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Light Lemon Bars Recipe

In the mood for a light, refreshing spring dessert? These luscious lemon bars are guaranteed to hit the spot. All the lemon, none of the guilt!

Recipe for lighter lemon bars 

These lemon bars with a buttery shortbread crust are so luscious and lemony your family, will never know they have ½ the fat and 1/3 less sugar than regular lemon squares. Allergic to gluten? No worries.This recipe easily adapts to a gluten-free diet.


Yield: 24 lemon squares

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes  

Shortbread Crust

heavy duty non-stick aluminum foil

non-aerosol cooking or baking spray with flour

1½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour OR 1½ cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour

½ cup raw or granulated sugar

½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut into ½-inch pieces, room temperature

½ tsp. real vanilla – optional

pinch salt – optional


1½ cups natural cane sugar (sugar in the raw) or granulated white sugar

1 tbsp. plus

1 tsp. cornstarch (gluten-free) 

6 large eggs

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, strained of seeds and pulp (3 to 4 large lemons)

1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

½ tsp. real lemon extract – optional flavor boost

¼ cup powdered sugar   

1. Make a sling for a 9 x 13 x 1½ to 2-inch baking pan by cutting a 20-inch sheet of non-stick foil. Spray pan lightly with cooking or baking spray and lay the foil lengthwise and centered across the pan with equal amounts of extra foil at both the 9-inch and 13-inch sides of the pan. Carefully smooth and push the foil into the corners, up the sides, and across the bottom of the pan. There should be approximately 3-inches of foil hanging off the 13-inch ends of the pan, creating a sling. (See picture above.)

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine regular or gluten-free flour, ½ cup sugar, and salt in bowl or food processor. Add butter and vanilla and process or use a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (Do not over mix.)

3. Sprinkle crumbs into prepared pan and gently press evenly onto bottom. Bake in middle of oven until lightly browned, 20 to 22 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. (Shortbread made with gluten-free flour will brown less that the shortbread made with all-purpose wheat flour.)

4. Prepare filling while shortbread is baking. In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch into sugar until combined. In a medium bowl, beat eggs until combined. Gently whisk sugar/starch mixture, lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon extract into eggs until blended. Pour filling over hot shortbread. Bake until mixture is set, 20 to 22 minutes.

5. Set pan on a rack, cool to room temperature, 1½ to 2 hours, then cover and chill at least 2 hours before cutting. Remove by lifting long ends of foil sling from pan to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife cleaned in hot water and dried often, cut in 24 pieces. Before serving, sprinkle squares with powdered.

Cook’s Note: Cookies keep, covered and chilled, 3 days.  

Related: Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

Healthy cooking tips and techniques used in this recipe:

No artificial flavors or unhealthy ingredients, like margarine or shortening, were used to make these lemon bars. Always use fresh, natural foods like whole eggs and real butter in your recipes—just use less! 

Did you know you can reduce the amount of sugar in recipes for baked goods by a ¼ of what’s listed with little or no effect to the result or flavor?

The all-purpose unbleached and gluten-free flours in this recipe were reduced from 2 cups to 1½ cups, making these lemon bars lower in carbohydrates.

The butter called for in the original shortbread crust was reduced from 1 cup to ½ cup—this significantly reduced the total grams of fat and didn’t sacrifice flavor.

Including butter in the lemon filling was unnecessary—eliminating the butter altogether had no effect on the rich, smooth texture of the filling.

It’s okay to use whole eggs in recipes—the cholesterol in eggs doesn’t increase cholesterol as once believed. There’s no reason to leave them out, given their essential effects in cooking and baking (e.g., leavening, emulsifying, structure, thickening, enriching).

Nutrition Information: 1 at 130 Calories; 5g Fat; 25g Carbohydrate; 0g Fiber; 2g Protein; 57mg Cholesterol; 50mg Sodium

Gluten-Free Nutrition Information: 1 at 150 Calories; 5g Fat; 2g Carbohydrate; 0g Fiber; 2g Protein; 57mg Cholesterol; 50mg Sodium  

Related: Healthy Swaps for Dinner  


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The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

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Post Author

Mary Ross

Mary is currently a Marketing Account Specialist and has been with SelectHealth for six years. She spends a lot of her time doing what she loves the most—teaching people how to cook healthy meals.

You can frequently see Mary on local television stations demonstrating how to revamp popular recipes by using healthy substitutions and cooking techniques.