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

Welcome to the March Baking Challenge! 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!

Join Sally's Baking Challenge

Make the lemon bars recipe. You can making the whole pan or halve the recipe using my directions below. Instead of lemon, use any citrus you prefer; see my recipe note about substituting.

If you’re not into this recipe, here is the alternate March Baking Challenge:

After you make the lemon bars or alternate recipe, share your photos throughout the month using #sallysbakingchallenge on your public Instagram or Twitter account. (Instagram messages are hard to track, so email instead!) Or upload a photo to my Facebook page or Facebook group. Or email it to me. By sharing your photo, you’re automatically entered in the $250 giveaway. For a bonus entry, leave a review on the recipe below!

Print
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)

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.
  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 20-21 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

389 Comments

  1. If you love lemon like I do, these are for you! After reading some reviews first, I whisked the lemon mixture very well and made sure to skim the bubbles off the top before I put it back in the oven, and they came out perfect!

  2. This was my first time making lemon bars but, for the life of me, I can’t tell you why!
    I absolutely love lemon desserts and these are no exception. The balance between sweet and tart is perfectly struck. The texture is firm, but not “gluey” (I’ve had gluey lemon bars, sad to say). The shortbread crust is so decadent! In a word – PERFECT!
    Why did I wait so long? Thank you, Sally!

  3. This is exactly what lemon bars should taste like. Just tart enough, the shortbread is just the right amount of crisp and chewy. I will definitely make these again!

  4. These are ridiculously good!!! And SO easy!!
    Seriously, they are like a slice of sunshine, and almost impossible to stop eating.
    Hands down the best lemon bars I have ever tasted…did I mention how quick and easy this recipe is?!
    My husband keeps commenting on how good the crust is…must be that secret ingredient:)
    Thanks for another amazing recipe, Sally!

    1. Very lemony and easy recipe to follow. Crust is absolutely marvelous.
      My only critique is that the filling took much longer than the bake time on the recipe, almost 10 more mins. But otherwise very delish!!

  5. Love these lemon bars! The lemon filling has the perfect tartness that balances out the wonderful sweetness of the shortbread crust. Super simple to make, super great to eat! Thanks for another fabulous recipe Sally!

  6. The Spring-like weather conditions inspired me to finally try these. I’ve never made nor eaten a lemon bar, but the easy-to-follow instructions had this first timer done in an hour. I kept to the recipe as written except I baked for about an extra 4-5 minutes until the middle set up more.

    The result? A perfect combination of tart and sweet with a lovely fresh citrusy taste. Even my peanut butter and chocolate loving husband approved and said these would be great for a party. After we taste tested them (for quality control, of course), we took them into our coworkers and both came home with empty containers and lots of compliments. Thanks Sally!

  7. These were a huge hit at our house, and I made them a second time using blood orange juice. They tasted great but were not the beautiful color in yours, but rather a lighter yellow. My juice was a nice blood orange color but I am guessing the yellow in the egg yolks overpowered the blood orange color. How did you get your color for such a nice difference? I am tempted to try the recipe with key limes, but now am concerned about the color. Taste I am sure will be wonderful so may do anyway.

    1. Hi Sherry! It depends on the color of the blood orange juice. My blood orange juice was SO DARK! Almost deep burgundy!

  8. I had an abundance of lemons in my tree and with the warm weather my chickens layer too many eggs for me to eat. This recipe was perfect for using these ingredients, but more importantly it was delicious. Tangy and sweets with a buttery not too sweet shortbread crust.

  9. I found this recipe today, and for once I had an excess of both lemons and eggs, so I gave it a whirl 🙂
    It’s such a nice simple recipe, and it yields a delicious result! I think I need to bake the base for slightly longer next time, but I baked the filling for 22 minutes and there was nary a jiggle in sight! I may also use fresher lemons next time, because the ones I had were getting on a bit, and there is quite a sharp aftertaste involved 😛

  10. These were delicious and super easy to make! Chilling them for several hours does make a difference. This will replace the boxed mix I was using. I never ventured out to making these homemade until now, but I’m so glad I did!

  11. My whole family loves lemon bars, and I had to fend them off long enough for them to chill! (My sister still managed to sneak a bite; she liked them even warm. ) These were gone in no time flat. The end result was pretty, easy to whip together, and tasted fresh with just the right amount of tanginess.

1 7 8 9

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.

My Latest Videos

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Sally's Baking Challenge

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.

View More

Sally's Cookie Palooza

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

View More

Sally's Pie Week

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

View More

My 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

×