Healthy lemon bars have a shortbread crust and a silky smooth slightly sweet, slightly tart creamy lemon layer on top. These bars are whole wheat and naturally sweetened - and just 7 ingredients!
Happy almost weekend!
I have a short day tomorrow before getting on a plane. My husband and I are heading to Florida to spend the weekend with family, celebrating his uncle who passed away recently.
It'll be my first Irish wake, which they cleverly timed to line up with St. Patrick's Day. 🍀💚 And because I'm fortunate to have amazing in-laws (and not just his parents and sister, but aunts, uncles and cousins too), I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and remembering Mike.
Before I go though, I just have to share this dessert recipe, which will help you usher in spring!
It's a remake of my mom’s classic lemon bars.
Hers were always a staple for our Christmas dessert spread every holiday season, and we’d often make them for Easter as well.
However, they were just loaded with sugar and butter, so I had to get to work cleaning them up a bit.
And after a few tries, I nailed it!
My husband gave these an enthusiastic two thumbs up, which is saying something cause he doesn’t care as much about healthier versions of desserts as I do.
Both of my kids (ages 7 and 5) adore these too!
These healthy lemon bars have a perfectly buttery, crisp shortbread crust and a super creamy lemon custard layer on top. It's just the right balance of tart and sweet. 🍋💛
You’ll be happily sinking your teeth into these pretty little bars for a dessert fix no matter the time of day.
And you’ll be happy to know that they are whole wheat and naturally sweetened! 🙌
Plus, they are really easy to make and just 7 ingredients! A must try!
OK, let's get to baking.
Now, I’ve got some FAQs, notes and substitutions coming at you below. Just trying to be helpful.
If you want to jump to the recipe, simply scroll right on through the rest of the text. The recipe card is near the bottom of the page, above the comments section.
Lemon bars are a dessert with a shortbread-style crust and smooth, slightly tart, sweet lemon custard on top. They are usually finished with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Lemon bars should be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator after they are made. They will keep for up to 5 days.
One regular sized lemon will yield approximately 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
Tip: You can help release all of the juices by rolling a lemon, while applying light pressure, before cutting and juicing it.
Pro tip: Using a lemon squeezer can also help you get all of the juice out of your lemon. I use and love this one.
- Flour: I use white whole wheat flour to make these whole grain, but you could substitute regular all-purpose flour if you prefer. I believe gluten-free or coconut flour would also work, but I haven’t tested those.
- Maple syrup: You can substitute honey instead of the maple syrup for these, which I have done before. But I prefer the flavor with the pure maple syrup.
- Lemon: I think these have the perfect amount of lemon flavor and sweetness. But if you want to increase the lemon flavor, feel freeze to zest one of your lemons before squeezing it and adding the zest to the batter.
- Sweetness: You could also increase the maple syrup in the filling from ⅓ cup to ½ cup for some extra sweetness.
You’ve also got lots of options for how to serve these.
You can cut the lemon squares into 9 large squares from your 8x8 pan, or make 12 square/rectangle pieces or 16 smaller squares.
Or you can make the super cute tiny squares - which would be great for a party. (That's what I did above on that little white plate.) Cut 9 large squares from your pan (2 cuts down and 2 cuts across). Then cut each large square into four mini squares.
This recipe uses an 8x8 pan. You could also double the recipe and use a 9x13 pan if you need more lemon bars.
As I mentioned, we always had these at Christmas time, but they are also a perfect springtime and Easter dessert.
They also make a great sweet treat to have at a bridal shower, baby shower or just at a brunch party.
Finally, while these are naturally sweetened for the crust and the filling, I do highly recommend you top them with a good dusting of powdered sugar.
This gives them the classic lemon bars look and adds just an extra touch of sweetness. 👌
I will give you the heads up that the powdered sugar melts into the lemon bars after a while, so I recommend you sprinkle it on before you serve them.
I hope you give these healthy lemon bars a try, for Easter, for spring, for a wedding or bridal or baby shower, around the holidays or just to celebrate anytime!
For the crust:
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted (or sub coconut oil)
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
For the lemon filling:
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
- 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
- ½ teaspoons vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the topping:
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8x8 pan with aluminum foil and spray will nonstick spray.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, butter and maple syrup. Stir until well combined.
- Scoop the dough into the lined pan and use the back of a spoon to spread it out to the edge of the pan. (It will be a thin layer to just cover the bottom of the pan.)
- Bake the crust at 350 for 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine all of the lemon filling ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until smooth, making sure to break up all of the yogurt lumps.
- Pour the filling into the baked, slightly cooled crust and smooth the top.
- Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, until set.
- Let the lemon bars cool completely then lift the aluminum foil out and place on a flat surface. Use a sharp knife to cut the lemon bars into squares. Use a small mesh strainer to sprinkle the powdered sugar over the bars and enjoy!
Flour: I use white whole wheat flour to make these whole grain, but you could substitute regular all-purpose flour if you prefer. I believe gluten-free or coconut flour would also work, but I haven’t tested those.
Maple syrup: I have used honey instead of the maple syrup for these, but I prefer the flavor with the pure maple syrup.
Lemon flavor: I think these have the perfect amount of lemon flavor and sweetness. But if you want to increase the lemon flavor, feel freeze to zest one of your lemons before squeezing it and adding the zest to the batter.
Sweetness: You could also increase the maple syrup in the filling from ⅓ cup to ½ cup for some extra sweetness.
Serving: You can cut the lemon squares into 9 large squares from your 8x8 pan, or 12 square/rectangle pieces or 16 smaller squares. Or you can make the super cute tiny squares by cutting 9 large squares from your pan and then cut each large square into four mini squares.
Double: This recipe is made in an 8x8 pan. You could double the recipe and use a 9x13 pan if you need more.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 249Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 221mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 2gSugar: 16gProtein: 9g