Healthy Red Velvet Cookie Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields: 16 cookie bars
 
These red velvet cookie bars are supremely soft and chewy! They have a lovely chocolaty vanilla flavor, just like my favorite red velvet cake, which pairs beautifully with the silky cream cheese frosting. The cookie bars are best if eaten the same day they’re frosted, but they’ll keep for at least three days (if not longer!) if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and coat an 8”-square pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. To prepare the cookie bars, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil or butter, milk, egg white, red food coloring, vanilla extract, and stevia. Stir in the maple syrup. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated.
  3. Using a spatula, gently press the cookie dough into the prepared pan in a thin, even layer. Bake at 325°F for 10-12 minutes or until the center feels firm to the touch. Cool completely to room temperature in the pan.
  4. While the cookie bars bake, prepare the frosting. Beat the Greek yogurt, cream cheese, instant pudding mix, and liquid stevia together using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer for 2 minutes. Cover the bowl with foil, and chill for at least 2 hours.
  5. Once the cookie bars are completely cool and just before serving, spread the frosting across the top. (I highly recommend an offset spatula like this to do so!) Slice them into 16 square bars.
Notes: Whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour may be substituted for the white whole wheat flour. Regular whole wheat flour may be substituted in a pinch, but the cookies will have detectable “wheat-y” taste.

Most store-bought gluten-free flour blends (like this one!) will work for the gluten-free option, but make sure you measure them carefully, like this!

Do not use Dutched or special dark cocoa powder! They’re much less acidic than regular cocoa powder, so the texture and flavor of these cookie bars won’t be the same.

Remember to measure the flour and cocoa powder correctly, using this method or a kitchen scale. (← That’s the one I own and love!) Too much of either will dry out your cookie dough, and too much cocoa powder may make your cookie bars taste bitter.

If using coconut oil, the cookies may have a faintly detectable coconut flour.

Any milk may be substituted for the nonfat milk.

Regular red food coloring (like this) will give the brightest color. Liquid natural red food coloring may also be used, but the color will be more of a mahogany shade. I have not tried anything else (i.e. gel food coloring) and don’t know how other options will turn out. I haven’t had good luck with other natural options (beets, pomegranates, etc).

Honey or agave may be substituted for the pure maple syrup.

I highly recommend using the liquid stevia! I buy mine online here, and you'll use it in all of these recipes of mine as well. You cannot substitute additional pure maple syrup for the liquid stevia because the cookies require a precise balance of wet and dry ingredients. However, you may substitute ½ cup + 2 tablespoons (120g) coconut sugar (or granulated sugar, if you aren’t concerned about keeping these cookies clean eating friendly) for both the pure maple syrup and stevia, but the cookie bars may appear “speckled” if using coconut sugar because it doesn’t dissolve as well.

If you prefer not to use the liquid stevia in the frosting, then substitute 1 teaspoon of this powdered stevia OR 2-3 tablespoons of powdered or granulated sugar.

Neufchâtel cream cheese, Greek yogurt cream cheese, and fat-free cream cheese will all work for the light cream cheese. Regular full-fat cream cheese will also work. Just make sure whatever cream cheese you use is well softened first!

This is the instant pudding mix that I use. You just need the dry instant pudding mix—don’t prepare it according to the package directions! You may omit it, but you’ll need to increase the liquid stevia (and just mix the ingredients together until incorporated—not for 2 full minutes!). Without the instant pudding mix, the frosting will be a bit runny and may slightly drip down the sides of your cookie bars.

{gluten free, low fat, lower sugar}
Recipe by Amy's Healthy Baking at https://amyshealthybaking.com/blog/2019/02/06/healthy-red-velvet-cookie-bars-with-cream-cheese-frosting/