Lemon Cheesecake Bars with Shortbread Crust – Low Carb and Gluten-Free

Low Carb Lemon Cheesecake BarsBright, creamy lemon cheesecake filling baked on a tender shortbread crust.  Sugar-free and gluten-free.

I have Cheesecake on the Brain.  Fortunately, it’s not a serious affliction as there are far worse things to have on the brain than cheesecake.  But there is only one known cure and that is to make, and then to eat, copious amounts of low carb, gluten-free cheesecake.  Cheesecake-like things, such as cheesecake popsicles, cheesecake ice cream and cheesecake bars are also acceptable forms of medication.  This is still an experimental treatment, however, and the results are not guaranteed.  There is a real danger that the cure will not assuage the symptoms, but instead exacerbate them, until one’s brain is so consumed with cheesecake, it’s all one can think or talk about.  And this is when the real problem starts.  Because who wants to spend time with someone who can talk about nothing but cheesecake?  Well, I might.  But I am strange like that.

Low Carb Lemon Cheesecake Squares
This little current obsession with cheesecake was kicked off by my Strawberry Cheesecake Popsicles.  When I was putting them together, I tossed in a little lemon juice and lemon zest to help cut the sometimes cloying sweetness of the strawberries.  Before I even added the strawberries, I tasted my cheesecake-y mixture and it was so bright and fresh with the lemon, I was tempted to stop right there.  But I had an abundance of berries to use up so I soldiered on with that and decided then and there that some sort of lemon-y treat was next in line for cheesecake-dom.
Low Carb Lemon Cheesecake Squares
And then I made an enormous batch of my homemade cream cheese, which spurred my cheesecake obsession to new heights.  If you haven’t tried homemade cream cheese yet, I urge you to do so.  It’s easy and the sweet, fresh taste is vastly superior to store bought.  It cries out to be slathered on anything and everything, and to be baked into delicious treats.  It was the perfect vehicle for the bright flavour of lemon.  I knew I didn’t want to make a full cheesecake, but instead to make some low carb Lemon Cheesecake Bars.  Faster, easier, and less likely to sink and crack in the middle.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a big, full slice of cheesecake.  But sometimes you want cheesecake flavour in a smaller package.  Cheesecake you can pick up with your hands.
These were melt in your mouth good.  I decided on a shortbread-like crust and I stole it from my Peanut Butter Caramel Shortbread Bars.  I added a touch more salt, and I underbaked the crust deliberately because I didn’t want it to get overly brown when the cheesecake part was baking.  Quite honestly, the final results exceeded my expectations.  And unfortunately, that has done nothing to cure my Cheesecake on the Brain.  I think it may be a chronic disease.  And I am okay with that.
Low Carb Lemon Cheesecake Bars
Lemon Cheesecake Bars with Shortbread Crust – Low Carb and Gluten-Free

Yield: 16 bars

Serving Size: 1 bar

Lemon Cheesecake Bars with Shortbread Crust – Low Carb and Gluten-Free

Bright, creamy lemon cheesecake filling baked on a tender shortbread crust. Low carb, Sugar-free and gluten-free.

Ingredients

    Crust:
  • 1 1/4 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, chilled
  • 1/4 cup Swerve Sweetener or granulated erythritol
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 15 drops stevia extract
  • Cheesecake Filling:
  • 12 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup Swerve Sweetener or granulated erythritol
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of half a lemon (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 tsp stevia extract

Instructions

  1. For the crust, preheat the oven to 350F. Combine almond flour, butter, erythritol, xanthan gum, salt and stevia in a food processer. Pulse until mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  2. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of an 8-inch square pan and bake 10 minutes (it won't look cooked through). Set aside and let cool.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 275F.
  4. For the filling, beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth.
  5. Beat in erythritol, egg, cream, lemon zest, lemon juice and stevia until well combined.
  6. Spread filling over cooled crust and bake 30 minutes, or until filling is just set and barely jiggles when shaken.
  7. Let cool 30 minutes, then chill for at least 2 hours.

Notes

Serves 16. Each serving has 3.5 g of carbs and 1 g of fiber. Total NET CARBS = 2.5 g.

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Comments

  1. Anything cheesecake is alright with me… but the lemon bar/cheesecake combo may just be the most brilliant thing I’ve ever heard of.

  2. After how good your brownie cheesecake recipe came out I am going to have to make this one soon too… do you have the nutritional information for fat and protein as well for this recipe? Thanks!

  3. Love the sound of lemony cheesecake Carolyn – I love making a lightened version using cottage cheese (it’s not as solid, more in a parfait form).

    • Carolyn says:

      Haha, Jeanette, you should know by now that I don’t make anything “light”. :) At least when it comes to fat content. Light on carbs, yes.

      • Good thinking, Carolyn. Reduced-fat items usually have more carbs, & the fats you include in this recipe are good fats.

  4. Lemon desserts are one of my favorite things – when you add cheesecake, one of my other favorites, then it’s just not fair. Not only do these look delicious, but also dangerously easy to make – which means I could have them anytime. Which means I will have them ALL the time. Uh oh…. ;)

  5. Yeah, I’ve had cheesecake on the brain for decades and I’ve just come to embrace my chronic illness for what it is. While I can’t say I ever get tired of full on cheesecake, I wouldn’t turn this stuff down. I love citrus….anything. I think your bars would go fantastic with my morning coffee.

  6. YAY! I am so excited for this recipe! Do you think it would work with limes? Limes are like 10 for a $1 right now in my neck of the woods.

    • Carolyn says:

      Yes, it would work perfectly with limes, although you’d need probably the juice of the whole lime.

  7. Heather from Canada says:

    Hi Carolyn, do you think these would freeze well? I need to stock my freezer again and these sound great!

    • Carolyn says:

      I think the consistency of the cheesecake would change a bit by being frozen. But you could certainly try! They would still taste good.

      • I think that serving/eating them still partly frozen might solve the texture issue. or at least it might not be as noticeable. And who has the will power to wait anyway?!

  8. Just love lemony desserts!!! They are so refreshing and perfect for summer!!!

  9. Sarah G says:

    I only have powdered stevia on hand. I hope that can be used in place of the
    Iiquid because these are making me so hungry. I’ve been craving lemon desserts!

  10. Shortbread crust = genius

  11. I made these today. YUM!! So delicious. I had to use what I had on hand so they were key lime rather than lemon. I used powdered erythritol, liquid sucralose and left out the xanthan gum. This recipe is a keeper. Thanks so much!

  12. Mercy W. says:

    Omg I just ate one, these are soooo delicious!

  13. Nothing wrong with having cheesecake on the brain, especially when it results in delicious recipes like this one!

  14. These look soooo good, Carolyn. I haven’t made a cheesecake (or anything remotely close) in so long. I’d love to try these soon. Girl, how do you bake all these delicious desserts and not gain weight. I just can’t eat sweets very often or I do just that.

  15. Christina Reed says:

    Oh my goodness these look so delicious! I have everything but the stevia, how much sugar sub would I use instead? (My sugar sub of choice measures like regular sugar if that helps :)

  16. These look so fresh and light! Love the filling and the crust looks fantastic too! Now I’ve got cheesecake on the brain, thanks for that, ;)

  17. These look so beautiful! And I am dying for some lemon!

  18. Holy mother of lemon! These look so insanely good…wow

  19. Yummy!

  20. Your recipe sounds yummy. Thank you for using real butter, heavy cream & cream cheese. The low-fat substitutes are not as healthy & low-fat foods do not “satisfy” the appetite. I’d never sub cottage cheese for cream cheese. I do use stevia, as it’s natural, but I don’t use any artificial sweeteners including erythritol or Swerve. How much real sugar would I substitute for the Swerve? Is it a 1-for-1 replacement?

    • Carolyn says:

      FYI, erythritol is not an artificial sweetener. It’s a naturally occurring substance found in fruits and fermented foods. But if you’d prefer to use sugar, use it in the same amount and sweeten the rest with Stevia.

  21. These bars are so beautiful and summery, Carolyn! You are such a little low-carb, gluten-free wizard with baking… I’m always stunned!

  22. Thanks for another outstanding recipe!
    This really isn’t about the recipe but about the formatting you use. I am wondering if you changed it in the past several weeks?

    I copy your recipes from the website and put into an office document and save to a folder in dropbox, so I can access it from my phone, iPad, computer, etc., when I travel, as I don’t always have ability to go online.

    Up until a few weeks ago it copied and pasted perfectly. Now however all the text runs together with no spacing. In other words there is no new line for each ingredient or directions. I need to go through and re-do it so I can read it. I am happy to do this to get the recipe, but I am wondering if you did change the way you encode it if it would be possible to return to the prior method?

    Or maybe it’s my computer, it recently updated to the newest OXS 10.8 and I have had some problems with other programs.

    Thanks for feedback!

    JBS

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi there. I think it may actually be a Ziplist coding thing that they’ve updated to help deter people from “stealing” recipes. You should also get a little note at the bottom with the link to the recipe and a “read more at…”. Copyright is a HUGE issue online and many many times, people find their entire recipe posted on another blog/website with no credit given. So I am guessing that’s an update they did on their end.
      I know it makes it more complicated for you and I am sorry. I have no issues with you saving recipes into word docs at home, but the Ziplist format (which has its own recipe saving tool, by the way) is useful for me and makes it easy for people who want to save recipes in one place online. In fact, I have requests to go back and do all my old recipes through Ziplist! If I could ever find the time…

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Joan,

      I just made a discovery for you. If you hit the Print button at the top of the recipe, you can copy and paste from there, without actually printing, and it will stay in proper format. Hope that helps! :)

  23. Kristyl says:

    I made these before work so they would chill all day and be ready tonight after dinner. They are delicious! Always keep the ingredients on hand. You’ll be glad you did.

  24. how are these so low carb with all the Swerve? That’s 5g/tsp.

    • Carolyn says:

      That’s 5g of “carbs” that have zero effect on one’s blood sugar. The FDA requires that they are labeled as carbs, but as they produce no insulin response, they don’t count as carbs. May I suggest you check out the Swerve website for more information?

  25. Courtney says:

    Oh, I can’t wait to make this heavenly, sinless sweet! Any idea on calorie count per serving?

  26. Sarah W says:

    I am wondering what brand of granulated erythritol you would recommend. For some reason my taste bud rejected Swerve. All I find is powdered granulated erythritol on Amazon. thanks for the great recipes.

  27. Roberta in Alberta says:

    Sing “YUMMM”, then smile. These are deliciously lemony, Caroline. I am taking them camping this weekend with my soon-to-be-converted in-laws. Thanks for another hit!

  28. Love this! And I’ll have to try that crust. Looks great and I love my almond flour. :)

    I love cheesecake too but after eating half of one the other day and then feeling sick… I’m over cheesecake for the moment. ;)

  29. Oh. my. goodness! This was absolutely fantastic! I just had two servings…. :) I knew it would be good even before it baked as I tasted the beaters, then had to fight the urge to stick my face in the bowl to lick it clean! This is a brilliant recipe—and I’m so happy you shared!

  30. Made these yesterday and we had a little piece for dessert last night – OMG – so very yummy!!! In my sugar eating days I loved lemon bars – totally satisfied that. Thanks for another winner recipe Carolyn!!!!

  31. Margaret says:

    Hi Carolyn,
    Really enjoying your website. Thanks so much for sharing all of your wonderful recipes with us. I made this recipe yesterday and they turned out so delicious. I always get my husband to rate things on a 1-5 scale. He gave them a “6” and wanted to know where I was hiding the rest of them! He also made the comment “these are sugar-free???”, he couldn’t believe how good they were for a sugar free/low carb/wheat free dessert! Keep up the great work, you have one of the best websites out there!

  32. Would liquid sucralose work for the liquid stevia?

  33. Marilyn says:

    I should never tune in to your site. Love your cheery description of your food adventures and I want to make absolutely everything you develop. How you do it is a mystery to me with your have 3 young children. If I were ever down in the dumps I would hastily go to your web site and cheer myself in a flash.

  34. These were absolutely delicious! I have a massive load of almond flour that I don’t particularly like, but it worked perfectly in this recipe. Thank you from Japan!

  35. Mary Kate says:

    I’ve made a lot of low carb things, but this is DEFINITELY the best I’ve tried. I used almond meal instead of flour and the only thing was that the crust was a little crumbly and it kind of fell apart. But I just sprinkled it on top, delicious. Alot of the things I’ve tried to make low carb have been failures (compared to this) but I wouldn’t hesitate to make this for my friends or family (non low-carbers). Great recipe :)

  36. I wanted to let you know how much I/we enjoyed these! Love the texture and taste minus the following. The only problem my family and I seem to be having is with the “cooling” taste of the Swerve in recipes. I did use the powdered form of Swerve. Is there any way to lessen this effect? If we drink water with it our water taste sweet. Any ideas?

    • Hi Jeanette. Swerve usually has a lot less of the cooling effect than other erythritol based sweeteners. But some people are hyper-sensitive to it. I do not get any with it. Sounds like you might be one of those who is very sensitive.

      • Thank you Carolyn. I will continue to make these because they are just that good even with the cooling effect! I will also continue my search for a way to “soften” this reaction for my family. I have read a little about possibly adding polydextrose or inulin to help with this but know very little. Any thoughts? It would make this way of eating a bit easier during the holidays if I could find a sweetener that I/we could tolerate better.

        • I haven’t heard about either of those, but I have heard that Just Like Sugar is good. I haven’t used it myself. It’s made from chicory.

          • I know it has been a while since there was any posting on this thread, but I just want to make a comment. My wife and I went low carb only about four months ago so only recently found this and other low carb sites. I hadn’t attempted any low carb desserts until I found your recipes and so for Christmas dinner, with the kids home, I made both the lemon cheesecake and the brownie cheesecake. Absolutely amazing. I have made cheesecake many times before going low carb and these are as good as anything I have done before.

            By the by, I used the monk juice/stevia liquid for the liquid sweetener and it worked perfectly. I also splurged on the Swerve and from what I have read here it sounds like it is worth it.

            I notice that you don’t use sucralose and am wondering if that is because you don’t like it or if it is because it actually is an artificial sweetener. I have seen that the paleo people often put it on the “don’t use” list because of this.

            A lot of low carb is pretty easy but baking is tricky and you have many really great recipes (I have already made the brownie cheesecake twice and just ordered more swerve–you do use it up pretty quickly).

          • I don’t love sucralose, I find it has a chemical aftertaste and I personally don’t like how it is manufactured. But many of my recipes can be adapted to use it for at least some of the sweetening. I know that it’s much less expensive than other low carb sweeteners. So glad you liked both the cheesecakes, those are some of my faves!

  37. How much is the zest of one lemon? Is that just grating the outside of a lemon or can store bought “lemon” Peel sub for it?

    • It’s just the grating from the outside of the lemon. Peel usually contains a lot of the white pith, which doesn’t taste very good. One lemon is about 1 1/2 tbsp of zest.

  38. You had me at cheesecake! I would have to swap out the erythritol though becasue it hurts my tummy!

  39. Is there anything I could use instead of the stevia extract?

  40. I made these last night and they were amazing. I have had such success with your recipes. Thank you so much for opening my low carb eyes to foods other than meat!

  41. Oh Yum! I can’t wait to try these!

  42. Awesome! Shared them at work with a few skeptics, those that tried them were sold. I want to try this crust for quiche too.

  43. Made these tongigjt and they were delicious! I’m always about a chocolate dessert so I wasn’t sure of these would satisfy my dessert obsession but they certainly did! It was hard to stop at eating just one, so I ate two. My husband ate four. Yeah these aren’t going to last long around here!

  44. I made the lemon cheesecake bars last night. They are wonderful. I did sub Splenda for the Stevia. Having a hard time eating just one serving. I baked them for the suggested 30 minutes and the topping was set but I think I would like it just a smidge more done so next time I’ll add another 5 minutes. I have the most inexpensive gas oven and I can never trust that the temp is consistent. Thanks for all the wonderful recipes!!

  45. Melanie says:

    I absolutely love this dessert! In particular, I love the crust. Any thoughts on how I might make a cookie out of the crust (roll, slice, and bake maybe???)? Thanks!

    • Carolyn says:

      You might want to add some egg white to get it to hold together. Or make shortbread out of it by pressing into a pan and baking as is.

  46. Monique Clock says:

    Hello…this looks really good. Do you think coconut sugar would work in this along with the stevia? Thanks

    • Carolyn says:

      For both the crust and the cheesecake? I think you’d need to powder it for the cheesecake part. And it will give everything a much darker colour.

  47. You know, this is the second recipe from your website that I baked, and there’s one clear problem:

    Your food is too good.

    I can’t stop eating it!

    Thank you so much for these recipes, I’ll definitely come back to your website – again and again!

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