide the dough into 4 discs, then refrigerate 20 minutes.)

    Tart crust dough flattened into a disc on a plate
  3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. If the dough has gotten too cold from being left in the refrigerator longer, press it between your palms until it softens a little to prevent the dough from breaking when it’s rolled out. If the dough does break while rolling, press it back together using your fingertips. Roll the dough out until it’s about 1/8” (3 mm) thick.

  4. Lift up an edge of the rolled crust and slide a 9-inch (23-cm) tart pan underneath. (It may be helpful to have a second person slide the tart pan so you can use both hands to lift the crust.) Gently press the crust into the corners and edges of the pan, then trim anything that’s hanging over the edges. Make sure that the sides of the crust extend to the top of the pan all the way around. (If there are any areas missing crust, you can press some of your trimmed dough into the empty areas). Use a fork to poke holes in the bottom of the crust, then place the crust in the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.

    Tart crust in pan with fork holes
  5. Before removing the crust from the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). After the dough has chilled for 30 minutes, cut a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the entire crust, then spray one side with spray oil. Place the oiled side down over the crust and push the foil down and into the corners of the crust. Fold the foil over the sides of the pan. Then fill the foil with pie weights, dry rice, or dry beans. (The weight keeps the crust from expanding while it’s baking).

    A tart pan with a crust lined with foil and filled with rice
  6. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 15 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the crust has a slightly golden brown color. Let the crust cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer it to a cooling rack to cool completely.

  7. Once the crust has cooled, begin making the filling. Add all the filling ingredients except the agar agar (coconut milk, coconut cream, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and cornstarch) to a medium saucepan and whisk, making sure the cornstarch fully dissolves. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Add the agar agar and continue whisking until the mixture has thickened into a more gelatinous texture (about another 2 minutes or so). Remove from heat.

  8. Before filling the crust, transfer it to a baking sheet so it’s easier to move to the refrigerator without breaking. Pour the filling into the crust (it should fill the crust about halfway to the top). Carefully transfer the tart to a flat shelf in the refrigerator and allow to cool for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Garnish with fresh berries and whipped cream, if desired, then cut and serve.

Notes & Hints

Latin brands of coconut cream such as Goya and Iberia have a lot of added sugar and won't work in this recipe. Thai Kitchen, Native Forest, 365 brand, and Trader Joe's all have unsweetened coconut cream that will work.

If you have agar agar powder, use 1/2 teaspoon instead of 1/2 tablespoon.

A traditional pâte brisée will be made by cutting in the butter with the fingertips. However most vegan butters soften faster than traditional butter, so I use a fork to keep the dough from getting too soft.

To slice the tart cleanly, run a serrated knife and a paring knife under hot water to warm them. Use the serrated knife to gently slice the edges and filling, then use the paring knife to cut the bottom of the crust.

Store the tart covered or in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The texture and taste is best when eaten within a few days.

To make tartlets instead, see the instructions in the post.

Nutrition Data

Serving Size: 1/8 of recipe; Calories: 255Fat: 15 g.; Saturated Fat: 9 g.; Cholesterol: 0 mg.; Sodium: 216 mg.; Carbohydrates: 26 g.; Fiber: 0 g.; Sugar: 9 g.; Protein: 2 g.; Vitamin A: 0 mcg. RAE; Vitamin B12: 0 mcg.; Vitamin C: 4 mg.; Vitamin D: 0 mcg.; Calcium: 2 mg.; Iron: 0 mg.; Potassium: 72 mg.; Zinc: 2 mg.

Note: This data should be used only as an estimate. Please see the nutrition section of my terms and conditions for more information on how this data is calculated.

Four vegan dishes: Creme Brulee, Detroit-style pizza, General Tso's Tofu, and Lemon Tart

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A lemon tart on a cutting board, with two slices sliced.
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Steph Sunshine

Hi! I'm Steph, and I love to explore vegan food, health, and of course, the world. I'm sharing my best vegan recipes, and things I've learned and loved from my travels and health journeys.

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