There’s nothing better than a Friday night happy hour, a plate loaded with nachos, and a tart, refreshing and salty margarita. Unless, of course, there are Margarita Bars for dessert.
If you’re a margarita fan, you are going to fall head over heels for these dessert bars. They’re comparable to lemon bars, but better, because…tequila. Made with lime, tequila, and pretzels, the bars have the best of the margarita flavor points: tart, salty, a little sweet, and a little sour.
Not to mention the balance of the creamy lime filling balanced with the crunchy, salty pretzel crust.
You’ve absolutely got to top with powdered sugar, both for looks and an added sweetness, along with flaky sea salt. Now, let’s get baking!
What You’ll Need
You just need a few simple ingredients to make these tequila lime bars. And if you’re keen on making margaritas often, I’m willing to bet you have just what you need on hand.
- Lime Juice – use fresh lime juice for the utmost best flavor. Squeeze the limes yourself to get the best, most fresh lime juice. Using most store-bought lime juices will result in too bitter and sour of a taste and affect the flavor of the bars. If you must, look for 100% fresh lime juice with no additives.
- Lime Zest – in addition to the lime juice, we’re using lime zest for added lime flavor. Use a Microplane to zest the limes or use a zester, and then finely chop the zest so it’s fine enough to be incorporated throughout the bars. An optional addition is orange zest. Margaritas typically have triple sec, an orange liqueur, and using a bit of orange zest adds to that flavor.
- Sugar – granulated sugar is part of the filling with…
- Eggs – they create the creamy, custardy soft base of the bars.
- Tequila – you can’t have margarita bars without tequila! What kind of tequila should you use? The one you like to drink! I like to use a Blanco, or silver, tequila, as they’re generally best for margaritas. The tequila flavor does come through quite a bit in these bars, so in the end make sure it’s a tequila you enjoy!
- Pretzels – to make our crust, we will use pretzels that have been pureed in a food processor into pretty fine crumbs, which ensures they stay together when in bar form. They’re then mixed with flour, sugar, and melted butter.
How to Make Margarita Bars
In just a few pretty easy steps, you’ll have refreshing margarita bars in no time! Here’s an overview, but be sure to check the recipe card for the full details.
First, start with the crust. Pulse pretzels in a food processor or blender until fine crumb forms. You don’t necessarily want it turned into dust, but the smaller the pretzel pieces are, the better the crust will hold together in the end.
Once the pretzel pieces are pulsed and the fine crumb forms, mix it together with the sugar and salt, then add in melted butter and stir together until all the crumbs are wet.
Press the pretzel mixture into an 8×8 baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper for easy removal. I like to use the back of a measuring cup to press the crust down. You can also use your hands or the bottom of a cup; regardless of what you use, be sure to press the crust firmly down.
Then, bake the crust so it sets.
While the crust bakes, begin preparing the filling.
To get the most lime flavor throughout the bars, start by rubbing the lime zest, and orange zest if using, into the sugar. Simply rub the two between your fingers. The oils from the zest will release into the sugar. Do this for a minute or two, until the sugar is tinted and is fluffier.
Then, stir in the flour. You can also sift the sugar and flour together to prevent any clumps later on.
Stir in the eggs, tequila, and lime juice. You can whisk these in too, just be careful to not whisk too furiously as it will add air into the mixture which will create small bubbles during the baking process. Not a huge deal, yet avoidable by not adding in too much air via whisking.
Pour the filling into the par-baked pretzel crust, and bake the bars until the edges are set and starting to ever-so-slightly turn golden brown. The center may still slightly jiggle, and that’s ok, too.
This is important but difficult: let the bars cool to room temperature for an hour or two, then transfer to the fridge to set up for at least 2-3 more hours.
When you’re ready to serve the bars, lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper, and cut them into bars.
In order to cut them the most efficiently, use a large sharp chef’s knife and press down in one swift motion, as opposed to dragging the bar through. This will keep the filling and crust most intact.
Dust with powdered sugar and flaky sea salt. If you don’t want to top with flaky sea salt, you need to add salt to the filling. Flaky salt on top is like the salt on the rim of a margarita glass and it’s EVERYTHING.
When to Serve Margarita Bars
Is it too obvious to say there’s really no bad time to dig into a batch of these bars? They have a place at summer potlucks as a show-stopping dessert everyone won’t be able to stop talking about.
They’re excellent after taco night or paired with nachos. And if you’re having a Cinco de Mayo celebration? Well, of course, they’ve got to be there, too.
Brunches, BBQs, bridal showers…there’s just no wrong time for Margarita Lime Bars.
Frequently Asked Questions
There’s no way to be certain how much alcohol remains after baking the bars, as it’s estimated that anywhere between 5-70% of alcohol content can remain depending on many factors including temperature, bake time, etc. There is just over two and a half shots worth of alcohol in the entire batch of bars, and because they bake, there is likely not much actual alcohol content remaining. However, do serve them to those of legal drinking age.
Absolutely! The final result is a tequila-heavy margarita bar, so if you’d like to use less tequila, just adjust the total amount of liquid – 1 cup – by using more lime juice to make it to the 1 cup total. You could also substitute orange juice or triple sec for part of the liquid, too.
Turn them into lime bars by omitting the tequila. Similar to lemon bars, they’re still tart, creamy, and delicious!
Get the Recipe Margarita Bars with a Salty Pretzel Crust
- 1 ½ cups (338 g) granulated sugar
- 1 TBSP lime zest , 3 limes
- 1 tsp orange zest optional
- ½ cup (75 g) + 1 TBSP all-purpose flour
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice , use the limes you zested
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- ½ cup tequila
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt, only if you don't plan on topping the bars with flaky sea salt — if topping the bars with salt, omit this salt.
- Powdered sugar for topping
- Flaky sea salt for topping
- Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough over the edge for easy removal after baking. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place approximately 4 cups of regular pretzel twists in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until fine crumbs form; you don't want large chunks left. Mix the pretzel crumbs with sugar and salt, then mix in the melted butter. and press into pan with spatula or back of measuring spoon. Bake 350° for 10 mins.
- Pour the pretzel mixture into the prepared baking pan, then use the back of a measuring spoon or cup, or spatula, to press the crumbs into a firm, even layer.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, then remove and let cool slightly.
- Place 1 ½ cups sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the lime zest (and orange zest if using). Rub the sugar and zest between your fingers for about 1 minute, releasing the oil from the zest into the sugar. The sugar will become slightly tinted and when it's much fluffier, like wet sand, you're ready.
- Sift the flour into the sugar mixture and stir to combine (sifting the flour prevents any lumps in the bars). If you're adding salt to the filling (because you won't be putting flaky salt on top) add it now, too.
- Gently whisk the eggs into the sugar and flour mixture, then pour in the lime juice and tequila, stirring until combined. Don't over whisk the mixture, or air bubbles will bubble up in the bars (not the worst thing though). Pour the filling into the par-baked crust.
- Bake for 25-29 minutes, until the edges are set and the middle is mostly set, a little jiggle is ok. Let the entire pan cool at room temperature (placing it on a cooling rack helps) for about 1 hour, then transfer to the fridge for about 2-3 hours until chilled.
- Cut into 16 bars, or as desired. Top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and flaky sea salt (really, don’t skip it!). Cheers!