With creamy, tangy lemon curd and a salty-sweet almond flour shortbread crust, these gluten-free lemon bars are just the thing to make when life hands you all the lemons. These are easy to make and oh so satisfying.
Thanks to Vermont Creamery for sponsoring this post!
My Favorite Gluten-Free Lemon Bar Recipe
I have strong feelings about lemon bars. When made well, they're sweet-tart, creamy, buttery, and super satisfying. But so much can go wrong with lemon bars. The crust can be pasty, bland, and underbaked. The filling can be gummy and cloyingly sweet. The lemon flavor can be weak, overpowered by eggs and sugar.
This gluten-free lemon bar recipe starts with a buttery gluten-free shortbread crust that's baked until golden and flavorful. Next comes an easy lemon curd, set with just the right amount of egg, loads of butter, and extra tangy lemon juice. Both components feature creamy cultured butter from Vermont Creamery and together they form gluten-free lemon bar bliss.
I adapted this recipe from the one in my cookbook Alternative Baker. My talented friends Nadia and Rob made a video of the original recipe from my book; you can see how easy they are to make!
I've also shared this recipe in tart form; same ingredients and process, different shape! You can get my gluten-free lemon tart recipe here. And you can find all my favorite bar cookie recipes here.
Ingredients for Gluten-Free Lemon Squares
- This recipe starts with my favorite almond flour shortbread crust.
- Sugar sweetens the crust and the lemon curd. I use organic granulated sugar, which has a pale blond hue and slightly caramel flavor. The curd needs a good dose of sugar to offset the tartness of all that lemon juice. But I've given a lower sugar, extra-tangy variation in the recipe.
- Cultured butter from Vermont Creamery tastes fresh and clean, with extra lactic flavor from the culturing process. Cold butter moistens the crust giving it a delicate shortbread consistency. It also adds body to the lemon curd, helping it set softly when chilled and making the bars melt in your mouth.
- Salt makes this gluten-free shortbread crust completely addictive. And it makes the flavors pop in the lemon curd.
- Vanilla adds a whiff of floral flavor to the shortbread crust.
- Six lemons go into this recipe in the form of finely grated zest and 1 cup of juice. I use regular organic lemons here, but you can find a Meyer lemon bar recipe in my book Alternative Baker.
- You can optionally top these gluten-free lemon bars with powdered sugar or thinly sliced lemon wheels. Or my personal favorite: Vermont Creamery crème fraîche whipped with heavy cream until firm, and then piped atop the bars.
Easy Gluten-Free Shortbread Crust with Almond Flour
This gluten-free shortbread crust is my go-to recipe for gluten-free bars and tarts. Take a bite of buttery shortbread, meltingly tender and full of flavor from gluten-free flours and good hit of salt, and you'll be hooked too.
I've used this gluten-free tart crust recipe in many other recipes here on TBG and also in my book Alternative Baker including this Gluten-Free Lime Curd Tart.
To make the crust, combine the flours, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer. Add the butter and vanilla and run until the dough comes together in large, moist clumps.
Dump the dough into the pan and press into a thin layer. Prebake the crust until golden, then use the back of a large spoon to press the crust down. This helps the crust hold together once the bars are baked.
The Creamiest Lemon Curd Recipe
Making creamy, rich lemon curd is not hard, but it does require a few key techniques:
- First, you have to separate a couple of eggs.
- Next, place cold butter and lemon zest in a bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top. When you've cooked your curd base, you'll strain it right into the cold butter to stop the cooking.
- To cook the curd, many recipes call for using a double boiler. But I prefer to throw caution to the wind and cook my curd right in a saucepan set over very low heat. You just need to stir it constantly and keep a close watch.
- Combine the eggs and egg yolks, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Choose one with a heavy bottom to conduct the heat evenly. Cook until the curd had thickened slightly, then immediately strain into the cold butter to oust any eggy bits. Stir to incorporate the butter.
- At this point, you have silky lemon curd which you can chill and spread on toast and scones. Or you can pour the lemon curd into a baked crust to make these gluten-free lemon bars or a gluten-free lemon tart.
How to Make GF Lemon Bars
Once you've baked your crust and cooked your lemon curd, simply pour the curd over the crust. Bake the bars just until the edges start to puff. The center should wiggle like firm Jell-o when you give the pan a shake. This helps keep the curd soft and delicate.
Let the cooked lemon bars cool, then chill them until very cold, at least 3 hours or overnight. The butter will help the curd firm up to a softly sliceable consistency.
Remove the lemon bars from the pan and peel away the parchment paper. Cut the bars with a large, sharp chef's knife dipped in hot water and wiped clean between cuts. You can cut these into 16 small squares. Or for larger bars, cut into 12 rectangles.
Gluten-Free Lemon Tart
Need to turn this gluten-free lemon bars recipe into a classy dinner party dessert? Just make the components in a tart pan and voilà: gluten-free lemon tart.
Gluten-Free Meyer Lemon Bar Recipe
Got Meyer lemons? Get the recipe for gluten-free Meyer lemon bars in my book Alternative Baker.
*Bojon appétit! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make this gluten-free lemon bar recipe, I’d love to see. Tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet.*
Gluten-Free Lemon Bars with Almond Flour CrustPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
- ½ cup (60 g) blanched almond flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
- ½ cup (78 g) sweet white rice flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill, or GF all-purpose flour)
- ½ cup (45 g) GF oat flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
- 2 tablespoons (13 g) tapioca flour
- ¼ cup (50 g) organic granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon plus 1⁄8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 6 tablespoons (85 g) Vermont Creamery unsalted cultured butter, cold and in 1⁄2-inch dice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 10 tablespoons (140 g) Vermont Creamery unsalted cultured butter, sliced
- 1 tablespoon firmly packed finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 large lemons)
- 1 ½ cups (340 g) organic granulated cane sugar (or 1 ¼ cups / 275 g for extra tangy bars)
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 cup (235 ml) strained lemon juice (from about 6 large lemons)
- Optional garnishes: powdered sugar, lemon wheels, and/or heavy cream and crème fraiche whipped to firm peaks
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper on all sides.
- In the bowl of a food processor (or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) combine the almond, sweet rice, oat, and tapioca flours with the sugar and salt. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and drizzle with the vanilla extract. Process until the butter is incorporated and the dough forms large clumps, 15 - 30 seconds in a food processor or 3-5 minutes in a stand mixer on medium speed.
- Dump the dough into the prepared baking pan and press evenly into the bottom.
- Bake the crust until golden all over, 25-30 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and, while it’s still hot, press it down firmly all over with the back of a spoon. This will help it hold together when cool.
- Lower the oven temperature to 325ºF.
- Place the butter and lemon zest in a heatproof bowl. Place a mesh strainer over the bowl and set aside.
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the sugar, salt, eggs, and egg yolks to combine. Gradually whisk in the lemon juice.
- Place the pot over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof silicone spatula, until the mixture thickens slightly and reaches 160-165ºF on an instant-read thermometer, 5–10 minutes. As you stir, be sure to scrape the entire bottom and corners of the pan, so that the mixture heats as evenly as possible. It will start out thick and cloudy from the undissolved sugar, then will turn thin and translucent, and finally begin to thicken and turn cloudy again as the eggs cook. Lower the heat to very low as it gets closer to being done. If the mixture starts to curdle or bubble, immediately remove it from the heat and proceed to the next step.
- Immediately pour the curd through the strainer and into the bowl of butter to stop the cooking. Whisk to incorporate the butter and lemon zest, making sure there are no clumps of lemon zest.
- Pour the cooked curd over the baked and pressed down crust.
- Bake the bars at 325ºF (don’t forget to lower the oven temp!) until the sides are barely puffed and the center wobbles like firm Jell-O when you give it a gentle shake, 15–20 minutes. It should not be wet or watery looking (underbaked), nor should it be puffed in the center or cracking (overbaked). Remove the bars from the oven and let cool to room temperature for 30 – 60 minutes, then chill until firm, 2–3 hours or overnight.
- When the bars are cold, grasp the parchment and lift the bars from the pan and onto a cutting board. Gently peel away the sides of the parchment. Trim away the outer edges of the bars, then use a large, sharp chef’s knife to cut the bar into 16 squares. For the cleanest cuts, dip the knife in very hot water and wipe the blade clean between cuts.
- Just before serving, dust the lemon bars with a bit of powdered sugar or garnish with lemon wheels and/or whipped crème fraîche if you like.
- The bars keep well, refrigerated, for up to 3 days, though the crust is the crispest within the first 1–2 days.
absolutely stunning! Nice work!
Just made this last night. I am admittedly inexperienced with bars/curds, but mine sliced super messy. The "dough" was, in fact, extremely fine crumbs when I pressed it into the baking dish...did I over-mix? I'm tempted to try again without the electric mixer....
Also Alanna: I've been making your tarte tatin and am having trouble with that crust, too. It keeps coming out gummy...any tips? Thanks so much! Am crossing my fingers for a second book <3
Thanks for trying this recipe and for the note. I'm sorry the crust is giving you trouble, that must have been really disappointing after all that work!
It actually sounds like the dough was undermixed. It should look like large, moist crumbs when mixed thoroughly. Which flour did you use, and did you measure by grams or cups? This is the tart crust recipe in my book and it's been made dozens of times by me and other readers. It is delicate when baked, but it's a solid recipe that's been tested a zillion times. I double checked the quantities to make sure typos didn't sneak in, and all the measurements are accurate. If you try it again, I'd recommend mixing the dough more, until it starts clumping together. And don't forget to press the crust down after baking, which helps it hold together when you cut it. Please let me know if you try!
As for the GF pie crust, I've actually since updated my recipe to make it more foolproof! I changed the link in the recipe and it now leads to my current favorite GF pie dough: https://bojongourmet.com/gluten-free-pie-crust-whole-grain/ Please let me know if you try it again!
Thank you for sharing this beautiful-looking recipe! I'm going to be trying it for the first time this weekend, to surprise friends who've just had a baby.
I'm a little nervous about cooking the curd, as I don't have any pans with really heavy bottoms. Lemony scrambled eggs, anyone? 😂 So, I'm thinking of using the double boiler method to be safe. How would you recommend I do it?
Aw what a sweet friend you are!
You can absolutely make the curd in a double boiler. I would put a large metal bowl over a large saucepan of simmering (not boiling) water and proceed with the recipe. Be really careful removing the bowl from the pot as it's easy to get a steam burn; pull the bowl off quickly toward yourself rather than up. Alternatively, Alice Medrich does this by putting the bowl directly into a skillet of simmering water. I've never tried this, but it's another option. Either way, it might take a bit more time to cook. Please let me know how it goes!
Oh, lemon pastry... Why is that so true about it? :D It never comes out as good as I expect. So unpredictable, hah!
I made these lemon bars yesterday and they were absolutely amazing! I definitely like their creamy and tender structure. I wonder if it's possible to veganize this dish. Maybe someone has already tried? I'm trying to follow a plant-based diet, but I sometimes let myself eggs and dairy. And some of my hubby's relatives are 100% vegans, and I always veganize all the dishes for them just to eat something at holidays.
Butter can be replaced with a coconut one, but eggs... Maybe aquafaba will be good for that purpose? Well, if there're some vegans here, I'll be very grateful, if you help me!:)
Thank you for the recipe, Alanna! Really delicious bars!
And Happy New Year! Your blog is amazing, just keep it up!
Thanks a bunch for trying my recipe and for the note and rating - I'm so glad these were a hit!
I think these would be hard to veganize since the eggs help thicken and cook the curd and I don't think aquafaba would work in the same way. But I do have this vegan lemon tart recipe on the site which is well-loved by readers! You could use the shortbread crust recipe here, made with vegan butter (you may need to add a tablespoon more butter to bring the dough together in the same way) and top with the cashew lemon filling from the other recipe. Or you could try thickening the lemon curd with cornstarch as in this recipe.
Please let me know if you experiment!
Dolphia Nandi says
How did you line the parchment ?
You can either do what I did and shove a sheet of parchment into the pan, creasing the corners, or cut two pieces to fit with overhangs. :)
Hello! These look delicious and I’ve a surfeit of Meyer lemons kicking around asking for a recipe just like this! (I have misplaced my cookbook, but I am diligently looking for it so I can consult the Meyer lemon version.)
I’m wondering if you think it possible to double the recipe components and then do two pans worth simultaneously? The only issue I can imagine is that the curd wouldn’t cook right due to evaporation possibly. I’ll keep you posted if I try it! Thanks!
Ah perfect! Nothing beats the sunny flavor of Meyer lemons in the dead of winter IMO. Another one of my favorites in the book is the Meyer lemon buttermilk pie. I can't imagine any problem with making a double batch of bars! The curd thickens more from the eggs gently cooking rather than from evaporation, so I think you should be good as long as you watch it closely (as one should always do when cooking a fruit curd!) Please let me know how it goes. :)
I made a double batch! And it worked out fine. Everyone loved them! I think I loved them the least because I had to cut them up, and by the end of it I felt like I’d used half a roll of paper towels to wipe off the curd from the knife and I’d gotten it all over myself and the kitchen.
Two other things that I did wrong – I put them in the fridge too quickly after making them because it was late and I wanted to go to bed. So liquid beaded up on the top. And then when I prepped them to serve, I put the powdered sugar on and it dissolved. I had blotted them gently to remove any surface moisture but it wasn’t enough. So they had a pool of liquid sugar on them when I served them both times. Maybe I should’ve cooked the curd more? It was such a soft set that cutting them was hard.
Anyhow I’m looking forward to trying the buttermilk pie! It looks delicious and I’ve got buttermilk leftover from another recipe! Thanks!!
Hi Kim! Darn, I'm sorry these gave you so much trouble cutting them up. That sounds really frustrating! Yes it sounds like the bars could have baked a few minutes longer for a firmer set. I just read in another recipe that putting the bars in the fridge too soon can lead to the beads of moisture on top. I'll make a note in the recipe! Please let me know how you like the pie if you give it a go. :)
Hey, I wanted to let you know I think the bars get even better with time! I had a couple lurking in the fridge after three days, and they were still super good! I liked them much more once they mellowed out a little in there. Not sure why! And thanks for the tip about baking longer! I will try that, because now I am a convert. Ha!
Aw I'm so glad these got even better with time! I can see how the sharp lemon flavor would mellow and blend. Let me know if you make these again! :)
Tried this for the first time and it turned out famously. Followed the recipe to the T (for the tangier curd) and got rave reviews from all who had the pleasure of eating it, kids included. Thank you for a beautiful recipe! This one is in the books for good.
I'm so glad they were a hit! Thanks a bunch for the sweet note. :)
Jacqueline Mahovlich says
Outstanding lemon bars! Recipe was easy to follow. I devoured them within a few days.
G. Ortiz says
Excellent ! I made them with 275 grams of sugar for the filling and they are perfect !
Haven't tried it yet cos I only have almond flour in my kitchen right now. Any chance I can just use that for the crust?
I haven't tried it like that so I'm not sure. You could probably find an all almond flour crust online and use it with this filling. Let me know what you try!
Maegan Cookson says
Hi! Excited to try this recipe. Do you think that I could replace butter with coconut oil in the crust and curd? I would be using steam refined organic so no worry of coconut flavour. Eggs are no problem for us, just dairy. Thanks in advance
Hi Megan, that is a great question. You might have to experiment a bit. Coconut oil is almost 100% fat, whereas butter is about 80% fat. Sometimes they can sub 1 for 1, but here I'm not sure about that. I think the crust might end up too crumbly, but you could try adding a little water to bind it together. If you have a copy of my book, I give a vegan tart crust option made with coconut oil and coconut flour that would work well. The curd might end up very firm. I have made the crust with vegan butter (such as Miyoko's) and it works perfectly. If you can get Miyoko's unsalted plant butter, I bet that would work for both crust and curd. Otherwise you might try a blend of coconut oil and plant butter.
Please let me know what you try!
Eliza Jackson says
Usually, I don't like lemon bars because of the pasty, underbaked crust. I knew by looking at this recipe that this was going to be a winner. The shortbread crust and lemon curd combination are amazing and everything I didn't even know lemon bars could be. My household is also lactose-free so I swapped out the butter in this recipe with lactose-free butter and it worked great!
I made a batch of these for family at Christmas dinner and shared them around again at Boxing Day brunch with a few friends. Everyone agreed that these top any other lemon bar they've had before.
I love how Bojon Gourmet uses a simplistic approach to gluten-free baking while focusing on high-quality ingredients and a very gourmet outcome.
Emily R says
I made these to celebrate my late grandmother's birthday on the weekend. She loved lemon squares and I'm positive she would have been delighted with these. The curd was excellent, with the right balance of tang and sweetness, and the crust never fails. Thanks for such a bright-tasting recipe (perfect for the middle of winter)!
I'm so glad you enjoyed these along with memories of your dear late grandmother. I miss my grandma a lot and think of her all the time too. Wish we could share a plate of these in person and share our stories. Sending much love to you in the meantime! <333
I made these for a friend who is gluten-sensitive; I made them with cautious optimism because I don't have issues with gluten and am a novice with gluten free recipes. Honestly, when I browse gluten-free baking recipes, looking at the ingredient list makes me a bit queasy (mostly out of ignorance for how to this well). I picked this recipe because I could pronounce each of the flours! So glad I did. I made it exactly as written including using Vermont butter.
At our dinner, we ALL loved it (only my friend of the 4 of us can't do gluten) and decided this was a go to lemon bar recipe, whether or not gluten was an issue. The crust was so flavorful and crunchy! I processed it for a bit in the food processor, watching for the clumps to form. I bake a few minutes longer, too, as the pan I used was pretty deep and it took a bit to get golden. The combination of flours made the crust much more flavorful than all-purpose flour would have. I put in the smaller amount of sugar knowing my guests' tastes and holy cow, the curd was bright and just the right balance of sweet and tart. When cooking the curd, do pay close attention because as the recipe notes, it will quickly be done and you need to move to pouring over the butter.
This is a great recipe for a mixed group and I bet that those without gluten issues wouldn't even realize it was gluten free. A winner!
As an aside for lemon lovers, I've been juicing a 5-pound bag of lemons and freezing in plastic bottles which is very handy for always having juice on hand. I also have begun freezing the lemon zest in a glass jar, about 1 1/2 cups of zest from the bag. It keeps bright and lemony and quickly thaws.