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Vanilla Bean Citrus Bars

Vanilla Bean Citrus Bars! A crisp, shortbread crust is topped with a layer of sweet, citrusy filling speckled with fragrant vanilla beans. These are the stuff of potluck dreams!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Chill Time4 hrs
Total Time5 hrs 5 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 48 small bars
Author: The Kitchen Prep


For Crust:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ sticks {12 tablespoons} butter slightly softened

For Filling:

  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk {NOT evaporated milk}
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste*
  • 1 tablespoon citrus zest**
  • cup citrus juice {I used 1 orange 2 Meyer lemons & half a lime}
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Powdered sugar for sprinkling


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 13x9 inch baking pan by lining with foil, letting the flaps hang over the sides for easy removal after baking. Set aside.
  • In a food processor fitted with the dough blade, pulse together the flour and powdered sugar. Add the butter and pulse until a crumbly mixture forms. {You can also stand mixer or two knives or a pastry cutter to "cut in" the butter.}
  • Press the mixture into the prepared baking pan, patting it down with your hands {or the bottom of a measuring cup} to create an even base. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the edges just begin to turn golden.
  • Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large mixing bowl {or the bowl of a stand mixer}, beat the sweetened condensed milk and eggs until it turns a pale yellow color and looks thickened. Add vanilla bean paste, citrus zest, citrus juice, flour, baking powder and salt and beat until it's fully combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for about 20-23 minutes or until the filling is set {it shouldn't wiggle} and the top is lightly golden.
  • Remove from oven and cool until you can handle the pan, then place in the refrigerator and chill for about 2 hours.
  • When ready to serve, cut into bars and sprinkle with powdered sugar to garnish.


*If you don't have vanilla bean paste, I highly recommend seeking it out for your baked goods! They sell it at specialty stores, online and high end grocery stores. If you can't find it or prefer not to buy it, then substitute with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. 
**The zest of citrus contains the strongest flavor, so be sure to choose a citrus fruit that you enjoy because that will be the predominant flavor of the bars.