Creamy Lemon {or Lime!} Bars

This is a twist on the classic lemon bar, and it’s more of a little lemon cheesecakebar. I much prefer it to the traditional lemon bar.Heck, I think the addition of any type of cream or cheese improves just about any recipe!They are super easy to whip up and to me, with their bright lemony flavor, they just scream spring time.They’re fresh and light but taste sinful at the same time.They make a great ending to a simple meal, or a perfect treat for a party or gathering. These are always a hit at potlucks!

Honestly, I think this is possibly my favorite bar cookie crust, ever.  It starts with Nilla wafers.  I never buy Nilla wafers, until I need them for a recipe, and then I remember how delicious they are.  Dipped in milk? mmm…

So pop some of those nom nom’s in a food processor, or if you don’t have a food processor you can put them in a ziplock bag and smash away with something heavy.

A lot of crusts are comprised of simply cookie crumbs and butter, but this one has some dry ingredients added to it, like flour and sugar.  So you get the tender crumb from the flour, but the amazing cookie-ness from the nilla wafers.  In the end it’s similar to a shortbread/graham cracker crust, but a million times yummier.

Next you’ll need to cut in some butter.  Here’s a great tip- use a cheese grater!  If I’m making something like pie crust or biscuits I use a more traditional method, but for something like this, a cheese grater works perfectly.  Popping your butter in the freezer for a few minutes before grating makes it even easier.  See all those tiny ribbons of butter?  They will probably clump together, but since they’re grated they’re super easy to crumble up.

Just use your fingers and crumble it all together until it looks about like this:

And then pour the crumbs into a prepared baking pan. Lining the pan with foil makes it super easy to pull them out and cut after they’re baked and cooled.

Press the crust down with your fingers and pop it in the oven while you prepare the filling

Beat up some cream cheese (low fat is fine, but I don’t like fat free) and some sugar.

You’ll also add in some eggs and vanilla and a tiny bit of flour.  I’m doubling the recipe here to bake in a 9×13 pan so that’s why I have 4 eggs in there.

Lastly you’ll add in both some citrus zest and juice.  I’m using limes here- both limes and lemons are good, I make these regularly with both!

Pour the batter into your partially baked crust and pop it back in the oven

After they are baked, cooled, and chilled you can pull the foil right out for easy cutting

Slice them into bars and sprinkle extra zest on top.  You can also sprinkle them with powdered sugar, but just keep in mind the bars are moist so the sugar melts into them quickly.  I do it right before serving just to make them look pretty.

Great with lemon, or lime!



  1. These look great Sara! I love that you specified “20” vanilla wafers; I hate when I’m trying a new recipe and they generalize and just tell you to use enough to line the bottom of the pan. I don’t know how thickly to line it or what size of pan is okay to use… I’m not that great of a cook so I don’t have the common sense to know what they mean.

  2. Come on Morgan, they’re LEMON bars, and a lemon is a fruit, so you can totally consider them part of the fruit category and have them every day 😉

  3. Yum, I am definitely going to make these. They look so good. I am going to have to start having “dessert of the day” parties or something.

  4. How lemony are these? I like a hint of lemon in desserts, but I’m not a fan of it if it’s too strong…? Anything with cream cheese peaks my interest, though! 🙂

  5. Hillary, if you don’t like a lot of lemon flavor, just reduce the lemon juice and zest that go into the batter.

  6. Made these last night. YUM! Do lemon bars count for breakfast? The best is when they’ve sat outside the fridge for a few minutes.

  7. I made lime ones becuase I was out of lemons, and they were awesome. They tasted a bit like key lime pie. And Kate, I also ate them for breakfast. Sara, I think it’s an evil plan to have you refrigerate them overnight, then you eat them in the morning! 🙂

  8. oooh Manda, I’m so glad you tried them with lime. I’ve been meaning to do that for so long. Totally trying that next time!

  9. I did these with lime and they were SOOOO good. Like key lime pie. I baked them in a 7×11 pan though and I really liked how they came out. The crust was a little thinner than in the picture. We LOVED these. These are going to be a dessert staple from now on.

  10. Sara~I tried these with lime over the weekend~like the others said, they were divine!! The only thing was they were still a light yellow color from the eggs~would you have added a few drops of food coloring? One of our favorite desserts now as well~they will be perfect for the hot summer months! Thanks again for the recipe!

  11. Melissa- so glad you liked them! Yes, you could totally add a drop or two of green extract if you wanted them to look more limey 🙂

  12. Literally the best LIME bars ever!!! My family and guests were all totally IMPRESSED!! Thanks for all the FABULOUS recipes!!!

  13. Made these last night and they were a huge hit at a potluck! 8×8 just didn't sound like enough, so I used a 9×13. I increased the crust by half (30 cookies), and doubled the filling. They took a little longer to cook but turned out great!

  14. I needed something sweet to make for a friend's baby shower this weekend, and your blog is one of my go-to sites for recipe ideas. I chose these because my friend is a big fan of anything lemon.

    They were a huge hit – they disappeared incredibly quickly. This is definitely something I'll make again – thanks!

    I've tried a ton of your recipes, and every one is always spot – delicious, and easy to make, especially with your detailed instructions.

  15. Directions: Cool completely and then refrigerate for two hours. What I did: Took out of oven and refrigerated immediately. Waited a little more than one hour. Could not wait any longer. Cut up lemon bars. Ate one. Went to lemon heaven. They get better the longer they sit? Probably won't be any left in the morning. YUMMY!

  16. Tested this recipe out as we want lemon bars for a wedding reception. These are an absolute hit! I got 35 small bite-size squares of the pan.
    Mine had to cook for about 33-34 minutes for it to set up in the center.
    Super easy to make & the clean up is a cinch with the foil liner – so I'm giving a shout out & a hallelujah for that!!!

  17. I brought these for dessert to a friend’s dinner party (who happens to have quite a thing for lemon bars). She loved them! Using the foil liner did make it sooo easy to cut them – always a problem when I’ve made lemon bars in the past. It made 16 perfect triangles for us – cut my square into 4 and then each 1/4th into 4 triangles. So pretty too!

  18. How do you cut these? Mine came out very delicious but also very ugly looking because I had lots of trouble getting them out of the pan gracefully… any tips??

    1. Did you line the pan with foil like it instructs in the post? That’s what that step is for, to make cutting super easy!

  19. Just put these in the oven! I cannot wait to taste them! I am the only one in my house who loves lemony things… this is my personal Mothers day present!

  20. I wanted to make these for a birthday party, and randomly enough, I had key limes and no lemons. These are I am actually afraid to make them lemon cause the key lime bars were SO GOOD! And the funny thing is, we had too many treats and hardly any were eaten. So, in answer to someone’s question, yes, they freeze well. Cause I threw them in the freezer, and over the course of a few weeks, proceeded to eat pretty much the whole pan myself. LOL.
    And just to add, I am usually a big lemon person, I love them. So I am sure I will try them lemon, I just wanted to say how delicious they are key lime 🙂

  21. Wow that was delicious! Made these for a fund raiser/supper tonight and they were gone in a flash! 5 Stars from SC

  22. I made these tonight. I love anything lemon! I feel like these need more lemon, but not sure to add more lemon juice or more lemon peel? I felt like it was onl a hint of lemon!!! But they were delicious!!!

  23. I made these last night and they were GREAT! I didn’t think they were too-lemony, which was perfect. I was actually making them as a “tester” to see if I should make them for a dinner party we are having this weekend and they definitely passed the test!

  24. I made these yesterday morning for a wedding shower last night, and they were a hit! My husband, who doesn’t like lemon bars at all, loved these! Also, I tried some this morning (for breakfast:-) and they really are better the next day, amazingly, because they were wonderful yesterday!! Great recipe! Can’t wait to try it with limes:-)

  25. I’ve made these a few times now. First time with lemon was yummy. Second time with lime (from a bottle, I’m a rule breaker like that!) was yummy too. Third time with real limes and 1/4 unsweetened coconut added to the crust was Heaven! I love the lemon & the lime, I can’t pick a favorite! But I do know I will always add the coconut to the crust from now on!

  26. I wonder if graham crackers would work for the crust… I don’t have Nilla’s on hand, but maybe I should just go get some tomorrow. I’ve got some limes I’ve got to use up.

  27. I noticed that in the pictured instructions there is mention of adding vanilla, but there is no vanilla in the printable recipe. They’re in the oven now, so it’s too late for this batch, but I wondered about the vanilla for the future??????

    1. Honestly I’m not sure! lol I probably added vanilla just because that’s normal for baked goods. It really won’t make or break them. Add it or leave it!

    1. Just use a 9×13 pan and you’ll just have to keep an eye on the baking time as it will take a bit longer. I actually almost always double it every time I make them!

  28. For the longest time I have been looking for a lemon bar that comes close to one that I had when I was younger. These are so good! Thank you! Thank You! I can’t wait to make them with lime….has anyone tried orange?

  29. Tried and these are amazing! Pretty much stuck to the recipe and use whole wheat pastry flour to up the ‘health’ factor. Cut back on the sugar a bit but these were sooo tasty. And they do definitely improve with age…don’t think the pan is going to last through the night!

  30. I am making lemon bars for a friend and don’t have a recipe – her favorite dessert is lemon bars. Would you recommend this recipe or the “Glazed Lemon Bars”?

  31. These were SO good! Definitely going up there towards the top of my favorite desserts list. The whole family loved them. I couldn’t stay away from them!

  32. I just made these for a work treat and they were a gigantic hit!! So delicious! I made a double batch in a 9×13″ pan, lined with non-stick foil. (No clean up!!)I used both fresh lime juice and bottled key lime juice. The only question I have for the author is whether or not there is supposed to be vanilla in it. The list of ingredients does not list vanilla and vanilla is not used in the instructions. But in her commentary, the author mentions adding vanilla, so I added a few drops. I figured it couldn’t hurt. But I would like to know the correct recipe. Thanks for sharing!!

  33. I took the lime variant of this recipe to a dessert contest at work and won Best In Show. Thought I’d pass that along and thank you for the recipe. I did make one modification, though. In my test batch the crust was too hard, so I halved the amount of brown sugar that went into it so there was less there to caramelize.

  34. Our family loves these bars!! Just wondering if you could freeze them? We are going camping soon and I wanted to make them before hand.

  35. I’ve made these (lime version) several times now-they came out great, family and company loved them. I use 1/2 fresh (persian) lime juice and 1/2 (bottled) key lime juice to make up the 1/4 cup called for in the recipe. I zested the persian limes for the garnish, didn’t bother with the powdered sugar.

  36. Just to add to the conversation about freezing these, YES you can freeze them! They are delicious straight out of the freezer. I prefer them that way!

    1. You could certainly try- the only problem I see is that the flavor isn’t quite as strong as lemon or lime so the favor might not come through. But I’m jealous of your crop!

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