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A bite of these delightful lemon bars is like tasting sunshine. They're simply irresistible with their thick coconut cookie crust and lusciously tart lemon filling. They make the perfect make-ahead dessert to brighten up any occasion, and they're surprisingly easy to prepare with ingredients you're likely to have on hand.
This recipe was originally published in 2012. We've updated the post with some new photos and more information, but we've left the delicious recipe exactly the same.
Table of contents
This cheerful take on classic lemon bars features the heavenly combination of lemon and coconut. Their appearance might be deceiving; these pretty bars are tart and bold, with the perfect ratio of cookie crust to lemon filling.
A rich, buttery, coconut shortbread crust is topped with a tangy lemon custard-like filling, then baked to golden perfection. You don't need any fancy ingredients or kitchen tools and the recipe is so simple to make. Most of your time will be spent twiddling your thumbs waiting for them to cool so you can dig in!
How to make lemon bars with coconut shortbread crust
These lemon bars look so pretty that you might think they're complicated to make. That's surprisingly not the case! They come together in just a few easy steps:
- Get your oven ready while you prepare the cookie crust. To make the crust, you'll start by adding the dry ingredients into your food processor and pulsing them a few times. Then you'll add the wet ingredients and pulse until it comes together.
- Spread the crust mixture into the prepared baking tin, press it down firmly, pop it in the oven, and bake it until it's beautifully golden.
- Prepare the filling by whisking all the filling ingredients together in a bowl. Easy!
- Now it's time to assemble, bake, and cool the bars. Pour the prepared filling over the hot crust and bake until the center is just set. The hard part is waiting patiently for the lemon bars to cool completely.
- Then, slice and sprinkle. Carefully lift the lemon bars onto a work surface. Slice them into squares, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and enjoy!
Full recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.
Ingredients you'll need
These luscious lemon bars only take a few ingredients and most of them you're likely to have in your pantry. Here's what you'll need for the delicious coconut shortbread crust:
- Flour – all-purpose flour will be the base for the thick cookie crust.
- Brown sugar – adds the right amount of sweetness to offset the tangy lemon filling.
- Salt – enhances the other flavors.
- Sweetened flaked coconut – for texture and flavor.
- Unsalted butter – adds richness and moisture to bring the crust together.
- Coconut oil – adds a subtle coconut flavor and moisture.
This is what you'll need for the soft lemon filling:
- Granulated sugar – a fine granulated sugar will dissolve well.
- Eggs – give the filling its soft, creamy texture.
- Lemon juice + zest – a generous amount of fresh lemon juice and zest are the star of the show.
- Flour – acts as a binder to give the filling some structure.
- Powdered sugar – optional, for sifting on top of the bars after they've cooled.
These bars don't require any special kitchen tools, just a 9×9″ square metal baking tin and parchment paper.
Tips for the most delicious lemon bars
Although they're easy to make, here are a few tips we've learned for making them extra delicious:
- Use fresh lemon juice. This is an occasion when fresh lemon juice is better than bottled.
- Wash the lemons before zesting them. Most citrus fruit has a wax on the skin that can inhibit their flavor. Washing helps to remove the wax but if you really want to get it off, soak the lemons in water with a bit of apple cider vinegar then rinse them and wipe them dry with a towel. Organic lemons also tend to have less wax than conventional so this could be a time to opt for organic.
- Don't skimp on sugar. It can be tempting to reduce the amount of sugar but it plays an important role of adding moisture and keeping the bars from cracking.
- Don't over-mix the filling. To keep a light, airy filling, avoid over-mixing.
- Allow them to cool completely. The lemon filling needs time to set before these bars are ready to be sliced. At room temperature, they'll take about an hour to cool completely. We know it will be so hard to wait, but it's so worth it!
Can I make these bars ahead of time?
These bars are the perfect make-ahead dessert because they can last for up to a week in the fridge!
How long are lemon bars good for?
They will last for about 6 days in an air-tight container in the fridge.
Do lemon bars need to be refrigerated?
Yes, because they consist of custard, it's safest to refrigerate them.
Can you freeze lemon bars?
Lemon bars freeze wonderfully. Simply allow them to cool completely and make sure to store them in a tightly sealed container. They will keep for up to 3 months! When you're ready to eat them, remove them from the freezer and allow them to come to room temperature.
Can I use meyer lemons?
Yes! Meyer lemons have a wonderful sweet taste and can be used in the same way.
When to serve lemon bars with coconut shortbread crust
These lemon bars make the perfect dessert to brighten any occasion. They're easy to make-ahead and we love to bring them to bridal showers, baby showers, birthday parties, and picnics. It's also nice to just have them around the house to enjoy with afternoon tea. And they also make a wonderful Easter dessert!
Popular lemon desserts
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- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- ½ cup cold unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes)
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)
- 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 pinch salt
- Powdered sugar (to serve)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 9×9-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a little overhang. Combine flour, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the coconut, butter, and coconut oil and process until the mixture is crumbly and begins to clump together.1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, ⅓ cup brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, ½ cup cold unsalted butter, ¼ cup coconut oil
- Spread the crust mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and press down so it forms a crust. Bake crust until golden at edges, about 20 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, flour, and salt.1 ¼ cups granulated sugar, 5 large eggs, ½ cup + 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 4 teaspoons lemon zest, 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour, 1 pinch salt
- Pour filling evenly over hot crust then return the pan to oven and bake until filling is just set and springy to touch in the center, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to rack and let the pan cool completely.
- Using the parchment paper as an aid, transfer the lemon bars to a work surface then cut them into 16 bars. If you'd like, sift a little powdered sugar over the top.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.
If you like the taste of lemon, check out all of our lemon recipes!