Light Lemon Bars

Light Lemon Bars

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
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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.

Rating: 5 out of 5.


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 about 3-inches of foil hanging off the 13-inch ends of the pan, creating a sling. (See picture) 

Non-stick Foil Sling

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.

3. Sprinkle crumbs into prepared pan and gently press evenly onto bottom. Bake in middle of oven until browned, 20 to 22 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. (Shortbread made with gluten-free flour will brown less than 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 with a little more powdered sugar.

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


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

Original Nutrition Information: 1 at 275 calories; 15g fat; 40g carbohydrate; 0g fiber; 2g protein; 72mg cholesterol; 117mg sodium

Healthy Cooking Tips and Techniques

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 cut the sugar in baked goods recipes by a ¼ of what’s listed with little or no effect to the end results or flavor.

The all-purpose unbleached and gluten-free flours in this recipe were reduced from 2 to 1½ cups, making these lemon bars lower in simple carbohydrates without sacrificing the shortbread cookie crust.

The butter called for in the shortbread was cut from 1 to ½ cup without sacrificing the rich flavor and resulted in a reduction of 96 grams of total fat in the recipe.

The ¼ cup butter in the lemon filling was unnecessary. Eliminating it had no effect on the rich smooth texture of the filling because of the six eggs yolks used. Also, if added, the butter flavor would have been overwhelmed by the lemon juice. In addition, its elimination resulted in a reduction of another 48 grams of total fat from the recipe.

None of the whole eggs were omitted from the recipe because the cholesterol in eggs doesn’t increase serum cholesterol as once believed. Combined with the health benefits of eggs, there’s no reason to leave them out given their effects in cooking and baking, e.g. leavening, emulsifying, structure, thickening, enriching, etc.


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