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.

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 bars

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.

Lemon bars crust and batter

Lemon bars 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

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.

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

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

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 18-20 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned. Remove from the oven and 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

Lemon bars

824 Comments

  1. Love this recipe! Delicious, lovely and easy. Do you have a strawberry version. By request of our 12 year old son.

    1. It’s a great recipe, but when I baked it, the crust floated to the top. Now the curd ended up on the bottom and the crust is on top. What happened, and how can I prevent this next time? On the other hand, it tastes amazing!

  2. Love this recipe! Delicious, easy and look lovely. Do you have one for strawberries? Thank you

  3. Love this recipe best I have ever tried loving the citrus flavor! My grandma Nonnie new favorite treat after I shared it with her. Came out so easy and really was lemony and rich.

    1. You can, yes, but make sure you warm it back in the oven for a couple minutes. It should be warm when pouring the filling on top.

  4. Just tried this recipe and it was very good! The shortbread crust was super buttery, and the ratio of sour to sweet was delicious! Thank you!

  5. Have you ever added the zest of the lemon into either the crust or the filling? Didn’t know if that would overpower things. Thanks.

  6. The sweet sour balance of the curd was good, as was the texture. I was disappointed in the shortbread crust…it was too greasy, not melt in your mouth. Followed directions to a ‘t’.

    1. Sue

      Thank you for the suggestion. I did bake the crust longer than suggested but it didn’t brown much at all. I suspect you are correct in your assessment and will try this again. Thank you!

    2. In the picture the crust does look wet. I was reading through the comments to check if anyone mentioned that in their experience baking. Thanks for posting!

      1. When I cleaned my oven recently (new oven), I noticed that my top rack wasn’t in the middle of the oven but a notch lower, and it should have been, so this may account for a shortbread crust that was underdone.

  7. I consider myself a novice when it comes to baking, even though I’ve baked a little for a long time but every time I bake I learn something new. I made the crust in my Kitchenaid but when you said it should be thick, I thought mine wasn’t so I added more flour and then after pressing it into the pan, I had way too much so I added pecans to the extra and put in fridge. Good thing I did because I dropped the pyrex baking dish on the floor, dish didn’t break but the crust was upside down and all over the floor. Swept and threw away and got the pecan crust out and used that. I thought the recipe would be horrible but my Canasta playing friends and hubby loved it.

  8. Your lemon bars were fantastic, 10 +++ best I have ever made, perfection! Have a meyer lemon tree which made them yummy! Thank you for an easy & delicious recipe!

  9. Perfect curd! I used raw turbinado sugar, which gave a darker look. I didn’t have white sugar on hand. However, the crust has a bitter aftertaste – not sure where I went wrong there!

  10. These are the best lemon bars Iv ever had, I made a batch and brought some to my mom and she loved them as well! This is my go to recipe now.

  11. I made these lemon bars today with 1/2 almond flour and 1/2 unbleached flour. The crust is amazing and the lemon filling is absolutely perfect. I’d been craving something lemon for a few weeks and this treat is exactly what I needed! Thanks Sally!

  12. Made these too many times, filling is the best part and I was wondering if it can be used instead of the more standard meringue pie filling (such as your recipe). That, or if you know what alterations i should make to the lemon meringue pie filling to have the same level of tartness and flavour. (having the whites for the meringue is obviously more convenient)

  13. I am currently under in Spain and I love this recipe so much that I made sure the ingredients were on my supply list. I made them yesterday and they turned out perfectly, as usual. I follow this recipe exactly, no tweaks or adjustments necessary. Perfect thing to lift my spirits under crazy circumstances. Thanks for an amazing recipe!

  14. I made it with Bob’s Red Mill One-to-One gluten free flour without making any other changes and the bars turned out amazing. Definitely the best ones I’ve have made and eaten!

  15. I made this recipe last night with lemons from my friend’s tree. For the filling, I beat the eggs first and then added the sugar and flour mixture followed by the lemon juice. Next time, I will probably bake the crust a few minutes longer and add bit of lemon zest to the filling. Overall though, I liked the results. Thanks for posting this recipe.

  16. Just got done making these! Followed the recipe without changing anything. Love the shortbread crust and the tart and tangy curd!!
    This recipe is a keeper!

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