Lemon Cheesecake Bars (made with greek yogurt...shhh)

Once upon a time, in the middle of a gloomy Sunday afternoon, I was craving lemon bars. I thought to myself, "Hmm? WELL LET'S LIVE ON THE EDGE AND MAKE SOME LEMON BARS FOR PETE'S SAKE!!" (<<< the extent of my wild side right here y'all)

So I opened my laptop and asked my trusty friend Google where I could find a health(ier) lemon bar recipe. Within the blink of an eye, he so kindly and wisely pointed me to a delicious looking greek yogurt lemon cheesecake bar recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction that I was like YAAAAAS THIS IS IT!! I HAVE REACHED THE HOLY GRAIL! 

I just so happened to need to go grocery shopping that day, so when I was at the store, I picked up all the ingredients which I didn't already have, and then I went right to work when I got back to my kitchen along with doing my weekly meal prep funzies.

And lemme tell ya... it was totally a happy ending because they turned out even better than I expected! They could totally pass for a decadent full fat, full sugar lemon cheesecake, even though they're made with lower fat cream cheese and plain greek yogurt. I also substituted 1/2 of the white sugar with coconut sugar (to make it just a lil less refined of course lol).

Bottom line: MAKE THESE. See if you can fool people with it's secretly health(ier) ingredients at your next party, family gathering, dinner club, or if you're just in the baking mood!

Side note...sorry I don't have a beautiful picture of all these bars. Finding time and good lighting in college is a struggle, but I assure you these are more tasty than they may appear. Refreshing, chilled sweet treats to cure the post-meal sugar cravings.

Serves: 

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 6-7 full graham cracker sheets, crushed/blended into crumbs
  • About 3 Tablespoons butter, melted (or melted coconut oil)

Filling:

  • 6 ounces brick-style light cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plain nonfat or low fat Greek yogurt, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I did 1/2 granulated sugar + 1/2 coconut sugar)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional: fresh fruit to top it off

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides to easily lift the bars out of the pan before cutting.
  2. For the crust, mix the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter together in a medium bowl until combined. Evenly press crust into the prepared baking pan. Bake for about 8 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and set aside.
  3. For the filling: In a blender add all of the filling ingredients and blend until smooth and completely combined. Or in a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese on high speed until completely smooth. On medium-high speed, beat in yogurt until completely combined. Then beat in the eggs and egg yolk until combined. Finally, beat in the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract until everything is combined and no lumps remain.
  4. Pour filling onto the crust. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center of the bars no longer jiggles (remove from the oven and gently wiggle the pan to check). Let them cool at room temperature set on a wire rack for about 30 minutes, and then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for 3-4 hours or overnight.
  5. Once chilled, you can lift the foil out of the pan cut the bars into squares. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

{Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction}