Healthy Carrot Cake Cookie Bars
Yields: 16 cookie bars
 
These soft and chewy cookie bars taste just like carrot cake! They have lots of sweet carrots and rich spices, and the smooth cream cheese frosting on top is the perfect finishing touch. Leftovers will keep for at least four 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, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, egg white, vanilla, and liquid stevia. Stir in the maple syrup. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Fold in the carrots.
  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 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, spread the frosting across the top. (I highly recommend an offset spatula like this to do so!) Slice them into 16 square bars.
Notes: For the gluten-free option, use store-bought gluten-free flour blends (like this one!) and measure them like this.

Whole wheat pastry flour, regular whole wheat flour, or all-purpose flour may be substituted for the white whole wheat flour.

Be very careful when measuring the flour! Use this method or a kitchen scale. (← That’s the one I own and love!) Too much flour will make your cookie bars turn out dry or cakey, rather than soft and chewy.

I highly recommend using the liquid stevia! I buy mine online here, and you’ll also use it in all of these recipes of mine. 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 ¾ cup (144g) coconut sugar (or brown sugar or granulated sugar, if you aren’t concerned about keeping these cookies clean eating friendly) for both the pure maple syrup and stevia in the cookie bars, but the cookies will appear “speckled” if using coconut sugar because it doesn’t dissolve as well.

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

Do not substitute store-bought pre-shredded carrots (also called “matchstick” carrots) for the freshly grated carrots. Store-bought pre-shredded carrots are too thick and dry, and they don’t soften properly while baking.

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

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.

IMPORTANT INSTANT PUDDING MIX NOTE: 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. You can also use this cream cheese frosting recipe of mine instead as a clean eating option (no pudding mix required!).

{gluten-free, clean eating option, low fat, lower sugar}
Recipe by Amy's Healthy Baking at https://amyshealthybaking.com/blog/2019/03/24/healthy-carrot-cake-cookie-bars/