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You only need 7 ingredients to make these lemon bars. The lemon curd filling is extra thick and creamy and sits on an irresistible butter shortbread crust. Always bake lemon bars at a lower temperature to avoid over-baking. They’re simply the best lemon bars and are perfect for picnics, bake sales, spring brunches, baby showers, and bridal showers.

stack of lemon bars with shortbread crust

Today I’m teaching you how to make lemon bars. I love this lemon dessert recipe so much that I published it in my 1st cookbook, Sally’s Baking Addiction. These are the best lemon bars and I don’t use that statement lightly. After 1 taste, I’m confident you’ll agree. Everyone needs this recipe.

The process is pretty simple and I’m walking you through each step in the video tutorial below. Pick up some fresh citrus and let’s get baking. Spring is in the air!

Lemon bar with a bite taken out of it

Video Tutorial: Lemon Bars

These are classic lemon bars featuring a soft butter shortbread crust and a tangy sweet lemon curd filling that’s baked to the perfect consistency. The lemon layer is thick and substantial, not thin or flimsy like most other lemon bar recipes.

Only 7 Ingredients in these Lemon Bars

  1. Butter: Melted butter is the base of the shortbread crust.
  2. Sugar: Sugar sweetens the crust and lemon curd filling layers. Not only this, it works with the eggs to set up the lemon filling. If reduced, the filling will be too wet.
  3. Flour: Flour is also used in both layers. Like sugar, it gives structure to the lemon filling. These days, I add slightly more flour to the shortbread crust compared to my cookbook version. You can get away with 2 cups, but an extra 2 Tablespoons really helps solidify the foundation of the lemon bars.
  4. Vanilla Extract: I use 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract in the shortbread crust. Not many lemon bar recipes call for vanilla extract and I promise you it’s my best kept secret.
  5. Salt: Without salt, the crust would be too sweet.
  6. Eggs: Eggs are most of the structure. Without them, you have lemon soup!
  7. Lemon Juice: I highly recommend using lemon juice squeezed from fresh lemons. You can also use another citrus like blood orange, grapefruit, or lime juice.
2 images of lemon bars crust and lemon batter in glass bowls
Lemon bars before slicing with powdered sugar on top

How to Make Lemon Bars in 5 Steps

  1. Prepare the crust: Mix all of the shortbread crust ingredients together, then press firmly into a 9×13 inch baking pan. Interested in a smaller batch? See my recipe note.
  2. Pre-bake: Pre-baking the crust guarantees it will hold up under the lemon layer.
  3. Prepare the filling: Whisk all of the filling ingredients together. No cooking on the stove!
  4. Bake: Pour the filling on the warm pre-baked crust, then bake for around 20 minutes or until the center is just about set. I slightly increased the baking temperature from my cookbook version. Either temperatures work, but 325°F is preferred.
  5. Cool: I usually cool the lemon bars for about 1 hour at room temperature, then stick the whole pan in the refrigerator for 1-2 more hours until relatively chilled. They’re wonderful cold and with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar on top!

Prepared in only 2 bowls and a baking pan, clean up is a breeze. These lemon bars win 1st place every time because they’re the perfect balance of tangy and sweet. In fact, I made them for my friend’s baby shower last weekend and they were the first dessert to disappear. And that’s saying a lot considering the competition: homemade chewy brownies and adorable animal cracker cookies. 🙂

Lemon bars on teal cake stand

2 Guaranteed Tricks to Make the Best Lemon Bars

  1. Use a glass pan. Ceramic is fine, but glass is best. Do not use metal. I always detect a slight metallic flavor in the lemon bars when baked in metal pans.
  2. Use fresh juice. Store-bought bottles are convenient, but you miss out on a lot of flavor. You will definitely taste the difference! I have a super old citrus juicer, but I recently purchased this juicer for my mom and she loves it. Highly recommended.

White Air Bubbles on Top of Baked Lemon Bars

Do you notice air bubbles, perhaps even a white layer of air bubbles, on top of your baked lemon bars? That’s completely normal. It’s the air from the eggs rising to the surface. Some batches have it, some don’t. Regardless, the lemon bars taste the same and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar covers it right up!

Blood orange bars! See my recipe note about substituting flavors.

stack of lemon bars and blood orange bars

Want to kick it up a notch? Here is my lemon meringue pie recipe.

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Lemon bars on teal cake stand

Lemon Bars

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes
  • Yield: 24 bars 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

You only need 7 ingredients to make these lemon bars. The lemon curd filling is extra thick and creamy and sits on an irresistible butter shortbread crust. Always bake lemon bars at a lower temperature to avoid over-baking. See recipe notes for important tips. They’re simply the best lemon bars and are perfect for picnics, bake sales, spring brunches, baby showers, and bridal showers.


Ingredients

Scale

Shortbread Crust

  • 1 cup (230g; 2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons (265g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)

Lemon Filling

  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons (46g) all-purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup (240ml) lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
  • optional: confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking pan* with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished bars out (makes cutting easier!). Set aside.
  2. Make the crust: Mix the melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and stir to completely combine. The dough will be thick. Press firmly into prepared pan, making sure the layer of crust is nice and even. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from the oven. Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the warm crust (not all the way through the crust). A new step I swear by, this helps the filling stick and holds the crust in place. Set aside until step 4.
  3. Make the filling: Sift the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs, then the lemon juice until completely combined.
  4. Pour filling over warm crust. Bake the bars for 22-26 minutes or until the center is relatively set and no longer jiggles. (Give the pan a light tap with an oven mitt to test.) Remove bars from the oven and cool completely at room temperature. I usually cool them for about 2 hours at room temperature, then stick in the refrigerator for 1-2 more hours until pretty chilled. I recommend serving chilled.
  5. Once cool, lift the parchment paper out of the pan using the overhang on the sides. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut into squares before serving. For neat squares, wipe the knife clean between each cut. Cover and store leftover lemon bars in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  6. Freezing Instructions: Lemon bars can be frozen for up to 3-4 months. Cut the cooled bars (without confectioners’ sugar topping) into squares, then place onto a baking sheet. Freeze for 1 hour. Individually wrap each bar in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and place into a large bag or freezer container to freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator, then dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Notes

  1. Glass Dish: Use a ceramic or glass pan. I always detect a slight metallic flavor in the lemon bars when baked in metal pans.
  2. Halve the Recipe: Halve each of the ingredients to yield around 12 squares in a 9×9-inch baking pan. Same oven temperature. Bake the crust for 16-18 minutes and the bars for 20 minutes or until the center no longer jiggles.
  3. Sifting: More often than not, the flour doesn’t fully incorporate into the lemon filling unless it’s sifted with the sugar. As directed in the recipe, sift the two together before adding the eggs and lemon juice. I don’t always do this (and didn’t even do it in the video above!) but it’s preferred to avoid any flour lumps. If you have a sifter, it’s worth using. If you forget, it’s not a huge deal. Here is my favorite sifter. You use it again to dust the lemon bars with confectioners’ sugar.
  4. Lemon Juice: For exceptional taste, I highly recommend fresh lemon juice. Here is a wonderful inexpensive juicer if you don’t have one. Or use another fresh-squeezed citrus like grapefruit, blood orange, lime, or regular orange. You can slightly reduce the sugar if using a sweeter citrus. I recommend no less than 1 and 2/3 cup granulated sugar in the filling as it’s needed for structure.
  5. Room Temperature: Bringing the eggs and lemon juice to room temperature helps them mix easier into the flour and sugar. However, I never notice a taste or texture difference when using cold. Room temperature or cold, use whichever!

From Sally’s Baking Addiction cookbook

Keywords: lemon bars

overhead image of lemon bars

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I’m not sure what went wrong I’ve made lemon squares in the past and haven’t had an issue but the middle took almost an extra 20 minutes to cook and still after being in the fridge all night was super runny

  2. These are my son’s favorite dessert so I made them for his birthday yesterday. They turned out perfectly and were delicious. Some thought they were a little too tart, so I might try a little less lemon juice next time. I personally liked the tartness. The crust was outstanding!

  3. These are the most delicious lemon bars I have ever had in my life. I initially made them for a dinner party, and my friends and family request them constantly no matter the time of year. They quickly became the baked good I make the most!

  4. I made this recipe exactly as written and it turned out perfect. Its was actually too tart for my husband so I spread some raspberry jam over the top and he loved it. I usually make a “celebrity” lemon bar recipe but from now on this is the one for me. Thanks for sharing.

  5. These tasted delicious but even after baking the shortbread for 10 mins longer so crust was slightly brown on edges (I do this because of the high humidity in Costa Rica), the crust ended up on top and filling was on the bottom. Any ideas why? Didn’t think I was THAT aggressive in pouring.

    1. Usually when the bars end up inverted it’s because we either over-baked the crust or let it cool for too long. We have, however, found an easy trick to help prevent this. If you ever want to try this recipe again, use a fork to poke holes into the warm crust after you take it out of the oven. This helps the topping stick to it and holds the crust in place (below the filling). Hope this is helpful!

  6. This turned out very nicely, great taste. I did half of the recipe and didn’t notice the baking time was a little shorter, so my crust was a little on the dry side. The lemon part was perfect though. I loved the balance of tart and sweet (I like it a little on the tart side). I poked holes in the crust as directed and the two layers stayed together well even though the crust was a bit overdone.

  7. Recipe sounds good but I do have a question. You mentioned not using a metal pan because of metal flavor transferring to the bars. How can that happen if using parchment paper to keep the bars from touching/sticking to the pan?

    1. Hi S, we still recommend a glass pan even when using parchment. We could still detect a slight metallic taste when using parchment with metal pans. Let us know if you give this recipe a try!

  8. They turned out beautifully. Guests took one bite thought they were too tart. I added a layer of cream cheese and strawberries, calmed the tartness. Next time, a lot less fresh lemon.

  9. These are excellent lemon bars. They have a sturdy, buttery crust that is just the right thickness and a wonderfully tart and lemony filling. The only change I made was to add the zest of one lemon for that extra lemony punch.

    BUT, there’s one thing I can’t figure out. After the bars cooled completely, they are kind of wet on top. I wiped them off with a paper towel and sprinkled some of them with the powdered sugar. Not long after, the powdered sugar just dissolved, like it was never there. Then, the next day, I opened the container and there was moisture on top of the bars again. Why is this happening and how do I prevent it?

    1. Hi Jeff, that happens to some of our batches as well– it’s just the moisture from the lemon topping. Try baking a couple extra minutes because that always seems to help. Thanks for giving this recipe a try!

  10. Hello, I made this recipe and it was delicious! However, I baked the bars a little longer since the filling still jiggled after 20 minutes. After cooling and then chilling then overnight, the confection sugar dissolved on them… I could not decorate with dusted powdered sugar, it just absorbed

    1. Hi Trinity, that is normal — feel free to add the powdered sugar after the bars are totally cool next time or right before serving. Glad you enjoyed the bars!

  11. I made these yesterday for a neighborhood get together. Followed the recipe as written, except I threw in a pint of blueberries before final bake in the oven. Out of 6 people they were all gone. yummy!

  12. I made these yesterday for a pistol shooting competition today. Everyone loved them. I did add zest of of a lemon to give it an extra lemon flavor. Kept them in an ice chest so folks would have a cool lemon treat on a hot summer day. Fantastic and will keep the recipe for another hot day. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I’ve made this recipe four times and every single time it has turned out perfectly. The only change I’ve made is adding 1/4 cup of limoncello mixed with 1 tbsp of corn starch to the liquid mix to take the place of the flour – which I found difficult to get mixed in properly. The limoncello adds a nice deep yellow and a pleasant zing to the bars – and who doesn’t like a touch of booze in a dessert?

  14. I’ve tried so many of your recipes and they always turn out amazing! I wanted to try this one today but I bought extra large eggs by mistake! Could I still use these and if so how do I adjust the recipe?

  15. I love love loved this recipe. My roommates were obsessed! One question though, when setting to cool in the fridge, should I cover it? Does that make a difference? Thanks! 🙂

    1. Hi Madison, either way is fine, but for longer storage we recommend covering them. Glad you and your roommates enjoyed the lemon bars!

  16. I have leftover lemon curd we used in cupcakes and I’d like to use it to make lemon bars. Could I substitute the lemon curd I have already in my fridge for the lemon filling in this recipe?

    1. Hi Kim, Lemon curd (store bought or homemade) is too thin and won’t bake up properly. Best to follow the recipe as written for best results.

  17. These were easy and absolutely delicious! My friends loved them.

    The only thing I would say is pay attention to the size of your lemons when you are buying them. I bought medium ones so I ended up needing seven lemons to get to one cup instead of four.

    .

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