Healthy Lemon Bars Recipe (5 Ingredients)
Healthy Low Sugar Lemon Bars | Gluten Free Option
How to Make Lemon Bars with 5 Ingredients
Chow down on these healthy lemon bars for a treat that’s deliciously sweet yet low in sugar! And, complete with a gluten free crust option. Made with freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest, every bite is bursting with bright, vibrant, refreshing citrus flavor. Best of all, they couldn’t be easier to prepare. I’ll show you how to make lemon bars with only 5 ingredients!
A comforting, crispy, buttery shortbread crust, topped with a tangy-yet-sweet lemon curd filling—this is seriously one of my favorite sweets of all time. I first made these healthy lemon bars years ago, and the recipe just gets better and better. And believe it or not, a gourmet goodie like this isn’t as complicated as it seems. This is truly a 5 ingredient lemon bars recipe, made with just flour, butter, granulated sweetener, eggs, and lemons. That’s literally it!
Personally, I love a glutinous shortbread crust, but I’ve also made this crust with oat flour for a gluten free option and they turned out great. For low sugar lemon bars I recommend using granulated erythritol or stevia, but you’re also welcome stick with classic sugar as well. Whichever route you choose, the result will be equally scrumptious and equally irresistible!
Healthy Lemon Bars 5 Ingredients
- All-Purpose Flour (or whole wheat, or oat flour)
- Butter (or solid coconut oil)
- Granulated Sweetener (erythritol, stevia, sugar)
- Lemon Juice & Zest
Personally, I absolutely love a buttery, glutinous, crispy shortbread crust, so I prefer to make my healthy lemon bars with all-purpose flour. It’s the most resilient and versatile flour! Or, use whole wheat flour for a whole grain option and it should work just as well. Previously, I’ve also made gluten free lemon bars by using oat flour for the crust (and coconut oil instead of butter), and it turned out tasty! In my opinion, though, all-purpose flour is the best bet.
In the past, I needed to make an oat flour and coconut oil crust because the prospect of enjoying a crust made with real flour and butter was too stressful. Over the years, I’ve made major shifts in my relationship with food and health, and now I can see that I enjoy the real flour and butter! To learn more about how to make peace with food and embrace your food freedom, check out my Food Freedom course.
Similarly, I’m a fan of real butter in this lemon bar recipe—and it’s got to be cold, not softened. Butter is an easy fat source to work with, and it produces flakier, crispier crusts in my baked goods overall. But, as mentioned, I’ve also made the crust using solid coconut oil in the past, and they turned out great. Just keep in mind, your coconut oil MUST be in a solid state—not melted or liquid-y. (As a solid, it’ll function more like real butter.)
I made my low sugar lemon bars using granulated erythritol, and I’ve also used granulated stevia in the past. Both turn out delicious! Or, if you don’t want a low sugar treat, stick regular granulated sugar. However, I don’t recommend using coconut sugar as it tends to be stickier and moister than regular sugar, which isn’t ideal for the crystallization in the lemon curd filling. Same goes for sticky sweeteners like honey or maple syrup!
I haven’t yet explored or tested any substitutions for the eggs in this healthy lemon bars recipe. When making a curd like this, eggs are essential to getting the right texture and color. But, if you’d like to do your own experimenting with egg alternatives, go for it! (And leave a comment below to let me know how it goes!)
Of course, any lemon bar recipe requires lemons for their flavorful juice and zest! This particular recipe requires ⅔ cup of lemon juice, which you can get from around 4-6 lemons, depending on their size. You may want to buy a few extra if you’re worried about them being too small or not being very juicy!
How to Make Healthy Lemon Bars from Scratch
Homemade lemon bars are easier than you might think! First, you’ll make and bake the simple shortbread crust in your square glass baking dish. Then, after the crust has cooled, you add the sweet lemon curd filling on top of it. Pop the dish back into the oven, until your curd has gelled together and cooked through, and they’ll be ready to devour after cooling for a few hours!
How can you tell if lemon bars are done?
After baking at 350°F for 35 minutes, the filling will still be a bit soft and gooey, but it should be gelled together and cooked through. (It’s okay if there are some cracks on top!) The key is to then allow the lemon curd to cool completely in the pan, so it has time to set. I recommend letting it sit for 2 hours at room temperature, then another 1-2 hours in the fridge. You’ll know your healthy lemon bars are done when you move the pan slightly and the filling doesn’t jiggle.
Should lemon bars be served cold and stored in the refrigerator?
Yes, I recommend serving these 5 ingredient lemon bars chilled for the best texture and taste. Also, don’t them slice into bars until after the pan has cooled and chilled in the fridge! Once chilled, you can then sprinkle with powdered sugar (if desired), slice into bars, and serve immediately.
Like most custard or curd desserts, your lemon bars should also be stored in the refrigerator. I recommend storing any leftover bars in an airtight container with some separation between bars, so they don’t get stuck to each other. If you’re serving your low sugar lemon bars for a party or gathering, it’s fine to leave them out on a serving dish for a few hours!
See how this recipe is made in my Vegetarian Bento Box Lunches video!
Healthy Lemon Bars Recipe
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, or whole wheat, or oat flour*
- ⅓ cup butter, solid, cut into chunks**
- ¼ cup granulated sweetener of choice, I used erythritol
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sweetener of choice
- ⅔ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp lemon zest
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour, or whole wheat, or oat flour*
- powdered sugar, once chilled
- *I have made a version of this recipe using oat flour in the past and it turned out well, though all-purpose flour works best!
- **I’ve also made this crust with solid coconut oil in the past, though I prefer butter.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Add crust ingredients to food processor and pulse together for about 30 seconds, until mixture holds together when pressed.
- Press crust into a square 8×8-inch glass baking dish that’s sprayed with cooking spray. (A metal dish may leave a metallic flavor with lemon bars.) Poke all over surface of crust with a fork to aerate.
- Bake for 14-17 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
- Squeeze lemons to get ⅔ cup juice.
- Combine all filling ingredients, whisking to integrate thoroughly. Pour on top of your slightly cooled crust.
- Return to the oven for 35 minutes, until the filling has gelled and is cooked through.
- Allow to cool completely—rest 2 hours on the counter at room temperature, then another 1-2 hours in the fridge.
- Dust with powdered sugar and slice into bars. Best served chilled!
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-7 days.
What other lemony treats can I try?
Lemon is a delicious ingredient to use in tons of different recipes—sweet and savory! If you end up with extra or leftover lemons, here are some of my favorite ways to use them:
- Cayenne turmeric ginger lemonade
- Iced peach green tea lemonade
- Healthy lemon poppy seed muffins with zucchini
- Homemade lemon drop candy
- Lemon tahini salad dressing & spinach salad
- Lemon garlic green beans
31 Comments on “Healthy Lemon Bars Recipe (5 Ingredients)”
I’m interested in making this recipe, but have some questions. Could I make a homemade graham cracker crust? Thanks in advance for your response. Sincerely, Anna Marie
Hi Anna Marie, we’re so glad you’re interested in making these 5-ingredient lemon bars! We have made this crust with all-purpose flour and with oat flour, and both turn out nicely. But we’ve never tried making it with a graham cracker crust, so I can’t speak to how exactly it would turn out. You’re welcome to experiment with it and try it out for yourself!
Ultimately, it’s important that your crust covers your baking dish, and that you can bake it first – so it can firm up a bit before adding the lemon filling. If you have a recipe for graham cracker crust that’s reliable and could be used in this recipe, feel free to give it a try – I suspect it might work just fine! We’d love to know how it goes if you do try it 🙂
These sound healthy and delicious…..going to make them today. Can I use
Hi Mary, you can make this lemon bar crust with all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, or oat flour – or even a gluten-free all-purpose flour! But almond flour is much denser than all of these flours, so it won’t work as a substitute in this recipe. If you want a gluten-free option, I’d recommend using oat flour or GF all-purpose flour. We hope you’ll give them a try! 🙂
Do you think I can switch out the lemons for oranges to make orange bars instead? I tried to make so many lemon bars because they look so good but all I made tastes so sour or failed that now I’m not sure if its just that lemon bars are supposed to be that sour and I just am not inclined to like them or I’m not doing something right lol I mean I love things like lemon poppy seed muffins or lemon pound cake so I thought lemon bars would be even better because of the lemon curd thing. So was thinking of using oranges because they are still tangy but maybe not too sour? I’m just not sure if there is some chemical reaction that is supposed to be happening with the level of acidity the lemon has that oranges don’t…?
Hi Kim, this is an intriguing question! Lemon bars are sweet, but they do tend to have a stronger lemony flavor with a more sourness than something like lemon poppyseed muffins or pound cake. Truthfully I can’t say for sure how this recipe would turn out using oranges instead of lemons. The acidity in lemons might be important to the texture of the lemon bar filling.
However, after browsing a bit online, I came across a few recipes for orange bars that are almost identical to this recipe – except they use orange juice & zest instead of lemon juice & zest! If you’re willing to experiment a bit, you could give it a go 🙂 and we’d love to hear how they turn out if you do!
If we want to halve the recipe or bake the bars in muffin tins (with parchment lining to avoid metallic taste), how would the baking time change? Can you please tell me?
Hi there! This is a great question. Unfortunately, we haven’t personally tried baking this healthy lemon bars recipe in muffin tins, so I can’t say for certain what the difference in bake time will be. You will have to experiment with it a bit! But I will do my best to offer some guidance 🙂
After pressing the crust into your muffin tins, I recommend baking at 350°F (180°C) for 10-15 minutes, until the edges turn lightly golden brown. (It’s best to check them as they bake!)
Then, allow the crusts to cool slightly while you prepare the lemon curd filling.
Add the lemon filling to your cooled crusts, and I recommend baking them at 350°F (180°C) for 10-15 minutes. Again, it’s best to check them while they bake, and you may need to bake them for a bit longer. You want the filling to be gelled and cooked through!
I hope this helps!
Thank you so much for these guidelines! I’m suddenly a bit busy, so I hope I get to try this exciting recipe soon.
Im a lemon head for these lemon bars
Me too, Joseph! These healthy lemon bars are one of my all-time favorite desserts 🙂
My crust is baking right now in the oven.
My question is: my crust was extremely powdery when I pressed it into my glass bakeware. I have a feeling that it won’t stay together once it’s baked.
Is it supposed to be so powdery? I quadruple-checked the recipe and followed it to the letter.
I’ll see how it turns out!
Hi Juliana, thanks so much for trying out this healthy lemon bars recipe! Definitely let us know how your crust turns out. For now I’ll do my best to address your question.
I’m unsure of what you mean by “powdery” in relation to your crust. Do you mean that the flour was visible? If so, it’s possible the crust mixture needed to be integrated a bit more. Alternatively, it may be that the cold butter wasn’t fully integrated (or that it wasn’t cold enough.)
Or do you mean that the texture was a bit crumbly? It’s okay to have a somewhat crumbly texture, but the mixture should hold together when you press it!
It would also help to know: Did you use all-purpose flour? And what type of granulated sweetener did you use?
Again, let us know how it turns out! It’s possible it will turn out great after baking, but I would love to help moving forward in any way I can 🙂
Thanks so much for responding! You’ve got a new fan. 🙂
The crust turned out great. Once baked, it totally holds its shape with just a few crumbs here and there.
I used a food processor to mix all-purpose white flour, straight-from-the-fridge cubed butter and white sugar together. The finished consistency was similar to plain all-purpose white flour. However, when I pressed down on it, it did sort of stick together but with a lot of flour-y bits easily coming off. There was no visible butter or sugar anymore, so I thought I had integrated everything enough.
But it’s neither here nor there, because baking did the trick!
My family loves the bars, thank you for the wonderful recipe.
Hi Juliana, we’re so glad and grateful to have you here! It’s fantastic to hear that your lemon bars crust turned out well and that you and your family are enjoying them 🙂 It sounds like you followed the recipe precisely and your crust turned out much like ours! It certainly can appear a bit crumbly, but as long as the dough holds together when pressed it should turn out just fine once baked. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and feedback with us!
I made these for a friend who likes lemon, and I thought I didn’t like lemon much – I was wrong. I don’t know what it is about these lemon bars but I think I’m a lemon lover now! Made them with a stevia sweetener blend since she’s diabetic and they turned out perfect.
Yay! Alma, this makes our day to hear. Personally I also thought I wasn’t a big fan of lemon, but we re-made these healthy lemon bars last week & something about them tastes so magical! Thanks for giving the recipe a try 🙂
When you say sweetener of choice, does that also mean sugar free sweeteners?
Hi there! Yes, sweetener of choice includes sugar-free sweeteners! We love these with regular granulated sugar, but a sugar-free granulated sweetener like stevia or a baking blend will work as well 🙂
I wanted to ask, did you just process the Oats (old-fashioned oats) in a processor to make the flour? I want to do that if it is. Thanks so much
Hi Nicole, you can buy pre-made oat flour at the store, or you can absolutely make your own at home! It’s very easy to do, as you said, simply process the oats in a food processor or blender until you’ve got a fine, powdered texture. For the best/least clumpy texture, you can also sift the flour using a flour sifter or fine mesh strainer! Not always necessary, but helpful to keep in mind for some baked goods (like breads).
If you’d like to watch a quick video that demonstrates making homemade flour, I’ve linked it here 🙂
Can I substitute almond flour?
Hi Sue, we haven’t tried this recipe using almond flour so I can’t say for sure how it would turn out! Almond flour tends to be denser than an oat flour, all-purpose flour, or wheat flour, so it might not work as a 1-to-1 replacement here. You’d have to experiment a bit to find out – I apologize I can’t be more helpful!
These turned out delicious! I used a little less sugar than listed because I like my lemon bars a little tart vs. sweet. Will definitely use this recipe again since it has such minimal ingredients!
Hi Ariana, so wonderful to know that this recipe turned out well for you, and with less sugar! Thanks so much for giving it a try 🙂
This is more like a tart than a ‘bar’ but delicious nonetheless!
it’s so yummy and clean that it’s now one of my fave recipes for a dessert, ever.
I used whole rolled oats for topping and base which I blended first to make a flour
for the base I used 1/4 of maple syrup and for the topping less than 1/3 of honey in my mixture and it was still very sweet but nice.
It was so stunningly beautiful to taste and so healthy too, I’m in love with it.
Thanks so much for trying out the recipe! So happy to hear that you enjoyed it 🙂
Can you substitute almond flour for the flour in this recipe?
Hi Maggie, unfortunately we haven’t tried this recipe with almond flour so we can’t say for certain how it would work. It might, but you’d have to experiment with the recipe to find out! (If you do decide to give it a try, you may need to use a bit less almond flour than the amount of flour called for in the original recipe.)
Not bad for a healthier version! I used Meyer lemons for both the juice and the zest and I think it actually would have been good to include a little regular lemon juice in it. Missing that tangy sweet with the Meyers. Next time, I’ll try it with butter instead of coconut oil (even though some might say that’s not as healthy).
Happy to hear this recipe turned out well for you, Donna! Thanks for giving it a try 🙂 it’d probably be delicious and work just as well made with butter!