Healthy and delicious lemon bars with minimal prep time! These sweet and tart lemon squares only require 20 minutes in the kitchen! They're also made healthier with a few simple swaps!
Why this recipe works
Most traditional lemon bar recipes are packed with refined-sugar, processed ingredients and are not very whole food plant-based friendly.
I've found that you don't have to give up the traditional sweet and tart flavor for something bland and cardboard-like just for the sake of healthy. In fact, with just a few simple swaps I was able to create a delicious lemon bar that's also full of healthy fats, whole grains, and provides 5g of protein (not bad for dessert!).
Why I love this recipe:
- Lower sweetener amounts for a not-too-overly-sweet dessert.
- No baking of the filling required which means less time in the kitchen and less time in the kitchen means the sooner you can enjoy these bars!
- Easy to adjust sweetness or tartness based on your preference.
- Perfect for the summer—these bars are bright and refreshing and won't leave you feeling heavy afterwards.
These bars only require 11 easy to find ingredients (including salt!). Short and sweet! Reference the recipe card at the bottom for exact measurements.
Rolled oats: A great gluten-free option with lots of fiber! You can also use oat flour.
Dates: Adds a nice natural sweetness.
Ground flax: Helps to bind the crust together like an egg.
Lemon juice: This is best made fresh from lemons rather than using store-bought lemon juice as it has a different flavor from the preservatives.
Coconut cream: Adds a lovely creaminess to the lemon bars without needing dairy!
Coconut sugar: A great, less refined sugar. If you can't find it, here are some great coconut sugar substitutes.
Maple syrup: This liquid sweetener adds the perfect touch of sweetness. You can also use agave syrup or one of these honey substitutes as well as long as it's a liquid sweetener.
Turmeric: Provides a lovely yellow hue to these bars. It's optional but highly recommended!
What makes these bars healthier?
Naturally sweetened—Instead of large amounts of white table sugar, I opted for maple syrup and coconut sugar in the lemon filling, and dates to sweeten the crust.
Dairy-free—No cream or butter required! Coconut cream or full fat coconut milk provides all the creaminess needed.
Gluten-free—Although there's nothing wrong with gluten, I know many like to limit it so I opted for oats and almonds to be the base of the crust. It provides a heartier texture, making these bars more substantial and filling!
How to make
This step by step walk-through shows the process of making this lemon bar recipe. Exact times and temperatures are available in the recipe card at the bottom.
1. Make the crust. Blend all ingredients for the crust in a blender or food processor until it comes together. Pinch a small amount between your fingers and if it holds together, it's a good consistency. If it crumbles and feels dry, add another tablespoon of water as need.
2. Press the crust into a prepared baking dish lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden.
3. Prepare the filling. Add the lemon juice and cornstarch first to a pan and whisk well to combine, then add the rest of the filling ingredients. Bring to a boil then simmer until it thickens.
4. Pour the filling over the crust and smooth out. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes at room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator to set up.
5. When ready to serve, remove from pan, slice into squares and top with powdered sugar as desired!
FAQ's and Expert Tips
Yes! These freeze well. Make sure they're completely cool, then individually wrap them in parchment and store in a freezer-safe bag or container. Let them thaw in the refrigerator before enjoying.
Unfortunately I have not tested these without almonds for the crust and many gluten-free recipes will use almonds or almond flour. I recommend following a typical shortbread crust recipe and swapping for an all-purpose gluten free flour if you still want it to be gluten-free.
Make sure to thoroughly dissolve the cornstarch in the lemon juice to avoid any lumps. Thoroughly whisk the two together in the pan before adding the rest of the filling ingredients. Don't turn the heat on until the cornstarch has dissolved.
More healthy vegan summer recipes
Healthy Lemon Bars (Vegan + Gluten-Free)
For the crust:
For the filling:
- ¾ cup lemon juice, about 4 large lemons
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
- ⅓ cup coconut sugar
- 1 13.5-oz can coconut cream, or full-fat coconut milk
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric, optional for color
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, optional for topping
For the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
- To make the crust, add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until the mixture comes together.
- Line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper, press the mixture flat and bake for 10-12 minutes in the oven until it starts to golden. Remove and set aside.
For the filling:
- In a medium saucepan or skillet, add the lemon juice and cornstarch and whisk together until a slurry forms and no lumps remain. Turn the heat up to medium and add the additional filling ingredients except for the optional powdered sugar topping.
- Whisk constantly and bring to boil for a minute, then turn down heat to a simmer until the mixture thickens; about 5 minutes.
- Pour the filling over the crust and smooth out with a spatula or spoon as needed. Allow to cool at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, then cover and transfer to refrigerator for 1-2 hours or overnight to set.
- When ready to serve, use a sifter to evenly distribute a thin layer of powdered sugar over top if desired and slice into bars. This recipe as written makes 9 large bars or 16 smaller bars.
Recommended tools for this recipeFood processor
Whisk Sifter Citrus juicer See more of our go-to kitchen essentials here!