Guest Post by Kate Jay – Lemon Tart (Autoimmune Protocol Friendly)

October 4, 2014 in Categories: by

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Kate Bio PhotoKate Jay is a displaced Brit who left London for Vancouver, BC, a couple of years ago with her husband, two children and two cats. The whole family (but not the cats!) were already following the GAPS diet to address their digestive issues when Kate noticed swelling on both her thumb and wrist joints. She had blood tests and x-rays for Rheumatoid Arthritis (something her paternal grandmother had severely) but was told she was fine and just had repetitive strain injury. Not content with going away quietly, she started to research inflammation and came across the Autoimmune Protocol. Already diagnosed with hypothyroidism, she realised there was a connection between the two and that she likely had an autoimmune condition, something no doctor had ever mentioned before. The following day, the family embarked upon the Autoimmune Protocol, keeping the GAPS low starch principles, and within a couple of months, her brain fog had lifted and swelling started to come down. Now she is intent on healing her damaged thyroid as much as possible, and giving her children the strongest foundation possible for a life without inflammation themselves. Kate started her blog, Healing Family Eats, as motivation for making the restricted diet as exciting as possible for her two children, who felt they were missing out on all the junk being eaten by their friends at school. They are her biggest food critics! Find Kate at her blogFacebookPinterestTwitter and Instagram.

It is fair to say my husband’s all time favourite dessert is lemon tart … the more lemony the better, as far as he’s concerned. So for his birthday last month I wanted to make one as a surprise, only that’s easier said than done when you’ve cut out all but one of the ingredients that go into making a lemon tart.  When you don’t do starches either, it becomes an even more interesting challenge. But I’m sure you will agree, ‘challenge’ is our middle name, us ‘Autoimmune Warriors’! So here is a healthy lemon tart which is completely compliant with AIP and if you don’t tolerate starches, you’re going to be happy too!

This recipe has gone down very well in our house and I’m hoping you’ll love it too. The beauty of this dessert is that it has only a handful of ingredients and is quick and simple to put together. I imagine you’ll probably have most of the ingredients already in your food store. I’m not known for my decisive nature I’m afraid and true to style, couldn’t make up my mind whether the crust should be cooked, or left raw. Much to the delight of my family, I tested this recipe numerous times … with no sides, low sides, high sides. Then cooked, raw and cooked again until I was totally satisfied and my sugar intake (albeit an unrefined version) was maxed out! In truth this works either way, so you decide. For the record, I prefer my crust cooked. I hope you enjoy!

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep time: 15-20 mins
  • Cook time: 15 mins plus 4 hrs chilling

Lemon Tart Photo 3


  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F/180˚C and line the base of a 7 x 2+1/2 inch springform tin with parchment paper.

Make the crust:

  1. Put the shredded coconut and dates into a food processor and process for 2+1/2-3 minutes until the mixture is beginning to come together. It resembles brown sugar at this stage but don’t worry, it’ll make sense as you mould it into the tin. Take care not to over process, or the crust will be too oily. Put the mixture into the springform tin, gently press into the base and all the way up the sides, using your knuckles or fingertips. Make sure there are no gaps in the crust. Put into the fridge for 15 minutes to harden.
  2. Next, place the tin into the preheated oven for 15 minutes or so until browned and quite firm (it will firm up more on cooling). Resist the temptation to open the oven door too many times as this may cause the sides to collapse. When ready, place the tin on a wire rack to cool down, approx 20 minutes.

Make the filling:

  1. While the crust is cooling down, prepare the filling. Put 1/2 cup of filtered water into a pan and sprinkle over the gelatine. Leave for 5 minutes or so until it becomes spongy in appearance and has absorbed the water. Next, gently warm on the lowest heat to melt the gelatine, constantly stirring. Remove from the heat, add the honey and continue stirring for a few seconds until completely melted. Put the lemon juice, zest and the coconut milk into a large jug or bowl and whisk in the gelatine/honey mixture. Set aside until the crust has cooled down. This gives the filling an opportunity to start thickening slightly which will make it easier to pour into the crust. Yields 1+1/2pt liquid.


  1. Once the crust has completely cooled, pour in the filling slowly and gently. Place in the refrigerator, being careful to avoid slopping it around on its journey to the fridge shelf, or you will find it difficult to turn out later. I fill it 3/4 of the way, then put it in situ before topping up with the remaining liquid from a cup. Be mindful about slamming the fridge door for a while, in case it jogs the filling. Leave for a minimum of 4 hours.

To serve:

  1. Very carefully release the springform, easing away any of the crust that may want to stick to the sides. If you have any difficulty, simply use a thin palate knife to tease the crust away. This is best eaten the day it is made. It will keep a couple of days but the oils in the lemon and coconut will begin to seep. Don’t worry about this though, you will have a delicious syrup to look forward to!

A few notes to think about:

If you make the raw crust version, you should line the sides of the tin as well as the base or the ‘pastry’ will be difficult to remove from the tin. Also, after putting the crust into the mould, don’t refrigerate before adding the filling or you will find the filling tends to separate from the base when it is cut.

Do not use a fluted tin to make this, the crust will stick to the sides and you’ll spend more time prising it off than you did making the thing in the first place!

Lemon Tart Photo 1


Hi Irene, I haven’t tested with them so I think you may have to experiment a bit. My inclination would be to soak the prunes in hot water for a few minutes, squeeze out as much liquid as possible and then try. I have reservations about whether the mixture will stick together in the same way that the dates do but would be tempted to try it with a half quantity and add in a little melted coconut oil if necessary. If it doesn’t work out, you should have a tasty topping for some stewed fruits at the very least 🙂 Sorry I can’t help you more.

Oh, that looks delicious! Thanks for sharing your hubby’s favorite. I think I’ll have to try it out on my love. He has a birthday coming up which just cries out for a special dessert.

Hi Susan, I don’t have a 9×13 dish and you don’t say what depth yours is but my tin has a 2 pint capacity if that helps you with converting. There’s no need to worry about the words ‘very carefully’, I have been really thorough with my instructions and with any springform tin, the part where it unclasps and opens up always needs to be exercised with care.

Hmm, I’m afraid I haven’t tried making this with anything other than gelatine but you could try the vegetarian equivalent, agar agar. If that doesn’t answer the question you could perhaps look into using tapioca as a substitute but be aware it is a gluten cross-reactor and may not be appropriate for you. It goes without saying that whatever you use, your end result will be different. See this article written by Sarah for more info on the agar agar/tapioca.

Do you think a shorter crust and filling in a glass pie pan would work? I would love to try this but don’t have the springform pan yet. Maybe split on two pans and use a little parchment?

Hello Melody, I’m sure the recipe will work perfectly fine in your glass pan. My tin holds a capacity of 2 pints so pour some liquid into your pan, measure how much you have there and if it’s 2 pints you’re good to go with my measurements. Otherwise adjust them accordingly. If your pan has a fancy rim, don’t cover it with any crust as it won’t come off very easily when you come to serve. And yes, some parchment wouldn’t be a bad idea. I assume you will serve this straight from the pan, so make the first slice a small one as, I’m sure you know, the first will never come out as beautifully as the rest. I hope you enjoy!

Oh this is great! I actually can’t have citrus either at this point but I think it would be a great base recipe for some experiments I have in mind!

Have to say I followed this recipe verbatim and it turned out FANTASTIC! it looked too pretty to eat, but tasted like heaven to my taste buds and everyone else’s who got to taste test. Thank you so much for this AIP recipe. So tart and so lemony. WIll definitely be making this again in the very near future, but would love to replace the lemon with limes next time.

Hi JoAnne. What a lovely comment, you have well and truly made my day and it goes without saying how glad I am you loved it. Thanks for taking the time to say so 🙂 🙂

This is really, really beautiful, Kate. Thank you for sharing it, looks lovely. Will file away for a future attempt! I bet this would really hit the spot come Springtime. Cheers and all the best to you and yours from Metro Washington DC/Northern Virginia.

Hello OwlWet, thank you so much for taking the time to make your lovely comment, I really appreciate it. My husband would say this hits the spot any season, but I admit he’s rather biased! 😉 Cheers to you from a very sunny Vancouver!

Not afraid at all! I cannot find additive/gum free coconut milk near me and cannot bring myself to buy an entire case from Amazon. :/

Im so excited! my pie is in the fridge waiting to be ready in few hours.. i just have a question though, the coconut fat went to the top, i mean.. the filling started to separate so i used a stand blender before pouring.. but i just checked in the fridge with the tip of a knife and.. yep.. its solidifying but separated.. fat from lemon i guess.. why is this? (sorry for my bad english im from mexico)

Hmm, that’s very odd because I tested the recipe about six times and each time it was fine. Plus many other people have made it and you are the first to make this observation. Did you use the ingredients as specified in the recipe? Did you use full fat coconut milk? I’m wondering if you used Lite coconut milk and the water content separated from the fat. Do let me know Stephanie.

I used silk coconut milk since is one of the few brands i cand find here in mexico.. i also used knox gelatin since i cannot find the beef gellatine.. maybe that´s what happened.. but i have to say.. the taste was absolutely great, even is it had this ´crust´like coconut fat on top, the taste was excelent i definetly going to make this again! its ao not hard or difficult and its so quick! hehe thank you so much for the recipe and the response! =)

Hi Stephanie. I’m not familiar with either of those ingredients I’m afraid but you clearly had some separation going on which will be the coconut milk, rather than the knox. The main thing is you enjoyed it, and thanks for letting me know that 🙂

You used silk coconut milk that comes in a carton which is not the correct kind you need to use canned full fat coconut milk.

I recently made this for my four-year-old son’s birthday, and we really liked it! My husband did make a blueberry-maple syrup compote to go along with it to make it extra special. I appreciate how it uses simple ingredients with an elegant result. Best wishes!

Made this up this week, and it is delicious! DH likes it, too. (And has thanked me for sharing it with him ;-), as if I don’t always). The flavor is intense, but exquisite. It serves up beautifully, too. I didn’t manage to get the crust all the way up the sides of the pan, so had about 1 cup of the filling left over. Just put it into a separate bowl and put it in the fridge, too. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

My pleasure Nancy, I’m so pleased you both enjoyed it (excellent sharing skills on your part, I might add 😉 ). Thanks so much for letting me know!

Hi Wendy, I’m afraid it won’t freeze well in its entirety because of the gelatine content. The texture will change on thawing and the filling will start to weep. You can freeze the crust in its raw form, though I wouldn’t freeze it cooked as you may find the filling separates from the base once set.

How much coconut flavor is noticeable in this? My husband loves lemon, but hates coconut. I’d like to try it, but don’t want to waste the ingredients if you can taste a distinct coconut flavor since he won’t eat it. Thanks.

Rose that is a hard one to answer. The dominant flavour in the filling is definitely lemon (it is quite tangy so overrides the coconut which adds the smoothness to texture) and it is date in the crust. We have no problem with coconut but if your husband hates it that much he will probably detect it more sensitively than someone who doesn’t mind it. I have a couple of suggestions for you: Use one more lemon in the filling (but bear in mind it will be even more tangy and you will need to take away a couple of tbsp coconut milk to compensate for the extra liquid) or halve the ingredients to make a smaller tart. That way you don’t waste too much, or there’s not too much for you to eat alone 😉

Made this this week and absolutely loved it! Thanks so much. My brother who is a vegan with Chrones all gulped it up. He suggested it would be quite flexible and we could try a chocolate and a vanilla version of this tart. So quick and easy and yummy and scrumptious! Thank You!

That’s lovely to hear, thanks for the feedback Emily. Chocolate and vanilla sounds pretty yummy too 🙂 Chocolate is not for those following AIP though, I should add.

I just made this, and it’s amazing! Thank you, Kate!! My partner, who is completely non-AIP, also loved it. We both agreed it looks and tastes like a ‘normal’ tart, i.e. not a special AIP one!!
My lemon filling had a very thin ‘crust’ on top, I guess from some separation in the coconut milk, but it was still totally fine (just made it slightly harder to cut through in a neat line, as the ‘crust’ wanted to snap into chunks, if that makes sense).
Next time I will try and make it more lemony, and I will finish it off with berries on top!

Hi Anna, I’m so pleased you both enjoyed it. About the ‘crust’, I’m wondering whether it’s dependent on the type of coconut milk you use. My carton of Aroy-D is smooth and even in texture but if you are using a can which hasn’t been blended thoroughly it could possibly be the cause. Or else it could be separation if your coconut milk has a greater water content than mine?

Hi Kate! I can’t find Aroy-D here (Australia) and the coconut milk I used has guar gum – I know this isn’t ideal as it’s a gut irritant. I found some other brands today, but unfortunately they also all contain ’emulsifiers’ and ‘stabilisers’. I’m making the cake again so I’ll let you know how it goes! I’m going to try chilling the filling a little in the fridge and mixing it again before adding it to the base.

Also, just wanted to ask about the lemon juice – I’m juicing them now and one lemon alone is yielding around 100mL. Not sure if I have particularly juicy lemons?! Just wanted to make sure if 155mL in your recipe is correct?


Hi Anna, yes the measurements are all correct so I’m guessing you Ozzies must have the most ginormous lemons ever. You said you wanted it more lemony 🙂 . Just remember that the gelatine measurement given is for the overall quantity of liquid so if you add more juice, then remove the same quantity of coconut milk. On the subject of coconut milk, I’m lucky I can get it unadulterated so can’t say whether that’s your separation issue but you may like to make your own. Sarah has a post here if you fancy giving it a go. Just make sure your finished milk is not too thin as this will impact on the depth of flavour. Also, if you put the filling in the fridge, don’t leave it there too long or it may start setting quickly and it’ll end up lumpy. Good luck!

Hi Kate, seems like we do have exceptionally juicy lemons here, lol!! It worked out really well – I put the liquid in the fridge for about an hour and mixed it again (it was just on the verge of going lumpy) before pouring into the base to set. There was no ‘crust’ this time, just a consistent, smooth texture through the whole filling. It could also have been due to the different coconut milk brands I used. Once set, I finished it off with fresh blueberries and raspberries and it looked amazing! Tasted awesome too, of course ; )

Greetings! Thanks for the lovely recipe, I’ll give it a try. I had symptoms very similar to yours and spent years adjusting diet and supplements with very little improvement. It was only after my chiropractor ran blood tests that I found out I have Hemochromatosis! I’d never heard of it and yet it is the most common hereditary disease. Imagine my surprise that iron overload can wreak all that havoc on the body. . It is found in people of Northern European descent and is also known as “The Celtic Curse.” The hypothyroidism and thumb joint problem are classic symptoms.. It’s worth being tested, it’s diagnosed through a simple iron panel blood test. Best Wishes!

Finally! I was just gifted a giant bowl of just-picked lemons and am making this lemon tart today. – right after I figure out how much 155 ml is… I am not at all confident I can wait four hours unless I leave the house.

Oops, sorry Dale. I can cope with cups but beyond that I don’t really understand your American measurements 😉 . 155ml is about 1/3 US pint, give or take and don’t quote me on that, but as long as the finished liquid measurement is 1+1/2 pt that will be perfect for the quantity of gelatine given in the recipe. Though I dare say you’ve made it up by now .. so I hope you managed to leave it long enough to set. And also hoping you enjoy!!

It’s 2/3 cup.
The metric equivalent should be written somewhere on your measuring cup, but if not here it goes.
One cup is 240 ml, 1/3 cup is 80 ml and 2/3 cup is 160 ml. If you want, 155 ml is 2/3 cup minus a teaspoon, but it will make no difference.
I made this cake a couple of days ago and I used orange juice instead of lemon juice and it was perfect!

I have made this four times now…it is my new favorite dessert! My husband & I think it is even better the next day! I make sure I use plenty of zest and chop it finely.

This recipe is an excellent example of how we like to eat: nutrition + taste.

I have always made lemon meringues as they are a family tradition. When I made this recipe for the first time I didn’t have enough lemons so I used limes instead. Made fresh coconut milk and roasted the crust – this is a must as it caramelizes the dates. The verdict? Our taste buds were in heaven. My spouse declared there was no need for me to ever make another lemon meringue pie again and, even though I adore lemon curd – I had to agree. I will be making this recipe again and again in the future – it is an exceptional summer dessert. Although, I may have to halve the recipe, as it is a lot for two senior citizens. Or I may try freezing it in ready to eat portions. I’ve never frozen a gelatin based food before but I think it should be okay.

Thank you for posting this recipe.

Hello Maria, thanks SO much for your comment, your words have just made my day. I’m delighted you both enjoyed the tart especially since it sounds like you put a lot of effort into making it. May I suggest you do make half quantities in future rather than freezing though, unfortunately gelatin doesn’t freeze successfully as the texture tends to change on thawing. Wishing you many more delicious lemon tarts .. and a happy Summer! 🙂

This recipe is a winner. I needed to make an egg/dairy/gluten/nut free dessert for a dinner party, and this fit the bill perfectly.

I didn’t have the correct sized springform pan, but it worked out just fine in my oval Le Creuset casserole dish. I added 1/3 cup honey instead of 1/4 cup to the filling so it wasn’t quite so tart (there were lots of kids in attendance at this party).

Also, my Breville food processor is super powerful, so I only needed to process the crust for a little less than 2 minutes. When I originally processed it for 2 and a half minutes, it came out too oily, like you cautioned about in your notes.

Thank you Kate for this unique and crowd pleasing creation!


This sounds amazing! I was aip for 5 months, & just recently had to switch to the Anti-Candida diet. I can’t have dates, so I’m going to forgo the crust all together, and I also can’t have honey, so I plan to use powered stevia as a sweetener. Do I need to adjust the amount of gelatin for this substitution? Any other adjustments you would recommend given those changes? Thanks!

Hi Amber, I’m afraid I don’t have any experience with stevia but I can’t imagine it makes much difference substituting it for the honey. Since you’re forgoing the crust I think the quantity of gelatin is a little high, it is designed to be sturdy enough to cut so will be too stiff as a panna cotta-type dessert. I would be tempted to use 1+1/2 tbsp gelatin for the amount of liquid in the recipe. You may also want to check out this recipe on my blog which is a lighter version of a panna cotta, using meyer lemons which are only just in the shops right now.
Hope this helps.

Hi Kate, and thank you for this lovely recipe! The taste is out of this world… But the consistency of mine came out a tad rubbery. I am wondering if this is correct, or if I may have used a little too much gelatin- my teaspoons and tablespoons may have had a little overflow when pouring from the Great Lakes can. You responded to an earlier comment that you use more gelatin in this recipe than your panna cotta just for this reason- so that it sets up and can be cut- but did I mess up? Either way, it tastes great, but my non-paleo BF wouldn’t eat it because it felt too “springy ” to him. Oh well, More for me!!! Thanks again!

Hi Kristen, it does sound like you’ve either used too much gelatin, or not enough liquid. The proportions of gelatin definitely count and it is best to level the top so you get the right texture, which should be firm enough to cut, but definitely not rubbery. Hope this helps.

I’d love to make this recipe – looks fabulous! Do the dates for the crust have to be fresh? It’s quite hard to get fresh dates around here, usually only dried ones are available. Do you think the crust could be made with dried dates? Thanks!

My goodness, this crust is DIVINE!

I think I may have slightly over-gelatined/under-liquided the filling like the poster above. It wasn’t rubbery, and it held together beautifully, but I wanted it to be a little softer/meltier (like a cheesecake or lemon cream pie). I’m not sure how feasible that is with gelatin, or far I could go in that direction without losing cohesion; any thoughts on what a little skimping on the gelatin would do? I also had to top up my coconut milk with a less fatty one (ran out midway), so I’m guessing the higher fat content would have made a difference, too.

This was lovely, and I’m so grateful for all the great tips you’ve included and the precision in your directions! It was a joy to work with this recipe and a joy to eat with a scattering of fresh local strawberries!

So pleased you enjoyed it Lulu. If you use less gelatine than stated in the recipe the chances are your tart won’t hold its shape once you cut into it. And for a ‘cheesecake’ result you need to use something other than gelatine, such as tapioca starch or arrowroot, if you tolerate them. I’m afraid I don’t use starches so can’t help you with converting, sorry.

Thank you so much for the advice, Kate!! Heading over to your blog right now for more recipes – definitely looking forward to it. 🙂

I made this for a dinner, and it came out beautifully. The sides of the crust ended up a lot higher than the filling, so once it was chilled and set I covered the top with fresh strawberries. I repeated the gelatin-honey mixture steps, let it cool a little and spooned that over the strawberries to make them glisten and to make the whole tart a bit sweeter. I went a bit overboard with the lemon in the coconut and it needed a bit more sweet.

The tart was a show stopper yesterday. My hostess is celiac, so I did tell her it was GF and allergen free, but it was so beautiful, the other guests didn’t pay attention to my little AIP evangelization talk. Their eyes were focused on the tart. Haven’t had such a success with an AIP contribution to a party ever, so thanks for that too!

Hi Josianne, I’m really happy your AIP contribution went down so well, isn’t it great when people have no clue they are eating healthy food?! 🙂 Thanks for letting me know!

Thank you so much for an amazing recipe Kate. I made this for Mother’s Day and it was a smash hit!! I really feel like I had a treat. Everyone else loved it too. I will be making this for future celebrations for sure.

Lori, thanks SO much for your comment, it has made my day. And it goes without saying I’m thrilled you all enjoyed your treat 🙂

This looks divine. I live in the Gulf Islands but visit Vancouver often. Is there a place in the city you buy your gelatin? Or do you purchase on line?

This is AMAZING. Who would have thought one of the best desserts I’ve ever had would be when I’m on strict AIP??? I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I have always loved lemons and tart desserts, so this really hit the spot and was so beautiful and easy to make! We served ours topped with fresh raspberries and it was divine! Thank you!

I looove limes but I couldn’t find any. I tried this with strawberries instead of lemons but I didn’t really taste the strawberries, just the coconut. So I made a strawberry glaze but I couldn’t use it because it didn’t thicken enough to hold it’s shape. I put it in the freezer as a last try to save it. Hope it works. Am I supposed to let the gelatin boil?

yippee 😀 it worked. Everyone loved the crust. But I think it would taste better with lemons. Got to try it when I find some.

Hi Asmaa, I’ve been on holiday and have only just seen your comment. The answer to your question is don’t ever let gelatin boil, it changes the setting qualities and starts to smell unpleasant. The secret is to just dissolve it, it should be only just warmed and no more. Hope you have success with finding lemons, I love the punch it gives.
Kate 🙂

Absolutely divine! Followed the recipe and came out perfect. I didn’t read the tin sizing correctly and ended up with no side and just a bottom, and still came out perfect. I added pumpkin seeds to my base to add some crunch and texture which was perfect. I baked mine.

Both my kids loved it and we are only just starting to transition them to Paleo. Thumbs up from us here in Australia 🙂

Made this for a Christmas luncheon and it was delicious! Turned out perfectly. I strained the lemon juice for a smoother texture and added a scant teaspoon extra of honey. I was glad for the tip to use an artist’s palette knife to get the sides of the tart away from the pan. I used the brand of coconut milk you suggested. It was new to me and I liked it better than what I have been using. It was much smoother in texture and whiter in color. I made the tart the day before and left it in the refrigerator in the pan overnight to serve for the lunch the next day. I was concerned about not serving it the same day I made it but it turned out perfectly. I got my 7 inch Nordic Ware spring form pan from Amazon. The specs for the pan stated that it was one and a half ( might have been 1 3/4 in specs.), inches high but it was actually closer to three which allowed for the filling to just reach the top of the crust like in your photo. Everyone loved it and so did my husband. Thanks so much for our favorite autoimmune Paleo dessert recipe!

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