Sky-High Lemon Meringue Pie Bars
When I go Christmas shopping, I have a bit of a bad habit. Very rarely, if ever, do I manage to get through an entire shopping trip without buying at least one thing for myself that catches my eye. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be out shopping for everyone else. However, sometimes when you’re just browsing, you tend to stumble upon some fantastic finds.
This past holiday season, I spent a good chunk of an afternoon wandering around Barnes & Noble. I really hope that brick and mortar book stores never disappear completely; I thoroughly enjoy floating from section to section, leafing through books that look interesting, and totally losing all sense of time. On that particular day, there was a display of local, Pittsburgh-themed books and among them was a new cookbook with dishes from popular restaurants around the city. I snatched it up for myself, along with a handful of other books for people on my shopping list.
After the hustle and bustle of the holidays died down, I curled up on the couch with this book and dug in. Almost every single one of them jumped out at me, and there were at least a couple that I had enjoyed before. When I flipped the page to these lemon meringue bars, a light bulb went off. I’ve never been head over heels for lemon bars; I find that they’re generally a little too tart for my super sweet taste buds. However, lemon meringue pie, I can always get behind. The crust and the meringue help to balance the tart of the lemon; plus, I never turn down pie.
These bars offer all of the best parts of pie, but without the fuss of a pie crust, blind baking, or making lemon curd. The crust bakes up into a soft, almost cookie-like base, which I found to be absolutely phenomenal. The filling is tart without being bitter, and then oh, that beautiful meringue!
As you can see, it piles up extremely high, which I just adore. Big, pillowy layers of meringue toasted with a kitchen torch. If you prefer smaller, hand-held bars, you could cut the amount of meringue down. I personally love that it’s a pretty low-maintenance dessert, but makes such a grand statement.
If this recipe and the book have taught me anything, it’s that it is absolutely, 100% A-OKAY to buy yourself presents while Christmas shopping for others :)
One year ago: Sweet Potato Pretzel Dog Treats
Two years ago: New England Clam Chowder and Granola Cookies
Three years ago: Peanut Butter Cup Bars
Four years ago: Maple-Oatmeal Scones
Six years ago: Happy 1st Birthday Einstein!
Lemon Meringue Bars
For the Crust:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup (110 g) light brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup (84 g) graham cracker crumbs
- ½ cup (62.5 g) all-purpose flour
For the Filling:
- 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 14 ounce (396.89 ml) can sweetened condensed milk
- ½ cup (122 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the Meringue Topping:
- 1¼ cups (250 g) granulated sugar, divided
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 3 tablespoons water
- 6 egg whites, at room temperature
- Make the Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter an 8x8-inch square baking pan, then line it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on each side. Set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the flour and graham cracker crumbs, mixing until a dough forms. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and pat into an even layer (the dough will be rather soft). Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack.
- Make the Filling: Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the yolks on high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and beat until light and fluffy, an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the lemon juice and beat on medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the filling is set and the center does not jiggle when the pan is moved. Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Once completely cooled, cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Make the Meringue Topping: In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, the water, and the corn syrup over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, do not stir, and heat to 240 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. If the sugar syrup has not yet reached 240 degrees, turn the mixer off and wait. Once the syrup reaches the correct temperature, turn the mixer speed to medium and add the syrup to the bowl in a slow, steady stream down the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, fluffy and cool, about 7 minutes.
- Spread the meringue on top of the chilled lemon bar, swirling to form peaks. Using a kitchen torch, torch the meringue to a golden brown color. If you do not own a torch, you can place the pan in a 500 degree F oven for a few minutes to brown the top. Be sure to keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn. Allow the meringue to cool, then slice into bars and serve. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
Can the lemon meringue bars recipe be increased to fit a 9 x 13 pan? Need a dessert for 10 to 12 people and was hoping to make a lemon meringue in a cake pan instead of fussing with a pie crust. 😊
Oh my, so fluffy delicious!
Yum yum, i love this. So delicious, thanks for sharing this recipe.
Crust and lemon were perfect. I’d halve the meringue next time though. It just was too overpowering for the amount of crust and filling.
The taste on these was really good. However the meringue made way too much, even with sky high piles, for an 8×8 pan, and I thought the crust was too thick and took away from the rest of the dessert. I think next time I would make this in a 9×12 pan, the crust would be thinner and the lemon a bit thinner, but there was enough meringue still to have plenty of height I believe in a larger pan.
I made these yesterday and finished with the Meringue topping today. I have made PLENTY of Lemon Meringue Pies & Lemon Bars in the past but these were THE BEST I have EVER made!! The crust is so rich and buttery, the lemon filling is so creamy and slightly tart then the piece de la resistance ( sp ) would have to be the Meringue!!! So fluffy and thick & oh so sweet but the perfect topping to the tart lemon filling. I am glad I did it in two days as to give the lemon proper time to set and cool. Hats off to the Chef that created this and thanks you for sharing! <3
That towering meringue is calling my name! The balance of flavors and textures in these bars sounds perfect!
I made this as the dessert for our Sunday dinner. FANTASTIC and easy. I did make the crust and filling Saturday night and finished the rest Sunday (and I love any excuse to dust off my baby blowtorch). My dad, who is a huge lemon meringue pie (or any lemon dessert) lover, was thrilled, too. He paid the biggest compliment when he said the custard reminded him of his mom’s pie and she was a wonderful cook and baker. I can always count on your recipes! Cannot wait to make the black forest cheesecake (maybe for my hubby’s birthday next month)!
I made these tonight for my husbands birthday. They came out awesome! Thank you for sharing the recipe. Next time, I will definitely use parchment paper instead of foil!
I’m in the meringue process and I don’t have a torch. Can I use my broiler in my oven?
Hi Karen, Yes, there are instructions for using the broiler in step #7 of the recipe.
These look fantastic, cannot wait to try them. Thanks for sharing
reminds me of the movie ‘toast’, look at this fabulous lemon meringue pie: http://e.movie.as/p/48721.jpg
i recommend the movie as well:)
Please tell me the beer cheese (for the soft pretzels) from Penn Brewery is in that book. I had it and loved it, and can’t find a recipe that comes close. It’s more of a spread than a dip. Maybe you could put that on your list to try and then share with the world. ;)
Hi Jenny, I have had that, but unfortunately, it’s not in the book :(
Those bars look incredible, Michelle! I’ve never seen meringue piled that high before. Pinning and definitely planning on making this spring!
Even though my Grandma makes home made Meringue Pie, I have never even tried it – so this looks worth it!
Which brand of kitchen torch do you recommend?
Hi Belle, I bought mine from Williams Sonoma about five years ago, it’s this one: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/compact-kitchen-torch/?pkey=e%7Ctorch%7C1%7Cbest%7C0%7C1%7C24%7C%7C1&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-NoMerchRules-_-
Yum! This is one of my all-time favorite desserts! I can’t wait to try your version! xx
Oh my goodness look at the hight of the meringue! Very impressive and absolutely delicious looking!
Oh, Michelle! I love lemon things and just can’t wait to try this. Thanks! (and I always end up buying myself something for Christmas.)
I look forward to trying this with the addition of the corn syrup – ANYTHING to help prevent the meringue from “weeping” away from the lemon!
Has anyone else besides me have this problem?
Just like grandma’s!!
Now THAT’s my kind of meringue! Love that!
ahhhh, the meringue! this is my kind of pie, for sure!!
I really like cakes which stand so proudly! It looks amazing and yummy! Great job
Which restaurant and chef was the recipe from??
Hi Kelly, These are from Bluebird Kitchen, in Market Square.
Lermon meringue squares look yummy! I have a question though–I have been looking for a different lemon meringue recipe. It is a lemon meringue pie much like the traditional one but the filling is pale yellow and not as shiny as the ones I normally see. I don’t think cornstarch was used as the thickener (maybe flour?). I had this kind of pie years ago at a church dinner and it was delicious. It was not as tart and sweet as the traditional ones. I hope I’m giving you enough details. Thanks for your posts.
I love lemon meringue pie and lemon bars. I’ve never seen the filling made with sweetened condensed milk before and will have to give these a try. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
We have a lemon tree that blooms every year right before Christmas when I’m making everything peppermint and gingerbread. So the second Christmas is over I have to find a way to use 18928739 lemons. I pinned this immediately and will definitely be adding this to the rotation. Thanks!!!
Love all of the meringue!
Can I use digestive biscuits instead of Graham cracker crumbs? I have not heard of them here in UK
Certainly! You could also make your own graham crackers, too :) https://www.browneyedbaker.com/2012/06/26/homemade-graham-crackers-recipe/
These look incredible! I love how high that meringue is- always the best part!
The meringue on this looks killer!
These are beautiful!!
Oh my goodness, these are the prettiest pie bars ever! I love the idea of doing a pie bar instead of the whole pie! These are HUGE….the kind of huge that needs to get in my belly…yesterday.
P.s Now I totally have an excuse to go buy a torch. Yessss
I am the same way when it comes to Xmas shopping. If its a good deal you have to get it right? My brother and sister in law live in Pittsburgh. I have a feeling my sister in law would love this book. Totally saving the link for her. The lemony goodness of these bars looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing :)
OMG love the look of this recipe!
Can I use sugar syrup in place of corn syrup?
I’ve always wanted an excuse to use a torch! Thanks!
Mademoiselle C. xx
Hi Mademoiselle, I’m not sure how the sugar syrup would work, but you could certainly give it a try.
Sounds yummy! Can the corn syrup be omitted from the meringue? I don’t use it and don’t want to buy it for 2 tablespoons.
Hi Teri, You could use this meringue recipe, which does not use corn syrup. I will say, though, that I found the meringue for these bars to be a million times better than the old one. https://www.browneyedbaker.com/2008/01/27/daring-bakers-lemon-meringue-pie/
Thanks for the alternative, Michelle. I avoid corn syrup for a variety of reasons, but especially since it’s probably made with GMO corn.
I avoid corn syrup too, but I did find non-GMO organic corn syrup to use once in a while if needed — I think this recipe is a good excuse to use it!
Hehe, as long as you share these recipes your present for yourself is a present for us all;)
Do you know if egg yolks that have been frozen would work with this recipe?
Hi Domenica, I do not know. If you use them, be sure they are completely thawed and at room temperature. I haven’t frozen eggs before, so I’m not sure if the consistency would be compromised.
Ok this is so darn random but here goes. I bought myself a kitchen torch as a cheap thrills xmas present to myself & it finally just arrived. I also have a crate of lemons I was sent. Yesterday on a long run I was thinking of how to use my torch & my lemons and thought of lemon meringue pie but I am not a pie maker so I thought lemon meringue bars. And now I see yours. I swear I am not making this up! I am absolutely in love with how HIGH yours are! WOW! And the toasted meringue and the filling and graham crust – they’re totally amazing! pinned!
Pie has been on my brain right now and this fits the bill to satisfy my baking craving. I love the piled sky high texture of your meringue! and the touch is always needed in this pie bar.
Lovely photos too!
Any excuse to use my torch, I’m all for! Plus meringue is my favorite, can’t wait to try!