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True Lemon Bars

True Lemon Bars

True Lemon is a crystallized form of real lemon. It is not a sponsor of this blog. True Lemon only sponsored these lemon bars like the Letter “A” sponsored that episode of Sesame Street.

Of my own free will, and out of a love of lemons, I added 6 grams (1 gram per packet) True Lemon crystals to the shortbread crust in my original recipe for Gluten-free Lemon Bars. I had come to believe that the plain shortbread in my regular lemon bars was fraudulent, since it was so regular.

What you have here is a super-bright-and-tangy lemon shortbread crust. Now, if you have your reservations about an embarrassment of lemon tanginess (is too a word), you can totally go a little light on the lemons in the lemon custard.

Only you know if too much lemon is, indeed, too much for you.

But I went all in. You can’t see the lemon flavor in that raw shortbread crust. But we know it’s there.

See, a while back there was all this talk about how no one could really lay claim to a lemon bar recipe, since, well, they’re so common. And it’s absolutely true. I did not invent lemon bars. Instead, I ventured to make them better by adding natural lemon flavor to the crust without adding moisture, which would upset the crust something terrible.

Just in case you were wondering, the lemon is there in the custard, too, but it’s in that old school, squeeze-your-lemons-with-a-reamer sort of way.

I really do like this True Lemon stuff. I love real lemons, but sometimes it’s nice not to have to find out the hard way exactly how many painful little cuts and scrapes you have on your fingers by squeezing lemons. *ouch*

I bought the little packets, but True Lemon also seems to be available in a shakety shake shake canister or something which would have been way easier. There wasn’t too much romance in tearing open all those packets.

‘Cept it was totally worth it. And I bet you could make the whole recipe with nary an actual lemon in sight (there are directions on the package for packet-to-lemon-wedge equivalencies). I know you can use the stuff to make really good, really easy fresh lemonade. I know, because I did it. And I’ll probably do it again.


P.S. To those of you who have bought My Cookbook: thank you. I hope to keep writing cookbooks, and I certainly can’t do that without all of you. Without you, I wouldn’t even be able to make lemon bars, I bet.

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  • Gwendolyn

    I love your cookbook and my non-GF son and husband love the things I make from it! :)

    • Hi, Gwendolyn,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to say that. I’m so glad you are able to feed your whole family the same food, and feel good doing it!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Oh, I love lemon bars! I’ve never made them, though. Now I have no excuse. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Jennifer K

    Oh my goodness this is awesome. My mother looked at me yesterday and said that she had a bag of lemons and we should make lemon bars. Which was followed up with … “Oh, can you have lemon bars?” I couldn’t have the ones we normally make…but I can have these! You are amazing and have great timing!

    Thank you!

    • I try to eavesdrop as best I can, Jennifer. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Kristi

    Wow, a new replacement for Crystal Light which has fake sugar (we are trying not to give them fake sugar anymore). AND a great recipe cuz my gluten eating husband loves lemon bars and I have not a speck of wheat flour in my house. Woohoo! Hunn strikes a homerun….again!

    • Yup, Kristi. True Lemon is a great Crystal Light replacement. We add a bit of honey to the lemonade, and it’s so good.
      xoxo Nik

  • laura

    I have a rather stupid question… In the instructions you state: Grease an 8- or 9-inch baking pan with butter or shortening, line with criss-crossed pieces of parchment paper that overhang the sides, and grease the parchment paper…

    Why do you grease both the pan and the paper? This is in alot of your instructions, and I never quite understood it.
    Thanks :-)

    Can’t wait to make these lemon bars! Look yummy!

    • Hi, Laura,
      Not stupid at all. :)
      The crisscrossed sheets of parchment paper are meant to be something of a sling for holding onto and removing the bars in one piece, so they don’t have to be cut in the pan itself. If you are using a nonstick pan, you shouldn’t need to line – or even necessary grease – the pan otherwise. The reason for greasing the pan and the paper is primarily to help the paper stick to the bottom and sides of the pan (and one crisscrossed sheet to the other), so that the paper doesn’t shift around and crease. The paper also has a tendency to slump over, if it is not greased and sticking safely to the pan, and get stuck in the top of the batter as it bakes.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Peggy

    Looking forward to adding the True Lemon to my crust…can not have too much lemon!!! Thanks, Nicole, for keeping it interesting in the kitchen! Love, love your humor!!!

    • Thanks for laughing along with me, Peggy. When you laugh all alone, I think they take you away. ;)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Oh these look really good. This is one of my favorite desserts, too :) :) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :) :) :)

  • Brian Haber

    True Lime also rocks, Nicole. It’s very popular down here in south Florida. Great in Key Lime pie, pudding or custard with toasted coconut, macadamia nut cookies, etc. . It’s used a lot with Cuban food, seviche some Thai food. A nice sprinkle in V-8 with tabasco changes things up a bit.

    • Hi, Mr. Haber!
      That’s so good to know, about True Lime. Maybe I won’t have to squeeze all of those tiny key limes this year! I wonder if the True Lime crystals would be good sprinkled on some pico de gallo – without reconstituting it separately with water. I’ll have to try that out. Sounds like there’s tons of potential there. Maybe the True Lemon/Lime people finally did what bottled citrus juices never could accomplish. Thanks so much for the tips!
      xoxo Nicole

  • I”m wondering if any of your readers are also on the GAPS diet? It’s gluten free and beyond…slightly. I know I could make the “bread” part with almond flour..and somehow use raw honey instead of sugar….but I’d have to figure out so mething different in place of powdered sugar. These are yummy though :) :) When you write your next cookbook, I’ll buy it. It’s fabulous :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :) :) :)

  • Patti

    These are making my mouth water. Heading out to buy True Lemon! Thank you for another winner Nicole!

    • You bet, Patti. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Sallie

    Another great recipe from you. Wow! You are my go to guru for all tho pings gluten free. I am now doing some gluten free baking for a local family owned restaurant. Every recipe I make of yours is spot on. I have your cookbook and it quite messy now. Good sign! x Sallie

  • Sallie

    Sorry for the typos. All things gluten free. (not all tho pings ).

    • But “tho pings” was really funny, Sallie! I’m really glad that your copy of my book is messy. That is definitely a good sign! Good for you for that gig making baked goods for a restaurant, and good for them for offering GF baked goods.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Taylre

    Is it weird if I want to be you when I grow up? Well I do. You’re amazing. You should start a gluten free cooking school. I would go to it. I’ve always wanted to own a bakery. Until I got diagnosed with celiac three years ago. But if I went to Gluten Free Cordon Bleu then I could totally open one and even normal people would eat my om noms! But right now my om noms usually aren’t edible in the end :

  • Patti

    Nicole, made these for a baby shower this week-end. They were wonderful! And no one knew they were g-free. When it came out that they were, 2 of the gals said hubbies/partners were g-free, so I sent them home with lemon bars and your g-free blueberry & cranberry scones (which I had also made for the shower). So fun!! So Good!! I did make one set of the scones with your Cup 4 Cup flour hack. The ones made with Better Batter were a bit moister and tastier. I didn’t know if the Cup 4 Cup hack would be good for scones or not, but now I do. IMO, the Better Batter alone made a better scone.

  • Michelle O

    I read the comment about True Lime and key lime pie~ these look like they would also be awesome as a key lime version. I myself have been known to squeeze those little key limes, finding every time cut on my fingers :( It is worth it in the end though. I have not made a pie though since going gluten free. I must do so for my dad’s birthday next month. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • True Lime Bars would be amazing, Michelle. I also have a recipe for g-f Key Lime Pie here on the blog, with a gluten-free Nilla Wafer crust. It would be quite a relief to use True Lime, instead of squeezing all those little key limes!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Brian Haber

    True Lime is intense in it’s flavor profile. It DOES make a great lime pie. And on pico de gallo is mmmmmm! Nicole is a True Rockstar to the GF community. Buy her books. She is in my collection along side James Beard, Escoffier, Julia Child and the like.

    • Mr. Haber! I am certainly not worthy of such high praise, but I am so happy to have you around, it doesn’t matter what you say. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Maryw

    Nicole, these lemon bars were so perfect but quite honestly, I never have lemons when I need them and don’t care for the refrigerated bottled stuff. (but I use it when necessary). My adult kids couldn’t get enough of them and didn’t believe they were gluten free. SCORE. They are my guinea pigs for making baked goods that taste “real” as they like to say. I cannot wait to find the True Lemon packets at the store. I so enjoy your blog and the pictures are so cool! I see the finished recipe and it makes me want to make it right away! Thanks so much. Oh, and I can identify with a lot of your comments. Keep it up. And, I will write to you when you’re excommunicated! maryw

    • Oh, Mary, that bottled lemon juice (and the bottled lime juice) are just awful! I always thought it tasted more bitter than sour. I have had to order True Lemon online most recently. I originally found it in the regular grocery store, but haven’t found it since. Go figure.
      I’m so glad the lemon bars were a success! I’m really glad the blog is an inspiration for you. That’s the idea. And thank you for saying you’ll write to me when I’m excommunicated. It’s only a matter of time!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Brian Haber

    Whole foods carries Key lime juice with nothing added to it. It is similar to what is sold at Joe’s Stone Crab on South Beach, FL. It really is quite good. Key lime juice has a distinct acidity . And MinuteMaid frozen lemon juice is great to use in a pinch(equal to about 8 lemons per bottle). And Nicole–you really ARE that good. Naomi can vouch for my candor. My reputation as a CIA graduate means a lot to me. Many of the Food Network chefs graduated from there. Think of yourself as a trail blazer like Escoffier was in classic French cuisine.

    • Really, Mr. Haber? Good quality bottled lime juice? I honestly didn’t think it could be done. I will definitely check that out.
      And you’re making me blush! I’m no CIA grad like you. I’m a mutt. :)
      xoxo Nicole

      • Brian Haber

        No, Nicole, you are 100% pure certified GF par excellance: writer, baker, photographer and instructor all packaged together in all its beauty. If Lassie is a mutt then you’re a mutt. So THERE!!

  • Laura

    I love lemons. When I was a little girl, my grandmother would buy a bag a lemons to take to the washateria. We would cut off the ends of lemons and suck on them while we did the laundry.

    I made these lemon bars for my birthday (which happened to coincide with Father’s Day this year), and they were seriously lemony – perfect! Everyone loved them. One friend wanted me to ditch my teaching career and open a lemon bar bakery. I don’t see that in my future, but I do see another batch of these fabulous bars in my future. Thanks so much for sharing!

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