A special take on classic lemon squares, these lemon bars with graham cracker crust swap out the shortbread for a sweet crumb crust. A smooth and luxurious lemon curd is pre-cooked before being added to the crust, resulting in a perfectly tart and sweet lemon filling.
Why These Bars Are Different
Classically, lemon bars start with a base made of a pre-baked shortbread crust. The filling is mixed using eggs, fresh lemon juice, a little flour, and some sugar. This filling is poured over the warm baked crust and then is baked again to set the filling.
These bars do a couple of things differently. First, instead of a shortbread crust, I've used a buttery graham cracker crumb crust infused with lemon zest. Then, instead of a raw filling, I've topped my bars with a cooked lemon curd.
Why did I do this? For a couple of reasons. First, a common issue that bakers run into when baking lemon bars is when the filling seeps down into the crust, creating a mishmash of crust and lemon filling instead of two distinct layers. Using a thick, pre-cooked lemon curd fixes this problem.
Also, I find that the lemon curd keeps its creamy texture during the second bake better than a raw filling, which can easily become chewy and tough if baked even a touch too long.
I hope you'll give my lemon bars with graham cracker crust a try if you're used to making them the classical way. I think you'll really like them!
Here are a few issues that home bakers may run into when creating lemon bars with graham cracker crust in their own kitchens. Use these tips to help you out when/if you run into the following problems:
Graham Cracker Crust Crumbles: This is a common problem with any graham cracker crust, whether you are using them in cheesecakes, tarts, pies, or dessert bars. First, make sure you are measuring your ingredients properly so that you don't end up with too much or too little butter or crumbs. Next, make sure that your graham crackers are crushed very fine so that the pieces are able to stick together more densely. Finally, make sure to pack the crust into your pan firmly. That tip is very important. I recommend using the bottom of a measuring cup or a spoon to really press down on the crust and get it packed in there nice and tight.
Lemon Filling Doesn't Set: This could be any combination of not cooking the curd long enough, not baking the bars long enough, or not allowing the bars to fully chill in the refrigerator before attempting to cut them. When cooking the curd, you want to pull it off of the heat as soon as it starts thickening and coats the back of a spoon. When baking the bars, make sure that the middle of the filling doesn't jiggle like Jell-O when you give the pan a little shake. When chilling the bars, allow several hours in the refrigerator so that the bars have had ample time to set up before slicing.
Filling Sinks Below Crust: Make sure that you are pouring the curd onto the hot crust - do not let it cool! When the graham cracker crust cools it will start to pull away from the edges of the pan, leaving gaps where the curd can creep down under the crust. Follow the recipe steps in order: make the curd first, then bake the crust, then pour the curd right onto the hot crust before returning it to the oven.
- Lemons: You will need between 2-4 lemons for this recipe. You'll zest two of them and then juice the remaining ones until you have 1 cup of fresh lemon juice. You can use 100% bottled lemon juice (not from concentrate) instead, but since you need the zest anyway, I recommend just squeezing it fresh. I use a basic citrus juicer for this.
- Graham Cracker Crumbs: You'll need 2 cups of crumbs. While you can use the premade crumbs, I find that they are not crushed finely enough to get a good tight crust, so I recommend using a food processor to make your own.
- White Sugar: Just plain granulated sugar is best for this recipe. The sugar in the crust adds sweetness and helps bind it together when baked, and the sugar in the curd helps balance the tartness of the lemons.
- Eggs: Six full eggs and one yolk will yield a luxuriously creamy lemon curd for these bars. I used size large.
- Cornstarch: A couple of teaspoons of cornstarch will thicken up the curd when it cooks.
- Butter: Use a stick of unsalted butter, melted, to mix with the graham cracker crumbs in the crust.
- Powdered Sugar: This ingredient is optional and is used for dusting the finished bars right before servings. Don't dust them in advance, however, as the sugar will soak right into the filling.
Can You Freeze Lemon Bars With Graham Cracker Crust?
Yes, you can freeze this recipe! Here's how:
To Freeze: After the bars have been baked and chilled, cut them into squares and wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap. Place the wrapped bars in a zip top freezer safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months (for best quality - they will be safe to eat after that time if kept properly frozen).
To Thaw: Remove desired number of wrapped bars out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator until thawed.
How To Store Leftovers
You will need to store the finished lemon squares in the refrigerator to keep them safe. You can stretch some plastic wrap over the dish you baked them in or you can transfer the cut squares to a plastic storage container.Print
Lemon Bars With Graham Cracker Crust
- Total Time: 50 mins + chilling
- Yield: 12-15 bars 1x
For The Filling
- 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (2-4 lemons depending on size)
- 1 ½ cups white granulated sugar
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 6 eggs + 1 egg yolk
For The Crust
- 2 cups finely-crushed graham cracker crumbs
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup white granulated sugar
- Zest from 2 lemons
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
- In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, stir together the lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch.
- Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk.
- When the sugar has completely dissolved, temper the eggs by drizzling in about a half a cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolks while whisking constantly. Then pour the contents of the mixing bowl into the saucepan.
- Stir frequently until the mixture begins to thicken - this will take several minutes. Remove from heat.
Make and Bake The Crust
- Preheat oven to 350F. In a clean mixing bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and lemon zest. Add the melted butter and stir well until all of the crumbs have evenly absorbed the butter.
- Lightly spray a 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Add the graham cracker crumb mixture and press into the pan in an even layer. Use the bottom of a measuring cup or other flat surface to firmly pack the crust into the pan.
- Bake on center rack for 8-10 minutes - you want the crust to darken noticeably and you should be able to smell the graham crackers. Remove from oven.
Bake The Bars
- Pour the lemon curd over the hot crust and spread out evenly. Bake for an additional 12-15 minutes until the curd isn't super jiggly in the middle (it will still look a little loose and sticky).
- Allow to cool on counter for about 20 minutes, and then chill in the refrigerator for several hours before attempting to cut into squares. Dust with powdered sugar if desired, and store leftovers in the refrigerator.
Make sure to press down the crust as firmly as possible into the pan - this will ensure that the baked crust stays together when cutting the finished bars. A few crumbles is normal, but the crust should not fall apart.
Don't overcook the curd. You want to remove it from the heat as soon as you notice that it starts to thicken. It will continue to thicken as it cools down a bit while you are pre-baking the crust.
If you dust with powdered sugar, be aware that the sugar will dissolve into the lemon filling after a little while. If you want these to look pretty and dusted when serving, wait to dust them until immediately before serving.
Helpful Equipment: Basic citrus juicer, 4-cup food processor
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 30-35 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Oven and Stovetop
Keywords: lemon bars, lemon squares, graham cracker, curd
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how easy and quick....
They really are! Thanks for visiting!
Turned out amazing! I've had trouble with lemon bars before. Never tried making the curd first and it worked out beautifully! Thank you for the recipe 🙂
I'm so happy to hear that! Thank you for sharing your experience!
The filling on this is superb. Other times I've tried making a graham crust with lemon squares the filling ended up running down under the crust or just mixing all in together. I followed your instructions to a T and it worked out great! Thanks!