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These creamy strawberry and lemon no-bake dessert bars taste like a dream.​

There’s a no-bake dessert for every season (we’ve got caramel apple delight in the fall and a classic icebox cake during the winter holidays), but this time of year is when I really lean into serving easy sweets. This spring I’m inspired by one of the season’s most iconic desserts: strawberry shortcake. These strawberry dream bars are a five-layer, no-bake twist on the classic that you can share all season long.

The bars start with a shortbread cookie crumb crust followed by layers of lemon and strawberry cheesecake, airy whipped cream, and a final vibrant dusting of strawberry powder made from freeze-dried fruit. It’s a dessert that delivers all of the fresh and fruity flavors of spring in a supremely shareable bar form.

Why You’ll Love It

  • Springtime is for strawberries. Whipping strawberry preserves into the no-bake cheesecake base means you don’t need to stand over the stove to cook down and concentrate the berries’ flavor. Finish the bars with a final flourish of vibrant strawberry powder made from crushed freeze-dried strawberries.
  • It’s the perfect make-ahead dessert—and no oven is required. Serving these no-bake strawberry dream bars is easy because they are best when made several hours or up to a day in advance. Layer the bars and refrigerate until firm enough to cut into bars for serving.

Key Ingredients in No-Bake Strawberry Dream Bars

  • Shortbread cookies: Because they’re already rich and buttery, you’ll need less melted butter than other crumb crusts. Chilling re-solidifies the butter to create a sturdy no-bake crust.
  • Cream cheese: Use full-fat cream cheese in a block for the best flavor and texture.
  • Strawberry preserves: Choose preserves over jelly for those sweet bits of strawberry. The texture will become smooth when blended with the cheesecake filling.
  • Lemon: Use a Microplane to finely zest the lemon before juicing it.
  • Whipped topping: Using a tub of thawed frozen whipped topping makes assembling this dessert easy, but you can substitute with homemade whipped cream.
  • Freeze-dried strawberries: You could consider this ingredient optional, but I wouldn’t. Mix some of the freeze-dried strawberry powder into the strawberry cheesecake filling to boost the fruit flavor and intensify the color. Save the rest for a stunning final layer of pink strawberry dust on the bars.

Helpful Swaps

  • Cookie crumb crust. If you swap shortbread cookies for another cookie like graham crackers or vanilla wafers, you may need to adjust the amount of butter needed to hold the crust together.
  • Pick your own fruit flavor. Swap the strawberry preserves and freeze-dried fruit for another flavor like raspberry or peach to make the light and creamy no-bake bars of your dreams.

Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Prep Time:
25 minutes to 30 minutes



  • 1 (8-ounce) container thawed frozen whipped topping, such as Cool Whip, divided
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, divided
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces shortbread cookies, such as Lorna Doone (32 cookies) or Pepperidge Farm Dublin Shortbread (16 cookies)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 (0.8- to 1.2-ounce) package freeze-dried strawberries
  • ½ cup strawberry preserves


  1. Thaw 1 (8-ounce) container frozen whipped topping if needed. Let 8 ounces cream cheese sit at room temperature until softened, about 45 minutes. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch baking pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper, positioning them perpendicular to each other and making sure they are long enough to hang over all four sides by at least 1 inch to form a sling.
  2. Place 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH until melted, 40 to 60 seconds. (Alternatively, melt the butter on the stovetop.)
  3. Break 8 ounces shortbread cookies into large pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until fine crumbs form, 15 to 20 (1-second) pulses; you should have about 1½ cups crumbs. (Alternatively, place the cookies in a sealed zip-top bag and crush with a rolling pin into fine crumbs.)
  4. Drizzle the butter over the cookie crumbs (reserve the bowl). Add ¼ teaspoon of the kosher salt. Pulse until it resembles wet sand and holds together when squeezed, about 7 (1-second) pulses. (If making by hand, transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl and add the melted butter and salt. Stir until the mixture resembles wet sand and holds together when squeezed.)
  5. Transfer the mixture into the baking pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup or your fingers to press the crumbs into an even layer, making sure to reach the edges and fill the corners. Wash and dry the food processor bowl, blade, and lid.
  6. Finely grate the zest from 1 medium lemon (about 1 tablespoon) and juice the lemon until you have 2 tablespoons; place both into the food processor. Add the cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Process until very smooth and lightened in texture, about 1 minute.
  7. Transfer half of the cream cheese mixture (about ⅓ cup) into the reserved butter bowl (leave the remaining in the food processor), add 1 cup of the whipped topping, and fold with a flexible spatula until combined. Dollop this lemon filling over the crust and spread into an even layer.
  8. Place 1 (0.8- to 1.2-ounce) package freeze-dried strawberries in a plastic zip-top bag, press the air out, and seal. Crush with a rolling pin until finely ground into a powder. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the strawberry powder to an airtight container and set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.
  9. Add the remaining strawberry powder and ½ cup strawberry preserves to the remaining cream cheese mixure in the food processor and process until very smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to the reserved butter bowl, add ½ cup of the whipped topping, and fold until just combined. Dollop this strawberry filling over the lemon filling and spread into an even layer.
  10. Dollop the remaining whipped topping (about 1½ cups) over the top of the strawberry filling and spread into an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
  11. Grasping the excess parchment paper, lift the slab out of the pan and place on a cutting board or serving platter. Place the reserved strawberry powder in a fine-mesh strainer and dust over the top of the bars. Cut into 9 bars, wiping the knife clean after each slice to maintain the layered appearance.

Recipe Notes

Ingredient substitutions: 3 cups whipped cream can be used in place of the Cool Whip.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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