February 26, 2022

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Cheesecake is a custard that may seem intimidating to make from scratch, but it can easily be made at home! These bars have a tangy smooth filling with lemon zest in both the filling and the crust which results in a refreshing subtle lemon flavor.

Let’s talk about the crust for a minute. It is ALL about the crust, right? The first thing you probably think about is graham cracker crust. There is nothing wrong with a graham cracker crust, but the shortbread crust is outstanding. Trust me! It is an excellent choice for the base of these bars.

Recipe Source: Adapted family cheesecake recipe. Original source unknown.

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Thick and velvety New York Style lemon cheesecake bars with a shortbread crust. The light lemon flavor is perfect for a spring or summer day.


Anne Voss


Crust Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (~ 2 large lemons)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 8ounce packages of cream cheese (24 ounces total), room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside
  3. Cut butter into small cubes and chill until cold and firm.
  4. Mix together flour, sugar, and lemon zest.
  5. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly and all the butter is coated in flour. You are looking for pea size crumbs; a mixture with some larger crumbs is okay.
  6. Stir in egg yolks and vanilla extract.  The yolk can be a little difficult to distribute, but mix it the best you can. It is okay if there are some clumps of yolk.
  7. Add crust to the baking pan and press evenly over the parchment paper.
  8. Bake crust for 7 minutes at 400°F. Let the crust cool completely.


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Add sugar, lemon zest, flour, and salt to a food processor. Pulse briefly until combined and fragrant. Set aside.
  3. Beat cream cheese and vanilla extract until fluffy using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or handheld mixer.  
  4. Gradually add sugar mixture into the cream cheese. Mix until well combined.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and add eggs and egg yolk all at once. Beat until just combined.
  6. Gradually mix in lemon juice and milk until combined. Don’t overmix.
  7. Pour filling over cooled crust. Tap the pan gently a few times to help pop any air bubbles.


  1. Bake in a 450°F oven for 10 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to 300°F and bake for 25-30 minutes longer until the center appears set. The edges of the cheesecake with be raised or puffed. A very slight jiggle in the center of the cheesecake is okay as it will continue to cook as it cools. You can also test the doneness with a toothpick, but it may cause the cheesecake to crack.
  3. Cool cheesecake completely in the pan. Chill covered for at least two hours. Chilling overnight is preferred.
  4. Cut cheesecake with a warm knife to get bars with nice edges.  Enjoy!

Makes twenty four bars.

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Recipe Notes

Below you will find tips and tricks to help achieve the best results possible!

Overhead view of tray of cheesecake but into twenty four bars


Cream cheese – it is important to use cream cheese at room temperature so that the cheesecake filling will mix up nice and smooth. Cold cream cheese will cause the filling to be chunky.  

Lemon zest – contains essential oils and more lemon flavor without being too tart. Avoid adding the bitter pith (the white part underneath the peel).

Lemon juice – fresh lemon juice has a brighter flavor compared to bottled juice. Freshly squeezed juice is recommended.

Supplies Needed

Stand mixer or hand mixer

9 x 13 baking pan lined with parchment paper

Pastry blender or fork

Food processor, optional

Cheesecake bars staked and balanced on top of a lemon

Tips and Tricks

Lining the baking pan with parchment paper makes it easier to remove the cheesecake from the pan.

Press the crust into the pan with the back of a floured spoon or bottom of a floured measuring cup. Pressing with your fingers also works well.

If you don’t have a pastry blender, you can cut in the butter with a fork by squishing the butter through the fork tines.

One of my favorite tips is to make flavored sugar. This extra step is optional. Place the lemon zest and sugar required for the cheesecake filling and pulse together in the food processor with flour and salt.  This step infuses the sugar with lemon oil from the zest.  If you skip this step, you can simply stir together the sugar, zest, flour, and salt.

Chill the cheesecake thoroughly to get a dense but smooth texture.

Side by side photo of a stack of cheesecake bars and one bar drizzled with glaze


You can use graham cracker crust if you prefer.  I have also used lemon cookies to make a cookie crust.

Top cheesecake bars with lemon glaze or lemon curd if you want a stronger punch of lemon flavor. Lemon whipped cream would also be enjoyable.

You can also up the flavor by using a small amount of lemon extract in the filling, but don't use too much or it will taste artificial. 

How to Store Lemon Cheesecake Bars?

Store bars in the refrigerator. Cheesecake bars can also be frozen.

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Anthony Deane
April 13, 2022
These look delicious!