Featured, Kitchen

Strawberry Mango Bars

April 4, 2023


Here is the perfect early spring easter dessert, really we can’t stop eating it

I adore strawberries. One of my long-standing fantasies is that I will retire in Italy as an organic strawberry farmer. I also fantasize of retiring in Sicily as a mango farmer (believe it or not mangoes grow decently there). This recipe fuses my two fantasies together and I can’t help but feel joy at the heart of this dessert. The combination is sweet and interesting with an ease of complexity.

I love pairing mangoes with strawberries in my recipes because of this flavor camaraderie. This new lemon bar-ish recipe began as a cranberry mango bar in the original idea phase. I am so glad I procrastinated because this spring strawberry version feels more natural and lighter with less sugar use than the cranberries would have called for, thanks to the natural sweetness in mangoes and oranges and my strength in using fruits to sweeten deserts.

I will admit it might not be the perfect time to make these because strawberries may be difficult and expensive to buy for a while because of the brutal rains that have pounded California, especially the Salinas Valley which supplies many strawberries at market in May and June. But at least for the time being, some supplies of strawberries should still be coming from the Oxnard and Santa Maria area. There is hope as some ideology suggests that the strawberry plants could be stronger with more prolific production once the water subsides. We hope for this later strawberry trajectory.

In any case local strawberries are often abundant all over the country in the spring and, I’d argue, taste better; so all of us technically should have access to strawberries for a while and be able to make this recipe on repeat for all of spring and most of summer.

I think this recipe is perfect for the Easter dessert table. Not only does it look and feel elegant enough for a festive, “dressed up” occasion but it is one of those “foolproof” recipes that no one can really screw up. It always comes out beautiful and tasty without having to put much fuss into it.

The idea for this recipe started with a New York Times Cranberry Lemon Bar recipe that flashed across my screen one day. The color contrast struck me and I had thought I’d use a version of my mango lemon bars and try to replicate the beautiful contrasting colors that the NY Times cranberry lemon recipe demonstrated.

Since I was making this with Easter in mind, the timing fits with the citrus season as it collides into spring. I happen to have some RCF navel oranges as well as a few Buckbrand Cara Cara oranges and so my idea was to use the navel oranges and lots of orange zest in my strawberry jam along with white balsamic vinegar, which I always add to my jams (vinegar) for extra complexity. For the lemon bar layer, I opt for a Meyer Lemon-Cara Cara and Mango mixture. The Meyer lemons offer just enough tartness to combat the sweetness of the oranges and mangoes. The combined trio makes like a sweet tropical pucker!

The crust is fairly basic and not too sweet. I put loads of zest and vanilla in it and I added a few dried lavender flowers because I am an herbal nerd. It’s not a must at all, and I know most people’s kitchens are not equipped with a pound of lavender flowers like mine is.

Strawberry Mango Bars
Makes about 1 dozen

One of the best components of this recipe is the complexity of the strawberry jam. I use O- Brand white balsamic vinegar, but there are several options out there and it’s easy to buy online. I totally recommend having this on hand. If you don’t have it and don’t want to get it, don’t substitute another vinegar. Just omit it all together, and the bars will still be fantastic!

I prefer to use the round mango varietals for this and, since what most of us have on hand right now are Tommy Atkins mangoes, those are perfectly fine. Though, I think the Kent mango would be divine in this one. The subtle nuances of Mexican spice in the Ataulfo make it not my ideal choice, but again the flavor is so subtle most wouldn’t notice.

Adding some tiny fresh mango chunks to the top of the finished batter before the final bake was an idea I had after the fact. I will try it and report back, but I imagine it would add more texture and more mango flavor.


For the strawberry orange jam:
2 ½ cups chopped strawberries
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt

For the bar crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick (8 T) butter, melted
1 tablespoon lavender flowers (dried or fresh)

For the Meyer lemon orange mango “curd”:
¼ cup sugar
½ cup flour
½ cup mango puree
¼ cup Meyer lemon juice
¼ cup Cara Cara (or regular Navel) Orange juice
Pinch of salt
3 eggs, beaten
Confectioners sugar for decoration


For the strawberry orange jam:
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so that a low rolling boil happens. Allow to cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until all the berries break down into a jam. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. (It will cool faster if you pour it out of the hot pan into another bowl.)

For the bar crust:
Heat the oven to 350°F.

Line the bottom of a 9-inch by 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Make sure the entire pan is covered. If you are using aluminum foil, make sure you generously spray it with cooking spray to prevent the crust from sticking.

Whisk together the flour, sugar  and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in the lavender flowers if using. Add the vanilla to the melted butter and pour over the flour mixture. Stir the mixture well until it becomes a blob of crumbly dough. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and press down into an even layer across the bottom of the pan. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until it’s golden brown around the edges. It should be totally dry on top.

For the Meyer lemon orange mango “curd”:
Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, mix the eggs and mango puree and then pour into the flour mixture. Add the lemon and orange juice and stir until smooth.

To assemble:
Once the crust has cooled for about 5 minutes, pour the cooled strawberry jam evenly over the top of the crust. Gently pour the mango citrus mixture over the top of the jam layer, being careful not to disturb it; you want two distinct layers.

Return the fully assembled pan of bars into the 350°F oven and bake another 20 to 22 minutes or until the filling is set. The tip of a knife inserted will come out clean.

Allow the bars to cool completely and then place them in the refrigerator for at least two hours so they set up fully. Remove the bars by lifting or sliding the parchment or foil out of the pan. Sift some confectioners’ sugar on top and cut into squares of desired size.


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