Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust

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 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
  • 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

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

1212 Comments

  1. Great lemon bars! The perfect amount of tartness (and I like them on the tart-er side, than sweet), but not too much tart at all. Just, A+ recipe.

  2. I have been making lemon bars my whole life and this recipe truly is The Best Ever!

  3. I used your recipe for my very first attempt at making (Meyer) lemon bars My family and friends loved them! For my second attempt, I used fresh squeezed lime juice. Again, AMAZING! The texture of the shortbread and filling were just perfect. Thank you for sharing your recipes!

  4. Judith Bruening says:

    In one of the pictures with your lemon bars you show a bar with the lemon bars that is red or pinkish in color. What kind of bar is that and is there a recipe for that bar. It looks yummy!

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Judith, These are our blood orange bars! See the recipe note about substituting flavors.

      1. Janet Armentrout says:

        Hello, I’m making these this evening and super excited to try them on my family. I don’t have parchment paper, should I hold off until I get some? Thank you.

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Janet, the parchment paper makes it much easier to remove the bars from the pan. If you don’t have it, you can simply cut them within the pan. Hope you enjoy the bars!

  5. Sometimes the lemon filling mixes with the base while baking, turning it into more of a lemon cake than lemon bars any idea why this happens?

    1. Did you prebake the crust?

      1. They taste superb! But somehow my attempt turned “up-side-down”… lol That is, the lemon part became harder than the what-should-have-been the crust. Why is that?

  6. Do you per chance know the carbs for these?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brooke, We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://www.verywellfit.com/recipe-nutrition-analyzer-4157076

  7. I made these this morning and they are gorgeous. Just cut into one for a taste. I love the shortbread crust and the lemon filling is very lemony and delicious. I will very happily be taking these to a dinner party tomorrow. I forgot the vanilla in the crust but it’s so good anyway. Next time! I do not understand how anyone could have a problem using this recipe. It was very clear and straightforward. Thank you.

  8. I made these bars just now and the only thing I did different was I used GF flour. The lemon filling turned out to be more like a spongy cake like consistency instead of the gooey gel consistency. Any ideas on why this may have happened?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Julie, we haven’t tested these bars with GF flour so can’t speak to the results, but if too much air is incorporated into the lemon filling mixture, it will bake up more foamy/spongey. Be careful not to over-mix or whip the filling when combining and be careful not to over-bake the bars. These tips should help! Some air bubbles are normal, see “White Air Bubbles on Top of Baked Lemon Bars” above. Thank you for giving these a try!

      1. Thank you! I feel like the king Arthur’s GF flour is really good and is same ratio as normal flour. So, it is definitely the too much air in the filling. Darn it! They’re still fine…. just wasn’t the right look or expected consistency.

  9. Do the lemon bars need to be refrigerated the day following making them?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Monica! Yes, cover and store leftover lemon bars in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

      1. These are the best lemon bars I have ever had! The filling is spot in with lemon drop candy. You’ve set the bar high for all other lemon bars.

  10. I’m planning to make these a day in advance of a party. Do you recommend chilling overnight then cutting into squares the next day, or chilling for 1-2 hours and cutting, then storing in the fridge overnight, already cut?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Either works!

  11. Just wondering if they freeze well?

  12. Best lemon bars I’ve made. I’ve made other recipes in the past that tasted too eggy or metallic. This recipe was great. I did zest the lemons and added half the zest to the crust and the other half to the filling. I’ll be making them again. Thanks!

  13. I loved these lemon bars so much my family loved them to i saw that there was a redish pinkish color bar and was wondering were i could find the recipie for it.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Audrey, you can use grapefruit juice instead of lemon for those pretty pink bars!

  14. these were so good and lemony. I’m a person who LOVES lemons and sour flavors but also a sweet taste, so these are definitely my type of treats. I also enjoyed how it was really easy to bake.

  15. Susan Hargrave says:

    I haven’t made these yet but was wondering about a combination of lemon and lime juice? What do you think?

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Susan, That sounds great! We have made them with lime, grapefruit, and blood oranges! Try dusting the confectioners’ sugar on top after they have chilled and before you serve them.

  16. Melanie Long says:

    I need to make at least 40 servings of these for a funeral. How many pans would you make? And how many days ahead of time would you suggest I could make these? Will they serve well after being refrigerated two days ahead of time? Thank you

  17. I just made these and they are SO good! I had the problem of the white layer, I couldn’t find the comment you referenced, guessing I overbeat the eggs? Maybe I can skim that layer off before adding to the pan. Will definitely be making these again, I didn’t even need to bring out the electric mixer, I could do it all by hand

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alicia! Some air bubbles are normal, see “White Air Bubbles on Top of Baked Lemon Bars” above. So glad you loved these!

  18. Lemon bars now baking in the oven. I’ve no doubt they’d be superb. Just one minor point relating to your tip on the type of pan to use. Does it matter whether the pan is glass, metal or ceramic if it is lined all around anyway witparchment paper.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anna, we still recommend a glass pan even when using parchment. We could still detect a slight metallic taste when using parchment with metal pans. Hope you enjoy the lemon bars!

  19. I have been looking for the ultimate lemon bar recipe for years, leave it to Sally to have it. Absolutely delicious.

  20. Since we had an abundance of limes, I decided to use them instead of lemon. I love how easy the shortbread was to throw together (hello melted butter!) and the curd to shortbread ratio was excellent. Definitely will be using this recipe again!

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