Bake

Lemon-Ricotta Bars

by:
August 10, 2011
13 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

In this recipe, I hope, is achieved everything I always was looking for in citrus bars; first of all a tender, melt-in-your-mouth, crust, lemony taste not only in the filling, but also in the crust, and finely smooth texture, and tall beautiful bars. After testing a few recipes during a long time, I discovered that using confectioner's sugar and corn starch in the crust, and adding just 1 cup ricotta to the filling, gave the bars just the right height, unusual flavor and texture.
Can be made with Meyer lemons or other citrus. —Kukla

Test Kitchen Notes

These aren't your average lemon bars. The use of ricotta gives them a light and airy texture that we're crazy about. The dough feels dry, and we were slightly skeptical, but it cooks up nicely and proves the greatness of butter (yet again). We happily ate them with and without the final sprinkling of confectioner's sugar. —The Editors

  • Prep time 50 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Makes 18 (2-inch) squares
Ingredients
  • For the crust
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1-inch pieces, slightly softened plus extra for greasing pan
  • For the lemon-ricotta filling
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) fresh whole milk ricotta, drained
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice from 3 to 4 large lemons, strained
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. To make the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Using a pastry brush, lightly butter a 13x9-inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment paper. Butter paper, then lay second sheet crosswise over it.
  3. Pulse flour, confectioner's sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and salt in food processor.
  4. Add butter and process to blend; then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal.
  5. Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and, press firmly with fingers into even layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/2-inch up sides.
  6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, and then bake until light golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  7. To make the filling: Whisk ricotta, eggs, sugar, and flour in medium bowl, then stir in lemon zest, juice, and salt to blend well.
  8. Reduce oven temperature to 325° F.
  9. Stir filling mixture before pouring into warm crust.
  10. Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 30 minutes.
  11. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 2 hours.
  12. Transfer to cutting board, fold paper down, and cut into bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts.
  13. Dust with confectioner's sugar.

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130 Reviews

Josephine December 3, 2020
I made the crust according to directions, and it came out too hard and thick, not at all in keeping with the delicate lemon-ricotta filling. Next time I will eliminate a 1/2 cup of flour from the dough ingredients. I think this will make the crust more crumbly, and it will be a smaller amount so that the crust will not be as thick. The filling is to die for with Meyer lemons, but also really good with regular lemons. The second time I made the recipe, I used 10 oz. ricotta and an extra egg, kept everything else the same, to make the filling just a little higher.
 
Jessie July 7, 2019
I would like to make this recipe and have seen in some lemon ricotta cakes the use of lemoncello. If I reduce the amount of lemon juice and add lemoncello, will the recipe still taste ok?
 
Paula A. March 3, 2018
I made these for the first time last night. We had shrimp and grits for dinner and I needed a light dessert. I was wonderful, great flavor. I only negative comment I got was that the crust was hard...everyone ate it but it was a little hard to put a fork through. Did I make it too thick? I used the size pan suggested. Then I thought, perhaps, it was meant to be cookie like. Your comments would be appreciated. Thank you
 
nutcakes July 13, 2017
These are amazing, so good and so easy. The ricotta adds a softening and fluffing to a traditional lemon bar and cuts the cloying sweetness without too much interference. These do start sweet but end with a fantastic pure lemon intense tang. Please, don't think of it as a crust as in pie. Instead think of it as a cookie as in shortbread. I was shocked at no ice water until I realized this. Upon first pulsing it looked dry (I was wrongly thinking to leave butter chunks like with pie dough.) With a second spin in the food processor, the butter became integrated and it formed the cornmeal colored sand as described. Then just sprinkle in and press in pan. Oops, I forgot to press up sides so I baked the crust 5 minutes longer. No matter, it came out fine with the curd on top. I'd chill it a bit to set. In summer here in hot weather it needed it or too soft and messy. So great. Will make again and again. This will feed a lot because it is so rich. Cut with a knife dipped in hot water and dried, in order to get a clean cut.
 
Vittles &. July 8, 2017
I will have to try this recipe. I made a Lemon & Riccota Cake and loved it! My experience with the cake is on vittlesandvinos.com
 
LobsterBrieAvocadoBreath February 26, 2017
Well...I am thinking my butter was too soft, because my dough was not crumbly, it was ploppy and as I poured my filling in after the prebake, the entire crust came up, so goodness knows what headed our way. Likely something tasty, but not for company. These are often my son's favorite desserts :( Any other clue as to this perplexing occurrence? I was so excited to try these; my traditional lemon squares are devine. :( Thx.
 
nutcakes July 13, 2017
You already knew the problem. Butter should be very cold, if not icy, so mixture is sandy textured looking and feeling like cornmeal. That or butter is too watery from off brand or something? But I think that could have corrected a bit if you chilled long enough before baking. I think that caused shrinkage, and shrinkage would cause the top mixture to flow under the shrunk parbaked crust. Worth another try I'd say from my own positive experience.
 
DeborahBetty February 8, 2017
Absolutely amazing!! I myself am a fussy dessert eater as I don't like to eat anything that tastes like a mouthful of sugar. This recipe did not disappointment. After reading all the comments I embarked on making this yesterday & I honestly was still eating it up until I went to bed. Since finding fresh ricotta is nearly impossible to find in my area I followed advice to drain store bought ricotta (actually overnight) & was glad I did as allot of liquid drained. At first I was concerned about using powered sugar in the crust but I followed the recipe exactly as written (I did double the filling) & there is nothing I would change, it came out absolutely wonderful. There was just enough tartness in the filling to satisfy a sweet tooth without causing a sugar-rush !!
Using the parchment made removal from the pan so easy and kept the crust very crisp. I only encountered one glitch & that was in making the dough. My food processor, which required a replacement blade (we all know which brand I am talking about), caused me concern when processing the dough it would not mix properly. After dumping the unprocessed dough into another bowl and using a "hand" pastry cutter I was able to achieve good results (but I did add a few drops of ice water). This I think was a mistake as even the few drops made it less crumbly & difficult to work with. I stressed through the process thinking the crust would be soggy, it was NOT. Next time I will simply use the old fashion by hand method. I do believe the replacement blade I received isn't a proper fit as too much butter got stuck underneath the blade and I've used food processors since invented. If anyone has had the same experience let the manufacturer know as I did via email.
Thank you for this great recipe, as I mentioned "I would not change a thing". It is a WINNER. Food52 is my go-to-site for recipes and everything kitchen/home.
 
Sally B. December 1, 2016
Can you freeze these?
 
DeborahBetty February 23, 2017
Yes, I froze mine after I cut into individual pieces (to keep me from eating it all at once) The crust remained crisp which amazed me. I did not add the icing sugar to the top as I felt it might be too sweet.
 
The T. June 24, 2016
Luscious! And so light with the ricotta. I used gluten free all purpose mix in place of 1c. flour in crust with 3/4c. toasted ground walnuts which worked beautifully! Also used the gluten free mix in the filling, along with tons more lime zest & juice than lemon. A keeper! Thank you Kukla for kick starting our summer!
 
Teodora M. June 9, 2016
Amazing recipe!! I made it about 3 weeks ago and I'm going to make it again, maybe with a bit more lemon zest, to give it an extra edge
 
Ashleigh M. April 19, 2016
I made these, they're so delicious! My husband and I were going to share them, but ended up eating them all ourselves. I'm too ashamed to admit the timeframe for that...but it didn't take us long.
 
Carol R. January 8, 2016
These are divine! Since Meyer lemons are ripe for picking here in Houston in January, used a 50-50 mix of standards and Meyer, which worked very well.
 
CS I. June 13, 2015
Taste was awesome. Next time, I'll cut down sugar (was a tad too sweet) and add baking time for both the crust and the curd.
 
jessicamclement May 3, 2015
my friend and i made these this afternoon and they were PERFECT. yum! thank you :)
 
Author Comment
Kukla May 3, 2015
You are very welcome Jessica!
I am thrilled to get such complement from somebody who lives in Paris and is able to enjoy the best pastries in the world!
 
Brandyce April 5, 2015
Made these for Easter, huge hit! Creamy, lemony, everything you want after a Easter dinner. Will be making again!
 
Author Comment
Kukla April 5, 2015
Thank you so much Brandyce for such nice comment!
 
Jen March 13, 2015
Absolutely lovely recipe! I used key limes instead of lemons - wowzers! Amazing! I have a deep high sided pan so I ended up doubling just the filling part of the recipe and it was perfect. Thank you so much for this recipe!
 
Author Comment
Kukla March 13, 2015
You are so very welcome Jen!
 
Suzanne H. March 11, 2015
Can you use silicone sheets instead of parchment paper?
 
Author Comment
Kukla March 11, 2015
Yes you can Suzanne, but it is a lot easier to get the bars out of the pan with parchment paper.
 
kumalavula February 27, 2015
the ricotta in these really contributes to the amazing texture. i had more filling than could fit in the pan over the prepared crust so i filled a ramekin and ended up having almost a lemon soufflé which lasted no longer than 10 minutes out of the hot oven. trust be told, i almost liked the filling by itself, without the extra calories but both were delightful, flavorful and will be made again and again, as lemons permit.
 
Author Comment
Kukla February 28, 2015
I am very glad kumalavula you enjoyed the bars and created a new dessert recipe for yourself!!!
 
Liz B. January 5, 2015
Truly lovely recipe - easy to follow, and everyone loved the lemon bars! I used Meyer lemons; since they're naturally sweeter I reduced the sugar in the filling. The ricotta really rounded out the tang of the citrus for a nice smooth flavor. Making this one again!
 
Author Comment
Kukla February 28, 2015
Thanks a lot Liz!
 
ama November 29, 2014
I'll be using this recipe again. I'll be having another little bar tomorrow afternoon with some coffee.
 
Author Comment
Kukla November 29, 2014
Thanks ama for your lovely comment!