Calamansi Coconut Bars

published May 30, 2024
Calamansi Coconut Bars Recipe
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Calamansi Coconut Bars on a cutting board.
Credit: Jan Valdez

Calamansi, also known as Philippine lime or Philippine lemon, is a small citrus fruit that packs a punch. Its sharp, sour flavor adds a citrusy note to anything it’s in. Calamansi can be used to marinate dishes like bistek (beef marinated with calamansi, soy, and onions) and kinilaw (Filipino ceviche). It’s a key ingredient in some versions of sinigang (Filipino sour soup), and is the perfect accompaniment to dishes like pancit and lugaw (arroz caldo)

My aunt had a calamansi tree in her dining room, and I have fond memories of picking out the very best ones to serve with meals during the holidays. A squeeze of calamansi juice balances out the flavors of a dish, giving it some brightness and acidity. 

Calamansi is a staple ingredient in Filipino cuisine for a number of savory dishes, but this versatile citrus fruit is perfect in desserts, too. Arlyn Osborne, food writer and the author of the cookbook, Sugarcane: Sweet Recipes from My Half-Filipino Kitchen, uses calamansi juice in her recipe for Calamansi Coconut Bars. I recently got a copy of the book and can confirm that if you’re a fan of citrus desserts like lemon bars (or coconut-y desserts like magic cookie bars!), you’ll love these calamansi coconut bars.

What Makes These Calamansi Coconut Bars So Good 

Tart calamansi juice is the perfect match for creamy coconut milk, a bit of coconut extract, and unsweetened shredded coconut for the filling. If you can’t find calamansi juice, you can use a mixture of fresh lemon and lime juice).

The real magic happens, though, when the calamansi coconut filling is baked on top of a buttery shortbread base. In the oven, the shredded coconut in the filling floats to the surface and transforms into a delightfully chewy layer. I absolutely love the contrast of textures and flavors in these bars. They’re sweet, just a bit tart, buttery, and chewy all in one bite. I love them as a snack during the day with coffee or as an after-dinner treat.

How to Make Calamansi Coconut Bars

  1. Prepare the baking pan. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper so there is overhang on two sides.
  2. Make the crust. Combine flour, unsalted butter, sugar, and kosher salt in a food processor and pulse until dough crumbles form. Press this mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden-brown all over, then allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  3. Make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, coconut milk, calamansi juice, coconut extract, and kosher salt together until combined. Whisk in the flour and baking powder, then stir in 1 cup of the unsweetened shredded coconut with a fork. Pour the filling over the cooled crust and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of shredded coconut.
  4. Bake. Bake until set and golden-brown around the perimeter, then cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. Serve. Cover with foil and refrigerate until chilled, cut into bars, and serve chilled or at room temperature.
Credit: Linda Xiao

My Honest Review of Sugarcane 

I would highly recommend Sugarcane: Sweet Recipes from My Half-Filipino Kitchen to anyone who loves to bake. It’s a stunning collection of 80 sweets and dessert recipes that draws from Arlyn’s Filipino heritage and years of professional recipe development. The cookbook is beautifully shot and deeply personal, as she describes the experience of growing up half-Filipino in a small, sandy town in the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina. 

Her recipes are a combination of classic Filipino flavors and ingredients with delightfully inventive techniques. I’m so excited to try more of the recipes from her cookbook. Here are just a few that I’ve bookmarked to make next.

  • Maja Blanca Custard Cake
  • Ube Milk Crinkles
  • Biko Coconut Custard Pie
  • Mango Float Cheesecake Cups
  • Pandan Napoleones
  • No-Churn Halo Halo Ice Cream

Calamansi Coconut Bars Recipe

Prep time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook time 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes

Makes 16 bars

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 cup (125 grams)

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 stick (113 grams)

    cold unsalted butter, cubed

  • 1/3 cup (66 grams)

    granulated sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Filling and Topping

  • 4

    large eggs, at room temperature

  • 3/4 cup (175 grams)

    granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup (60 grams)

    canned unsweetened coconut milk

  • 1/4 cup (60 grams)

    calamansi juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    coconut extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup (31 grams)

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1 1/4 cups (62 grams)

    unsweetened shredded coconut, divided

Instructions

For the crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease an 8-inch (20-centimeter) square cake pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper so there is overhang on two sides.

  2. In a food processor, add the flour, butter, sugar, and salt. Pulse until small dough crumbles form. Scatter the mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly into the bottom.

  3. Bake until golden-brown all over and deep golden around the perimeter, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Leave the oven on.

For the filling:

  1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Whisk in the sugar, coconut milk, calamansi juice, coconut extract, and salt. Whisk in the flour and baking powder. Stir in 1 cup (50 grams) of the coconut with a fork.

  2. Pour the filling over the cooled crust and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup (12 grams) of coconut.

  3. Bake until set and golden around the perimeter, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cover with foil and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours.

  4. Using the parchment overhang as handles, lift the chilled square onto a cutting board. Cut into 16 square bars. Enjoy chilled or at room temperature.