Sweet and tart, these Strawberry Lemon Bars are gluten-free and dairy-free AND delicious. This lemon bar recipe starts with a buttery but healthy shortbread crust and is topped off with a citrusy strawberry lemon custard topping.
Please read the entire post for tips and tricks to ensure a perfect recipe every time. And don't forget to tag @peelwithzeal on Instagram so we can admire your creation!
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I love these lemon bars. Not just because they are pink, but that is a bonus. I love them because I fed them to a crowd and not one person realized they were gluten and dairy free. In my opinion, that is the best measure of any gluten-free baking recipe.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Gluten-Free Shortbread Crust
- Gluten-Free Flour Blend- For baking something easy like cookies, bars, or brownies I recommend using a dairy-free cup for cup variety that already includes xanthan gum. I used the Namaste Brand gluten-free flour which can be purchased from Costco. Because gluten-free flour blends can be made up of a variety of flours I find it helpful to go by weight if you have a small kitchen scale. This recipe needs about a cup and a half of flour. If your flour blend doesn't contain xanthan gum add a 1/4 teaspoon.
- Sugar- You can use granulated or coconut sugar in this recipe. Both work equally well.
- Kosher Salt- Never underestimate the power of salt in baking. Always use kosher salt, not table salt.
- Vegan Butter Sticks-When baking with vegan butter I use Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks. I find they bake very similar to butter. I tried coconut oil in the shortbread but found it was too oily and the bars didn't hold.
- Strawberries- I use fresh strawberries when in season and frozen during the winter. Both work equally well. But you can also substitute any berry. Blackberry lemon bars? Yes, please!
- Lemons- Use fresh-squeezed juice and zest. You will need 2 to 3 lemons for this recipe.
- Eggs- This recipe uses 2 whole eggs plus 2 yolks. Because we are using gluten-free flour I find the extra yolks help keep things together.
- Kosher Salt
- Gluten-Free Flour Blend- No additional xanthan gum is needed if your blend doesn't contain it.
- Powdered Sugar- For dusting the top. Always verify your brand is gluten-free.
There are are two parts to lemon bars- the crust and the custard. While the crust is cooling I prepare my custard.
Prepare the Gluten-Free Crust
To start this recipe preheat the oven to 350 F degrees and prepare an 8x8 pan for baking. Place two sheets of parchment paper into the baking pan, perpendicular to each other, and brush with melted vegetable or coconut oil.
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment briefly mix the dry ingredients. Then at low speed add the butter a piece at a time. Slowly mix until a dough forms and begins to pull away from the side. This typically takes about 2 minutes.
Press the dough into the bottom of prepared pan and about 1/2" up the sides. Chill at least 30 minutes. Don't skip this part!
Prick bottom of crust with a fork and bake until light golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn down the oven to 300 F degrees. The crust needs to cool on the counter (not in the fridge) for 15 minutes or so. This is when I start my custard.
Prepare the Strawberry Lemon Custard
This recipe uses a strawberry puree that has been strained through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the pulp and seeds. You need about 1/3 of a cup. If you have extra reserve for another use like a smoothie or lemonade.
To make the lemon custard whisk eggs, granulated sugar, and lemon juice and zest in a mixing bowl. This may take a few minutes so a mixer can be helpful. Pour in strawberry puree and whisk until smooth. At this point add your gluten-free flour blend and whisk until just combined. I always hand mix in my flour as it can get very frothy when using a hand mixer.
Pour the filling into crust and bake until filling is set and slightly golden at the edges, usually around 25 minutes. Although I find the humidity in my kitchen really affects the baking time of this recipe.
Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Then refrigerate until chilled usually 2 ours. Using the parchment paper pull the entire pan of bars out at once. Dust lightly with powdered sugar and cut into squares.
Lemon Bars Tips and Tricks
- Don't underestimate chilling the crust before baking. This will give the gluten-free flour time to hydrate which is very important in GF baking.
- Roll and press lemons on the kitchen counter before cutting them. This will soften them and make hand juicing easier.
- Lined your pan with parchment paper that overhangs on either side. This will make removing the finished lemon bars a breeze. I use two pieces that are laid perpendicular to each other.
- For a thicker lemon bar, double the recipe but use a 9x13 pan.
- Don't skip parbaking the crust, this will prevent a gummy center.
- Don't worry about bubbles on top, the powdered sugar will cover. If you really want to pour the custard through a mesh strainer to remove them.
- Out of powdered sugar? Add one tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 cup of sugar to a spice grinder. Grind until powdery- 2-3 minutes.
- Be careful when checking on the bars, my center wasn't set and it splashed everywhere when I pulled the rack out (see terrible mess below). No worries the powder sugar hid my mistake!
- Not gluten-free? Not dairy-free? Both regular all-purpose flour and butter work for this recipe without any other changes.
More Gluten-Free Dessert Recipes
Thanks for stopping by and trying our strawberry lemon bar recipe. Here are a few more of our favorite sweet treats. Check them out and save them for later.
- Gluten-Free Peach Crisp
- Strawberry Tahini Milkshake
- Individual Carrot Cakes with Dairy-Free Maple Frosting
Strawberry Lemon Bars
- 8x8 baking pan
- Parchment paper or foil
- Stand a paddle attachment
- 6 ounces gluten-free flour blend cup for cup variety
- 2 ⅓ ounces granulated sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 8 tbsp vegan butter, cut into chunks
Strawberry Lemon Custard
- 1 cup strawberries, hulled and halved
- 2 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
- 8 ounces granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup lemon juice + zest from 2 lemons
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1/4 cup gluten-free flour blend cup for cup variety
Prepare the Gluten-Free Crust
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F degrees. Place two sheets of parchment paper into the baking pan, perpendicular to each other. Brush with vegetable oil or melted butter.
- Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment mix on low all the dry ingredients, about 5 seconds.
- On low speed add the butter a piece at a time. Slowly mix until a dough forms and begins to pull away from the side. About 2 minutes.
- Press dough into the bottom of prepared pan and about 1/2" up the sides. Chill at least 30 minutes.
- Prick bottom of crust with a fork and bake until light golden brown, about 15 minutes.
- Allow the crust to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before adding the filling. Turn down the oven to 300 F degrees.
Strawberry Lemon Custard
- Purée strawberries in a blender until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl until you get ⅓ cup of puree. Reserve any remaining liquid for another use.
- Whisk eggs, granulated sugar, and lemon juice and zest in a medium bowl. Pour in strawberry puree and whisk until smooth.
- Whisk in the flour until just combined.
- Pour filling into crust and bake until filling is set and slightly golden at the edges, about 25 to 30 minutes.
- Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Then refrigerate until chilled through. About two hours.
- Using the parchment paper pull the entire pan of bars out at once. Dust lightly with powdered sugar and cut into squares.
- Xanthan gum- If your flour blend does not contain xanthan gum add 1/4 teaspoon to the shortbread crust. none is needed for the filling.
- Storing Instructions: The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days. Bars should be in a single layer and not stacked.
- Freezing Instructions: Bars can be frozen for up to 2 months. Cut the cooled bars into squares, then place onto a baking sheet and freeze for 1 hour. Separate each bar with parchment and place them into a large freezer bag. Thaw the lemon bars in the refrigerator overnight. Dust with powdered sugar before serving (i.e. don't do this before freezing).