Clear today’s plans, because these sunshine-bright Lemon Cheesecake Bars just took urgent priority status.
With a buttery shortbread crust and luscious lemon cream cheese filling, these easy lemon cheesecake bars are the perfect dessert recipe that tastes like sunny afternoons spent lounging on a blanket on the grass.
Warm weather cries out for refreshing lemon, and these lemon cream cheese bars are here to answer. They are:
- Easy-breezy and light, but still have a touch of specialness and decadence (think of them as the happy medium between Classic Lemon Bars and fancier Lemon Cake).
- Transportable to summer gatherings.
- Easy to pick up and polish off with nothing more than your fingers (like my top-rated Strawberry Oatmeal Bars).
- Scrumptiously seasonal (as are these Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes in the fall).
5 Star Review
“I made these last weekend to test them out for a neighborhood party this weekend. They are fantastic!”— Beth —
How to Make Lemon Cheesecake Bars
These lemon cream cheese bars are a perfect dessert to enjoy at a backyard picnic of your own or to bring to a party or potluck. (Or if you’re looking for a lemony brunch recipe, try my Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake.)
- Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and All-Purpose Flour. I love to use a blend of whole wheat pastry flour and all-purpose to sneak a little wholesome nutrition into these bars.
- Powdered Sugar. Sweetens the crust and makes it melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
- Butter. Essential to make the shortbread crust perfectly tender and ultra-buttery (like in this Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie).
- Lemon Zest. My secret to giving the crust and filling a little brightness and extra lemony oomph (also key for Lemon Poppy Seed Cake).
- Lemon Juice. Go with freshly squeezed lemon juice if you can, It makes a difference, I promise!
- Cream Cheese. Light cream cheese (not fat-free) keeps these bars (and these Red White and Blueberry Cheesecake Bars) rich, creamy, and indulgent without feeling heavy.
- Nonfat Greek Yogurt. Adds moisture and helps make the cheesecake light and fluffy. (Try this Greek Yogurt Cheesecake next.)
- Egg Yolk. Contributes richness and natural yellow color to the lemon cheesecake.
Add Strawberry Preserves. For a lovely addition that provides a surprise burst of summer berry flavor underneath the creamy lemon cheesecake, spread a thin layer of your favorite jam over the baked crust before pouring in the filling. You could also use a different fruit preserve of your choice.
- Pulse the crust ingredients together in a food processor.
- Press the mixture into a greased baking dish.
- Bake until lightly browned, remove, and let cool.
- Beat together the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and sugar.
- Add the eggs.
- Stir in the remaining filling ingredients until smooth and creamy.
- Over the cooled crust, pour the cream cheese mixture. Bake lemon cheesecake bars at 350 degrees F for 28 to 32 minutes. Chill, then cut into bars and ENJOY!
- To Store. Keep leftover lemon cream cheese bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days.
- To Freeze. Wrap cheesecake bars tightly in a double layer of plastic, and freeze for up to 1 month. Let thaw in the refrigerator.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- 8×8-Inch Baking Pan. This one is my favorite for bars, brownies, and more.
- Parchment Paper. The secret to easy clean-up and cutting for bars.
- Beater Blade Batter Attachment. I use this with my KitchenAid stand mixer—it scrapes down the bowl for you!
Brighten up someone’s day (including your own!) with this sweet, creamy, summery lemon dessert.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have not tried doubling this recipe myself, but I believe you can do so and bake it in a standard 9×13 pan. Note the bake time may need to be extended slightly depending on your oven so keep an eye on them for best results.
I have only ever made this recipe as it is written so omitting or swapping the Greek yogurt for an alternative ingredient would be an experiment. If you choose to leave out the Greek yogurt, I would replace it with another yogurt with a similar consistency to ensure the filling has the best chance to turn out with a similar texture and thickness. You could also swap sour cream.
The filling is gluten free, but the crust is not. To make lemon cheesecake bars gluten free, swap the whole wheat and all purpose flours in the crust for your favorite gluten free 1-to-1 all purpose baking flour.
Lemon Cheesecake Bars
For the Shortbread Crust:
- 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour or substitute all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
For the Lemon Cheesecake:
- 16 ounces light cream cheese, (two 8-ounce blocks) softened (do not use fat free)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt at room temperature
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8 x 8-inch pan with cooking spray.
- In the bowl of a food processor (or in a medium mixing bowl if not using a food processor), lightly pulse the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat pastry flour, powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of lemon zest, and salt. Add butter pieces and pulse just until the mixture is crumbly and resembles coarse cornmeal. (If not using a food processor, cut butter pieces into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry blender.) The mixture will feel dry to the touch.
- Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Bake 20 to 22 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large mixing bowl), beat together the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and granulated sugar until smooth.
- Add the egg and beat just until blended.
- Mix in the fresh lemon juice, cornstarch, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of lemon zest. Beat well.
- Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust, spreading it to the edges. Bake for 28 to 32 minutes, or until the cheesecake appears set on top and only jiggles slightly when you wiggle the pan. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour then cover and chill for 4 to 8 hours. Cut into bars and garnish with whipped cream, if desired.
- TO STORE: Keep leftover lemon cream cheese bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- TO FREEZE: Wrap tightly in a double layer of plastic, and freeze for up to 1 month. Let thaw in the refrigerator, then serve.
- RECIPE VARIATION: For a fun fruity twist, spread a thin layer of your favorite fruit preserves over the cooled crust before pouring in the creamy lemon cheesecake filling. Strawberry, raspberry, or blueberry preserves are some of my favorites that pair perfectly with lemon.
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