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!

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)
  • 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

825 Comments

  1. Hi Sally
    I absolutely love these lemon bars, I am really interested in using half Stevia half sugar for this recipe do you have any advice before I do if there maybe anything else needed adding for it to set properly?
    Thanks alot will be trying more of your recipes

  2. When my mother was alive she made the best lemon bars. She gave me the recipe but they never turned out the same…and my family would always suggest I leave the lemon bar making to Grandma. Well,she’s been gone almost four years so I set out to find a lemon bar of my own….and this recipe didn’t disappoint. I got the best review from my husband….”Not Marie’s …..but very, very good”!

  3. These were delicious but I couldn’t get the powdered sugar to “stick”! I let them cool on the countertop for 2 hours and then put them in the fridge (without dusting). Took them out the next day to cut them and dust with sugar and almost immediately the sugar just kind of seeped in. Tried again later and same thing. Any ideas?

    1. A slight condensation develops when you take the bars out of the fridge. I would suggest waiting for them to “sweat” a little bit, then take paper towels and lay across the top to soak up the condensation, THEN dust with powdered sugar. You may have to do a couple of dustings before the sugar doesn’t melt into any leftover moisture.

  4. First time making my own lemon bars. Huge hit for my daughters 17th birthday! I shared leftovers with some co-workers and one said “holy crap those are good” and wanted the reciepe or to hire me to make them some more. Best lemon bars I have every had!

  5. There should be a 6th star for this recipe! I am diabetic and allow myself one cheat item a month and this was it. Pains me to see the others in fridge waiting to be enjoyed. Absolutely out of this world. The vanilla and fresh squeezed juice are critically important, if you don’t do that, don’t bother.

  6. Super disappointed in these. The crust is soft. The topping has a thick layer on it and has cracks. I did 325 as the recipe said. Followed all of the instructions. I should have stuck with Martha Stewart’s recipe. Two stars because the flavor is good

    1. You obviously didn’t follow the recipe correctly. Everyone gives 5 stars. I made them many times and they are great!

    2. I made these today and they came perfectly. The crust has just enough crunch, and the filling set up nicely but was still soft and smooth without any cracking. I added the zest from a whole lemon to kick the pucker factor up a notch. 😉 I didn’t have any parchment paper, so I greased the pan with crisco and flour. I cut them in the pan after cooling and they came out without a hitch. Here’s a picture of it https://i.imgur.com/BySPCEy.jpg

    3. Sounds to me like your oven temp is off. You might want to test it for accuracy. Mine is actually 25 degrees too low, so I add that amount to any recipe I bake. Otherwise, the crust didn’t prebake long enough (it should be very slightly browned at the very edge) and you baked the topping too long or left out somethingf. I’ve been baking these for 40 years, same recipe, and have never had it crack, never had the shortbread layer soft. But go with what you trust. If Martha’s works best for you, then go for it.

  7. So awesome! My 12 year old son loved these. He said definitely a keeper recipe and asked if they could be made with strawberries. Thanks for the great, easy recipe. Wendy

  8. Yum! Thanks for this. We had a bunch of fresh mixed berries that someone gave us (blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries in fairly equal amounts), so I tried substituting that for lemon juice in the recipe and it turned out great. I blended the berries and strained the seeds twice then added that instead of the lemon juice plus an extra tablespoon of fresh lime juice. I also added a crumble on top from one of your apple crisp recipes. It sinks in a bit to the filling and added to the baking time but turned out great.

  9. Followed this recipe word for word, every step. Used fresh lemons and everything. Had to throw the entire tray away because it smelled like an omelet. Even if you pinch your nose and take a bite, the lemon filling was way too sweet and sour, making it inedible. Not sure what happened- but this is a hard pass for me and I’m a huge fan of lemon bars.

    1. Hi Shay, if the lemon topping a rubbery or egg-y texture (or smells like cooked eggs), it sounds like it was over-baked. It should have more of a creamy texture and lemon aroma. Thanks for trying them!

  10. Wow, these turned out amazing. I originally chose this recipe because of the high reviews and it didn’t disappoint. I can’t eat dairy right now due to breastfeeding so I used Nutivas coconut oil butter flavor in the crust, and I don’t really eat sugar so I used lakanto monk fruit sweetener (only 1 cup instead of two since it’s really sweet and a pricey alternative lol) and they came out amazing. Unfortunately, I had the same thing happen to me as another person where I got the layer I had to peel off, but I did use my Breville oven so that could’ve been why. Either way it was still yummy. And using fresh lemons definitely was worth it. I’m going to try lime flavored and orange flavored next.

  11. I tried this recipe using becel vegan margarine and lard instead of butter due to allergies. It turned out beautiful and so delishious. The cookie crust had a satisfying crunch and the lemon flavor was wonderful. They disappeared behind my back. We have 7 in our family. And there are 4 pieces left cause i hid them.

  12. Followed the recipe and my filling didn’t set up. Extended baking time, and followed the cooling process. And it came out soupy. Would need a spoon to eat it. What went wrong?

    1. Hi Vicki! Sorry you had trouble with them. These lemon bars aren’t firm, the topping is like a curd. However, it shouldn’t be like soup. If you decide to try the recipe again, I encourage a slightly longer bake time.

  13. Made these last night for a work event. Flavors were good BUT. Crust was spongy even after cooking 5 minutes longer than directed. No direction on when to put filling over the crust. I figured it wouldn’t be a good idea to pour raw eggs over a screaming hot crust, so I let it cool to warm. The finished product reminded me of a dried up river bed, the filling cracked apart. They tasted good, but the crust wasn’t the best and they weren’t pretty….

    1. Hi Gwen! Thanks so much for trying these lemon bars and glad you enjoyed the taste. As mentioned, pour the filling over the warm crust. A cracked filling could mean that the eggs were over-beaten or over-cooked. Either way, thanks again for trying it and leaving your comment!

  14. This is by Far THE Best Lemon Bar recipe Ever. The crust is So good. And using parchment paper is a wonderful idea. I did use real squeezed lemon juice, organic eggs, and even added a bit of zest. The bars hold up nicely, look so pretty, and are quite tart. I am very excited to serve it to guests.
    Thank you So much for sharing. I’m going to check out more recipes from this site.

  15. Hi sally,

    I’ve made this recipe twice and loved it both times. Do you think the color and taste would be okay if I used 1/2 cup lemon juice & 1/2 cup lime juice? Also – have you ever tried any lemon or lime extracts in this recipe?

  16. Do you whisk the eggs & lemon juice separately, and then add to the flour & sugar to combine, or should I just add the eggs & juice to flour without prior whisking?

    1. Hi Ana! Whisk the eggs and juice into the sugar and flour. All in 1 bowl. No need to whisk the juice and sugar together separately.

  17. The first time I made these, they came out perfect. The second time, I did the same things with one exception. I let the crust cool an hour instead of adding the lemon mixture right away. By the end of the baking, the crust had come to the top, and all the filling was on the bottom. Tasted the same, but not good to give away. What gives with the floating of the crust?

    1. Hi Prudence, it’s key to pour the filling onto the warm crust (that’s still a bit wet and moist) so the two can start binding together once the pan goes back into the oven. And so the lemon layer stays on top.

  18. I made these for the first time yesterday and they were a big hit (our dinner guests asked to bring leftovers home)! I made a half recipe with juice from Meyer lemons. I added an extra 1/4 cup of juice and and extra egg and they came out great – though I did need to bake them a bit longer than instructed.

    1. I made these lemons bars a couple of times and they came out absolutely amazing! I just made them today and my filling is cracked. I used organic sugar this time and noticed a little sugar slurry leftover in the bowl when I poured in the mixture. Do you think it was the sugar switch up or could I have left them on the counter too long? It wasn’t cracked when I pulled them out of the oven.

  19. Hi Sally. This was my second time baking these the first time with lemon juice and this time with grapefruit. Everyone loves them but i taste the flour in the shortbread crust. Any ideas of what im doing wrong or can do to get rid of the flour aftertaste im getting? Thank you.

    1. I had the same issue! Followed this recipe exactly and filling set up perfectly and tastes incredible. But crust definitely still has a raw flour taste. Not unpleasant but noticeable. I imagine that maybe a longer par-bake was needed on the crust, before adding the filling. I went for 20 min @325 as per the recipe but didn’t see any browning on the edges so I popped it back in the oven for 2-3 min. Still didn’t see any browning, so I just added the filling anyway. I think that was my error. I should have put it back in for even longer, until I saw some faint browning before adding the filling. Just like making a roux!

      In any case, fabulous recipe! The taste of the filling is spot on.

      1. I’m glad you enjoyed the filling, Matthew! Everyone’s ovens are a bit different so definitely use your eyes (through the oven door instead of opening it if possible!) as much as your timer. If you try them again keep them in a few minutes longer until the edges are just lightly browned.

      2. Matthew i didnt get a browning on mine either. And i did just as you, opened the oven door to check, left them in longer and then continued to fill still without the browning. Now i cant wait to try this recipe again!

  20. These are FANTASTIC ! The melted butter for the shortbread crust is such a nice change from your regular lemon bars.
    I am writing from Montreal Canada and I made them with fresh lemons from our aunt and Uncle who live in Arizona. They have a lemon tree.
    I am definitely making them again !

  21. They look beautiful – tomorrow is the taste test – I am sure they will not disappoint. Do I cover them when I put in fridge ?
    Thank You

  22. I’m wondering if I could use your lemon curd recipe with just egg yolks for this recipe. I’m trying to find a way to use up egg yolks!

  23. I made these this weekend and they are the best lemons bars I’ve tasted. Recipe was simple and came out great! This one will be a go-to recipe for now on!

  24. I’ve made these twice, the first time I felt like the filling didn’t mix together super evenly but the second time I added the flour/sugar to the lemon juice and eggs and it was absolutely perfect. The flavor was great both times and I received rave reviews from my husband and co-workers. I’ll definitely make them again!

  25. I was wondering, has anyone tried freezing them? I am making the desserts for my daughters wedding and she loves lemon bars. but obviously I need to be able to make them ahead of time

  26. First I have to comment on that crust, wow! It’s super easy compared to other short crust recipes and so flavorful! The bars made up in no time and they taste exactly like my Mom’s did years ago. This recipe is the first one of your’s that I’ve tried, now I can’t wait to try another. Thank you!

1 15 16 17 18

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.

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

×