Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Love lemon? Love cheesecake? Lemon cheesecake bars are the snackable dessert for you. This recipe is beautiful, easy to share, and doesn’t require a water bath.

Stack of Lemon Cheesecake Bars on a Marble Tray Next to More Bars, and in the Surroundings, a Kitchen Towel, Lemons, and Another Bar on a Plate

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

I have a feeling that most people who love cheesecake also love lemon desserts. I also know that making a full cheesecake, while rewarding, is an investment in time and effort between the low and slow baking, the finicky cooling, and waiting for it to chill in the refrigerator. 

The result of these two thoughts is lemon cheesecake bars. These easy dessert bars combine the fruity tartness of lemon with the creamy richness of cheesecake. They don't require a springform pan, they don't need a water bath, and because of their smaller size, they bake and chill faster.

What Makes Lemon Cheesecake Bars Special

These lemon cheesecake bars are packed with lemon flavor, with lemon zest and juice in the cheesecake and lemon curd swirled throughout (isn’t it pretty?). The cheesecake is creamy and light and achieves the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Not to mention it sits atop a buttery and crispy graham cracker crust with just the faintest hint of cinnamon.

Cheesecake bars jibe with casual occasions that don’t warrant a whole cheesecake—like a potluck with friends or neighbors, or just a plain old Wednesday—while still looking gorgeous. They’re a sharable dessert that also makes a fun afternoon snack.

Lemon Cheesecake Bars on a Marble Board, and on the Counter, Lemons and a Kitchen Towel

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

Shortcuts for an Even Quicker Recipe

These bars are less work than traditional cheesecake, but there are a few things you can do to make them even quicker and easier: 

  • Use ready-made, store-bought graham cracker crumbs instead of crushing them yourself. 
  • There's nothing like homemade lemon curd (and leftovers freeze well), but you can always buy a nice jar at the store. 
  • Make sure the filling ingredients are at room temperature. The filling will mix smoothly without incorporating as much air. To soften the cream cheese quickly, unwrap the cream cheese and microwave it on a microwave-safe plate in 10-second intervals until soft. 

How to Customize These Cheesecake Bars

It’s easy to swap the lemon swirl or change the crust on these cheesecake bars to make them your own.

  • Use Meyer lemon curd, juice, and zest for a sweeter, more floral flavor.
  • Try using a different type of curd, such as lime, grapefruit, orange, or even passionfruit. Swap out the juice and zest in the cheesecake to match (or complement).
  • Use jam. Replace the lemon curd with your favorite type of jam. I’m partial to raspberry.
  • Use different cookies for the crust. For a milder flavor, use vanilla wafers, or for a winter weather treat, try using gingersnaps.
Lemon Cheesecake Bars on Three Plates and More on the Marble Board Next to the Plates, and on the Counter, Lemons and a Kitchen Towel

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

How to Swirl the Batter

This method for adding a decorative swirl to the batter spreads the lemon curd evenly and beautifully through the cheesecake filling.

  1. Drizzle or add small dollops of the lemon curd on top of the cheesecake filling. Be gentle so it doesn’t sink.
  2. Starting on the left side, use an offset spatula or a butter knife to drag through the lemon curd and cheesecake filling from the top of the pan to the bottom. Avoid dragging the knife through the bottom crust.
  3. Repeat with a new line about 1/2-inch over and parallel to the first line, this time moving from bottom to top. Repeat this pattern until you reach the right side of the pan.
  4. If you’d like even more swirls, rotate the pan 90 degrees and start again. Don’t go overboard, or you’ll lose the swirl altogether.

How to Store and Freeze

Leftover bars will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. They can also be frozen for up to 1 month. Store in an airtight, freezer-worthy container and defrost in the fridge before enjoying.

Lemon Cheesecake Bars in a Parchment Paper Lined Baking Sheet

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

Sweet Bar Recipes for Sharing

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Cool and Chill Time 4 hrs
Total Time 5 hrs
Servings 16 servings

If you’re starting from whole graham crackers, you’ll need about 16 whole crackers (240g). Use a food processor to grind them into fine crumbs. If you do not have a food processor, place the graham crackers in a 1-gallon zip-top bag and use a rolling pin to crush them into fine crumbs.


For the crust

  • 2 cups (240ggraham cracker crumbs

  • 1/4 cup (50ggranulated sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup (113gunsalted butter, melted

For the filling

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages full-fat cream cheese, softened

  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1/3 cup sour cream

  • 1 lemon, zested (2 to 3 teaspoons finely grated zest)

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/3 cup homemade or store-bought lemon curd


  1. Preheat oven and line baking pan:

    Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper.

  2. Make the crust:

    In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt with a rubber spatula. Add the melted butter and mix until the crumbs are evenly moistened and the mixture looks sandy. Break up any large clumps with the spatula.

    Transfer the crumb mixture to the lined baking dish. Use your hand or the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crumbs firmly into an even layer in the bottom of the pan.

    Bowl of Graham Cracker Crumbs Mixed With Melted Butter Using a Spatula for Lemon Cheesecake Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

    Graham Cracker Mixture Pressed Into a Parchment Paper Lined Square Baking Pan for Cheesecake Bars Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

  3. Bake the crust:

    Bake the crust in the preheated oven until it begins to turn golden on the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a cooling rack to cool while making the filling.

    Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

  4. Make the filling:

    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and flour on medium-low speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.

    Add the eggs one at a time, beating well at medium-low speed after each addition. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

    Add the sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Mix on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix.

    Mixer Bowl With Whipped Cream for Citrus Cheesecake Bars Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

    An Egg Added the Cream Cheese in a Mixer Bowl on a Stand Mixer, and on the Counter, a Pyrex Measuring Cup With Another Egg for Lemon Cheesecake Bars Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

    Lemon Zested Using a Microplane, and Underneath It, the Bowl With Lemon Cheesecake Bars Filling in a Mixer Bowl

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

    Lemon Cheesecake Bar Filling in a Mixer Bowl on a Stand Mixer

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

  5. Swirl in the lemon curd and bake:

    Pour the cheesecake batter over the graham cracker crust and spread it into an even layer. Spoon rounded tablespoonful dollops of the lemon curd over the filling and use an offset spatula or butter knife to carefully swirl it into the batter. Avoid cutting into the crust.

    Bake at 325°F until the filling is just set and only slightly jiggly in the center, about 30 minutes.

    Lemon Curd Poured Over Lemon Cheesecake Bar Filling in the Lined Baking Pan

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

    Offset Spatula Used to Create Swirls in the Baking Pan for Lemon Cheesecake Bars Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

  6. Cool:

    Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar, and let the bars cool in the oven for 30 minutes.

    Simple Tip!

    If your oven door won’t stay ajar, wedge it open with the handle of a wooden spoon.

    Remove the bars from the oven and let them cool to room temperature. Refrigerate the bars until thoroughly chilled, at least 3 hours.

    The bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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    Pan With Lemon Cheesecake Bars Cooling on a Wire Rack

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

    Stack of Lemon Cheesecake Bars on a Marble Board Next to More Bars, and on the Counter, a Lemon, a Plate, and a Kitchen Towel

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
304 Calories
20g Fat
29g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 304
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 25%
Saturated Fat 11g 54%
Cholesterol 88mg 29%
Sodium 202mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 10%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 20g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 53mg 4%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 89mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.