Graham wafer lemon bars have the perfect balance of sweet and tart for any time of the year. The graham wafers and sweetened condensed milk give the bars a creamy and honey-like sweetness, while the lemon juice and zest cut down the sweetness with a bit of tart.
This lemon square recipe was passed down from my Grandma, who is just shy of 91 years old and had 10 little mouths to feed (so you know it’s gonna be good!).
It was one of those very vague recipes that required more detailed instructions if you’ve never made it before. My Grandma and Mom always made these by memory, so I’ve made a more detailed version to share with you, so that you can make them in your own home!
It is a great recipe when you need to feed dessert to a large group of people and best of all: no need to turn on the oven! Here is some information about these lemon bars.
The lemon bars, or lemon squares, popular now, were first made in the 1900’s. The bars consist of a shortbread and lemon curd layered together. Bar cookies are baked in a pan and then cut into squares.
Although this recipe is also cut into squares or bars and is layered with zesty and sweet flavors, it is not to be confused with the traditional lemon bar as you might know it.
These Graham Wafer Lemon Bars have no need for an oven; pop them in the fridge for an hour or more and they are ready to eat! This recipe uses graham wafer squares layered with lemon-flavored sweetened condensed milk and lemon frosting instead of shortbread and curd.
The lemon rind is the outside of the lemon: the hard, yellow skin with a bit of white underlayer. We are only looking for the yellow part of the rind in this recipe (the zest). You can get the zest with these tools: a zester, peeler, or a cheese grater.
I recommend the zester, because I find it easier to use. With the zester, you can get really fine bits that are easier to mix into recipes, while a peeler usually takes bigger pieces.
While milk is usually the common drink to pair with most baked goods or sweets, you may want to give some other beverages a try. The best thing to do is pair the lemon bars with a drink that cuts the sweetness down.
If you like alcohol, champagne or white wine will pair well with this tart and sweet treat. Having the lemon bar straight from the fridge with chilled champagne will give it an enjoyable flavor sensation.
Do you have any special passed-down recipes? Did you like this version of lemon bars? Let us know in the comments!
Graham Wafer Lemon Bars
- 29 graham wafer cracker sheets - broken into 4 pieces each–along the dotted lines
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 3 lemons - zested and juiced
Lemon Butter Frosting:
- 4 cups icing sugar
- ¼ cup butter - melted
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. warm water - or just enough for the frosting to be spreadable
- 1 lemon - zested
- Line a large cookie sheet with wax paper. Fill it with one layer of graham wafers. We used around 14 ½ sheets, broken into 4 pieces each along the dotted lines.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the sweetened condensed milk with the lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir well.
- Spread the mixture evenly over top of the graham wafer layer.
- Add another layer of wafers on top.
- In a large bowl, mix together the icing sugar, melted butter, vanilla and lemon juice. Add the warm water, a small amount at a time. (You may need to add more or less water to achieve a thick but spreadable consistency.)
- Add the lemon zest and mix well.
- Spread the frosting on top of the wafers. You can use an angled frosting spatula dipped in warm water to help with spreading.
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Slice into bars and serve!
Nutrition information on In the Kitch is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. It may not include toppings and/or sauces.
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