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!

Print
clock clock icon cutlery cutlery icon flag flag icon folder folder icon instagram instagram icon pinterest pinterest icon facebook facebook icon print print icon squares squares icon
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 (48g) 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. Add the eggs and lemon juice and whisk 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

1256 Comments

  1. Excellent Lemon Bars! I tweaked the recipe. Thankfully, I noticed the remarks about the typo with the butter. I compared other recipes and chose to use the 1 stick of butter per 2 cups of flour. I also added 1/2 cup of almond flour to the crust and it was delicious. I used 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 of brown sugar in the crust. In the filling, I reduced to the sugar to 1 cup and the results were delicious. Thank you!

  2. Excellent recipe! Appreciate the thorough description/video/recipe and Notes with tips. Made 2 batches in 2 weeks. Amazing results. Received so many compliments I had to pass along my own. Thank you!

    1. Elin Becker says:

      How much butter? I see there was a typo, but I can’t find what it is. Has it been corrected?

      1. I followed the recipe and used 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted (for the crust). In my opinion, someone mistakenly said there was a typo.

      2. Hi Elin, there is no typo in this recipe. You need 1 cup of butter for the crust, which is 2 standard sticks.

  3. DeirDre in Washington State says:

    I am confident I followed the recipe exactly. They turned out great! I got a little nervous because I started reading the comments after I put the lemon topping on and put them back in the oven. I have never made lemon bars from scratch before. I think these people who are complaining might not have followed the recipe? I do think next time I might cut back on the sugar a bit and try it with almond flour.

  4. Thank you Sally! These are so delicious!! I will never need another lemon bar recipe:) I love all your cookbooks and recipes! I followed the instructions just as shown and halved it and my siblings and I could not stop eating them! Truly a winner.

  5. I often feel underwhelmed by lemon bars not having enough bright, zesty lemon flavor, but these bring out the lemon in the best way possible. The shortbread is moist and flavorful and the lemon curd comes out with a perfect smooth consistency. I followed the recipe exactly and would highly recommend making these!

  6. Darcy Gross says:

    Can I substitute coconut oil for the butter in the crust?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Darcy, coconut oil would be the best option for replacing the butter in the crust. Taste will be slightly different. Let us know if you give it a try!

  7. Hi Sally,
    If you use blood oranges, would you need to add less sugar by chance? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Catherine, You can slightly reduce the sugar if using a sweeter citrus. We recommend no less than 1 and 2/3 cup granulated sugar in the filling as it’s needed for structure. Hope you enjoy these!

  8. Can you use gluten free flour in the recipe instead of regular flour?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dee, we haven’t tested this recipe with an all-purpose gluten free flour, but let us know if you give it a try!

  9. I made the lemon bars today, halved the recipe. They came out perfect. I had to have a taste before I put them in the refrigerator to cool.
    They’re delicious! I love all things lemon!

  10. Hi Sally
    Does this recipe require 230g butter? The first comment suggest a typo has that been corrected? Thank you

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Robyn-Jane, 230 grams butter (1 cup) is correct. Hope you love them!

  11. Brandie Newcom says:

    Hi Sally,
    Your lemon bar recipe looks bomb and I’m so excited to try it. Do you think it would work well if I halved the recipe to make a smaller batch? If so, what pan size would you recommend?
    Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You bet! See recipe notes for instructions.

  12. Wow, so simple and really full of lemon flavour. Definitely very impressed. 10/10 will definitely be making again

  13. I made some of your lemon curd earlier this week. Can I just add that on top of the shortbread crust? How should I adjust baking times?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Abby, unfortunately the lemon curd is a bit too loose to use as the lemon layer for these lemon bars. We recommend following this recipe instead.

  14. Sheila Calnan says:

    Made these today. WOW! Especially if you like lemon. I found 4 fairly large lemons, but didn’t have the cup of juice I needed, so added some bottled to make up for what I was short.
    Ended up with 32 smaller ones, as these are being shared with 5 friends.

  15. These are by far the best lemon bars I have ever eaten. My son whose not a big lemon fan devoured his. Everything about them is amazing. And so easy to make! I was given a sack of Meyers lemons, so it was a no brainer. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Absolutely perfect. I ended up using about 6 lemons to get the required amount of juice, but they came out flawlessly.

1 27 28 29

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×