Healthy Lemon Bars (gluten free, dairy free & paleo!)

Does anyone else think of lemon bars as a must make dessert for Memorial Day weekend? Maybe it’s just me, but growing up we always enjoyed strawberry shortcake and lemon bars for a Memorial Day dessert. In fact, strawberry shortcake was my mom’s absolute favorite.

Most of the desserts I had growing up were out of the box, unless it was Dad’s yellow cake or Grandma’s homemade lemon pie, but I must say that there’s a special feeling that comes with baking something yourself. Perhaps it’s a sense of pride and accomplishment. Whatever the case, desserts almost always tastes better when it’s homemade, wouldn’t you agree?

So, what do you say? Are you putting these lemon bars on your weekend/holiday baking list or what? I SAY YASSSSS.

five healthy lemon bars in a stack

These healthy lemon bars got a makeover

That’s right! We listened to some of the issues readers were having when making these lemon bars, so please note that I have recently updated this recipe after re-testing and perfecting it. Continue reading for all of my best tips & tricks for delicious and beautiful healthy lemon bars!

What makes these lemon bars healthier?

I’ve made a few simple ingredient swaps to lighten up these lemon bars without sacrificing any of that nostalgic flavor. These healthy lemon bars are:

  • Naturally sweetened. Both the crust and the lemon filling are naturally sweetened with pure maple syrup instead of refined sweeteners.
  • Gluten free & grain free. We’re using almond flour and coconut flour to keep the crust gluten free and grain free. Plus, these flours add a boost of healthy fats and additional, natural sweetness!
  • Dairy free. If you so choose! I have a few different options for adding moisture to the crust that suits any dietary needs.

crust for gluten free lemon bars in a square baking dish

Everything you’ll need to make the best healthy lemon bars

Would you believe me if I said these healthy lemon bars were made with just 8 simple ingredients (and that’s including salt and an extract.) That’s right, they’re SO easy to make with just a few fridge and pantry staples you might already have on-hand. Here’s everything you need to make them:

  • Butter: feel free to use regular butter, a vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) or melted coconut oil in this recipe. The choice is yours!
  • Maple syrup: both the shortbread crust and the lemon filling are naturally sweetened with pure maple syrup.
  • Almond extract: I love adding a little almond extract to the crust for that true shortbread flavor.
  • Flour: we’re using a mix of almond flour and coconut flour to keep the crust gluten free and grain free but give it wonderful flavor and texture. You’ll also use a little coconut flour in the lemon filling to help it set.
  • Salt: you’ll need a pinch of salt for the crust to boost the flavor.
  • Lemon: the star of the show! We’re using lemon juice and zest in the filling to keep in tangy, lemon-y and delicious.
  • Eggs: you’ll need four eggs to create the perfect texture in these healthy lemon bars.
  • To garnish: I love sprinkling the bars with sifted powdered sugar and extra lemon zest. So good!

As I mentioned, I re-tested this healthy lemon bar recipe to make sure it worked out beautifully. If you made them in the past years you’ll notice that some of the ingredients have updated to reflect this!

whisking healthy lemon bar filling in a bowl

Questions on substitutions

  1. Can I substitute the eggs? Unfortunately, no, I would not recommend using an egg substitute in these lemon bars as the texture and flavor will be drastically different. Check out more of my delicious vegan dessert recipes here!
  2. Can I use a different flour? I would not recommend substituting the flour in this recipe as the crust will have a much different consistency and flavor. Feel free to try my lovely lemon cookies using all purpose flour.

pouring healthy lemon bar filling over the crust in a pan

Healthy lemon bars in 5 easy steps

This healthy lemon bar recipe couldn’t be easier to make. You’ll have silky, delicious lemon bars in no time:

  1. Prep your pan. Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper, and please try to avoid a glass pan as the crust may burn with glass.
  2. Make the shortbread crust. Whisk together the dry ingredients and stir in the wet until a dough forms. Press the dough into your pan and bake.
  3. Make the lemon filling. Whisk together all of your lemon filling ingredients until they’re very well combined.
  4. Layer the bars. Once your crust is done baking, immediately pour over the lemon filling, lower the oven temp and bake until the bars are set.
  5. Cool & enjoy. Let the bars cool at room temp and then in the fridge before slicing them. Top with powdered sugar & lemon zest and enjoy!

healthy lemon bars on a round serving tray with a knife

Your lemon bar troubles, solved!

Lemon bars can be a little bit tricky to bake because the filling is delicate, which is why I updated the ingredients and added a few crucial steps to the instructions to ensure success. Here are some issues you may have faced in the past with key tips I can recommend so that your healthy lemon bars turn out beautifully.

  • Why did the bottom of my crust burn? Unfortunately, using a glass pan can cause the bottom of the shortbread crust to burn (even with parchment paper) so please do not use a glass pan.
  • My lemon filling has white specks in it. You’ll really want to whisk the lemon filling until no egg white is showing. Otherwise, you might see some white parts in the bars after they’re done baking.
  • The crust floated into the filling while baking. First, check your baked crust: When you pull the crust out of the oven make sure there aren’t any cracks in it, otherwise the filling may seep into the crust. Then, be sure to add the filling right away to your warm crust. This is crucial for ensuring that the crust and filling do not mix together while baking. Pour the filling over the crust right when it comes out of the oven and do not let the crust cool first.
  • The tops of my lemon bars cracked. First, if you’ve simply overbaked the bars they can crack on top. Be sure to only bake them until the filling is set and no longer jiggles. Also, make sure you do not refrigerate too soon. Let the lemon bars cool at room temp before letting them set in the refrigerator. Otherwise, the drastic change in temperature will cause them to crack.

five gluten free lemon bars in a stack

How to store healthy lemon bars

Store these lemon bars in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3-5 days.

Can I freeze them?

Yes, I think these healthy lemon bars can be frozen! Wrap them tightly and place them in a freezer-safe bag or container before putting them in the freezer and simply let them thaw in the fridge before enjoying. They should stay good in the freezer for up to 2 months.

easy healthy lemon bar with a bite taken out

Recommended tools for this recipe

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More lemon treats you’ll love

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I hope you love these healthy lemon bars! If you make them be sure to leave a comment & a rating so I know how you liked them. Enjoy, xo!

Healthy Lemon Bars (gluten free, dairy free & paleo!)

4.66 from 23 votes

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 25 minutes

Total Time 40 minutes

The best healthy lemon bars that are gluten free, dairy free and paleo! The delicious shortbread crust is made with a mix of almond & coconut flour, and the light lemon filling is made with just 4 simple ingredients. These healthy lemon bars are naturally sweetened for the perfect spring treat!

  • For the crust:
  • 1/4 cup melted and cooled butter, vegan butter or melted coconut oil
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups packed fine blanched almond flour (do not use almond meal)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • For the filling:
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2-4 lemons)
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour, sifted (or sub tapioca flour or arrowroot starch)
  • To garnish:
  • Powdered sugar (sifted)
  • Lemon zest
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper. (Do not use a glass pan as it will likely cause the bottom of the crust to burn.)

  2. First make the crust: whisk together the almond flour, coconut flour and salt. Next stir in the butter, pure maple syrup and almond extract. Mix until a dough forms. Press dough evenly into prepared pan with your hands. Bake for 15 minutes.

  3. While your crust bakes, you can make the filling: in a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, pure maple syrup, eggs and sifted coconut flour. You want to whisk really well so that no egg white remain visible.

  4. Once crust is done baking, immediately and slowly pour filling over crust. Do not allow the crust to cool first, this is critical.

  5. Lower your oven temperature to 325 degrees F, place bars immediately in oven and bake the bars for 20-25 minutes or until filling is set and no longer jiggles. Cool completely on a wire rack then refrigerate for at least 4 hours to firm up bars. Once ready to serve, use a sharp knife to cut into 12 bars. I recommend garnishing them with powdered sugar and a little lemon zest before serving. Enjoy!

Please see the full post for my best tips & tricks to baking beautiful healthy lemon bars.

To store: store these lemon bars in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3-5 days.

To freeze: wrap the bars tightly before putting them in the freezer and simply let them thaw in the fridge before enjoying. They should stay good in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Nutrition

Servings: 12 bars

Serving size: 1 bar

Calories: 189kcal

Fat: 11.5g

Saturated fat: 4.9g

Carbohydrates: 18.9g

Fiber: 1.5g

Sugar: 15.2g

Protein: 4.9g

This post was originally published on May 21, 2018, and was updated & republished on April 6, 2021.