Not-Too-Sweet Meyer Lemon Bars

Luscious, not-too-sweet Meyer Lemon Bars. Made with just enough sweetness to balance the puckery tart filling. Perfect for your not-so-sweet tooth.  

lemons bars on plates with forks

Confession:  I’m not really a sweet person.

Yeah, that too.  But I also don’t like sweets much.  I don’t crave candy.  I’m not a choc-o-holic.  I shy away from frothy, overly sweet drinks.  As a kid, I rarely ate birthday cake at parties.  As an adult, I still do.  

But at the end of a meal, there’s something about dessert and coffee.  They are such nice ways to end a meal.  That’s when the best conversations happen, don’t you think?   

lemon bars on parchment paper and cooling rack with powdered sugar

When I fell in love with Meyer lemons, I set about making not-too-sweet Meyer lemon bars that could be served at the end of a meal.  Something light and refreshing.  Something tart, but not bracingly so.  A bite of sunshine without that cloyingly sweet aftertaste.   

These Meyer Lemon Bars deliver that citrus punch — without being overly tart or overly sweet!  Take one bite and you can forgive winter for being so cold, snowy, and unrelenting.  If winter can produce lemons like these, I can survive.  (Note:  I live in Toronto, where winter is cold misery.)

It took 7 tries to get these lemon bars just right.  I kept fiddling with the quantities of sugar, liquid, and crust.  If you have a sweet tooth, these may not be your thing.  But if you like lemon sweetened with just enough sugar to make it dessert, give these a try!

lemon bars in a stack on a plate

Some Notes:

Meyer Lemons.  In the past, whenever I read about Meyer lemons, they seemed to be the mythical unicorn of the citrus world.  Everyone seemed to rave about them.  But truth be told, I had yet to see or taste one.  One day, I saw Meyer Lemons at Costco.  I promptly grabbed a bag and fell in Meyer lemon love.    

There’s a reason why the culinary world loves Meyer lemons.  They possess an incredible floral scent and flavor.  Meyer lemons are sweeter and more aromatic than the standard grocery store lemon.  That being said, if you don’t have access to Meyer lemons, you can still use regular lemons.  The lemon flavor will be more crisp instead of floral, if that makes any sense.       

lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon peels

Shortbread crust.  I don’t have a knack for crust.  Not for lack of trying.  But the shortbread crust in this recipe is so very simple, even a pastry dunderhead like me turn out flaky shortbread. 

Simply place all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse the dry ingredients a few times.  Then, scatter the cold butter pieces randomly on top.  Pulse again, until the mixture resembles wet sand.  Dump the mixture into a well-buttered 9 x 13 inch pan and press with clean hands.  After 20 minutes in the oven at 350 F, your crust is done!    

shortbread crust ingredients in food processor short bread crust ingredients in food processor bowl

short bread crust in pan

Juiciness.  Ironically, during the dead of winter, lemons are magnificently sweet and juicy.  When you squeeze a lemon, it’s effortless.  An abundance of juice gushes forth.  Procuring 1 cup of lemon juice takes less than 10 minutes, especially if you use a citrus reamer!  But sadly, this is not always so;  lemons can be miserly in releasing their citrusy splendor.  We’ve all been there.  Squeezing, poking, microwaving, rolling — anything, really — to procure juice from dry, rock hard lemons.  Please don’t hate me if you choose to make this when the lemons are less than glorious.  The results will be well worth it!

WARNINGPlease DO NOT use parchment paper with these lemon bars!!  Every time I used parchment paper (a parchment “sling” or lining the bottom with parchment paper), the filling leaked under the crust.  The result was a soggy mess with a lemon layer on the bottom as well as the top, ugh! 

For this recipe, the lemon filling is simply not thick enough for parchment paper to work.  Instead, butter the 9 x 13 pan really well and you shouldn’t have any problems releasing the lemon bars from the pan.

Not-Too-Sweet Meyer Lemon Bars

A luscious, not-too-sweet lemon bar made with Meyer lemons, shortbread crust, and a tart, puckery filling.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Cooling Time2 hrs
Total Time45 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Not Too Sweet Lemon Bars
Servings: 24 squares
Author: The Subversive Table

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup cold butter cut into same size chunks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Filling

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup lemon juice about 6 lemons, preferably Meyer lemons (regular ones will also do)
  • Lemon zest from 3 lemons
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

For the Crust

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Thoroughly butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  
  • Add dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse dry ingredients a few times. Scatter the cold butter chunks over the top. Keep pulsing until the mixture looks like coarse sand. If there are large pieces of butter, keep pulsing.
    butter and flour in food processor
  • Dump mixture into the 9 x 13 inch pan. Using clean hands, evenly press the crust into the pan. 
    shortbread crust in baking pan
  • Bake in oven for 20 minutes. When the crust is done, it should look pale with some golden, crispy looking edges.

For the Filling

  • Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until well combined. Add lemon juice, zest, cornstarch, and salt.  Mix well, making sure there are no cornstarch lumps. The filling will look watery and loose.
  • Pour the filling over the pre-baked crust. It’s ok if the crust is still warm. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake for an additional 16-20 minutes.  (For the first time, I would start checking at 14 minutes in case you have a very hot oven.)  
    The lemon bars are done when you give the pan a shake and they jiggle just a little in the center.      

Notes

*The baking time varies depending on the oven and the material of your 9 x 13 pan.  Depending on whether you use ceramic, glass, or metal, the cooking time will differ.  I use a dark, non-stick metal pan.  For me, 18 minutes is perfect.  But when I baked this at my mother's house, in a similar dark, non-stick metal pan, it only required 14 minutes.  To be on the safe side, check at 14 minutes and keep checking in 1 minute increments until the lemon filling is firm on the edges with a slight jiggle in the center when you shake the pan.  
**I shortened the total cook time because you can work on the filling while the oven bakes in the crust.  The cook time does not include cooling time.
**DO NOT use parchment paper when baking these lemon bars!  The filling will leak under the shortbread crust, ugh!  Instead, butter the pan well before baking the shortbread crust and the lemon bars should release with no problem.  

 

More Not-Too-Sweet Dessert Inspiration:

Coconut Panna Cotta with Ginger Syrup

Spoonful of Coconut Panna Cotta

Coffee Jello

cup of coffee jello and sweet milk on white cutting board

The Perfect Cookie

cookies on a sheet pan, with a hand holding one
All Recipes, Dessert, Potluck
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Dave
Dave
2 years ago

Looks so goooooodd….

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[…] Not-Too-Sweet Meyer Lemon Bars […]

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[…] version is sweeter. I know, so unlike me. (I’m not big on desserts. I make desserts like Not-Too-Sweet Lemon Bars and Coconut Panna Cotta with Ginger Syrup.) But other than a few tweaks here and there, the recipe […]