My lemon crumb bars have a perfectly tart and creamy lemon filling sandwiched between a buttery streusel crumble. Surprisingly simple to make and the perfect refreshing summertime (or anytime) treat! Recipe includes a how-to video!
Something about summertime always gets me going a little crazy with the lemon recipes. The tartness is a refreshing pick-me-up in the heavy humidity and, after a few 90-degree days, I’ve been keeping these lemon crumb bars stocked in our fridge.
They’re not a far cry from the lemon pie I shared recently, only the lemon filling is slightly creamier and encased in a crumbly streusel based crumb rather than a pie crust. And they’re square, of course. They’re a cousin to my lemon bars, only with slightly less tart lemon punch and a sweeter crust.
They’re also incredibly simple to make (though some patience is needed to allow them to cool and chill… it’s worth it), and the perfect balance of creamy filling and buttery, crumbly streusel. I think you’re going to love these lemon crumb bars, so let’s get started.
What You Need for Lemon Crumb Bars
I don’t think you’ll find any of these ingredients today to be particularly unusual, but let’s go over a few of them before we begin.
- Butter. This is what makes our crumb topping crumbly and buttery, yet its also what helps to bind it together and keeps the bars from completely falling apart, so you can cut nice, neat squares. It adds a delicious flavor and as a bonus, I use melted butter (rather than cold butter that must be painstakingly cut in with a pastry cutter). Not only do I feel that this gives the bars a better flavor, it makes the process so much faster and simpler.
- Sugar. Both granulated and brown sugar add flavor and sweetness to the crust/topping. None of this sugar goes into the filling, as we’ll be using sweetened condensed milk there and this contains all the sugar you need.
- Baking powder. Just a pinch mixed into the crumble mixture helps keep the topping (/crust!) from being so dense or tough that you might break your teeth on it!
- Lemon juice. Fresh is always best when it comes to lemon juice, but in a pinch you can substitute bottled juice.
- Egg yolks. For a smooth and creamy lemon filling that olds together and has a wonderful, custard-esque texture, we use the egg yolks only. Save your egg whites to make meringues, angel food cake, or pavlova!
- Sweetened condensed milk. This adds to the creamy texture of the lemon crumb bars, giving them a consistency very similar to their cousin, the key lime pie. Do not try to substitute evaporated milk, which will not work and will leave you with runny results.
- Heavy whipping cream. A splash of cream not only makes the bars, well, creamier, it also reduces the pucker factor just a tad, making the bars rich and smooth. For more of a lemon bite you can leave this out, but I much preferred the bars made with it rather than without!
As always, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full lemon crumb bar recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
Making The Crumb
- The first step to making perfect lemon crumb bars is to make the perfect, buttery streusel. Begin by whisking together the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
- Drizzle melted (but not hot!) butter into the dry ingredients.
- Toss ingredients together with a fork until combined. Once ready, the mixture will likely still be crumbly, but should cling together when pressed between your thumb and forefinger.
- Press ⅔ of the crumb mixture into a prepared pan. It will be crumbly, so make sure you pack it firmly and evenly. I like to use the back of a spoon to pack and smooth the crust.
Making The Lemon Crumb Bar Filling
- Whisk together all the remaining ingredients except for the lemon juice. Whisk well, make sure the egg yolks are well broken up!
- While whisking the wet ingredients together, slowly drizzle in the lemon juice until the mixture is completely combined and smooth. Since the lemon juice is thinner than your other ingredients, it’s liable to try and separate itself out. Slowly drizzling it into the mixture (rather than adding all at once) helps the batter incorporate smoothly and evenly.
- Pour the lemon filling over the hot crust.
- Top the lemon filling with the remaining crumble topping. Return to the oven to finish baking. Don’t forget to let the lemon crumb bars cool and then chill in the refrigerator for several hours before digging in!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! These bars taste great stored in the fridge for several days or keep them in the freezer for 3-4 months. You can either thaw before eating, or just enjoy them cold straight out of the freezer!
Key lime juice or concentrate would work well in this recipe and I suspect any citrus juice would. Make sure to use 100% juice (preferably fresh-squeezed 😉)!
More Recipes You Might Like
Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
Lemon Crumb Bars
- 2 ⅓ cups (291 g) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (100 g) light brown sugar firmly packed
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled until no longer hot to the touch
- 1 14 oz (396 g) can sweetened condensed milk (do not use evaporated milk)
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup (157 ml) lemon juice fresh preferred
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line a 9×9 baking dish with parchment paper
- Prepare crust by stirring together flour, sugars, salt, and baking powder until completely combined.2 ⅓ cups (291 g) all-purpose flour, ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar, ½ cup (100 g) light brown sugar, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- Drizzle melted butter over the top and use a fork to toss together until mixture is completely combined and all of the dry ingredients are moistened. It may still be a bit crumbly, but if pressed between your thumb and index finger it should cling together easily.12 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- Firmly and evenly press ⅔ of the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. I like to use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface and ensure the dough is pressed together. Reserve remaining crumble mixture for topping.
- Transfer to 350F (175C) oven and bake for 15 minutes, edges will be a light golden brown. While crust is baking, prepare lemon filling
- Prepare filling by combining condensed milk, egg yolks, heavy cream, and salt in a large bowl and whisking vigorously until thoroughly combined.1 14 oz (396 g) can sweetened condensed milk, 4 large egg yolks, 2 Tablespoons heavy cream, ⅛ teaspoon salt
- While whisking, drizzle in lemon juice until ingredients are smooth and thoroughly incorporated.⅔ cup (157 ml) lemon juice
- Once crust has finished baking, pour the filling evenly over the top of the hot crust. Sprinkle the lemon filling evenly with remaining crumble topping.
- Return to 350F (175C) oven and bake until the top is beginning to turn a light golden brown and the filling is set, about 15 minutes (the center may be slightly jiggly in the center but the surface should be set and it should not be entirely liquidy).
- Allow to cool completely then transfer to refrigerator and chill for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight) before slicing and serving.
StoringStore in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
This post was originally published in August of 2015. I have updated the text to be more helpful, have improved the recipe, and have added new photos and a video tutorial.
Love this…I had some left over crumbs (I’m not very good at judging 2/3!) so I added them to the bowl in which I had mixed the lemon filling. It made a delicious treat.
Could this recipe be made with gluten free flour? This looks delicious!
Hi Jon! I haven’t tried it with gluten free flour so I can’t say for sure how it would turn out. If you do try it, I would love to know how it goes. 🙂
would i be able to swap in vegan ingredients and pumpkin if i wanted to make a pumpkin version of this?
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Chris! Unfortunately we’re not familiar with vegan baking and haven’t tried a pumpkin version ourselves, so we can’t say for sure how it would turn out 🙁
Could I swirl in a raspberry puree without affecting the texture of the lemon filling?
Hi Barbara! A puree may be a bit thin. I think a jam could work here. 🙂
Hi Sam. Getting ready to make these and considering doubling in a 9×13 dish. How would you recommend adjusting the cooking time?
Hi Amy! I haven’t baked it in a 9 x 13 so it’s tough to say how long it would need to bake. I would just keep an eye on it. 🙂
Please give me an idea what 1/3 of the crust dough is. I didn’t take out nearly enough and although a golden brown my crust was very tough.
Hi Tania! I haven’t measured it out as it’s not really an exact science. You can just eyeball it and reserve about 1/3 of the dough. 🙂