Classic lemon squares, made gluten free. This gluten free lemon bars recipe has a buttery dairy-free shortbread crust with a velvety smooth lemon curd.
How to make Gluten Free Lemon Bars Recipe
For me, creating the perfect gluten free lemon bar recipe was very tricky.
I wanted to create a gluten free lemon square recipe that was better than any recipe I'd had before going gluten-free.
Lemon Bars were one of my favorite treats before I went gluten-free. I wanted to nail the recipe so it tasted just as good as I remember!
This recipe was originally in my cookbook, The Essential Gluten-Free Cookie Guide.
If you are a cookie fiend, like me, check it out. You'd probably also love my Gluten-Free Holiday Cookies cookbook.
Ingredients to make gluten free lemon squares:
- Gluten Free flour- I've used my gluten free flour blend, and Bob's red mill's 1 to 1 gluten free flour blend. If you try another blend, comment and tell me how it worked for you!
- Eggs - they are needed for the gluten free lemon curd filling and for the shortbread crust.
- Lemons- zest and juice
- Butter- for the butter gluten free shortbread crust. Dairy free/vegan butters and/or palm shortening work great to make these lemon bars dairy free.
- white sugar- for the curd filling
- powdered sugar- for the crust and to dust on the finished gluten free bar cookies.
How do you make lemon bars gluten free and dairy free?
Traditional lemon bars have flour in both the crust and the filling. The lemon curd is stabilized and thickened with flour, since the curd is baked and not stirred on the stovetop.
Using a gluten-free flour, and making a few other adjustments creates an easy gluten free lemon bar recipe that makes perfect gluten free lemon squares every time!
How to make gluten free shortbread crust for lemon bars:
First, make the gluten free shortbread crust by creaming together the butter (or vegan butter) and powdered sugar. Mix them until smooth.
Add the egg white and mix until it is emulsified, and fully mixed in.
Add the salt, xanthan gum (if your gluten free flour blend doesn't already have it) and your gluten free flour and mix until you have a smooth dough. Your dough may be a bit crumbly, and that is A-okay!
Press your gluten free shortbread crust into a 9 x 13 baking pan that has either been lightly greased or lined with parchment paper.
Bake your gluten free crust until the edges just start to turn golden. Remove and let cool.
While your gluten free shortbread crust is baking, make the lemon curd filling for your lemon bars.
How to make gluten free lemon bar filling
Gently whisk the granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, eggs, and gluten free flour together until you have a smooth filling mixture.
Once your crust has cooled for a few minutes, gently pour the gluten free lemon bar filling mixture over the crust and return it to the oven to bake.
Bake until just set, the lemon bars will still jiggle slightly in the center but the edges will be fully set.
Your gluten free lemon bars will fully set as they cool.
Cool completely before cutting and dusting with powdered sugar.
For me the perfect gluten free lemon bar recipe has:
A buttery crust that can hold it's own.
Meaning, it is a rich a butter shortbread that isn't a pile of crumbs.
I want to be able to pick up a gluten free lemon bar between my fingers and enjoy it without grabbing a plate and fork.
So many of the gluten free recipes I tried resulted in a pile of crumbs, or a chewy cracker. Neither of those results was acceptable to me.
It is all about the lemon curd!
I mean, they are lemon bars. If you don't nail the lemon part, what is the point?!?!
The lemon curd has to have the right balance of sour lemon and sweetness, while also having a smooth mouthfeel.
I didn't want it to have a chalky feel, or chunks. I want my lemon curd to be buttery and sweet, but not cloyingly sweet.
That is a thin line to balance on!
The lemon curd also has to hold it's shape, while still being a curd. I don't want lemon curd oozing out all over the sides of my gluten free lemon squares.
Yet, it still needs to have a little fluidity because I also don't want it to be like a layer of cake on top of a crust. It still needs to be a curd!
If you are a big lemon curd fan like me, I bet you'll love this gluten-free fruit tart. It is filled with lemon curd!
It needs to be an EASY gluten free lemon bars recipe.
I wanted to make my gluten free lemon squares the same way I did when I was a kid.
I wanted to make the buttery gluten free shortbread crust, press it into the pan, and par-bake it while whisking together the lemon curd ingredients.
After the gluten free crust is golden, I want to pour the lemon curd on the crust while it is still warm and pop it back in the oven to set.
I did NOT want to pull out the blender, use nontraditional ingredients like cashews or almonds or tofu, or do a RAW lemon bar.
I wanted classic lemon bars-gluten free!
Perfecting my gluten free lemon bar recipe to make it just right took a lot of time.
As you can tell from my monologue, I'm a bit particular about my lemons bars.
The biggest struggle I had was getting the texture right in the crust and the curd.
Getting my crust to hold its shape and not be a pile of buttery crumbs, and also getting my curd to set without it becoming pastey.
You can find another version of this recipe with a lavender twist in my gluten free lavender lemon bars recipe.
Here are my secrets to making the best gluten free lemon bars!
Egg whites in the gluten free shortbread crust.
I know, egg whites in shortbread is not traditional. In my recipe testing, it is the best way to give the gluten free shortbread crust the structure it needs without compromising the buttery goodness that is shortbread.
Trust me, it is worth it.
Why should I use powdered sugar in gluten free shortbread crust?
I know you may feel silly pulling out powdered sugar for the crust and white sugar for the filling, but let me tell you why you should.
The powdered sugar has just a wee bit of cornstarch in it (meant to prevent clumping) which adds a bit more structure to your gluten free crust.
If you were to add granulated sugar, it would make your shortbread crust more tender.
Normally that is a good thing when you are making cookies. But specifically with gluten free shortbread based cookies I have found much better results when using powdered sugar.
They hold together better, and still have a delicate and butter bite.
Measure the gluten free flour for the curd carefully.
It is important to add flour so that your gluten free lemon squares set correctly, but if you add too much they will have a pasty or chalky texture, instead of that smooth velvety lemon curd that I (and hopefully you) crave.
Don't skip the zest!
I know, it is incredibly tempting. You have that big bottle of lemon juice sitting in your fridge and it would be so easy to use just that and skip the zest.
Don't do it!
So much of a lemon's flavor is in the zest. Head to Amazon and buy yourself a lemon zester (my favorite is the better zester, it has a container that catches all of the zest and measures it too) to make it easier. It is honestly one of my favorite kitchen gadgets (and I have many.)
If you don't get enough juice from your lemon, go ahead and supplement with that lemon juice bottle from your fridge but don't forgo the fresh zest lemon unless you like just slightly lemony squares.
Dust with powdered sugar just before serving!
The sugar quickly dissolves into the lemon curd, so don't try and sprinkle the powdered sugar ahead of time.
Especially it you are taking your gluten free lemon squares to a potluck or picnic, you may find a dusting wand handy. You can also use a sieve or even a tea ball.
It is essentially a little wire ball that you can fill with powdered sugar and then quickly dust your lemon bars, among other things.
I've had a dusting wand on my list for Santa for a few years now. Maybe this year...
How do I make dairy free gluten free lemon bars?
If you are like my family, you need a dairy free lemon bar option.
I've made this tried and true gluten free lemon bar recipe with the full cow (all that butter) and dairy free.
Both versions are great!
To make gluten free dairy free lemon bars use a vegan butter substitute like palm shortening, Earth Balance or Melt.
I find I get the best texture and taste if I use half palm shortening and half Earth Balance.
I apologize, I do not have a substitution recommendation to make vegan gluten free lemon bars. The tradition lemon bar recipe is heavily based on eggs and I wanted to keep this recipe close for nostalgia sake.
I'm working on a vegan lemon bar recipe and will share when it is ready. If you try any egg substitutes, please share! I'd love to know what worked.
You'll probably also love my friend Chrystal's Gluten-Free Lemon Cake. She topped hers with blackberries and extra lemon zest, it looks amazing! Everything of her's I've tried is amazing.
Pin My Gluten Free Lemon Bar Recipe
For the dairy free gluten free shortbread crust
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ½ cup vegan butter
- 1 egg white
- ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups gluten free flour blend
for the lemon curd filling
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups white sugar
- ¼ cup gluten free flour blend
- Zest from 2-3 lemons
- ½ cup lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
- additional powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350°f and line a 9" x 13" baking pan with parchment paper or lightly grease.
To start the gluten free shortbread crust
- Cream the powdered sugar and butter together.
- Add the egg white and mix until smooth.
- Add the xanthan gum, salt, and gluten free flour and mix until you have a crumbly dough.
- Press into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and bake for 15-20 mins, until set and golden brown.
Prepare the lemon curd filling
- While the crust is baking, prepare the filling by whisking all the ingredients together until smooth. Gently pour the filling into the crust once it has finished par-baking. Bake the lemon bars for 20-25 mins until the center of the pan has a slight jiggle, but the rest of the pan is set.
- Let your lemon bars cool completely before cutting dusting with powdered sugar and cutting into squares
- If you can use butter, you can absolutely use it instead of the vegan butter in the crust. I used half palm shortening and half Earth Balance this time, and have also used just vegan butter.
- Don't skip out on the lemon zest! That is what makes the difference between meh gluten free lemon bars and amazing ones! If you don't have access to lemon zest, I'd recommend adding some lemon extract in addition to the lemon juice. The juice alone won't give you enough flavor!
Nutrition InformationYield 30 Serving Size 1 1 1.5" lemon square
Amount Per Serving Calories 142Total Fat 4gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 45mgSodium 60mgCarbohydrates 25gFiber 0gSugar 19gProtein 2g