Level up your lemon bar game with this tropical Coconut Lemon Bars recipe. A luscious lemon filling sits atop a chewy coconut shortbread crust for the perfect balance of sweet and tang in every bite. These easy bars always disappear!
This Coconut Lemon Bars recipe takes a family favorite dessert and gives it a tropical twist by layering tart lemon filling on a fragrant, toasted coconut shortbread crust. These tangy lemon squares are easy to make and freeze well, but it's the marriage of coconut crust and velvety filling that makes these lemon bars stand out from the rest.
Why you'll love this recipe
✔︎ Major lemon flavor: If you're a fan of bright, tangy lemon flavor, these lemon squares are for you. We added lemon juice AND lemon zest to ensure there is no mere "hint" of lemon flavor here.
✔︎ Coconut shortbread crust: Traditional lemon bars have crusts that can be a bit bland, but adding coconut to the mix adds amazing texture, flavor and a bit of chew that will keep everyone asking for just one more bite. It's the secret ingredient no one knew they needed.
✔︎ Make-ahead and freezer friendly: These easy lemon bars freeze well and are a great make-ahead dessert recipe. See detailed instructions for freezing lemon bars below.
You'll find everything you need to make these coconut lemon bars in one trip to the grocery store.
A few ingredient notes:
Butter: I prefer to use unsalted butter in my baked goods but salted butter can also be used. Just be sure it's cold from the fridge rather than softened. Cold butter will incorporate with the other crust ingredients in the food processor more evenly than softened butter.
Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed juice is the only way to go. Bottled lemon juice contains preservatives which can impact flavor.
Coconut: The standard bag of sweetened, flaked coconut from the baking aisle is exactly what you need for this bar recipe.
Flour: All-purpose flour is what I usually use, but you can also use a gluten-free flour in this recipe. See the Shortcuts and Substitutions section below for more details.
Steps 1-2: Toast the coconut.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the coconut evenly on a sheet pan and toast for 10 minutes. Cool slightly.
Steps 3-6: Make the crust.
Add crust ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture looks like sand. Press into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Steps 7-10: Make the filling.
Rinse bowl of food processor. Add filling ingredients to bowl and process until thoroughly mixed. When crust is done, carefully pour filling over hot crust and return to oven to bake for another 25-30 minutes or until the center springs back when gently touched.
NOTE: You may need to tent your bars with foil halfway through baking if they are browning too quickly.
Yes, they do. They are fine on the counter for a few hours, but leftovers should always be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Lemon bars are best when eaten within two to three days. After that, the filling starts to secrete a bit of moisture. They will still taste good but will not look as pretty.
Yes, you can. I like to cut my cooled bars and then wrap them tightly in two layers of foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator and dust with powdered sugar just before serving.
Getting clean cuts on your lemon bars is easy. Start by removing the uncut bars from the pan and place them on a cutting board. Grab a long, sharp knife and run it under hot water. Dry with a towel and make one cut. Repeat the process until all the cuts are made.
Shortcuts & Substitutions
➤ Coconut: You can toast the coconut up to 4 days ahead of time and store in a sealed container until ready to use.
➤ Lemons: You can juice and zest the lemons up to two days ahead of time. Add the zest to the lemon juice and store in the fridge.
➤ Flour: I've successfully made these bars with gluten-free flour instead of all-purpose flour. Use a gluten-free flour that is made to swap 1:1 with all-purpose flour (like King Arthur's Measure for Measure or Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour) for the easiest substitution and best results.
➤ Other flavors: Can you substitute other citrus fruits in place of lemon? Absolutely! Try using key lime juice and lime zest.
Expert Tips for making Coconut Lemon Bars
✘ Keep an eye on the coconut while it's toasting as it can go from perfectly baked to overdone quickly. Check out the process pictures for an example of the color of the toasted coconut.
✘ You'll get the best lemon flavor from real lemons. You'll need 2-4 lemons for the amount of lemon juice and zest needed for these bars.
✘ Lemon squares can stick to the pan easily. Don't skip lining the pan with parchment paper and make sure you also spray the parchment in the pan for easiest removal.
✘ Check the bars halfway through baking time. If they are browning too quickly, tent the pan with foil and return to the oven.
✘ Dust with powdered sugar just before serving so the sugar isn't absorbed into the lemon filling.
Want more dessert inspo? We have even more dessert recipes in our archives.
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Coconut Lemon Bars
- ⅓ cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 packed tablespoons grated lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup powdered sugar
To make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8 x 8 pan with enough parchment paper so that there is some overlap on the sides (to help lift the bars out of the pan later). Spray paper with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Spread coconut on a sheet pan and bake until golden brown, shaking the pan every few minutes as needed. This should take about 10 minutes. Allow coconut to cool.⅓ cup sweetened flaked coconut
- Place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add coconut and butter and process until the mixture resembles a fine meal. Pour into pan and press crust into even layer. Bake for 25 minutes or until crust is starting to turn golden brown.1 cup flour, ¼ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter,
To make the filling:
- While the crust is baking, rinse the food processor bowl and add all of the filling ingredients into it. Mix thoroughly. Take crust out of oven and gently pour filling over hot crust. Return to oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until the center starts to spring back when touched. You may have to tent with foil about halfway through the baking time if the top of your bars is browning faster than you'd like.1 ½ cups sugar, 4 large eggs, ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 packed tablespoons grated lemon zest, 2 teaspoons flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, Pinch of salt
- Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- When ready to serve, lift parchment from the pan and cut bars. Sift powdered sugar over bars, if desired.½ cup powdered sugar
- Shake the pan every few minutes when toasting the coconut to ensure even toasting.
- Skip the bottled lemon juice (with preservatives) and squeeze your own lemon juice for best flavor.
- Lemon bars stick to the pan frequently so be sure to thoroughly line your pan with parchment as well as spray the paper with cooking spray for easy removal.
- Check the bars halfway through baking time. If they are browning too quickly, tent with foil.
- Dust bars with powdered sugar just before serving so the sugar isn't absorbed into the lemon filling.
Nutrition info not guaranteed to be accurate.