During my sophomore year of college, I lived off campus in an apartment with three other girls. It sat directly across the street from a major grocery store, so we loved how easy it was to walk over and grab whatever we needed for meals and snacks… Especially on those occasions where we ran out of something in the middle of cooking dinner!
A few times throughout the year, we also headed over to pick out celebratory treats after sets of particularly difficult midterms, papers, or finals. The supermarket must have realized how many college students did that because they set up their bakery section at the very front of the store, immediately greeting you with all sorts of sweets the moment you passed through their glass doors.
Although just about everything looked so tempting — cookies, cupcakes, cheesecake, donuts, even palmiers! — we usually gravitated towards the refrigerated display of single cake slices. They cost very little, and the built-in portion control helped, especially compared to the full-sized cakes and two-dozen tubs of cookies!
With the store’s wide selection of flavors, we always had plenty to choose from: vanilla, chocolate, German chocolate, red velvet, spice, funfetti, carrot… You name it! But as huge chocoholics, we picked out slices of that for our first celebratory dessert.
Yet when we grabbed forks back at our apartment, I felt so disappointed. The other girls enjoyed their pieces, but I found the chocolate cake tasted bland, more like an over-sweetened, much too sugary, only chocolate-ish cake… Whereas I was hoping for a deep, rich, decadent, intense chocolate flavor.
At least the creamy chocolate ganache frosting in the center was good!
After that first experience, I picked out an oversized chocolate brownie from the bakery a few weeks later. It had the perfect texture — exceptionally moist and extremely fudgy — and a much richer chocolate flavor… But the bakery had also added espresso power to the batter. I absolutely despised the taste of coffee back then, so I only took a single bite before giving the rest to my roommates.
So finally, on my third trip, I headed back to the original display and reached for a slice of carrot cake. It looked so moist and dense, just the way I love my carrot cake to be, and it was topped with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. And when I arrived back at our apartment and cracked open the container…
It tasted perfect! Sweet, comforting, so many cozy spices… I slowly savored every bite, and I always looked for the same carrot cake slice for my celebratory treats after that!
So when I spotted individual carrot cake slices sitting right next to trays of brownies at the grocery store last week, I smiled as those college memories floated through my mind… And then a light bulb went off in my head.
What if I combined the two??
So that’s exactly what I did with these Healthy One-Bowl Carrot Cake Bars! They have the same sweet, spiced, oh so irresistible flavors of carrot cake… And the same supremely fudgy texture as brownies!
This fun carrot cake dessert recipe is also really simple to make and perfect for Easter — or any time you’re craving carrot cake! (Which could be almost daily, if you’re like me… 😉 ) And even better? These healthy bars have no refined flour or sugar and 61 calories, including the cream cheese frosting!
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY CARROT CAKE BARS
Let’s go over how to make these healthy one-bowl carrot cake bars! To make this recipe as easy as possible, you just need a single mixing bowl and a fork to make the bars. I love one-bowl recipes like this because they usually result in fewer dishes, and that makes me one happy girl!
You’ll start by stirring together a teensy bit of melted butter and a couple of egg whites. Just a mere ½ tablespoon of butter! That really small amount, combined with the lack of egg yolks, really helps keep your healthy carrot cake bars low calorie and low fat… Yet they’re still just as moist and fudgy as regular brownies!
And that’s thanks to…
Greek yogurt! If you’ve skimmed through my other recipes before, then you already know how much I love this ingredient. I’ve used Greek yogurt to make everything from cakes and cupcakes to cheesecakes and brownies to muffins and scones… And more! In this recipe, Greek yogurt adds the same moisture to the batter as extra butter or oil but for a fraction of the calories, and it gives your healthy carrot cake bars a protein boost too!
Unlike traditional carrot cake and brownie recipes that often call for plenty of refined granulated sugar, you’ll sweeten your healthy carrot cake bars with liquid stevia and confectioners’ style erythritol instead. Both of these are plant-based, no-calorie sweeteners that contain nothing refined or artificial (aka they’re clean eating friendly!). Erythritol sweetens cup-for-cup like granulated sugar, whereas liquid stevia is highly concentrated. (Just 2 teaspoons of the kind I use sweetens like nearly 1 cup of sugar!)
“But Amy, do I really need to use both??” I can hear you ask…
And the answer is yes! I found that when I just used liquid stevia, these bars tasted really good… But not quite as sweet as traditional carrot cake. When I added a bit of the confectioners’ style erythritol, it amplified their sweetness level, and these healthy carrot cake bars tasted just like those store-bought cake slices I ate in college!
Tip: I actually buy both of these sweeteners online because those are the best prices I’ve found! Here for the liquid stevia and here for the erythritol. (And you’ll use the liquid stevia in all of these recipes of mine and the erythritol in all of these recipes of mine!)
The spices are actually my favorite part of carrot cake… So you’ll add those next! You’ll need cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. This is my favorite cinnamon because it tastes richer, stronger, and sweeter than regular cinnamon. (I buy it online at that link too!) Then the allspice and nutmeg create a deeper, fuller, more robust spice flavor. It’s definitely worth using all three!
After stirring in the milk, it’s time to add the flour and baking powder! For these healthy carrot cake bars, you’ll use whole wheat flour. Because of the rich spices and supremely moist texture from the Greek yogurt, nobody could tell I used whole wheat flour — they thought I used regular all-purpose flour like in traditional carrot cake recipes instead!
Hint: I also included my two favorite gluten-free alternatives in the Notes section of this recipe, if you’d like to make your healthy carrot cake bars gluten-free!
And please oh please… Do not dump the baking powder into the center of your bowl! Instead, sprinkle it over the flour before mixing both of them in together. Sprinkling helps prevent clumps of baking powder, which means your healthy carrot cake bars will bake evenly and have the best texture imaginable!
One last key ingredient for you… Freshly grated carrots! Yes, they must be freshly grated! Do not substitute store-bought pre-shredded carrots (also called “matchstick” carrots). They’re thicker and drier, and they don’t soften properly while baking. I promise it’s worth taking the extra time to grate your own!
Tip: If you own a food processor with a grater attachment, that makes grating the carrots much easier and quicker!
Once your healthy carrot cake bars have cooled completely to room temperature, you must let them rest for at least 6 hours before cutting into them. Yes, I know this feels nearly impossible… But they turn even moister and fudgier as they rest on your counter!
And while you wait…
You can make some cream cheese frosting to spread on top of them! I have two cream cheese frosting options for you, and both of them start with a surprising ingredient…
More Greek yogurt! That’s right — both of these healthy cream cheese frosting recipes include no butter and no powdered sugar. Yet they’re still just as sweet, smooth, and creamy as traditional recipes!
To make either of my cream cheese frosting recipes, you’ll beat Greek yogurt with well-softened light cream cheese and more liquid stevia. The first frosting option has a slightly thinner consistency, whereas the second frosting option includes another ingredient that makes it thicker and stiffer (it’s actually stiff enough to pipe on top of cupcakes!) See the Notes section of this recipe for more information! 😉
Then once your healthy carrot cake bars have finished resting on the counter… And once you’ve slathered a thick layer of frosting on top…
It’s time to slice, serve, and dig in! And when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy carrot cake bars!
Healthy One-Bowl Carrot Cake Bars
- ½ tbsp (7g) coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large egg whites, room temperaturte
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 ¾ tsp liquid stevia (see Notes!)
- 3 tbsp (27g) confectioners' style erythritol (see Notes!)
- ¼ cup (60g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup + 1 tbsp (135mL) nonfat milk
- 1 ½ cups (180g) whole wheat flour or gluten-free* flour (measured like this)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ cups (158g) freshly grated carrots (peeled first — and see Notes!)
- cream cheese frosting, for serving (see Notes!)
- Preheat the oven to 300°F, and coat an 8”-square pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut oil or butter and egg whites. Stir in the vanilla, liquid stevia, and erythritol. Add in the Greek yogurt, stirring until no lumps remain. Stir in the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in the milk. Pour in the flour, and sprinkle the baking powder over the top (to prevent it from clumping!). Stir in the flour and baking powder until just incorporated. Gently fold in the carrots.
- Spread the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake at 300°F for 30-34 minutes or until the edges look firm and the center looks slightly underdone (see Notes!). Cool completely to room temperature in the pan, and let the bars rest for at least 6 hours once they’ve reached room temperature for the best taste and texture before frosting, slicing, and serving.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Carrot Cake (two-layer recipe)
♡ Healthy Classic Carrot Cake (one-layer recipe)
♡ Healthy Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies
♡ Healthy Carrot Bundt Cake
♡ Healthy Carrot Cake Cookie Bars
♡ Healthy Carrot Pound Cake
♡ Healthy Mini Carrot Cake Cupcakes
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy carrot cake recipes!