Now that summer is here, I am constantly craving light, bright flavors and lemon is one of my absolute favorites. A close second? Fresh, ripe cherries – they’re tart, sweet, and bursting with flavor – so I thought, why not put the two together? Thus, Cherry Lemon Bars were born.
This recipe was largely based off of my Key Lime Pie Bars recipe, which is a weekly staple in my house (yes, I literally make these weekly at this point because we never get sick of them)! I figured, if we love the lime bars so much, why can’t I recreate the same concept with lemon?
Whereas Key Lime Bars are traditionally done with a graham cracker crust, these bars are on a Nilla Wafer crust, which adds a delicate vanilla flavor without overpowering the lemon and cherry. You could totally substitute for a graham cracker crust, but once you try this Nilla crust, I’m sure you’ll be wondering what else you can put on it!
The crust here uses the same basic ingredients as a class graham cracker crust, but substitutes graham crackers out for Nilla wafers, a childhood favorite of mine. I find that Nilla compliments fruity flavors really well by accenting rather than masking them, so I love it in this bar.
To make the crust, you’ll want to finely crush your Nilla cookies into a fine crumb so that you can mix it with the butter and sugar to form a uniform crust. You simply press it into a prepared baking dish and bake for 10 minutes to set it before adding your filling.
The filling here is as simple as can be, using just a few ingredients and no cook-time to get them all together. The sweetened condensed milk is the main sweetening ingredient and it gives these bars a silky, creamy texture that is to die for. The Greek Yogurt (which you can substitute with sour cream) adds even more creaminess and depth to these, and then egg yolks hold it all together.
For the flavor, I absolutely recommend using fresh lemons. I love my citrus zester (seriously, you don’t realize how useful it is until you have one – I use it for zesting as well as finely grating cheese, etc). Store bought lemon juice tends to have a more tart flavor than real lemons, so I always prefer the real thing.
When it comes time to add your cherries, you want to do it last! You want to barely fold them in (I’m talking like 3 folds tops) just to get them incorporated into the batter but not enough to turn your batter pink. You could also use raspberries, blueberries, etc – any fresh fruit that you like with lemon would go here, just apply the same principal – fold at the end and very little to preserve the nice yellow color of these bars!
Cherry Lemon Bars
- Mixing Bowls
- 8×8 Pan
- 2 cups Nilla Wafer Crumbs about 60 cookies, crushed
- 6 tbsp butter melted
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 4 tbsp nonfat Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream
- Handful of fresh cherries chopped
- Preheat oven to 350F and spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray and/or line with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine Nilla wafer crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and salt and combine until mixture is uniform
- Press mixture into an even layer in the pan (and roughly a half inch up the sides) and bake for 10 minutes, remove and let cool while you make the filling
- Once crust is cool, combine egg yolks, condensed milk, lemon juice, zest, and stir together until the mixture begins to thicken. Add in sour cream or Greek Yogurt and stir until you have a uniform mixture.
- Gently fold in the cherries last, only giving it a few folds so they’re incorporated throughout – they will turn your bars pink if you over mix!
- Pour lemon cherry filling over crust and bake for 15-18 minutes, until just set
- Allow to cool to room temperature, then cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving
- Store bars in refrigerator for up to 5 days