These healthy lemon bars have a rich and buttery shortbread crust and a luscious lemon filling. They’re delicious, thick, and perfectly tangy. A gorgeous addition to spring and summer holidays and events!
While fruit adorned desserts are a summer favorite, my favorite dessert is lemon bars! Sometimes also called lemon squares, this popular dessert bar shines because it has a buttery shortbread crust and a tangy and sweet lemon curd. To me, it reminds me of key lime pie, except better.
Classic lemon bar recipes are made with a handful of basic ingredients like eggs, lemon juice, and white sugar. Because of this, lemon bars are so easy to make with healthier ingredients!
After a lot of experimenting, I can confidently say this is the best healthy lemon bar recipe! The cookie crust is soft and thick, the lemon curd is tangy, firm, and creamy (no cracks or dryness here!), and there’s clear separation between the crust and the lemon curd.
And bonus! These lemon bars are delicious and gorgeous. The golden yellow is a beautiful pop of color on the summer BBQ table. Luckily there are plenty of spring events and summer holidays… a lot of opportunities to eat them!
Why This Recipe is Healthier
I love figuring out ways to make healthy swaps in desserts without sacrificing texture or flavor. While these lemon bars are made with healthier ingredients, they taste exactly like classic lemon bars—luscious, thick, and tangy! This recipe is:
- Made with whole ingredients: The filling is just whole eggs, fresh lemon juice, and maple syrup!
- Gluten free: The shortbread crust is made with my signature trifecta of flours—almond flour, coconut flour, and tapioca flour. It’s sweetened with maple syrup and the ghee gives it a buttery texture. This is a paleo lemon bar recipe, too!
- Dairy free: Ghee is grass-fed butter with all the dairy solids removed. If you want to eliminate the ghee, just swap it out for coconut oil. A great dose of healthy fats!
- Naturally sweetened: Maple syrup is the only sweetener used for both the crust and the filling. It pairs perfectly with lemon and makes the bars sweet without the use of refined sugars.
Simple + Healthy Ingredients
There are just a few simple ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe. You likely have most if not all of the ingredients already on hand, so let’s get to baking!
For the crust:
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Tapioca flour
- Sea salt
- Maple syrup
- Vanilla extract
For the lemon filling:
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice (here’s a simple way to squeeze a lemon without a juicer!)
- Maple syrup
- Lemon zest
- Tapioca flour
How to Make Healthy Lemon Bars
I love how easy it is to make healthy lemon bars! You can make them in five easy steps:
- Prepare the oven. Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
- Make your crust. In a medium bowl, mix all of the crust ingredients together until a uniform dough forms. Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 12 minutes.
- Make your lemon filling. While the crust bakes, add the eggs, lemon juice, maple syrup, and lemon zest to a large bowl and whisk well by hand. Whisk quickly until you don’t see any egg white remaining. Add the tapioca flour and whisk until there are no clumps. Once the crust has finished baking, remove it from the oven. Immediately add the filling. Do not allow the crust to cool.
- Bake the bars. Lower the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and return the bars to the oven to bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the filling is set. A little jiggle in the center is just right!
- Chill in the fridge. Allow the bars to cool completely, then transfer the pan to the refrigerator for 3-4 hours to let the bars set. Before serving, cut into twelve squares and sprinkle the bars with powdered sugar.
Perfectly Rich and Buttery Shortbread Crust
What sets this recipe apart from the rest is the thick and buttery shortbread crust. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fair share of thin and sad crusts in the past. You know, the kind that can’t sufficiently hold whatever filling it’s adorned with? Not this crust! Even though these lemon bars are made with healthier ingredients, the shortbread crust is thick, soft, and rich. It’s the perfect cookie base to the luscious lemon curd filling. When you cut and serve, you’ll see a clear separation between crust and bar, and you can easy grab one and take a bite out of it without it falling apart. So yum!
Paleo Lemon Bars
Yes, these lemon bars are totally paleo! The main component of lemon bars is a thick lemon curd made out of lemon juice and eggs. I typically use organic lemons and pasture-raised eggs. To make these lemon bars paleo, the shortbread crust is actually a rendition of my almond flour sugar cookies. It’s completely grain free, and the only sweetener that is used is maple syrup. The organic powdered sugar topping is totally optional and the lemon bars are just as good without it! If you need the bars to be completely dairy free, swap out the ghee for coconut oil.
Are lemon bars supposed to be gooey?
Yes, lemon bars are typically soft and slightly gooey in the center. You’re essentially baking a lemon curd right on top of a shortbread crust, so it’s going to be soft even after it sets. Lemon bars should not be runny, so make sure to bake them long enough and let them chill before cutting.
Do you keep lemon bars in the fridge?
Yes! Store any leftover bars in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week. If you’re baking the bars ahead of time and they’ll be stored in the fridge overnight before serving, leave off the powdered sugar topping until just before serving.
To freeze, cut the cooled bars into squares and place them on a baking sheet. Freeze for 1 hour, then wrap each bar in parchment paper and place them in a large sealable silicone bag. Store them in the freezer for up to 4 months. Thaw the bars in the fridge, then dust with organic powdered sugar before serving.
Can I Make Substitutions?
Sure can! However, this is where I make that special note that you won’t get the same consistent results if you vary from the original recipe. But, if you find yourself short, here’s a few swaps you can make:
- Almond flour: You can use another nut flour, like cashew flour.
- Tapioca flour: You can use arrowroot flour in a pinch, but this will change the texture slightly as arrowroot is a little more gummy.
- Maple Syrup: This can be swapped for honey. Note: lemon bars will be much sweeter with honey.
- Ghee: Use unsalted butter or coconut oil.
Baking Tips + Tricks
- You can use either one or two pieces of parchment paper to line the baking dish. I’ve tried both and the bars release easily with just one sheet lined across the bottom of the pan and up the two sides.
- It’s best to use a ceramic or standard baking pan. A glass baking dish can cause the crust to burn.
- Use freshly squeezed lemon juice for the filling. You won’t get the same color or flavor with bottled lemon juice.
- Zest your lemon before you slice and juice it.
- The key to a smooth and luscious lemon curd is whisking the filling ingredients by hand. You need to whisk the ingredients very quickly to properly incorporate the egg whites. If you don’t whisk it by hand, you’ll have white chunks on top and in the filling.
- If you use organic powdered sugar as a garnish, sift it overtop. Do this just before serving.
- Chill for at least 3 hours before serving to let the lemon filling set.
Stocking the Pantry
I personally use Thrive Market for most of my pantry needs because it saves me some cash—especially when it comes to commonly used items like blanched almond flour, ghee, and coconut oil. For a complete list of my recommend pantry items and what I use in my home, check out my Baking and Cooking Resources Page.
Other Recipes You’ll Love
- Paleo Blueberry Lemon Scones
- 4-Ingredient Vegan Caramel Sauce
- Fudgy Paleo Brownies (Crackly Top, Gluten-Free)
- Fluffy Paleo Cinnamon Rolls
- Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 1 cup blanched almond flour
- ⅓ cup coconut flour
- ¼ cup tapioca flour
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 5 tablespoons ghee, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- ⅔ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 4 large lemons
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
- Organic Powdered Sugar, sifted
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
- Make the crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, coconut flour, tapioca flour, and sea salt. Add the maple syrup, ghee, and vanilla to the bowl, and fold everything together until a dough forms. Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 12 minutes.
- Make the Filling: While the crust bakes, make the filling. Add the eggs, lemon juice, maple syrup, and lemon zest to a large bowl and whisk well by hand. Don’t use a mixer for this, as whisking by hand is the best way to fully incorporate the eggs. Whisk quickly until you don’t see any egg white remaining. Add the tapioca flour and whisk until there are no clumps. Once the crust has finished baking, remove it from the oven. Immediately add the filling. Do not allow the crust to cool.
- Bake the Bars: Lower the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and return the bars to the oven to bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the filling is set. A little jiggle in the center is just right!
- Chill: Allow the bars to cool completely, then transfer the pan to the refrigerator for 3-4 hours to let the bars set. Before serving, cut into twelve squares and sprinkle the bars with powdered sugar. Enjoy!
What did you think about this healthy lemon bar recipe? Come back and let me know in the comments below!