Lemon is perfect any time of year but it’s especially refreshing in spring and summer. These lighter lemon cheesecake bars are bright and refreshing, with a silky lemon cheesecake filling and a buttery shortbread-like base (180 calories or 8 WW Freestyle points).
There are two easy ways to make lower calorie cheesecake bars. The first is to use low-fat cream cheese (but never fat-free) and the second, more obvious way to do it is by reducing the amount of cream cheese overall and simply making thinner bars. I use both tricks for my lighter lemon cheesecake bars with delicious results. Since low-fat cream cheese is tangier than full-fat, it blends right in with the tart zing of lemon. The bars are petite—almost a 50/50 split of filling and crust—but a few bites is all you need.
Almond Flour Crust
The crust for these lemon cheesecake bars is a buttery hybrid of chewy sugar cookie and crumbly shortbread. It pairs beautifully with the silky lemon filling. I like to use almond flour to make it because it has more flavor than all-purpose flour, but I find that using only almond flour can result in a crust that’s a little too crumbly once baked. To fix that, I use 3/4 cup almond flour and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour.
To make sure your cheesecake crust is firm and sturdy, take your time mixing the flours with the melted butter, stirring and mashing the mixture until all of the flour is coated and it resembles damp sand or a thick paste. Use your fingers to press the mixture firmly into the bottom of your pan, packing it into an even, cohesive layer.
Candied Lemon Peel Garnish
Lemon cheesecake bars are lovely as is, or you can garnish them with a dollop of whipped cream and candied lemon peel, like I did. The candied lemon peel recipe is easy: bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil. Thinly slice a lemon and add the slices to the boiling sugar water and simmer until the whites of the lemon are completely translucent, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer them to a plate lined with parchment and sprinkle with more sugar.
Lighter Lemon Cheesecake Bars
- Crust:¾ cup almond flour½ cup all purpose flour2 tablespoons granulated sugar4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- Lemon Cheesecake Filling:1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened½ cup sugar2 teaspoons lemon zest1 tablespoon lemon juice1 large egg
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil.
- In a large bowl, whisk the almond flour, all purpose flour, and sugar. Stir in the melted butter, mixing well to create a thick paste. Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of your lined pan. Bake for 14 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese. Add the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix until combined. Add the egg and beat until smooth. Pour over the hot crust, pushing the batter to the sides of the pan and smoothing the top. Bake until the center of the cheesecake is set (it’s OK if it has a slight jiggle to it since it will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven), 18 to 20 minutes. Let the bars cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled before cutting and serving.