Creamy lemon bars are made with cream cheese for a smooth lemon flavor that’s not too tart, a buttery shortbread crust, and a sweet brown sugar crumb topping!
Fact: there is no better smell than freshly grated lemons.
It’s true! Lemon zest is one of my favorite scents in the world. It’s like a drug to me. Is that weird?
Every spring I load up on lemon recipes, especially with baking. I made Sally’s Baking Addiction lemon meringue pie for Easter and it was fantastic! Totally recommend. I also made my honey ginger mint vodka lemonades, which were a big hit. I make homemade lemon bars once a year around this time, and this year I finally perfected my recipe for creamy lemon bars.
I adapted the recipe from The Pioneer Woman. Her recipe is great, but it’s a tiny bit tart for me, and the crust to filling ratio was little bottom heavy. Adding cream cheese and adjusting the ratios, including adding a nice thin brown sugar crumble topping, made all my creamy lemon bars dreams come true.
- Step 1- Make your shortbread crust. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and cut in a stick of butter using a pastry blender. Cut the butter in until it’s in crumbs like below. Reserve a half cup of the mixture for your crumb topping. Press the rest of the mixture into a greased 9×9 baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.
- Step 2- Start the filling by whisking together flour and sugar. Add eggs in and whisk to combine. Then get out your zester! Zest two lemons until they are nakie, add the zest to the filling, cut them open, and then add the juice. In a separate bowl, use hand mixers to beat your cream cheese until completely softened.
- Step 3- In 3 batches, add your lemon mixture to the cream cheese, beating together until it is completely combined before adding more. Your mixture will still be very liquid when it is all combined. Remember we are making lemon bars not cheesecake :).
- Step 4- Pour the lemon filling over the crust. Grab your reserved half a cup of crust and add 1/4 cup brown sugar to it. Sprinkle the mixture lightly over the top of the lemon filling and bake for 40 more minutes.
- Step 5- As much as you want to take a bite, lemon bars taste best cold and need to set, so stick them in the fridge for 2 hours and then enjoy as many slices as you’d like!
P.S- You can totally make these in a 9×13 pan, just multiply the recipe by 1.5!
- FOR THE CRUST
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- ⅛ tsp salt
- ½ cup salted butter
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- FOR THE FILLING
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 large eggs
- zest of 2 lemons
- juice of 2 lemons
- 8 oz. softened cream cheese
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 baking dish.
- Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt for your crust and then cut in your stick of butter using a pastry blender or a fork if you dont have one. Cut the butter in until it is a crumbly mixture.
- Reserve a ½ cup of your mixture and set aside for later. Press the remainder into your baking dish and bake for 20 minutes until the edges are a golden color.
- While the crust is baking, make your filling by sifting together the ¾ cup sugar and 2 tbsp flour. Whisk in your eggs until combined. Add the zest and juice of two lemons and whisk together.
- In a separate bowl, use a hand mixer to beat your cream cheese until it is completely softened. Add a third of your lemon filling to the cream cheese and beat together until completely combined, repeating the process until all your lemon filling is added to the cream cheese. (Note- the mixture will still be very liquid.)
- Pour your filling over your crust and grab your ½ cup of reserved crust. Add ¼ cup of brown sugar to it and lightly sprinkle it on top of the filling.
- Bake for 40 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours until the lemon bars have set.