Citrus Bars - A medley of Lemon, Lime and Orange

Citrus bars are a delicious, creamy medley of lemon, lime and orange flavours. If you like to have a citrus tang that is mellowed by the taste of crushed crackers, brown sugar and toasted coconut, you've found a great recipe here. 

The recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen "The New Family Cookbook" as Key Lime Bars, but this recipe is one of the suggested variations. 


For the Crust

  • 2-1/2 cups tea crackers
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the Filling and Topping

  • 4 tablespoons (55 grams) softened cream cheese
  • Zest from citrus fruits: 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest, 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, and 1-1/2 grated orange zest
  • Juice from citrus fruits: 6 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 can (14 oz or 414ml) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup shredded, toasted, sweetened coconut


  • Food processor or mortar for the crust
  • One 9x9 inch baking pan
  • Aluminum foil


MEP Citrus Bars

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. 

Lay out all of your ingredients. Prepare the baking pan my making a sling. This means to grab two long sheets of aluminum, and place them crosswise over the pan, making sure that it covers all the way into the bottom. The sling will be used to remove the bars from the baking pan once it has cooled completely, so let the aluminum hang from the sides. Grease the aluminum with vegetable oil or with another oil that won't give off a strong flavour. 

Aluminum sling

To make the crust with a food processor, crush the crackers until they are pulverized. Add the brown sugar, salt and pulse. Add the melted butter and pulse until it gets to the consistency of wet sand. 

If you're like me and avoid using the food processor, grab a mortar and crush those tea biscuits manually along with the brown sugar and salt.

Mortar tea biscuits

Place the crushed biscuits in a bowl, add the melted butter and mix until it gets to have the consistency of wet sand.

Crust mix

Once it is mixed, sprinkle the crust mixture over the aluminum covered pan. Press down evenly with your hands and use the bottom of a measuring cup to smoothen the crust. 

Smoothen the crust

Now it's time to prepare the filling. Stir the cream cheese, the zest and salt together until well combined. 

Cream cheese and zest

Whisk in the condensed milk until thoroughly incorporated, and then whisk in yolk and the citrus juice. Whisk until it is smooth. 

Filling ready

Pour the filling over the crust. 

Citrus bars ready for the oven

Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. It is ready when the edges begin to pull away from the pan and the filling is set. Place on a wire rack and cool for 2 hours. 

Baked bars

Refrigerate for 2 more hours or overnight. Once it is chilled, remove using the aluminum sling by pulling the dessert up from the baking pan. 

Remove sling

Using a sharp, even knife cut into pieces. I use a long thin knife that I wipe after each cut with a damp cloth to make sure that the edges are clean. I also cut off the outer edges to have even bars. You can eat them as you finish making your squares. 

Squares of Citrus Bars

Arrange the squares in a platter. I use a fish spatula to help me move them on the platter. Sprinkle with a bit of the toasted coconut and you're ready to go. 

Citrus bars

I brought these bars to a friend's housewarming brunch and they were a hit! In a brunch like fashion, they go well with sparkling white wine, or a cup of joe. 

Bon appétit!