Desserts

May 4, 2022

Healthy Carrot Cake Bars with Greek Yogurt Frosting

Easy to make and incredibly delicious, these Healthy Carrot Cake Bars are the perfect healthy dessert for spring! This carrot cake recipe is also naturally gluten-free, low-carb, and refined sugar-free with a delicious greek yogurt frosting.

Last year I made these Carrot Cake Muffins with the most amazing maple walnut streusel for spring and I just knew I had to do another carrot cake recipe this year! Maybe we should make it an annual thing?

Well, I'm also a firm believer that carrot cake hits the spot any time of year...

Regardless of when you decide to enjoy a slice (or two) of carrot cake, you HAVE to try this healthy version! My recipe for Healthy Carrot Cake Bars is easy to make, only needs one bowl, and has no refined sugar in it.

In fact, I even developed a recipe for a healthy cream cheese frosting too. Why yes, my friend, you CAN have your cake and eat it too!

(I'll let you in on a little secret too - I originally developed this recipe for my exclusive Lactation eCookbook and decided it was too delicious not to share for free with the entire internet. It's that good!)

Healthy Carrot Cake Bars with greek yogurt frosting on parchment paper with

Why is this carrot cake recipe healthy?

  • Almond butter and almond flour: rich in antioxidants, heart-healthy fats, plant-based protein, and magnesium, almonds are a great alternative to both butter and flour in healthier recipes. (It's also one of the top lactogenic foods for all you breastfeeding mamas!)
  • Unsweetened applesauce: another healthier replacement for butter, oil, and sugar
  • Coconut sugar and Stevia: using a mix of both helps keep that sweet flavor and moist texture with no refined sugar. If you're not a fan of Stevia, Monkfruit is great too! I just use Stevia because it's really cheap to buy in bulk at Walmart.
  • Protein powder: acts as both a dry ingredient and an additional sweetener in this recipe. You can use any vanilla protein powder you like, whether it's whey (what I use) or vegan. Just make sure to use the right amount.
  • Quick oats: most healthy gluten-free carrot cake recipes use oat flour, but I love the chewy texture quick oats provide. There's just enough in there to keep these bars chewy without drying them out or overpowering the flavor. Be sure to use quick oats, not rolled oats or steel cut!

The BEST Healthy Carrot Cake Frosting

I'd be lying if I said my favorite part was the cake. It's definitely the greek yogurt frosting! It's perfectly creamy and just sweet enough, but secretly full of protein thanks to some healthy swaps:

  • Low fat cream cheese: you might find it labeled as "neufchatel" or "1/3 less fat" cream cheese at the store. They're all the same thing and exactly what this recipe calls for. Bonus points if you find fat free cream cheese!
  • Greek yogurt: the secret to this delicious healthy frosting! I always use this brand because it has zero fat, zero artificial sweeteners, and zero added sugars, but feel free to use any brand you like.
  • Protein powder: my secret ingredient to make this healthy frosting packed with protein AND sweet. It's seriously the best. It's like adding sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla...but it's protein instead! You can use any vanilla protein you like, like whey or a plant-based protein.
  • Sugar-free maple syrup: because pairing maple with this carrot cake is just the right thing to do. So instead of thinning the frosting with milk, we're thinning it with maple syrup. But the sugar-free kind so we get that delicious maple flavor without the extra sugar.
  • Stevia: instead of powdered sugar. If you want the truest consistency for this healthy frosting but you don't want the calories, use a sugar-free powdered sugar like this one.

A girl spreading greek yogurt frosting on healthy carrot cake

Tips for Making This Healthy Carrot Cake

  1. Use a stand mixer: or a hand mixer, whichever you prefer. We want the wet ingredients to be completely combined and the entire cake to be mixed well.
  2. Use room temperature wet ingredients: if you're new here, this is the thing that will dramatically affect your desserts and baked goods, so trust me! Eggs, butter, milk, and cream cheese should all be room temperature so they combine thoroughly and bake evenly. This is especially important for the cream cheese because I'm sure you don't want cream cheese!
  3. Keep the frosting cold: I tested this recipe with making the frosting right before serving and letting it chill in the fridge before serving. Chilling made a world of a difference! This is because we're using a few non-traditional ingredients in the frosting, so chill time will help it act like a traditional frosting. The trick? Make the frosting before you even preheat the oven. This way the frosting spends the most amount of time possible in the fridge.
  4. Let the cake cool completely: if you don't let it cool completely to room temperature, at least 2 hours, it will melt the frosting and the frosting will become icing. If that's you jam, go for it! But that's not what I'm going for. I like my carrot cake with a thick frosting on top!
  5. Shred the carrots manually: I know it's easier to buy pre-shredded carrots, but they're way too stiff for this moist carrot cake. Shredding the carrots with a grater right before mixing means you're using soft and thin carrots that still have moisture in them, which is what we want. You also get short shreds instead of long, awkward ones.

A carrot cake bar with greek yogurt frosting on top

Why You'll Love These Carrot Cake Bars

They're made with no refined sugars: thanks to unsweetened applesauce, coconut sugar, Stevia, and vanilla protein powder, these carrot cake bars are perfectly sweet without any added or processed sugars. The frosting also uses Stevia instead of powdered sugar.

They're made with clean eating ingredients: so, quite literally, you can have your cake and eat it too!

They're packed with protein: a whopping 14g of protein per serving! That's incredible! The major sources of protein are the almond butter and almond flour, protein powder, eggs, and greek yogurt.

They're low calorie: each slice is only 250 calories, including the frosting! Thanks to a few healthy swaps, there's no guilt for having more than once slice of this carrot cake.

THE GREEK YOGURT FROSTING: it's the frosting that seals the deal for me! NO butter, NO sugar, just creamy goodness with a hint of maple. It's literally the best.

They're lactation-friendly: this means that if you're a breastfeeding mama, these healthy carrot cake bars will naturally boost your milk supply! Key ingredients like almonds, flaxseed, protein powder, and oats have all been proven to increase milk supply for your baby. Now, if you're not a breastfeeding mama (or you're a man), does this mean you will spontaneously make milk? Nope! So never fear, if you make this carrot cake recipe as a healthy lactation snack, you can share it with everyone in your house.

A fork with a bite of healthy carrot cake

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this carrot cake recipe gluten free?

Yes! It is made with almond flour, as well as protein powder, flaxseed, and oats. If you're sensitive to gluten, be sure to use certified gluten free protein powder and oats.

Can I make these healthy carrot cake bars vegan?

Unfortunately not. The eggs help keep this recipe moist and tender, so I don't recommend substituting them, and I use the combination of cream cheese and greek yogurt to boost the protein.

If you're looking for a great vegan carrot cake bars recipe, check out this one from Paleo Running Momma!

I'm allergic to almonds. What can I use instead of almond butter and almond flour?

I think cashew butter could work in place of the almond butter, but I have not tested this recipe with other grain-free flours (like coconut flour or oat flour).

If you need a different gluten-free/grain-free flour, check out this recipe from Feasting on Fruit!

How long does healthy carrot cake last?

Up to 4 days at room temperature in an airtight container (preferably glass). You could also store in the fridge for up to one week. I do not recommend freezing these bars.

Can I eat carrot cake for breakfast?

Yes! This recipe has a great balance of heart-healthy fats, protein, and complex carbs, so it is a great option for a quick, healthy breakfast. There's also no sugar, so you can feel good about eating cake for breakfast.

Can I double this recipe?

Of course! Just use a 9x13 baking dish instead of an 8x8. You should note that if you use a glass baking dish at all, the carrot cake bars will bake faster and you'll have to keep an eye on them.

Ideally I recommend using two 8x8 aluminum pans, but I know that's not always an option. If you only have a 9x13, opt for ceramic or aluminum before glass. This brand is my favorite for all bakeware! It's high quality and durable but also affordable.

A carrot cake bar with greek yogurt frosting turned on its side

You are going to DIE over these Carrot Cake Bars! There's no gluten, no refined sugar, and 14g of protein per bar. They're absolutely delicious and you might get addicted. Just saying.

And, if you're a breastfeeding mama, this healthy dessert will also boost your milk supply! It's a win-win!

Please leave a star rating and review below if you try the recipe so other readers know how you liked it or if any modifications worked for you. Your reviews also help other people find my recipes!

Healthy Carrot Cake Bars with Greek Yogurt Frosting

Easy to make and incredibly delicious, these Healthy Carrot Cake Bars are the perfect healthy dessert for spring! This carrot cake recipe is also naturally gluten-free, low-carb, and refined sugar-free with a delicious greek yogurt frosting.

Author:

Brooke Harmer

Prep:

20

min

cook:

20

min

total:

40

min

servings:

9

Ingredients

For the Carrot Cake

  • 1/4 C creamy almond butter
  • 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 C coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 3/4 C Stevia (or other zero-calorie sweetener)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 2/3 C almond flour
  • 2 Tbsp flaxseed
  • 1/3 C vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 C quick oats
  • 1 C shredded carrots

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 oz. low fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 C nonfat vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1/3 C vanilla protein powder
  • 3/4 C Stevia (or other zero-calorie sweetener)
  • 2 tsp sugar-free maple syrup*, optional

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mash the cream cheese with the greek yogurt until well combined. Whisk in the protein powder, Stevia, and maple syrup until smooth. (If you like a thicker frosting, use 1/2 tsp maple extract in place of the maple syrup.) Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray an aluminum 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer**, cream together the almond butter, applesauce, coconut sugar, and Stevia until well combined. Mix in the eggs, vanilla, and vinegar.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together the almond flour, flaxseed, protein powder, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly incorporate into the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Gently fold in the oats and carrots. Pour the cake batter into the greased 8x8 baking dish and spread in an even layer.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely to room temperature (about 2 hours), then spread the frosting on top in an even layer. Slice into 9 bars and enjoy!

Notes

*If you like a thicker frosting, use 1/2 tsp maple extract in place of the maple syrup.

**You can also make these carrot cake bars by hand, but make sure you combine the wet ingredients very well before adding in the dry ingredients.

Nutrition facts are a calculated estimate of 1/9 of the prepared pan with frosting on top.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 bar / Calories: 250 / Fat: 13.1g / Carbohydrates: 17.6g / Fiber: 3.6g  / Protein: 14g