Healthy Lemon Bars - gluten free with low-carb, paleo, AIP, & vegan options
These Gluten-free Lemon Bars are a lighter version of the oh so popular dessert. They're lower carb with an egg-free option so you can indulge without the guilt!
Since I am a super busy mom like many of you, I don't have time to do much baking--but I do love to treat my family to healthier versions of baked goods when I can. These Eggnog Cookies, Pumpkin Snickerdoodles, and Vegan Macaroons are some of our favorites.
Lemon Bars are another treat that I loved when I was younger, so I was thrilled to be able to develop a healthier version for us to enjoy.
I pulled this recipe together in the summertime, which isn't the best time to bake, of course, but two weeks ago, the temperature "dipped" down into the 70's and so I grabbed the opportunity to do some quick baking. I made my simple Oat Bran Muffins and also tried out a new recipe.
And boy did we get a winner! Luscious Lemony Goodness!
Gluten-Free Paleo Lemon Bars
The inspiration for these bars is the Lemon Coconut Bars from Amy Green. I showed the recipe to my son and well, both of us were inspired to give them a whirl! In fact, he jumped up and down with the sweetest smile on his face, so I just had to bake them.
The only problem was, my oldest has a life-threatening allergy to eggs, so I just had to create two versions and then bake several batches with eggs and several batches of Vegan Lemon Bars so that my oldest wouldn't be left without a special treat :-).
Well, even with all of those batches, these taste soooo good, that both batches were gone in a flash.
Vegan Lemon Bars
The Vegan Lemon Bars don't look nearly as pretty and the filling pretty much soaked into the crust, but they were still quite tasty and my egg-allergic son loved them.
Recipe Notes & Tips
- Flour Options: I try not to be a gluten-free flour purist--meaning that I don't typically spend much time trying to get the "perfect" gluten-free flour blend. I do, however, like using sweet brown rice since it adds a bit of "hold togetherness". Too much buckwheat doesn't taste great, though, so be careful if you choose to bake with it.
See my Gluten-Free Baking Tips for more on that. Use organic almond flour for grain free or paleo, Any nut or seed flour would work.
- Soaking and dehydrate the sunflower seeds first makes them lighter and adds a boost of nutrition.
- Arrowroot Alternatives: Tapioca starch or cornstarch for the arrowroot. Rice flour will work in a pinch. For low-carb or THM, omit completely.
- I grate my lemon zest with this super microplane grater.
- Here's my Easiest Coconut Milk which is a great homemade option for coconut milk.
- Instead of topping the lemon bars with coconut, you could just dust them with some powdered sweetener. Read here how to Make Your Own Powdered Sweetener / Sugar Substitute.
- Here is a great brand of stevia scoops. Read this post on how to use stevia. If you wish, you could sub about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of a different sweetener to taste.
- You can substitute any healthy sweetener for the honey, but if using granulated, add 2 tablespoons water (see How to Substitute Sweeteners).
- Here's how to make Homemade Liquid Stevia. You can also use about 1/4 cup of another healthy sweetener of choice and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract instead of vanilla liquid stevia.
Special Diet Options
- Keto / Low-carb / THM:S: Use almond flour (reduce the fat in the crust by 1/2). Use a low carb sweetener like xylitol works well for low carb, organic erythritol does as well and we love this low carb sweetener. Get 20% off using code wholenewmom.
- AIP: Use organic tiger nut flour instead of regular GF flour and the seeds as well. I haven't tried this but I think it would work out fine with a little tweaking. Use AIP sweeteners like honey, coconut sugar, or maple syrup.
- Grain-free / Paleo: Use almond flour as instructed above.
- Egg Alternatives: Use Powdered Egg Replacer for an egg free, or use a gelatin egg for an egg-free version that is low carb. If you use a gelatin egg, you might end up needing to blend the filling in a high-powered blender to get it to be pourable.
Other Healthier Desserts
Here are some other healthified desserts you might enjoy!
- "Almond Joy" Bars - Seriously delicious--we make these all the time!
- Homemade Chocolate / Carob Chips--ditto on the above. Make them all the time!
- Almond Butter Cups - like Reese's but healthier!
- Chocolate Chunk Coconut Macadamia Cookies
Luscious Lemon Bars (gluten free with low carb, paleo, AIP, and vegan options)
- 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (see Recipe Notes for flour alternatives)
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon gelatin (agar can be used for vegan)
- 9 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 4 scoops pure stevia extract (see Recipe Notes for alternatives)
- 4 eggs (or egg substitute--see Recipe Notes)
- 1/2 cup honey (use see Recipe Notes for alternatives)
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla liquid stevia
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (see Recipe Notes for alternatives)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup coconut milk (or other dairy-free substitute. Regular milk can also be used)
- 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (or more as desired--optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan (I use coconut oil to do this.) You can also use 2 8x8's with not much difference in the end result.
- Place the flour, sunflower seeds, and gelatin in the bowl of a food processor and process until the seeds are finely chopped.
- Add the coconut oil and sweetener and pulse until the mixture is crumbly meal, similar to a pie crust. Be careful not to over-process.
- Press the mixture into the prepared baking pan(s).
- Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until crust is lightly browned.
- While the crust is baking, start preparing the filling.
- Put the eggs (or egg substitute) in the food processor and pulse until the yolks are broken. Add sweeteners, arrowroot (or cornstarch) lemon zest and juice, and milk. Pulse several times until combined.
- When the crust is finished, pour the lemon mixture over the crust (no need to wait for it to cool).
- Sprinkle shredded coconut or sweetener evenly over the top of the bars.
- Bake 15–20 minutes, until the filling is set. Cool completely. Cut and serve. Store in the refrigerator (especially the ones with eggs in them :-))
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is merely an approximation. Optional ingredients are not included and when there is an alternative, the primary ingredient is typically used. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site. Erythritol carbs are not included in carb counts since they have been shown not to impact blood sugar. Net carbs are the total carbs minus fiber.
I'd love to hear what you think about these bars once you try them!
can I substitute liquid Stevia for pure stevia extract or use monk sugar?? and how much is in a scoop ( tsp or ml I use both systems)... I have difficulty finding some of these ingredients.. it is like Kingston doesn't want people to do Keto!! thanks
Hello there - yes you can. A scoop is 1/32 of a tsp - there is a link in the post but here is more info: https://wholenewmom.com/kitchen-tips/stevia-what-it-is-and-how-to-use-it/
Does that help? You can find conversion charts online. I hope to have one on the blog soon!
Makes me wish I liked sweets! I love lemon!
I wish I DIDN'T like sweets :).
I just wanted to point out that this recipe is neither vegetarian or vegan as the Great Lakes Gelatin is an animal product. Great Lakes has 2 varieties of gelatin. They have a beef variety and a porcine variety which is derived from pork.
Hi there and thanks for commenting. Did I say it was vegan? Please let me know - thanks!
This post says it has vegan options in 5 places without offering any options to replace the gelatin.
Hi "DD". I guess you won't receive the answer to this in your inbox since you clearly gave a fake email, but here you go. The post has been updated. Thanks for seeing that! It was a mistake to omit that.
In the oven as I type....I only made one change, we do not tolerate sunflower anything, so I used pumpkin seeds instead. It looks like it will be just fine. Can't wait to taste it. Will post when I am enjoying them.
How did they turn out? 🙂
I love how you recreated this recipe, Adrienne! I am always inspired by the way you work so hard for your kids. You are incredible!
Not incredible, Amy....but thanks so much. And baking has been more on the back burner these days :).
Hi Adrienne! Please never negate yourself!!! You are a wonderfully contributive person!!!! Look at it like this... if you had a friend who does all you do, would you invalidate their incredible-ness? I would guess not 🙂 soooo, no invalidating yours!! Don't neglect yourself as a friend!
You are too kind. Thanks for the encouragement -- much needed :).
What would be a vegan gelatin option? I always have trouble with that.
Yes- how about agar or glucomannan? You only need a tad of glucomannan. Agar would be a 1:1 substitute.
Great to find another blog focused on rethinking our diet!
Just wanted to share some thoughts on replacing the eggs (and gelatin). Have you tried agar? It is completely tasteless and similar in finished texture to gelatin, but softer, and used frequently in candy. I think adding that would help keep the pie filling from soaking in so much and make it look more like a 'proper' lemon bar. It is fairly expensive in health food stores, but cheap in asian markets (it is a kind of seaweed).
Another favourite egg replacer of mine is psyllium husk or powder. Not sure how that works with your son's allergies (my total sympathies), but it is a fantastic binder! Mixed up with water it takes on a mucous like texture, which is gross but makes cookies super chewy! The added benefit is that psyllium helps keep things moving along in the bowels (it's the main component of Metamucil).
Thanks for sharing your recipes!
Thanks! I have used agar and I also have been working with glucomannan recently -- I started using them later so I should possibly redo the recipe - thanks!
I made these this past weekend and they were yummy. I did have the problem of the custard soaking into the crust.
Did you ever come up with a solution? Also they weren't lemony enough for my family. Do you think if I added more lemon, I'll have to add more thickener too?
I also substituted ground almonds for the sunflower seeds because i didn't have the latter.
I really appreciate all your efforts on your website and blog.
Hi Kelly. Did you change anything at all? I'm assuming you made the GF version, right? I haven't found a solution but I think adding a thickener like gelatin or agar agar would take care of it. The eggs are basically coagulating the mixture and keeping it from soaking in.
I think adding a tad more lemon wouldn't mean you need much more thickener, but since it's already kind of runny you probably should. Just adjust it proportionally to how much liquid you are increasing the whole recipe by. I don't think the almonds would make too much of a difference but I think they are typically more dry than sunflower seeds so they might soak up more moisture. Hope that helps.
Wondering if you have tried making these with coconut flour? And, if so, how did they turn out??
Hello Shannan. I haven't tried them w/ coconut flour. It absorbs more liquid so perhaps you could try it and add some liquid to the crust? I really haven't tried converting recipes from GF to coconut flour, but maybe try adding 1/4 cup liquid per cup of flour converting? I'd be interested in hearing how they turn out if you try them 🙂
Yummy! Lemon bars are one of my favorite desserts. These look delicious! Thanks for sharing on Sweet Indulgences Sunday.
That looks so super yummy! I would love it if you shared this, and/or whatever else you want, on my bloghop - Makin' You Crave Monday, over at MrsHappyHomemaker.com!
These look great! My dairy allergic son would probably love these. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
Your site is fantastic. I very recently began a low-carb, no sugar diet to hopefully help with some PCOS symptoms. I have been having trouble with not being able to appease my sweet tooth, nor find any real good sounding recipes for doing so. Love it. We also live right across from a field where the city dumps and spreads sewage waste and I find it impossible to find like-minded folk to be concerned with these sorts of things going on right under nose. Ignorance is bliss - no truer saying.
Oh Rebecca. I am sorry about what you are struggling with. I hope you stick around. You might be interested in the protocol that I am doing to remove toxins and metals. I would love to be of any help that I can. Please email me through my contact me page if you would like any more help. The sugar thing is hard, but it can be done - if I can do it, anyone can. Really. :-).
New follower from the foodie mama hop. Got to it a bit late. Love this recipe. Your blog is wonderful. Great recipes.
I am impressed with this bar free dairy, gluten and eggs. You must know a lot about combining ingredients to get the flavor without these. Kudos. This is being featured this week. It is truly worthy of the honor.
Wow. Thanks so much. I must say that necessity is the mother of invention. My oldest is deathly allergic to egg whites and dairy. Off gluten due to autism. But still loves to eat 🙂 (Takes after his mom and dad :-)!)
wow, sooo yummy! Would love it if you came and shared this recipe with us at Tasty Tuesday! https://nap-timecreations.blogspot.com/2011/08/summer-corn-salad-and-tasty-tuesday.html
I just love lemon bars, but haven't made any this summer. Great job on making an egg free version for your son!
I haven't had lemon bars in ages! Thanks for giving all of the options for their needs.
Thanks for sharing at the hearth and soul hop last week.
We hadn't had them either. In fact, I don't think my kids had ever had them. A nice simple pleasure :-).
Thanks for sharing your gluten-free version of lemon bars. I love lemon bars and it's nice to know that people with dietary restrictions can enjoy them as well. Thanks for linking up to Sweet Indulgences Sunday.