Vegan Lemon Bars Recipe (Sugar-free & gluten-free)

Author: Dr. Alexis McNeil

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Time to read: 12 min

Vegan lemon bars recipe feature picture
Finished vegan lemon custard bars baked with Detox Desserts ingredient swaps

Vegan Lemon Bars Recipe (sugar-free & gluten-free)

Prep time

20 min

Bake time

35 min

Servings

16 servings

Category

Bars

Why you will love these vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free lemon bars

These creamy lemon bars are a delightful balance of sweet and tart. They have half the calories, 5x the fiber, 2x the protein and each bar only contains 4g net carbs. If you love lemon, do yourself a favor and make these bars.


The crumbly, buttery, shortbread crust is the perfect bed for the light and creamy lemon filling. The tangy lemon filling falls somewhere between a custard and a curd. Since this isn’t a traditional lemon filling, we eliminate the laborious task of stirring on the stovetop and worrying about your eggs curdling. You’ll simply whisk the lemon filling ingredients together and bake. This egg-free, zero cholesterol, protein-packed vegan lemon bar recipe is fuss free and full of flavor. These gluten free lemon bars are quick and simple, but look elegant when sliced and plated. Even the lemon haters out there will be pleasantly surprised when they bite into these nutritious squares of lemony love.


A customer told me she made these on Easter and set them next to her regular homemade lemon bars. What happened? Her family devoured the detoxed version while leaving the sugar and egg loaded bars virtually untouched…even the kids preferred the detoxed version! Nothing gets me more excited than kids choosing a healthy option based on pure taste…score for DD*!


I love using fresh, organic lemons in my recipes because they are so high in vitamin C and fiber. Just 1 large lemon provides about 50% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Their high vitamin C and fiber content supports heart health, weight control, and digestive health. When mixed with the vast health benefits of the ‘Sweet Swaps’, you’ll easily turn your favorite lemony dessert into a SUPERFOOD. Just make sure you use the zest from organic lemons for best flavor and to avoid unwanted chemicals and food wax.

Recommended products for the best sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan lemon bars

How our vegan lemon bars measure up against other recipes

Nutritional information about Detox Desserts vegan lemon custard bars

Not only does using the DD Flour Swap make it easy to make this lemon bar recipe gluten free, but it also can promote healthy digestion. The psyllium husk contained in the Flour Swap and inulin contained in the Egg and Sugar Swaps both feed and increase the number of healthy gut bacteria. Plenty of good flora in your intestines can promote a healthy immune system along with the added digestive benefits we all love with a healthy dose of fiber. Don’t forget that the whole psyllium husk binds waste and toxins in your intestines and helps clear them from the body. 


This recipe for gluten free and vegan lemon bars is not only free from all the unhealthy ingredients found in traditional dessert but they’re actually gently detoxifying to the body…double win!


The plant soluble fiber from the psyllium husk and the digestive resistant fiber in the inulin work together to slow down digestion of this nutrition packed lemon bar. This helps provide more blood sugar stability throughout your day which can keep you feeling full and satisfied. This also keeps energy levels constant without the normal sugar crashes one would experience with a traditional, carb-loaded lemon bar.


I’ve made this vegan lemon bar recipe with Whole-Grain and Grain-Free Flour Swap numerous times. They are equally delish and both allow you to make your lemon bar recipe gluten free and healthy! The Whole-Grain Swap bars have a few extra slowly digesting healthy carbs, but I love the hearty, earthy flavor they have. The Grain-Free Flour will provide a keto/paleo version. The Grain-Free bars bake amazingly well, with a perfect crumbly shortbread and mildly nutty flavor. I tested this recipe using both flours in equal parts (¾ cup Whole-Grain plus ¾ cup Grain-Free Flour to equal the full 1½ cups of Flour Swap the recipe calls for), which is my taste/texture preference. Plus, mixing the flours is a great way to create a lower carb version of a vegan lemon bar and still allows for a small dose of healthy grains.


For most of my patients, I’m a big advocate for balanced macronutrient meals breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here is an easy way to know what type of Flour Swap to choose to create a balanced macro meal. We’ll use dinner as an example. If your dinner consists of just protein and veggies, I recommend eating Whole-Grain Swap lemon bars for dessert to serve as your healthy carb for that meal. Conversely, if you already had a healthy carb with dinner (quinoa, sweet potato, beans, etc), I would recommend the Grain-Free Swap lemon bars for dessert so you don’t overeat carbs at that meal. Easy, right?! Balanced macro meals are the best thing you can do to keep your metabolism firing optimally, create blood sugar stability and keep you feeling full and satisfied throughout your day (or night). If you’re a diabetic or need to stay in ketosis, always bake using the Grain-Free Flour Swap.

Finished vegan lemon custard bars
Finished vegan lemon custard bars
vegan lemon custard bars nutritional value

How I crafted the perfect vegan, gluten and sugar-free lemon bars recipe

This recipe is not a simple 1:1 swap, it really takes one knowing the Sweet Swap ingredients well. 


I’ve been playing with these ingredients for years and can recreate pretty much any dessert using the products. Regular baked desserts like cakes, cookies, sweet breads, scones and muffins are straight forward and turn out great using the simple 1:1 swap method, but not all desserts can be made that way. The Sweet Swaps are AMAZING but they aren’t magic, LOL. 


Lemon Bars are many people’s favorite dessert, so I knew I needed a recipe that stood out among all others. I took a fairly traditional approach to the buttery shortbread crust. I referenced a few 5-star recipes online as inspiration and made the 1:1 ingredient Swaps. 


The lemon filling needed a different approach. I wanted to pack the filling with protein and eliminate unnecessary fat and calories while still providing a big lemony flavor and creamy, rich texture. My solution, 1 full cup of lemon juice, fresh lemon zest and 3 big Egg Swaps. I’ll admit, I got lazy a few times making these bars and used organic bottled lemon juice. Fresh lemon juice is always best but my family still loves my lazy lemon bars and requests this dessert regularly. Although the Egg Swap contains 50% more protein than an egg, it doesn’t bake like regular eggs. One-third cup of Flour Swap is needed to set the filling, plus it adds an extra dose of healthy fiber to this vegan lemon bars recipe. I promise, you won’t even know the Flour Swap is there, but it’s required to create the perfect filling consistency.


Detox Desserts’ healthy ingredient Swaps not only create the most deliciously clean, low-carb and gluten free desserts; they’re also free from animal products making them safe for your vegan friends and family members with cardiovascular disease. Remember, Detox Desserts is the only gluten-free, vegan, paleo AND keto baking system out there. Baking with the Swaps makes it easy to accommodate pretty much every dietary restriction imaginable (except people with tree nut allergies, sorry nut sensitive friends!).

The best ingredient substitutes for gluten-free & sugar-free & vegan lemon bars

vegan lemon custard bars recipe ingredient

Key Ingredients of traditional lemon bars: 


  • All Purpose Flour
  • Granular Sugar
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Lemon Zest
  • Lemon Juice
  • Salt
  • Vanilla
  • Baking Powder

Key Ingredients for vegan and gluten-free lemon bars:


  • Whole-Grain Flour Swap or Grain-Free Flour Swap: Our gluten-free, high fiber, low-carb healthy flour substitute (use Grain-Free Swap for Paleo/Keto version of these bars).
  • Granular Sugar Swap: Our zero-calorie, zero-carb, naturally sweetened sugar substitute formulated with prebiotics to support healthy digestion.
  • Egg Swap: Our vegan egg substitute that contains 50% more protein than an egg, added prebiotics for digestive support and NO cholesterol.
  • Butter Swap: Our whole food, plant-based butter substitute that bakes and tastes like butter with added health benefits
  • Lemon Zest (use organic, unwaxed lemons to avoid unwanted pesticides and additives)
  • Lemon Juice (Freshly squeezed lemon juice is best but organic bottled will work in a pinch)
  • Salt
  • Vanilla Extract (it balances the lemon flavor in my opinion)
  • Baking Powder

Try Our Gluten-free, Vegan, Paleo AND Keto Baking System

Step-by-step: How to make sugar-free and gluten-free vegan lemon bars

Shortbread Crust Ingredients:


Lemon Filling Ingredients:


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9x9” baking pan with parchment paper.

2. Make the shortbread crust by mixing the Flour Swap, Sugar Swap and salt well.

Step 2 GF Shortbread Crust for vegan lemon custard bars recipe
Ingredients for the Whole-Grain Shortbread Crust
Step 2 GF Shortbread Crust for vegan lemon custard bars recipe
Ingredients for the Grain-Free Shortbread Crust

3. Add Butter Swap, vanilla extract and hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until crumbly texture is achieved. Use your hands to knead the dough, it should be crumbly but stick together when pressed. 

Step 3 GF Flour for vegan lemon custard bars recipe
Shortbread Crust Batter made with Detox Desserts Grain-Free Flour Swap
Step 3 vegan lemon custard bars recipe
Shortbread Crust Batter made with Detox Desserts Whole-Grain Flour Swap

4. Press the crumbly dough evenly into the parchment lined baking tray and place into the preheated oven.

Step 4 pressing vegan lemon custard bars recipe
Step 4 WG vs. GF flour vegan lemon custard bars recipe
Grain-Free and Whole-Grain Shortbread Crust compared

5. Par-bake the crust for 8-10 minutes. Watch the crust closely and remove from the oven when it barely starts to turn golden.

6. Prepare the filling while the crust is cooling by whisking together all the ingredients of the lemon filling. Allow the filling to sit for about 5 minutes then whisk again for 1 more minute.

Step 6 before mixing vegan lemon custard bars recipe
Step 6 let filling rest 5 mins vegan lemon custard bars recipe

7. Pour the lemon filling on top of your parbaked crust and return to the oven. Bake for about 35 minutes. The filling will rise, get bubbly and the edges will look slightly golden. The filling will jiggle just a little, but should look done after the recommended bake time.

Step 7 vegan lemon custard bars recipe

8. Remove from the oven and cool completely before transferring to the fridge to completely set overnight.

Step 8 vegan lemon custard bars recipe

9. Sprinkle your chilled lemon bars with Powdered Sugar Swap if desired, then slice and serve.

Step 9 vegan lemon custard bars recipe
Step 9 with powdered sugar vegan lemon custard bars recipe

10. Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for longer term storage.

How to store your vegan lemon bars for maximum shelf-life

Store your healthy vegan lemon bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. For long term storage, wrap tightly and freeze. These bars are wonderful straight out of the freezer, so don’t hesitate to keep a stash tucked away to satisfy your future lemon loving cravings ;)

Tips for making the best vegan lemon bars

  • Make sure to buy organic lemons for the zest so you don’t spoil your cookies with wax and pesticides. 
  • Lemons are easier to zest when the lemon peel is fresh and firm. Make sure you pick out firm, organic lemons when shopping for your ingredients. 
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice tastes best. I’ve used organic bottled lemon juice which works fine, although it’s slightly more bitter (my family still loved the bars, btw;). 
  • Meyer’s Lemons are AMAZING in this recipe because they are naturally more sweet. If they’re in season, I highly recommend it. 
  • Make sure your Butter Swap is well stirred and at room temperature before making your shortbread crust, oil separation is normal in the Butter Swap. If you’re having trouble stirring your Butter Swap, pour the entire jar into a high speed blender. Your Butter Swap will stay smooth for a couple months after a minute in the blender!
  • Add water slowly to your buttery shortbread crust until it’s crumbly but sticks together well. Too much water will prevent the crust from baking properly, rendering it more soft than crumbly…boo! 
  • Press the shortbread evenly into your parchment lined baking pan, take your time here because you want the crust to bake evenly and hold together when cooled. 
  • Watch your crust during the last couple minutes of the parbake. Remove it when it barely starts to turn golden in color. If you’re not watching, it can easily go from under to over baked.
  • Let your lemon filling rest for about 5 minutes after you’ve blended all the ingredients together, then stir for another minute before pouring your lemon filling over your parbaked crust. The resting period allows the fiber in the Flour Swap to absorb the moisture and your filling will slightly thicken. 
  • Don’t be tempted to dig into these bars before they’ve sat in the fridge overnight. They need the overnight chill to completely set. The overnight refrigeration also slows down carbohydrate absorption making them tastier and healthier…weird, but it works!

Recipe Card: Vegan Lemon Bars Recipe (sugar-free & gluten-free)

Prep Time  Bake Time Total Time
20 minutes 35 minutes 55 minutes

Servings: 16

Calories per serving: 160 kcal


Although not guaranteed, we have gone above and beyond to provide you with the most accurate nutritional information for this recipe.




Shortbread Crust Ingredients



Lemon Filling Ingredients





Instructions


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9x9” baking pan with parchment paper.


2. Make the shortbread crust by mixing the Flour Swap, Sugar Swap and salt well.


3. Add Butter Swap, vanilla extract and hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until crumbly texture is achieved. Use your hands to knead the dough, it should be crumbly but stick together when pressed.


4. Press the crumbly dough evenly into the parchment lined baking tray and place into the preheated oven.


5. Par-bake the crust for 8-10 minutes. Watch the crust closely and remove from the oven when it barely starts to turn golden.


6. Prepare the filling while the crust is cooling by whisking together all the ingredients of the lemon filling. Allow the filling to sit for about 5 minutes then whisk again for 1 more minute.


7. Pour the lemon filling on top of your parbaked crust and return to the oven. Bake for about 35 minutes. The filling will rise, get bubbly and the edges will look slightly golden. The filling will jiggle just a little, but should look done after the recommended bake time.


8. Remove from the oven and cool completely before transferring to the fridge to completely set overnight.


9. Sprinkle your chilled lemon bars with Powdered Sugar Swap if desired, then slice and serve.


10. Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for longer term storage. 


For best taste, texture and health benefits, refrigerate all Detox Desserts overnight before indulging.



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Nutritional information

vegan lemon custard bars nutritional value

*An important note on carbs:


Net carbohydrates are the sum total of carbohydrates that convert into glucose (therefore raise blood sugar) in the body. Anyone following a keto or diabetic diet should count net carbs NOT total carbs. To determine net carbs, simply subtract the fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbohydrates on the nutrition label. If you count macronutrients (carbs, fats, protein) you should always count net carbs, not total carbs.


We love your feedback, please make sure to comment and share your experience with this recipe for gluten free lemon bars with the healthy baking community!


Cheers to your delicious health,


-Dr. Alexis

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