You only need a few simple ingredients to make these gluten free lemon bars. The thick and creamy lemon custard perfectly sets on top of a tender shortbread crust. No one will know they're gluten free (with a dairy free option!). Serve them for BBQs, spring brunches, showers and more!
The older I get the more obsessed I am with lemon desserts. There's something about the sweet sugar balanced by the tart lemon juice that makes my mouth water. Some of my favorite lemon desserts are glazed lemon poppy seed bars, lemon angel food cake, lemon whoopie pies and lemon poppyseed bread.
I tested this recipe a few times before I landed on this exact recipe! The shortbread is soft and tender and the lemon curd is thick and perfectly set. You only need a few simple ingredients!
- Butter or vegan butter: This is the base of the shortbread crust and both work really well. The butter is the only dairy in this recipe, so if you want to make them dairy free, use a vegan butter substitute.
- Granulated sugar: this is in the crust and the filling. It adds a bit of sweetness to the crust and is what helps give the lemon curd structure along with the eggs.
- 1:1 gluten free baking flour: this is key for this recipe and needs to be a 1:1 flour. We really like Bob's Red Mill and that's what I tested with this recipe.
- Vanilla extract: I put this in the crust for extra flavor. I also love adding almond extract. Just enough to taste it but not overpowering.
- Salt: this helps balance out all the sweetness in the recipe.
- Eggs: these are the critical component in the curd and gives the recipe the thick and creamy texture. This is the base and structure of the lemon!
- Lemons: we're using the juice and zest from the lemons. Because lemon is the star of the show, it's critical that you use fresh lemon juice!
How to make gluten free lemon bars
Be sure to skip down to the printable recipe for the full ingredients and steps along with a step by step video of how to make these!
- Make the crust: mix the butter, sugar, vanilla, almond extract and salt together with a rubber spatula. Add the flour and whisk well until it's completely combined. Press the shortbread dough into the prepared baking pan.
- Bake the crust: Bake in the preheated oven for 24-25 minutes, or until the crust is just barely browned.
- Make the curd: Sift the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Add the room temperature eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest and whisk well until combined. When the crust comes out of the oven, poke a few holes in the surface then pour the curd over top.
- Bake: Bake at 350°F for 25-26 minutes or until the filling is set. You'll know they're done when you tap the pan lightly and the center doesn't jiggle.
- Cool: Let the lemon bars cool to room temperate for a minimum of 2 hours. I like to transfer them to the fridge for an hour or so before cutting and serve chilled.
Gluten Free Lemon Bars: Frequently Asked Questions
The top of the bars is essentially a sweet lemon curd. They will be thick and creamy and very slightly gooey. If they don't hold they're shape, you may need to let them cool longer or they could be under-baked. You'll know they're done when you tap the pan and they don't jiggle in the center.
This is from the egg whites as they cook and can vary from batch to batch. It's totally normal and easily hidden by the confectioners' sugar.
I tested this recipe with a vegan butter in the crust and they turned out perfectly! You can definitely use that to make gluten free dairy free lemon bars.
Storage tips and instructions
- Can you leave lemon bars to sit out overnight? Lemon bars shouldn't be left out overnight because they're essentially a curd (made of eggs). They're best in the fridge!
- Lemon bars are an amazing make-ahead recipe. They're even better served chilled, so making and storing them in the fridge until you're ready to serve is great!
- How long do gluten free lemon bars last in the fridge? Cover them with plastic wrap, foil or an air tight lid and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- How to freeze: Allow them to cool completely then cut them into individual squares. Freeze them on a baking sheet then wrap them individually and freeze for up to 3 months.
Must read lemon bar tips
- Line the baking dish with parchment paper: Leave an overhang on each side to easily pull them out of the pan. Watch the video below for a simple tip to make the parchment fit.
- How to cut perfect lemon squares: Dampen a sharp knife and use one downward motion to cut all the way through. Wipe the knife completely clean with a paper towel or rag before the next cut.
- Use room temperature eggs: This helps the eggs easily combine in the curd. If you forget, you can place your eggs in a bowl with luke-warm water to speed up the process.
- Don't rush the chill time: this recipe needs to fully set before you cut them or you'll have a gooey filling running out of the squares. Give yourself enough time and store them in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for 3 months.
If you make this recipe, I’d love for you to give it a star rating ★ below. You can also tag me on Instagram so I can see it!
More sweet lemon recipes:
- Lemon whoopie pies
- Healthy lemon cake
- Glazed lemon poppy seed bars
- Lemon blueberry turnovers
- Lemon poppy seed bread
Gluten Free Lemon Bars
For the shortbread crust:
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter or vegan butter for dairy free option, melted
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups 1:1 gluten free baking flour
For the lemon curd:
- 1.5 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon 1:1 gluten free baking flour
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice about 3 large lemons
- zest form 1/2 lemon about 1 tablespoon
- confectioners' sugar for dusting (see notes)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a square 8x8 inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang to make it easier to remove from the pan after it's baked. You can cut slits in the corner to make it fit better in the pan.
- To make the shortbread, mix the butter, sugar, vanilla, almond extract and salt together with a rubber spatula. Add the flour and stir until completely combined. Press the shortbread dough into the prepared baking pan. Press it evenly into all four corners, doing your best to make sure it's even and flat. Bake in the preheated oven for 24-26 minutes until the crust is just barely browned.
- Make the lemon curd 5-10 minutes before the shortbread is done. Sift the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Add the eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest and whisk well until combined. It will be very liquid, this is what you want because it firms and sets in the oven.
- When the crust is done, carefully remove it from the oven and use a fork to poke holes on the surface, making sure not to poke all the way through. With the crust still warm, pour the prepared curd over the crust and carefully place it bake in the oven. Bake for 24-26 minutes or until the filling is set and doesn't jiggle when you give the pan a light tap. Cool completely at room temperature then transfer to the fridge to cool for another hour or so, or overnight.
- When they're cooled, use the overhang from the parchment paper to pull the bars out of the pan. Cut into squares and dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve cold or room temperature (I prefer cold).