whole lemon meringue pie bars

I’ve apparently been wanting to make lemon meringue pie bars for at least eight years, as per my decade-plus log of everything I want to cook. Three different times I’ve tried to draft a recipe but I always got stuck on how much was involved, both in three separate cooking processes and eggs, just so many eggs. Whole eggs in the lemon portion, egg whites for the topping… it just felt like a lot, if not a dealbreaker, enough reason for me to pause on the idea until I had a more efficient way to approach it.

grahams or digestives, sugar, salt, buttercold butter crumb crustpress-in crustready to par-bake

I found it in Susan Spungen’s (who you might remember from this Perfect Tarte Tatin) latest cookbook, Open Kitchen, which focuses on cooking for casual entertaining, a distant memory these days but I do love the breezy-feeling recipes here. Spungen is a recipe developer and food stylist and I know that the latter connotes images of a person moving parsley around with tweezers or using dental grip to keep a cookie in place on set, in reality, most food stylists I know arrive at work and are handed a stack of recipes that may or may not even work, which they have to cook and plate them in a very short window of time. The food stylists I know are very good cooks, skilled at cutting to the chase of a recipe. Spungen’s book benefits from this.

eggs, butter, lemonlemon, butter, yolks, sugarblend until very smoothpour onto crust and bake

Spungen uses one of my favorite ways to make lemon bars (see: Whole Lemon Tart in the archives or Whole Lemon Bars in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook) — with one whole lemon, rather than the fresh-squeezed juice of half a dozen — to make a complexly flavored lemon bar. Only yolks go into the lemon portion, and only whites in the meringue in an efficiency of ingredients and processes I found deeply soothing. The resulting bars are wildly delicious — the sweet meringue, toasted like a marshmallow, is the perfect balance for the intense lemon bar. There are still three things to prep, but I add a few shortcuts — I make my crumb crust and whole lemon curd with cold butter, and I fast-cool things in the freezer — that make it more efficient. The bars you’ll get to eat when you’re done are fully worth it.

beat the egg whites and sugarwhipped meringueswirl the meringue, then toastwhole lemon meringue pie bars

whole lemon meringue pie bars



Six months ago: Unfussy Sugar Cookies
One year ago: Simplest Spaghetti a Limone
Two year ago: Linguine and Clams
Three years ago: Stovetop Americanos
Four years ago: Strawberry Milk and Corn and Black Bean Weeknight Nachos
Five years ago: Strawberry Cornmeal Griddle Cakes and Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Pie
Six years ago: Valerie’s French Chocolate Cake
Seven years ago: Espresso Granita with Whipped Cream
Eight years ago: Broccoli Parmesan Fritters
Nine years ago: Dobos Torte
Ten years ago: Mushroom Crepe Cake, Braided Lemon Bread and Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint
Eleven years ago: Lemon Mint Granita, Pickled Sugar Snap Peas and Springy Fluffy Marshmallows
Twelve years ago: 10 Paths to Painless Pizza-Making and Pistachio Petit-Four Cake
Thirteen years ago: Gateau de Crepes and Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad

Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

Let’s talk about lemons: Spungen recommends a Meyer lemon for the whole lemon but I found in working on my own whole lemon bars that regular (Eureka) lemons were just fine so long as they’re not too large (4 to 4.5 ounces is ideal) and the skin isn’t too thick. Cut the lemon in half and take a look at the thickness of the pith (white layer) of the skin. Does it look thick to you, perhaps even 1/4-inch thick or larger? If so, go ahead and remove the skin only from one half of the lemon before proceeding. If it looks normal or not especially thick, you’ll be just fine.

  • 9 whole graham cracker sheets (1 sleeve), broken into pieces or 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • Filling
  • 1 whole (preferably organic) lemon, any variety (see Note), scrubbed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional; I skip it)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Meringue
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Make the crust: Heat your oven to 350F [180C]. Line an 8-by-8-inch [20-by-20-cm] baking pan with two pieces of parchment trimmed to fit, going in both directions, with some extra hanging over for easy removal of the bars later.

Place the graham crackers, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the fine crumbs form. Add the cold butter and pulse until the cold butter blends into the crumbs. It should look and feel like wet sand. Transfer to the prepared pan and mix it up with your hands to make sure the butter is well distributed. Press into the pan, going up the sides a bit, and bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Let cool while you make the filling.

Make the filling: [See Note up top for using different lemons.] Trim the stem end of the whole lemon and cut it into thin slices. Remove any seeds. Add to a food processor or blender jar (preferably a high speed blender) along with the lemon juice, egg yolks, butter, sugar, vanilla (if using), and salt and blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour over the crust (it’s ok if it’s still warm) and bake for 30 minutes, or until it is bubbling and browning around the edges. It won’t look at all set, and might even look like a total mess (unevenly browned or bubbly), but it will set up as it cools. Place on a cooling rack. After about 10 minutes, run a small, sharp knife around the edges. Cool completely, then chill until coldm (I sped this up in the freezer). When completely chilled, carefully remove the parchment and, using a spatula, transfer to a small baking sheet (you can do this just before adding the topping — I missed this step and regretted it because you want the paper off before you try to toast the top or it will — whoops — burn).

Make the meringue: An hour or so before serving, make the topping. Combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the metal bowl of a stand mixer and set over a pan of simmering water. Keep the mixture moving, using a whisk or the whisk attachment, until the sugar is completely melted and it’s hot to the touch (or 160F). Transfer to a stand mixer and beat on high speed until glossy and very stiff, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the top of the lemon bars, smooth out, and use a large serving fork to create a pattern in the meringue, or the back of a spoon or offset spatula to make swirls like you see here.

Finish the bars: When you’re ready to finish, use a kitchen torch or your oven’s broiler to brown the meringue. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Use a knife dipped into hot water to cut bars into 12 to 16 squares, depending on how large you want them.

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248 comments on whole lemon meringue pie bars

  1. Mimi

    These are definitely getting made this week. In the first photo, you show a stack of round cookies/crackers. Are these what you used (and if so, what are they?) or did you use regular rectangular graham crackers?

        1. Laura

          The meringue in this recipe is cooked over a double boiler before it’s spread on the bars. There are several different types of meringue, this one gets cooked while it’s being whipped.

  2. Margie S

    What if you used aluminum foil instead of parchment? I used foil to line pans for years, only recently converted to parchment.

        1. Tashi

          Sounds delicious but I’m wondering if making a butter pie crust instead of
          The Graham crackers crust would work🤷‍♀️

  3. lucy

    How much do you think I could reduce the sugar in each component without making it taste horrible? Would halving each one be too aggressive?

    1. Katie

      I think you could definitely reduce the sugar in the lemon part but I’m not sure about in the meringue, since sugar has a structural purpose there.

    2. Mimi

      I made it with Splenda in the meringue and real sugar in the crust and the meringue and it turned out delicious. With that combination, each bar had 19.9 grams of sugar (I cut them into 16 pieces).

        1. Bronwyn David

          I have long thought that any recipe using only yolks or whits needs to have a corresponding recipe using the remainder. Thank you for your practicality.

    3. Ruthie

      I only used a spoonful of sugar in the crust and that was plenty. I reduced the sugar in the filling by about 20g and I think that’s all you can get away with because the lemon is quite bitter. That part is in the oven now. Will use the full amount for the meringue.

      1. Ruthie

        Update after tasting: could not have gone any lower in the sugar in the filling or it would have been too bitter. Lovely lemon flavour. I used Meyer lemons.

  4. Bentley

    Oh drool these might have to happen tonight!! Is this the only method you have found to completely eliminate the risk of weeping?

    1. Did you use a small torch, or your oven to brown the meringue? I always stop myself from making meringue because I don’t have a small torch and I don’t want to disappoint myself.

  5. Regina

    Hola! If I don’t have a food processor (and live in a country where they are difficult to find) how can I make this? It looks so good! Please help.

    1. Chelsea

      (1) For the crust, you can put the crackers in a ziplock/plastic bag and crush well before combining with the other ingredients. (Or any way of crushing cookies well and uniformly would work, I suppose). (2) For the filling, I think you either (a) want to find a lemon filling recipe that doesn’t use the lemon rinds and substitute that or (b) if you have a blender, you might be able to get away with that. (3) For the meringue, I’m pretty sure you can just use a whisk and whisk and whisk until it forms stiff peaks.

    2. memeri

      These look amazing
      How many grams in 5 tablespoons butter? I am always a bit confused at how can one measure butter in tablespoons.

      1. Bronwyn

        I agree! But it’s easy to find conversions on the internet – 1 tablespoon=14.2g=1/2 oz ie 2 tablespoons is about an ounce, which is about 30 grams. Happy baking.

  6. Sarah

    This must be the week for lemon meringue bars because our host request for Father’s Day was lemon meringue but combined with cheesecake! I smashed together your cheesecake bars topped with Stella Parks’ lemon meringue pie recipe for a triple layer behemoth. Not that anybody complained!

      1. Sarah

        If you do, use a metal 9×13 if you have one since you’ll need to chill the pan then return it to the oven to toast the meringue. I ran the finished product under the broiler (be REALLY careful because it will burn in minutes) instead of baking it a la Parks.

  7. I’m so pleased to see this here! I got Susan’s book a couple of weeks ago and this was the very first recipe I made from it. Love these bars – they are absolutely delicious, and the recipe efficiencies just make so much sense.

    1. Renee

      Loooove this idea! Friends (for those of us who are “crust people”): what do we think of cutting down the filling & merengue for a shorter bar? Like maybe if I halve (or take a quarter off of) the filling/topping ingredients because I LOVE crust in high proportions. Thoughts?

      1. Mimi

        I think the filling level is pretty proportionate but I think you’d still get a pretty nice effect with just half the meringue.

        My suggestion, however, would be to make more crust and go higher up on the sides with it so it’s more pie-like. That way the majority of the pieces will have extra crust (like 75% if cut into 16 pieces) and their will be a few “normal” middle pieces.

        Either method would retain the integrity of the bars.

        1. Renee

          Thanks! I decided to try just halving the meringue and it was *perfect* for me! I did also leave the sugar out of the crust (proudly made my own graham crackers from Deb’s recipe) and reduced the sugar in the filling, as I like things less sweet. THEY WERE SO GOOD! Love!!!

        2. Andrea Putnam

          I just put these in the oven, but I think the lemon curd curdled…. what did I do wrong?? I wanted to include them in the Christmas cookie plates, but I’m not sure they’ll be pretty enough…..

  8. Nancy

    I’m confused. In the last picture, the cross section of the bars look to be completely meringue? Does the lemon part of the bar merge in with the meringue? Or is the lemon part also a bit pale?

    1. deb

      No, it’s just from cutting them straight down, some of the meringue dragged over the filling. The meringue is much thicker than the filling, but the filling exists. They’re in the correct balance!

      1. Lauren

        I am a little confused by the step where you say to remove the parchment paper before adding the topping. How would I slide it out from under the filing without completely destroying it? Is this the old whip the tablecloth out from under the dishes trick?

        1. Angela Murray

          To determine how much to increase the original recipe to use a larger pan, use this equation
          (13 × 9)÷(8×8)=(117)÷(64)=1.8 So increase the recipe by 1.8 times. Easiest if you use grams. So if you double it, it will just be a thicker batch.

          1. Christine

            Made these to give as a birthday gift. They came out very cute but are so sweet I don’t see how anyone could eat more than a small bite. The crust and lemon curd also ended up quite soft and buttery. Hoping the will firm back up in the fridge. But wish the lemon later was more tart. Would consider eliminating sugar in the crust.

  9. Jennifer Sandman

    This looks great! Technical question: is there a difference in texture in the crust from processing the graham cracker crumbs with cold butter, rather than melting the butter and mixing it with the crumbs as I’m used to doing for a crumb crust?

  10. Fran

    Two questions:

    1. Could you share more photos/descriptive logistics as to how to handle the bowl, pan of water, and stand mixer when making the meringue? Do you use a bowl that’s shorter than the stand mixer bowl, move the stand mixer over to the stove and hold everything in place while mixing over the simmering water? And then transfer to the stand mixer bowl for the whisking/whipping stage? Or is this all easier with a hand mixer? (Sorry, that was a lot of questions in one)

    2. It would be a totally different bar, but I’m dreaming of this with a chocolate filling instead of lemon, so it’s like a s’mores bar. Would the filling from your chocolate tart recipe work?

    Thank you as always for beautiful and delicious recipes!

    1. Stacey McCullough

      Hi Fran, For 1., you’d place the stand mixer’s bowl over the pot of simmering water and whisk by hand until it’s about 160 degrees, then place that bowl back into the stand mixer for the next part. I just checked, and the first few Google Images for ‘stand mixer bowl double boiler’ show the right idea. Hope that’s helpful!

    2. deb

      Hi Fran — In a bit, I’ll share an Instagram Story demo which I can link to here and you can see how I did it. Also, I realize I didn’t add my notes in that part. I just use a handmixer. So, I beat it for a few minutes over the water, transfer the bowl to a towel, and continue beating it until it’s thick. It’s a bit more straightforward.

      I love the s’mores idea. The chocolate tart would work but I am tempted to point you to one way way way back in the archives, in this post. The filling was so rich and more ganache-ish, which feels closer to a s’more texture. Let me know if you try it. Also, btw! There’s a s’more pie in the archives too, but I think it needs some streamlining.

  11. Alene

    First, thank you for not using a lemon bar recipe with scads of eggs. We’re not getting to the store as much as we used to. And thank you for the use of only 2 lemons, also for above reason. And, one last thank you for using graham crackers. I have to be gluten free, regrettably, and I have gluten free graham crackers in my pantry. So many wins in one recipe! You’re the best!

  12. Oanh

    Dumb equipment question but have been hunting obsessively for your 8×8 pan – love that it is a light color and perfectly square with sharp corners. I haven’t been able to find it – what pan is it, and any chance you would be able to provide a link for purchase? Thank you!

      1. Oanh

        Thank you!! The pan looks a little lighter in your photos than on the WS site so I wasn’t sure – will order with confidence!

  13. JP

    The problem with Meyer lemons is that they are not tart enough for a dessert like this. After all, they are a cross between the Eureka lemon and the mandarin orange. I have made lemon desserts with them and been disappointed. Add on a very sweet meringue and, at least in my opinion, there is not enough contrast. Meyer lemons are really popular right now, and here in CA they are very easy to find, but if you really want to taste lemon, stick with Eureka, that plain old grocery store lemon and go with Deb’s instructions about the rind, which can be much thicker than a Meyer.

    1. deb

      I agree — I’m not as into them as most cooking people. However, here, adding the extra lemon juice can go far to making up for the missing tartness.

    2. Mary

      Yes ! Eureka lemons are the way to go and what I also would use for this recipe. They have that great tartness that is so good in a lemon dessert. I used Meyer lemons once in some lemon bars and they just did not have much of a tart lemony taste.

  14. Mado

    Hi Deb, I’m confused by the step where you pull out the parchment paper and then transfer to a baking sheet. So to be clear, the last step when we add the meringue is done once the base it out of the baking pan and now on a sheet?Maybe it’s exactly as stated — but I have a hard time imagining that the base+filling can be removed en bloc from the high-sided pan and keep its shape…! Thanks for clarifying, I CANNOT wait to try this as I love whole-lemon tarts!

  15. Kate

    These look delicious! I have a largish lemon whose zest I already took off sitting in the fridge. Do you think that would work, or be too quiet in flavor?

    1. deb

      Lol, we all have a collection of naked lemons in our fridge, huh? I do think the zest is pretty key here, though, but you could take it off the next lemon, the one you’ll use for juice, and pay it forward. ;)

      1. Lauren

        For those of us who don’t have many people to share this with at the quarantine moment (but could probably eat a 1/4 of a tray in one sitting :-) ). How long would you say this could last for in the fridge? I know meringue is best day of. If we don’t mind it a little soggy do you think it would last for a couple of days?


  16. Joanne Vansickle

    Our favorite Italian restaurant sometimes serves this, has to be in the best dessert ever. Can’t wait to try it out.

  17. narya

    This may be the first thing I make when I have an oven again (oven died in January, kitchen reno happening as I type . . .). I often use italian meringue for anything that won’t be completely consumed in a day–another alternative, if you need to make it ahead of time, is to make italian meringue “drops” and bake them for awhile in a very very low oven, then place on top when you want to serve and torch them then.

  18. CT

    I made these for a picnic and they were delicious and quite easy! I used a whole Meyer lemon and the juice of half a regular lemon. Next time I’d reduce the sugar in the lemon curd a bit.

  19. Beth S

    I want to love this recipe for sooo many reasons, but the bottom crust and filling was cloying and gooey in a greasy way. Maybe I did something wrong?? If not, next time less butter in the crust, less butter in the filling unless I add more ingredients. In comparing this to your whole lemon bars (which are my favorites), I want to try whole eggs and maybe the cornstarch. What I loved about this recipe: the meringue was sensational and any chance to use my blowtorch is a win! The bars were beautiful & the taste was super lemony.

    1. Beth S

      Made them again a few days later, using Deb’s original whole lemon bar recipe and was far happier. I doubled the recipe and put them in an 9×13 glass pan without parchment. After cooling the base and filling, I ran a sharp knife around the pan and then made the meringue. The bars were 100% better and the meringue on top was more proportional to the distinct layers on the bottom-no mushy, sticky combined crust and lemon layer! PS Cutting and removal was a breeze.

      1. Kirsten

        Thank you for sharing! I made this for the 4th, and had a terrible time peeling off the parchment paper from the bottom. In fact, on one half of the dessert, I’d say that half of the crust was removed.🙂 Thankfully, no one noticed, since it had the beautiful meringue on top. When I make this again, I will grease my metal pan, and attempt to do it without the parchment paper.

        Oh, and they were a HUGE hit! Thanks, Deb!!

  20. Elisa

    Hi Deb! I can’t shake the idea of a honest to goodness shortbread crust for these bars, and heaven knows you have plenty of amazing recipes to choose from! Would I bake the shortbread completely and then add the filling or would I need to do something different? Or should I just trust the grahm crackers?

    Either way, these will be made this weekend. Thank you for all you do!

  21. Ree

    Oh man! Seeing this recipe on here this morning was a dream come true of mine. Also the first time I’ve made this kind of meringue myself before! (Is it Swiss? Italian? I can never tell the difference).

    Anyway, a few notes: This was WAY sweeter than I expected, mostly because I expect recipes coming from Smitten to be dialed back on the sweetness, for the most part! I had an instinct to reduce the sugar in the crust or the filling but went against it, which I feel was a mistake. The final result is of course delicious, but tooth-achingly sweet with not as much contrast between the literal heaps of meringue and the much thinner lemon filling. This also may have been because I made the recipe as written, with graham crackers and with the vanilla, as opposed to how Deb made them.

    Second, I also found the instructions on making the meringue a little confusing at first. I basically put my stand mixer bowl on top of a pot filled almost halfway with water, and vigorously whisked with a long balloon whisk. A hand mixer would be great, but I don’t have one! I then moved to my stand mixer, as stated. Ended up working great!

    Thanks for the recipe, and can’t wait to make again when I can pawn some of the sweetness off on friends :)

    1. Gina Lowry

      I ended up skipping the sugar in the crust (happy accident), and it was plenty sweet with just the sweetness in the graham crackers.

  22. Sydni Rubinstein

    As someone who usually messes up multi-step baking projects, I was definitely not expecting this to be the BEST THING EVER. Even before it was halfway done, I knew that this was worth it just for the heavenly lemon filling I got to lick off of the bowl and spoon halfway through.

    I’m sad my husband is neither a lemon nor meringue person, but I am both and will be finding others who are so that I can make this again in the future!!

    Extra note: Made this with Earth Balance (non-dairy butter substitute).

    1. Elle

      Good to know – – I use Earth Balance pretty much exclusively although I rarely bake, so not much experience using it in desserts like this. Thanks for the tip!

  23. emily

    I made these yesterday with no modifications to the recipe. However, I only have a ceramic baking pan, and it is thicker than a regular metal baking pan.

    Like other commenters, I was surprised by how sweet these bars are. If I were to make them again I think I’d take the sugar out of the crust and try to halve the sugar in the filling. My crust also became gloopy and gummy – you can scoop it out of the dish with a spoon but definitely no hope of cutting it into bars. I think my thicker pan may have contributed to the lack of “crustiness” in the crust. My meringue also never got stiff even after nearly ten minutes of beating, but it was getting thicker so I just spread it once it was thick enough to hold a texture. I made a linear pattern with a fork that came out quite pretty after a quick broil!

    I will say that I’m operating in a rental kitchen, so not the best equipment, and it was pretty warm in here without AC so perhaps that’s why my meringue had issues. I love the “whole lemon” idea, as the flavor was more complex with that element of bitterness. I also appreciated how efficient the recipe is – no wasted egg yolks or whites! I think I may try making this filling and swirling it into a cheesecake.

    Overall the result wasn’t 100% what I’d hoped but certainly has elements I would use again. Interesting recipe, thanks Deb!

    1. Ally Z

      I also made it in a ceramic pan, and I found adding an extra 3 to 5 minutes of baking helped it come out “crustier”.

      My meringue never fully set as well- I live in FL and have a hot/humid situation going on three quarters of the year. That’s definitely what it was, and just one of the drawbacks to meringue-making in the heat.

  24. uh, ah, oh, well – wow, it does looks fantastic but I am getting a little bit squirmish about a pound of sugar these days. Lockdown and being shackeled 24/7 (I did not say this out loud, did I?) to two four-year-olds has not done wonders to the figure. How are you handeling this?

  25. Jean

    I’ve made an Arizona Sunshine Lemon Pie (I live in the Phoenix area). It uses a lwhole, seeded lemon, is made in the blender, poured into a pie crust and baked. Very easy and really delicious. We prefer it to any lemon meringue pie we’ve ever tried. It just uses a large lemon, 4 eggs, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 tsp vanilla and 1 1/2 cups of sugar (and, of course, a pie crust!).

  26. DV

    I’m in the middle (I guess) of making these. Crust and filling are done and chilling in the fridge. Since so many hours elapse between separating the eggs (you use the yolks right away but not the whites), I assumed I should put the whites in the fridge until it’s time to make the merengue??? [There’s this vague ‘when you’re ready to make the merengue’ in the instructions which doesn’t give me any kind of time frame in terms of using or storing the whites.] Anyway, do I need to let the whites come to room temp before making the merengue? And can the pan stay in the fridge for hours before the merengue is added?
    Thanks for anyone’s help!

  27. Rebecca

    Hi – I’m uncertain as to why the meringue gets made an hour before serving but broiled when you are ready to finish. 1) Does it need to go back in the fridge after the meringue goes on it, before it’s broiled? 2) Sorry if this is dumb – does “ready to finish” = “ready to serve”?

    I guess what I am really asking is whether I can make the meringue and then immediately broil, and whether it needs an hour in the fridge after meringue is made. Thanks so much!

    1. DV

      Yes, that’s not clear! I’m getting ready to make the merengue and was planning to toast it right away then store in the fridge until dinner (2 hours). But maybe I should make and spread on the merengue, and store in the fridge until after dinner and then toast the top just before serving… maybe the texture is best when first toasted? Hope that’s correct!

  28. DV

    Must be me but the directions are so confusing! Broiled the meringue… do I serve them now or chill them? It says ‘refrigerate until ready to serve’… until they’re chillled or???!!!

  29. Jennifer Plank

    these were really lovely – the bittersweet of using the whole lemon made all the difference – i had to switch crust recipes (for a conventional flour, sugar butter base) but i will make that filling over and over again, very reminiscent of lemon curd with a twist

  30. Terrible Baker

    I’m going to be honest I stan 99% of SK recipes but this one did not work for me at all. My crust got burned, the filling was inedibly bitter, and the meringue wound up salty (this one is my fault, because I should have known better than to use a full pinch of Morton). I wound up feeling like I should have not bothered parbaking the crust and should have just used a combination of zest and juice rather than trying to put the whole lemon in there. It’s weird because each element was very tasty before getting baked. But despite 2 1/4 cups of sugar the whole thing was so bitter sour and salty that I had to throw it away. Clearly I missed something here because I see a lot of comments saying it was very sweet. Pretty disappointed so many ingredients went to waste

  31. Rebecca

    I made this and the whole family agreed it was delicious. Worth the steps. Some of us have celiac disease so I used Pamela’s honey graham GF crackers and the crust was delicious. I was short on time so I had to put the bars in the freezer (pre-meringue) before they were fully cooled, and it seemed to be okay. No parchment paper so I did the meringue in the original 8 by 8 dish (which I had greased really well with butter before baking the crust) and that worked fine. I had been confused about whether there needed to be a lapse in time between making the meringue and broiling the top — I did not wait, and that was also fine. Definitely watch it closely — I should have pulled it out from under the broiler about 45 seconds earlier. Thank you! The whole lemon trick is very cool.

  32. Karoline Hurd

    Thanks Deb! Delicious, good lemon flavor and easy! Made for a small dinner party last night. I’m a big fan now of the 8 x 8 for smaller groups (made your dulce de leche cheesecake squares recently). One minor change—I melted the butter for the crust and used boxed graham crumbs—so quick. Meringue turned out with a perfect texture also.

  33. Rebekah

    I made these with the following substitutions: Crust made of ritz crackers, 2 Tbsp butter and 3 Tbsp coconut oil; curd blended in the food processor with 4 Tbsp butter and 4 Tbsp olive oil; Cut 20 g of sugar from the curd.

    Overall a fun dessert, but I’ll stick with the whole lemon bars instead. I had an easy time making the Italian meringue, which was my first time, but the bars are a tad messy. Delicious, but messy.

  34. Caroline Taylor

    I made these tonight and they were delightful- I was so pleasantly surprised at how easily and quickly they come together (and the lack of dishes was impressive). Reminded me of the much loved, much missed lemon meringue pie from Chick-Fil-A.

    I go gah-gah for anything with meringue, but found mine to be too sweet/too much, which was surprising. On my 9×9 square lemon bars, the final layer was nearly two inches thick (!!!). Next time I’d like to decrease the amount, but not sure how… do you think it was over-whipped? I used the whisk on a hand-held mixer while it was heating and turned it on low for most of the heating process. Or I can just decrease the egg whites and sugar by half next time?

    Fabulous recipe- thank you!

    1. Kathleen

      That would work. Another idea would be to dollop the extra meringue onto a parchment-lined tray and bake in a really low oven for a long time (essentially dehydrating the egg white mixture) for crunchy meringue goodness…

  35. monica

    Yum! I made these with a few tweaks and loved them! First, I used Goya brand Maria’s cookies for the crust, with half the sugar called for in the recipe. I increased all the ingredients in the lemon layer by one half, except kept the sugar at 200g. Took about 35 minutes to bake with the increased volume. The meringue is perfect. I preferred the increased lemon layer as that was a better tangy-to-sweet ratio for me. I made these yesterday and this morning they’re still perfect- no signs of meringue weeping in the fridge.

  36. Ani

    I was very excited to make this but didn’t turn out great. Not sure what I did wrong as reading the other comments seems like this isn’t a problem. The crackers base and the lemon custard mixed for some reason. As a result I couldn’t cut the bars as pieces were sticky and crumbling. The meringue turned out absolutely ok. Way too sweet overall. I cam understand that meringue would need the suggar but lemon custard was way too sweet.

  37. DV

    These bars were delicious, just a bit confusing to make for me. I used Annie’s bunny honey graham’s for the crust; they are very sweet so I didn’t add sugar – worked fine. The lemon layer was delicious; I mixed everything in a food processor (took a while for the filling to get creamy, but it did). I used an average sized lemon with 3/4 cup sugar (instead of 1 cup); it was the perfect balance between sweet/tart. The meringue was simple to make; took a bit longer for mine to form stiff peaks but otherwise was an easier task than I feared. It makes a lot but it was fun to pile it all on top of the lemon filling and is so marshmallow-y delicious. I liked the ratios of the layers. I don’t have a torch so I browned the meringue for about 1 minute under the broiler; worked fine, just not quite as pretty as a torch.
    So for those who thought the recipe was too sweet:
    Taste the graham crackers or cookies you’re using for the crust; if they’re super sweet (which most of them are), adjust or eliminate the sugar.
    The lemon layer worked fine with 3/4 cup of sugar instead of 1 full cup (but that will depend on the size/bitterness of your lemon).
    I used all the sugar called for in the meringue; we thought it was just right.
    The bars have kept very well in the fridge for 3 days.

  38. Juliet

    This is perfect timing as i’ve been requested by my husband for a lemon meringue pie for his birthday dinner this weekend!
    I love the streamlined nature of the recipe, but am interested in the texture of the meringue? Is it crispy on top (once browned) and firm underneath, or more soft and chewy, like marshmallow?


    This was yummy, but I would have liked more of the lemon layer. Wondering big a mash up of this and your awesome lemon bar recipe would work. The meringue was fantastic but very sweet. It looks amazing, a real wow of a dessert. Feeds 8-10 easily.


      Meant to say “if a mash up” not big mash up! 😆 Like, could you combine the two lemon bar recipes to have more lemon in this one.

  40. Patty

    I made these on Saturday and I’m not sure they’re worth the work. Despite using a thin skinned lemon and a high speed blender, I had to strain bits of rind out of the filling to get it smooth. Some of the crust ended up in the filling, which I think may have been because it was too warm when I filled it. Filling ran under the parchment and the bars were hard to separate form the paper.
    When I finally finished, they were ok enough for me to try again at some point (with less sugar) but overall I was disappointed with the outcome vs the work (and surprised because I’ve never had a less than fabulous outcome from this site!)

    1. deb

      Theoretically, but with a couple caveats. One, I don’t find whole-lime desserts as enjoyable as whole-lemon, but that just might be my personal tastes. Two, the taste of key lime is from the combination of lime juice + sweetened condensed milk, see this Key Lime Pie and/or Key Lime Cheesecake. Three, you might instead use this lime curd for the lemon part, which is a little closer to the lemon here but without the whole rind.

  41. Mellie

    I made these this weekend, and followed the recipe to the letter…I used my food processor for everything (except the meringue), because I don’t have a blender, these were amazing (and pretty). Being a citrus aficionado I will make these again and again and I love the marshmallow meringue. I have made the smores cake in the past so I would imagine these probably need consumed within two days, or less, before the meringue begins to get soupy….no problem!

  42. Jennifer Sandman

    I love this site in general but agree with the comments that this recipe was a disappointment… the filling was more bitter than sour (despite using a very thin-pithed, small lemon) and completely overwhelmed by the quantity and sweetness of the meringue. Don’t know that I’d make it again, but if I did I’d further reduce the sugar in the filling (I already reduced by a third), add more juice, and halve the meringue.

  43. Hannah

    I made these a few nights ago for a summer dessert, and they were delicious! My family loved them, and they were the perfect complement to a hot day. I cut back on the sugar a bit in the meringue and filling, which really helped balance out the different components of the recipe. This is a must make!!

  44. David

    LOVED these. And I also learned what “pith” is!

    I did cut back the sugar on the crust by half and saw no problem, cut the filling sugar back a little bit as well. I agree this is pretty sweet even with this, but meringue you can’t mess with. Will be trying a chocolate version to make this a full on smore experiment.

    One thing I didn’t get is the parchment removal, or the need for it in the first place (is this Deb’s OCD on clean up haha). Why not just grease the pan? You eliminate the dangerous possibility of destroying the entire thing by taking it out and putting it back in. What I ended up doing by accident was cutting around the edge which cut thru the parchment on the side and I just pulled the sides out. But it did mess up the edges, so next time I’m going with buttering the pan and simplifying it altogether.

    1. deb

      For two reasons, you want to remove the parchment. One, it really, really sticks to the meringue as it sets so it’s best to separate it sooner. And two, it will burn (like, with tiny flames) when you torch or broil the top. Glad you enjoyed the bars!

  45. Elizabeth Richards

    ooohhh, what a lovely idea. My husband loves tart key lime pie which usually has me juicing 3-4 limes and zesting 10-12. I’ve been looking for an alternative dessert that doesn’t leave me with bloody knuckles or 8 naked limes. When I say tart, I mean tart!

    Do you think I could substitute limes for the lemons in this recipe? Would the amount of sugar stay the same or do you think I would need more?

  46. Nan

    I am a big fan. Deb, and was excited to make this recipe. But somehow the filling and crust meshed together, and it was impossible to remove the parchment from the sticky bittom without destroying the crust/filling, which seem like they are one layer. In the end I flipped the whole thing upside down and put it under the broiler, crust side up. I’ve checked the ingredients several times, and baked both the crust and filling longer than suggested as the crust was not browning and the filling never did bubble. Any idea of where I went wrong?
    PS I checked the oven temp with a thermometer and oven is accurate.

    1. deb

      I wonder if the filling just spilled out and under the crust? But still, the parchment paper should separate. May I ask what brand you use? (I keep a mental checklist of the ones that work well and the ones that have failed us.)

  47. Erica

    These lemon meringue pie bars are delicious! Based on comments about them being overly sweet, I halved the sugar in the crust and used 3/4 c. sugar in the filling. It was great, but next time I will probably leave out the sugar in the crust, and reduce the sugar in the filling to 2/3 c.
    I don’t have a food processor, but do have a Vitamix blender, so I made the crust using the dry container, and made the filling using the regular Vitamix container. Worked perfectly!

  48. Femke

    The key lime pie being one of my favourites on the site, I had to try this recipe. I halved it and had to substitute the graham crackers for digestive biscuits, since we don’t have graham crackers here. Reading the comments, I reduced the sugar in the lemon filling by an extra 50%, used a whole small organic lemon plus juice of half a lime (what I had lying around), and this worked out perfectly. Making the Swiss meringue was my first time but was easy, and it appears to keeping well in the fridge (day three now). My base was the right texture and did not mix with the lemon layer, as some others experienced.

    All in all, relatively easy, good-looking and very tasty recipe, but the sugar in the lemon filling should be reduced by half (and maybe leave it out of the base).

  49. Virginia

    A word of advice – allow yourself plenty of time for these to chill before removing parchment! Mine seemed reasonably set when I took them out of the oven – a little loose in the middle but per the recipe sounded like they would set up. I rushed the cooling process in the freezer but definitely not for long enough – when I attempted to remove the parchment, it was partly stuck to the crust due to some of the filling running under the crust. Disaster – the filling was almost liquid in the middle and it went everywhere! I patched it together, added the meringue, toasted it under the broiler, and it pretty much had to be eaten with a spoon. The crust and meringue were delicious, but the filling was waaaayyyy too bitter for my lemon-loving family. I used an average grocery store lemon with pretty thin rind, but I guess next time I’ll find a Eureka if possible.

  50. Lauren

    I made these with Anna’s ginger cookies as the crust (store was out of graham crackers)—delicious, though it may not have needed the extra sugar or as much butter. Excellent recipe, will definitely be making these again!

  51. Michellers

    I made this with mixed results. Didn’t feel like washing my food processor so bashed the graham crackers in a baggie, added sugar, salt, and cubes of butter and bashed it some more until it was the right texture. Lemons were small so used 1-1/2 and I whirled the lemon mixture on high in my blender, very satisfying. Didn’t want to wash my stand mixer either so used a hand mixer on high for the meringue and it worked fine.

    I had issues with my overhanging parchment flopping down onto the lemon layer in the oven–super annoying, would use foil next time.

    Graham cracker a little too cooked after 10 minutes alone and then 30 with filling, so next time would cook it a little less in both steps.

    Thought making the meringue was fun but taste-wise it was too much and too sweet–just my personal preference, so I would half the topping recipe. Which would ruin the symmetry of 4 yolks and 4 whites :-)

    Overall, it is tasty but the whole not quite as good as its parts.

  52. Leslie

    Made these for family of pie lovers and they were a fantastic hit. Based on others’ comments I didn’t add any sugar to the Graham cracker mix in crust, and cut back to 1/2 cup in the filling, and it was just perfect. Still plenty sweet. Used regular eureka lemons. Also baked on regular aluminum foil (not non-stick) and just trimmed off the excess on the sides (we didn’t need a fancy presentation). 10/10 would make again, the lemon flavor really is deeper and more complex than any other I’ve tried. Perfect proportions in an 8×8.

  53. Laura

    This recipe reminded me of your s’mores pie and made me wonder if that recipe would could be turned into bars as well. I totally appreciate your thoughts on this only semi-related subject.

  54. Susan

    Made this last night, and overall very happy with the results, but wondering about the texture of the meringue. Mine stayed very marshmello-y even after browning and refrigerating. It was tasty, but I think of meringue as airy, this was dense and creamy. What kind of texture is swiss meringue “supposed” to have?

  55. Vanessa

    This looks delicious & I can’t wait to try (love lemon bars and meringue so together total YUM) … but first of all BRAVO for your piece about working parents in the Times today! THANK YOU for making noise for all of us!!!!

  56. LitProf

    Just back from the store with ingredients to make these lemon bars. But this comment is really a thank-you for your NYT piece today. I don’t know how you found the energy to write that piece with everything else you have going on in your world, but it’s the most astute, articulate statement about working families and CoVid-19 I have read. Thank you for stepping away from the realm of cooking to make the noise that all of us need to be making — thanks for your even-handed treatment of the problems that working families face — thanks for being clear-eyed about who benefits and who suffers when a society has no vision of childcare as a collective responsibility. You are amazing.

    1. Trisha

      I came on here to say the same thing. I especially liked the way you demolished the straw man arguments/distractors, Deb.

    2. Pam Golden

      Great job laying out the issues in your NYT piece, Deb. Cogent, well-reasoned, and FIERCE. May your words reach many eyes and make a difference.

  57. Rosa

    This looks superb!

    Also, thank you for the NYTimes piece. I related to every sentence and feel the same degree of outrage. It’s been odd to me that more people haven’t been vocal about it, but, of course, you’re right: our voices have been quelled by the increased – by orders of magnitude – multitasking. Thank you for articulating so clearly what so many of us feel.

  58. Karen

    What an incredible NYTimes editorial. So powerful that you were able to unleash your considerable rhetorical skills on such an important subject. Even more impactful, too, given how faithful you’ve been at keeping politics out of the blog. This matters to you, me, and to everyone!

  59. Sarah

    I just came to tell you that your NYT editorial is spot on. Thank you for writing what we are all too tired to put into words.

  60. SC

    Deb, this is the first time I’ve commented on your blog but your site has been my go-to for all recipes (especially desserts) since covid has forced me to wfh. Looking through the site for ideas on what to make next has been a fun distraction from the wfh life with two toddlers and a (also forced to wfh) spouse.

    I’ve never wanted to comment on your blog until I read your article in the NYT today about choosing either a child or a job, because you can’t have both during covid. I cannot agree more with you! I am also coming from a place of privilege, as I’ve been able to hire a nanny to take care of my children most of the week while my husband and I work from home offices (which were once bedrooms). I can’t imagine what it would be like if we couldn’t afford help AND we had to go into work – a situation that too many essential workers find themselves in. I completely agree with you that we need a solution in the fall that works for two-income households (and single working parents).

    I know you know you’re not alone in your struggle to balance family and career in the covid world, but I wanted to chime in and say that I also stand with you. I had no idea that you were also struggling as a published writer and successful blogger – and knowing that you are has also made me empathize with you even more. Your work has been one of the few bright spots in my lockdown life, and I really hope that you don’t need to choose between your family and your children.

  61. Karen

    That was an incredible editorial you wrote in the NYTimes. So powerful for you to unleash your considerable rhetorical skills on such an important topic. Even more powerful given how you’ve stuck to your guns by not engaging in politics on the blog. Such an important issue for you, for me, for everyone! You’re even more my hero now….

  62. Nikki

    I made this for my Mom who is very picky about lemon sweets, her favorite pie is lemon meringue and favorite sweet lemon bars but they have to be just so. These were perfect and believe me, she would tell me to my face if they weren’t!

    They combine lemon meringue pie and lemon bars well, although neither of those have a graham cracker crust I think the crust is really good and helps add a different dimension to the recipe.

    Thanks for the tip on cutting some of the skin off if it’s too thick. I think I ended up adding some of it back in and added more lemon juice than it called for but I just kept tasting for the best balance of tartness.

    The meringue on top even convinced some non-lemon lovers to try this out and they loved the marshmallowey topping.

    I will definitely be making these again, it was definitely easier than lemon meringue pie and more flavorful than lemon bars.

  63. Angie

    Just made these and I had the same gooey soggy problem that others had but…I suspect it’s because I didn’t follow the note about how much lemon to actually use and it made the crust soggy. My meringue also didn’t fluff up but I think that’s because beat them too long. It looks like it will taste good but I need to just pay better attention to the recipe.

  64. Deb, Read your thing in the Times today. BRAVO! You are so much more than Smitten Kitchen….and yet what would we DO without Smitten Kitchen. Carry on; you’re a wild woman and mother of two juicy little kids.

  65. Cool

    I love your article titled “In the Covid-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both}. it was to the point and I am sure you covered just about every parents concerns at this time. Thank you and I am willing to help anyway I can. Please continue to be safe and protect your family, friends and others.

  66. Sophie

    Deb I wanted to thank you for the wonderful piece you wrote in the NY Times. “In the Covid-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both.” Raises so many important points that seem to fall through the cracks of public awareness. The article is made even stronger by you sharing your personal experiences so openly- thank you for honesty!!

  67. Megan

    Thanks for your New York Times piece. The willful blindness of the school solutions being proposed defies any explanation other than an entrenched social belief that working women are expendable–if it benefits the economy, then they should stay at home with the kids. I speak as an educator and a mother.

    I love your recipes and use them weekly. I appreciate your willingness to speak up for equity even more.

  68. Abbie

    I have always thought your work was a public service, but never more so than with the NYT article. Thank you for being a voice for my primal scream. And For the strawberry cake recipe, which I am going to make today.

  69. Laurie

    Adding my thanks re: your NYT piece. Really well done. Now I’m trying to figure out where to go next. Who is working on these issues? Who has solutions we can support? We have to address these issues. Thank you, Deb.

  70. Teddi

    I wanted you to know how much I am enjoying your writing and recipes. I own a small business, and until the pandemic I didn’t have time to do more than a quick look every few weeks ( or even months). Now my only problem is getting to the store to get the ingredients. I am starting a list of things to try. Yours is by far the best cooking blog site. You have such good taste about what you choose, great photos and, unlike most blogs, I don’t go straight to the recipe. Kudos on such an all around quality site.

  71. Thank you for your article in the nytimes. Absolutely, completely, on the nose of what parenting/ teaching/working is like during this pandemic. I, too, do not know why we aren’t making more noise about the unsustainable plans we have forced upon us by the government.
    Again, thank you for voicing what I have been feeling.

  72. CarolaJ

    Deb, after reading your trenchant NY Times column, I was interested to see this headline in today’s Washington Post: “The big factor holding back the U.S. economic recovery: Child care.” It goes on: “Nearly a third of the nation’s workforce has children at home, and they’re struggling. Researchers estimate nearly 10 percent of economic activity won’t happen as long as schools and day cares remain closed…. The child-care crunch triggered by the pandemic has rapidly become a crisis for many workers and companies that is hindering the economic recovery, disproportionately harming women and threatening to leave deep scars for years to come.”

  73. Han a Salzmann

    Thank you so much for your article in the NY Times. I have always enjoyed your writing and recipes. Now I am also a huge supporter of you running for office.

  74. Deborah

    Thanks for the recipe. Just made a batch this week. They were a little messier to eat than I anticipated — I was hoping to be able to eat them with my fingers, but it was more suited for a fork. Still very tasty, though!

  75. Katherine

    Congratulations Deb, on your fabulous NYTimes article. Sitting here in Australia, I was directed to it via The Guardian so you’re being heard across the world.
    Thank you for saying “the quiet part loud” … we all need to get louder about it.

  76. Marcia Landman

    I just read your op-ed. Well said! You are right on every single point! I’m sure there will be naysayers who think you should just shut up and cook, but you have a platform and I think it’s fantastic that you’re using it to speak to important issues.

  77. Sheryl

    Not merengue related. Thank you soooooo much for your editorial in the New York Times about the utter impossibility of opening the economy while daycares and schools and camps remain closed. I also cannot imagine why a food blogger has to be the one publicizing this issue, but I am a scientist and a mom and a wife, and my husband and I have been struggling to both work from home while caring for our energetic two-year-old. We are among the fortunate who still have jobs – and we eventually gave up and hired one of our son’s laid-off daycare teachers to watch him – and my family and career are still struggling, never mind my sanity! Thank you for speaking out.

  78. Jessica

    Deb, was not expecting to see your name in the NYT oped section today, but *way to go* on a much needed op ed! I love your blog, and your talents are equally well suited to the pages of the NYTimes

  79. Marnie

    Adding to the chorus of thank-yous for the NYT piece. And most especially THANK YOU for calling out how the whole debate treats teachers as even more expendable than working parents. So few of these articles recognize the absurd risk to which teachers will be subjected if schools reopen without something approaching hospital-level protection. I recognize that as of now, it seems that children are not the “silent super-spreaders” everyone thought they’d be, but they can still spread un-super-ly. And there are teachers who are high risk, or who have high-risk people in their bubble. I’m as desperate to see my kiddos as anyone – first thing I learned in my teaching program was, you have to reach a child before you can teach that child – but not at the expense of my own health (hi, auto-immune disease!). And I have two kids of my own – kinder and pre-K – and I desperately want them to forge relationships with their own teachers before we inevitably return to distance learning. But again, not at the expense of their – or my, or my husband’s – health. Or, God forbid, at the expense of any of our lives.

  80. Alita

    Thank you so much for the brilliant NYT article. As a teacher and a mother, it resonated very deeply. And thank you, always, for the many wonderful recipes you have shared with us over the years.

  81. Maria

    I made these today and they were lovely, but I have maybe underprocessed the lemon filling (did it in the food processor, my blender is not that great) and they were a bit bitter. I also followed the advice of some of the commenters here and removed about 50g of sugar from the filling – it was not the best idea in combination with my slightly too bitter lemon zest. I skipped the sugar in the crust and used whole wheat digestives – did not miss it there.
    Oh well I’ll know next time and use the blender. :) They were a big hit.
    I didn’t use parchment paper because I had to take them to a family gathering and couldn’t figure out how to get them back into the pan, not burn the paper, and use the meringue torch before going on the bus with them.
    Even without the parchment they cut like a dream using a knife dipped in warm water.
    But lesson learned – will not reduce the sugar next time.

  82. Jennifer

    Deb, I LOVED the NYT essay — thank you for so coherently saying what should be obvious — but is hard to communicate clearly when we’re all stressed and sleep-deprived.

    These bars … I understand what happened (and it’s obvious from the photos) but 4 egg whites make a LOT of meringue. Also, the bars need to be fully chilled (not just cooled on the counter) to actually set. We had them cooled (but not cold) and they were a mess. The next morning, one could actually imagine them as bars, but they still had an insane meringue layer: if I do them again, I may hold back an egg white for a more balanced set of layers.

  83. Monica

    Absolutely amazing. Wonderful full lemon flavor in the filling (which looked just as odd as Deb said it would – thank goodness for the warning). The meringue was easy to make and held up beautifully in the refrigerator (needed because these were going to an event the next morning). Made gluten free by using gluten free animal cookies for the crust. Everyone raved about them, especially my gluten free colleague who unfortunately sometimes gets forgotten. A definite home run and repeat. Thanks, Deb!

  84. Beth

    WOW. PHENOMENAL!!!!! So perfect and the meringue makes you feel like a bakery baker! I made with gf graham crackers they were not too sweet for the crust. Only used about 3/4 cups of sugar for the filling, and organic eureka lemons that I stuck out in the sun so they would get really ripe. used the whole cup of sugar for the meringue (thank u for notes in the comments!). Perfect balance of tart and sweet and oh so much fun to eat and give away!

  85. Jennifer

    Ok, this comment is not about amazing looking lemon bars (sent link to my mother whose lemon meringue pie is the only one I’ll eat! and who loves a good lemon bar) but rather about your opinion piece in the NYTimes. So very good! As a feminist, as a parent, as someone who loves her work, and as an educator, you made points that I’ve been pushing our local Chamber of Commerce to make. Why is it when we talk about the “economy” or “mask wearing,” nowhere is there a conversation about the importance of health and safety so that if we keep our numbers low, we can actually re-open schools and let the amazing, supportive, and stressed out parents go back to work? I am privileged on many, many levels, but right now, I am grateful I have a fourteen year old daughter, not a four year old child! I cannot begin to imagine trying to work and care for such a young learner and human being without school/day care/support. Thanks for that piece.

  86. Mikayla Coble

    These look divine.
    And also, your piece in the NYT was absolutely brilliant. You so clearly and succinctly put into words the confusion and rage I’ve been feeling about the utter dismissal of the working parent in America today. Thank you so much for being a voice for us.

  87. VR

    Just made these. Another amazing recipe. Used digestive biscuits. No vanilla in curd.
    Have never gotten lemon bars to work for me and these worked on first effort. Love that it doesn’t waste whites or yolks and doesn’t require 10 lemons.
    I did need to add a bit of cream of tartar to get the merengue to firm up.

  88. Hayley

    My bars are delicious. The recipe is really well written and easy to follow. My only downfall is my meringue. Followed all the steps and thought I was at the stiff peaks point but my meringue, even after refrigeration, is more like marshmallow crème…sticky and stringy. Is that because I didn’t heat it enough or didn’t beat it enough? I always fear beating whites too long and they can collapse.

    1. deb

      It might have needed longer. I know that egg whites can get overbeaten, but I find it less likely to happen with a cooked meringue like this. Mine hit stiff/firm and then stay there. I haven’t tested it with, like 10 extra minutes of beating, but I do find it holds for a while and doesn’t go over.

  89. Brandi

    These were a big win! I made them this weekend, but I made a walnut crust instead so that they’d be gluten free. I made the bars and the meringue a few hours before serving, and I assembled the bars and broiled the top of the meringue an hour before we ate them. They did just fine in the fridge, and the meringue didn’t weep or anything. My husband loved them and described them as lemon s’mores! Definitely going on the rotation. Thanks for the consistent winners, Deb, and for the op-ed in the Times!

  90. marsha

    Made these yesterday. Deelish.
    Reduced sugar by 25% in crust, filling, and meringue and used Meyer lemons from a friend’s tree. Next time would double the filling, as I love lemon.

  91. Judy Lowe

    Your article in the NYT concerning reopening schools was spot on. The effect on working women will be drastic. Exactly who is formulating these plans? Is there no parental input? Could furloughed and recently retired teachers be used to pick up the workload for smaller classes? Could synagogues, churches and public buildings provide classroom space?
    I applaud your forthrightness.

  92. Olivia

    I made these bars last night. The mereigue turned about fabulously but the curd tasted bitter and did not set properly even though I followed the directions. It seemed like maybe the curd loosened after broiling? Any idea why it turned to a puddle? Thanks in advance!

  93. Claire Miller

    This recipe is perfect. Don’t believe the haters Deb!
    I will say though, that when I ate one of these bars apparently I looked like I was rolling on ecstasy, so says my husband. The sugar rush is real!

  94. Jen

    Hi Deb! I’ve been making your recipes for the past thirteen years, and sadly, this one was a huge fail. You are my go-to source for my recipes, from birthday cake extravaganzas to weeknight dinners. Everything looked and smelled delicious, and the graham cracker crust and meringue were perfect. The curd set up well, but it was inedible! I tested out my lemon before I processed it, and the lemon pith wasn’t very thick nor did it taste excessively bitter. Because of the bitterness in the curd, even with the delicious meringue and graham cracker crust, we had to throw out the entire dessert. I was so disappointed.

  95. Stephanie Miles

    Um, I made these for the fourth and am now OB-sassed and can’t wait to make more to eat!!! Wow. I’m a chocolate lover and these looked beautiful so I gave it a go and YUMMM! Can’t say enough! I even plopped some in ice cream and made the best concoction on the planet, wow!! You simply must make and gobble these! End of story. And somewhat easy! Just takes a bit of time to cool off, etc, but really not as much as I thought, too.

  96. Darby

    I just made these except my oven died… so I left the sugar out of the crust and just didn’t bother cooking it and I cooked the filling on the stovetop over low heat until it thickened. My broiler works fine so I made the meringue the same way- they turned out great, even without being able to bake them.

  97. Diane

    Is it crazy to do this without the meringue? I am not a huge fan of meringue and it seems a bit fussy and difficult to pack up for a picnic which is what I’m planning to do. I know there are a lot lemon bar recipes out there but love the the idea of using digestives (or maybe Bastogne?!) because it sounds delicious and easier than a shortbread crust. There’s a local frozen yogurt place that has a combo with lemon curd, Bastogne cookies and meringue but I always get raspberries instead of meringue. I’m basically finding any excuse to have lemon and Bastogne together.

  98. Peter K

    This recipe is wonderful, yet too sweet, so next time, I’m adjusting.

    After an overnight in a cold fridge, there was a bunch of liquid at the bottom of the tray (weeping?).
    How can I avoid this?
    On a google search, many people said to put the meringue onto a warm filling (not cold, as you instructed).
    any ideas?

  99. Patty

    I was hesitant. A whole lemon? I wanted to try this both because of the whole lemon and, I must admit, I had never warmed egg whites to make a meringue. This was so delicious! The filling was not overly sweet with just the right amount of tart and bitter flavors. Even the 27 year old son said, “this is the best meringue you have ever made!” I can never go back to the “common” method of making meringue after that statement of affirmation.

  100. Cristina

    This was a great recipe – like the other whole lemon bar recipe from the cookbook but with the addition of the swiss meringue, which was my first time and it turned out terrific. I used a candy thermometer and tried to get it up to 160F, but only max 140F and it still turned out amazing.

    My only question is relating to the filling – only one person asked about straining it for bits. I also only have a food processor so I’m thinking next time I’ll strain it, but I’m worried that it might be too sticky and not strain out properly. Any tips for this? Thanks!

  101. Colleen S.

    I made these last week. I’m still dreaming about them. Luckily – I made them before I had a physical and was told by my doctor to “change” my eating habits. Luckily, only my husband and I enjoyed these as I got to eat many. Many!
    Thank you for this delicious recipe!

  102. Deanna A

    Made these yesterday and they were a HUGE HIT! Even in the extreme heat, they were gobbled up before they could melt! Admitted “lemon haters” even loved them, and were surprised by the lightness of the meringue. So good and will have to be repeated!

  103. Ally Z

    I just made these tonight- super easy. I did it mostly while on the phone! You’re not kidding when you say that the lemon filling bakes up ugly. I thought for sure I goofed somewhere, but I pressed on anyway, and what do you know? It set up perfectly.

    For anyone else in Florida or a similar climate, I would add that meringue just doesn’t want to whip up in heat or humidity. You’re not doing anything wrong if your meringue refuses to fully form stiff peaks, it’s just mother nature. It still comes out just as lovely, if a little softer.

    I also made this in a similar-volume ceramic baking dish (don’t have an appropriately sized metal baking pan) and it was fine. I didn’t even take the bars out, I just left them in there for serving and all. The first piece is a messy cut, but the rest pop out as you cut them just fine.

  104. Lauren

    I would definitley say use a Meyer lemon. I did not and these turned out with a bitter aftertaste (even though my lemon had relatively little pith). Everything else turned out great, but unfortunately the bitterness made it so I had to toss them out.

  105. Ally

    I made these last weekend and they turned out beautifully! I cut the sugar in the lemon & crust, no problem. It was my first time making a cooked merengue, and it was simple. I used a broiler – just watch it like a hawk. *Question for anyone: I have some regular limes leftover from something else and was considering making these again and just using limes. Anything to be wary of? I suspect I can use another lime curd recipe (and SK has one), but I really like using the whole lemon…but there are limes! Thanks :)

  106. King

    I see the recipe and I love lemon bars. What would happen if we threw some cream cheese for cheesecake lemon bars? What’s the best way to go about this?

  107. Kaela

    Fantastic dessert. I served it to a friend’s teen and he said it was like a restaurant dessert because there was so much flavor in even a tiny bite. I made the recipe with one change: I omitted the 1/4 cup of sugar in the crust as suggested by other reviewers and no one missed it. Thanks for a great recipe!

  108. Katie

    I made these today because I needed a project, and my were they a project!! Two things: I have burned graham cracker crusts in the past, so I’m cautious, but I think I pulled this one out too early (8 min), as it seems to not be integrous at all. Second, I really wish you had been a little more explicit about how quickly it would go when you suggested sticking it under the broiler. I popped them in, washed a few dishes, opened the door, and the entire thing was in flames! I pulled it out with fire literally leaping into the air! Once the fire went out, I was able to carefully remove the blackened top layer of the meringue, but they look like crap now :). They taste like lemon graham mush, pretty disappointing for a whole afternoon!

  109. Miyuki

    Made this for my husband’s birthday. He loves all things lemon and this was SO SO good. (I did halve the sugar in the crust per other comments. Turned out great) We harvested our first Meyer lemon from our tree and I was so glad to use it in this recipe. SK has yet to fail me! This was my first time making meringue and mine didn’t peak well but tasted great – like marshmallows. Will definitely be making this again and again.

  110. Cal

    My crust turned really soggy after cooking the lemon custard, did I do something wrong? I followed recipe exactly. Also, the lemon custard part, after blending, seemed to be a little curdled – is that okay?

    1. deb

      Curdled appearance is fine. Soft might have needed more baking time to firm up — there’s so much variation between the crumbs of different graham brands that it can take a little adjusting. How were they from the fridge?

  111. Dieselle

    Thank you for tie recipe, these bars are fantastic!
    I have more Meyer lemons, can I make/bake the crust and filling and freeze?
    Another idea, can I make the filling (without baking it) and freeze it in an air tight container?

      1. Dieselle

        I agree, I wasn’t planning on making the meringue, until I wanted to serve the pie bars. I had planned to freeze the egg whites separately as well, but in the end, I froze the whole Meyer lemons. (They are fine for baking, once thawed.) Thank you again for a fantastic recipe.

  112. Whitney

    I know this an old post so this might be a long shot, but any recommendations for converting this to make in a pre-made graham cracker pie crust? Will I need to make more filling?

  113. Rebecca Richardson

    I had similar problems to others — a soggy crust (maybe a result of the crust not going high enough, so the curd gets “behind” it and starts to mix in?), then a too-bitter curd, then a long time getting the meringue mixture up to 160! Even using a thin-skinned Meyer lemon proved too bitter a note. I think next time I’d just use some zest and stick to the lemon juice as the main lemony note. Sad to have to throw out the time/ingredients, but afraid it was a bust for me!

  114. Amanda

    So delicious. I made them with calamansi instead of lemon. I was skeptical of if I baked the curd long enough because it was EXTRA jiggly when I pulled it out, but it was bubbly. It was fine after the time in the fridge and didn’t spill out when sliced into bars. Will definitely make again but I think I would prefer a shortbread crust. I felt like the graham took away from the flavor from the citrus.

  115. Caroline L.

    I made this last week for my mom because she was craving before an unexpected surgery. She said it cured her! I made two of them in a 9 inch spring form pan between morning preschool runs. It was tight, but I did it. Thank you for all of the streamline steps. This week, I have planned ahead and am hoping to make at least some of it in advance for a family gathering this weekend. Can I make the filling, crust, and meringue ahead of time, refrigerate it overnight, then broil it right before serving it the next afternoon? Or do I really have to whip meringue during my party?

  116. Steeve

    These are easy to make and delicious! I used a whole lemon and remove the white part and used my Vitamix and it worked well! I’ve reduced the sugar in the lemon mix down to 3/4 cup and it tasted very good and still sweet but a good sweet! The meringue is also so delicious! A must make!

  117. Keelin

    Made these for a birthday cake. The crust stuck to the parchment so I lost a lot of it and it was a mess. They were tasty but next time I’ll skip the parchment and just make it in the pan. Don’t see any advantage to the step requiring one to remove it from the baking pan to a cookie sheet for the meringue step.

  118. Teresa

    When I made this the lemon filling melted into the crust. Any idea where I went wrong? Great flavors but ended up with mushy texture throughout.

  119. Emma

    I made this* yesterday for my lemon meringue loving aunts birthday.

    * so, not exactly this – I made a pie using my go-to pastry base, and the lemon and meringue from this recipe.

    It was a big success, and I loved this way of making meringue (like a easy Italian meringue!). Next time however, I am going to make the base and lemon a day ahead; most of us found the lemon very very strong (not my aunt luckily – she loved it). I usually love love love strong lemon flavors but this was just too overpowering; there was zero balance on day one.

    Today however, we had the leftovers and it was 100% nicer.

  120. JoAnn Wagner

    The meringue on these bars is more of a “cooked” meringue. I have always just beat the whites with cream of tartar then added sugar and salt. Do you find
    yours does not weep as much this way, or that the texture is more like marshmallow from the heating process. Would love to make these for Valentines Day dessert.
    Thanks for your answer.

  121. Beth

    These look wonderful. I always love a citrus dessert. Would be possible to use some lemon curd that I have jarred in place of the filling?

  122. Erika’s Test Kitchen

    Just made these for the second time (last time they were super bitter even though I shaved the peel off half the lemon), and they are a dream!

    I 100% burned the meringue the first time, but I couldn’t bear to consider it a failure, so I stuck my offset spatula under the burned bits, gently lifted, and then stuck back under the broiler and watched like a hawk. It worked fine, and frankly I think it worked out well because other commenters have said there is too much meringue compared to filling, and this way I ended up with less meringue.

  123. Dieselle

    Hi Deb, my entire family is in love with these bars. I would love to make them for Passover. Any idea what to substitute for the graham cracker crust?

  124. Andrea

    This is my third time making these bars. They do take a bit of time and a fair bit of dishes, but the result is outstanding. The marshmallow goodness paired with the tart lemon filling is just to die for. I amped up my crust a bit as I have a 9 by 9 pan.

  125. Bentley

    I made these except with the chocolate layer from Deb’s s’more pie instead of lemon and they are theee perfect smore bars. I am going to keep that chocolate layer in my favorites forever ugh so good I can’t stop evening up the edges. However I did get a smidge of weeping which I did not have when I made them with the lemon as written, wondering if that could be a coincidence, kind of surprised actually since I definitely temped the egg white mix before beating.

  126. Liz+Frerich

    Was going so well- until I couldn’t get the meringue to make stiff peaks….. followed as written… egg white were room temp…
    What did I do wrong?

    1. deb

      Many things can throw off egg whites: a bowl that wasn’t totally clean of oils and other ingredients, a smidge of yolk in the whites… did they get slightly less than stiff peaks? Did they appear to go too far and seem dry or crumbly?

      1. Liz+Frerich

        Omg thanks for replying!
        They really never set up at all…
        The only thing I was reading about was maybe I should have heated up slower?.. I did use an Instant read thermometer.. but maybe my water was too hot?… too fast?

  127. Mia

    I love the whites for the meringue and the yolks for the curd, that’s how I handle my Key Lime pie. One suggestion– zest the lemon and rub it into the sugar before blending the curd ingredients. It’ll really infuse the whole thing with fresh lemon flavor. Lemon bomb.