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)

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 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

691 Comments

  1. Love these so much! When mixing the filling, I noticed a white foam on top. Was curious what I did wrong? Didn’t come out as vibrant yellow.

    1. Hi Penny! That’s completely normal with lemon bar filling/topping. It’s the eggs reacting with the citrus– or it very well could be the flour. The only way to prevent it is to cook the filling on the stove before baking and that’s just not necessary. Even after baking, you may notice some white spots. It all tastes the same though, promise.

      1. I added the sugar after they had chilled in the refrigerator overnight just before I plated them for transport.

  2. Delicious! A little more tart than I expected but they were a hit with my family. I was washing some dishes while the crust baked, so I wasn’t able to pour the filling on right away. I ended up having to bake the custard about 12 minutes longer, which lead to a few cracks, but it was still delicious. My first time ever making lemon bars!

  3. Delicious and easy to make. I hate that the powdered sugar dissolves into the bars. Makes it hard to transport the finished product.

    1. Hi Karen! As the lemon bars cool, the powdered sugar shouldn’t dissolve into the bars as much- feel free to add this sugar after the bars are cool next time!

      1. I added the sugar after they had chilled in the refrigerator overnight just before I plated them for transport.

  4. I’ve never made lemon bars from scratch before, these were easy to make and they came out delicious! I love the thickness of the lemon layer! didn’t have any confectioners sugar but honestly I didn’t even miss it.

  5. This is a family favorite! Everyone gets excited when it bring it over. I’m excited to try it with some different flavors

  6. Loved these bars and my husband loved them too! The crust is awesome and I can’t wait to try different fillings. Loved that they don’t require a mixer and clean up was easy too, especially with the parchment paper lining! Thanks Sally!

  7. I LOVE how easy this recipe is! So much easier than other ones I’ve tried before, and just as tasty!

  8. I made these today using grapefruit, since that’s what I had at home. I can’t believe how quick and easy these come together! And the flavor is wonderful! I’m excited to make them again with lemon for more tartness.

  9. Yumo! It’s been so dreary January & February in Oklahoma! I came home from celebrating my sweet uncles life today and decided to bake a pan of “sunshine!” I know my uncle is smiling down! They are super easy and delicious!

  10. Super easy and delicious, mine took much longer to bake for both the shortbread and filling, but I suspect my oven is to blame for that. Dusted mine with confectioners sugar mixed with crushed freeze dried strawberries, yum! Will definitely make again!

  11. I used Meyer lemons, reduced the sugar in the lemon curd just ever so slightly, and used whole wheat white flour instead of all purpose. These turned out amazing!

  12. Awesome recipe thank you! I made these today and wow so decadent! I’ll be saving this one for sure.

  13. This was my first time participating in your baking challenge tradition and it was good fun! I went with the savoury vegetable tart from November, but switched up the veg for gently saute’d broccoli with garlic: https://bit.ly/2SBWQBL
    May try this one next – thanks for wonderful recipes!

  14. I really enjoyed the simplicity of this recipe, and the fact that it was undeniably LEMONY. I’ve made lemon bars recipes before that were mostly sweet with a hint of lemon, definitely not the case here! The contrast of the tart lemon and the buttery shortbread is delicious. Will definitely be making these again, and will likely try with different citrus fruits.

  15. Another great recipe! Lemon bars were already a springtime favorite and this recipe is a definite keeper. I love that I can easily freeze these lemon bars too.

  16. Just made these and they turned out delicious! Can’t wait to share them with some friends/family!! Awesome recipe!!

  17. Thanks for another beautiful and delicious recipe, Sally. I made lime bars today using this recipe. They were delicious. I loved the tart flavor which was a perfect compliment to the sweet shortbread crust. I am making soup and desert for a local food shelf fundraiser and I plan to make this recipe again. They will be a hit!

  18. My husband loves lemon bars, and he was so excited when I told him that I was making these.
    I used a slightly larger dish to make them because for some reason I don’t own a normal 9×13, but they still turned out perfect. I thought I would have to shorten the bake time (since the dish was bigger it would make thinner bars which would bake quicker) but I actually had to extend the baking time from the original recipe. I didn’t keep track of how much longer, I just put them back in for a couple minutes and then checked (and repeated when necessary). I also have a slightly older oven, so that might have made a difference.
    Other than the adjusted bake time, these were easy to make and my husband has been eating them nonstop. Great recipe!

  19. These were delicious and SO much easier than my normal lemon bars where I have to cook the filling on the stovetop first. I made with lime and will definitely be making them again!

  20. It’s only March 3 and I couldn’t wait to make these for this month’s challenge! With only two bowls, it was the easiest lemon bar recipe I’ve ever followed! Thanks for the tips and tricks along the way 🙂

  21. I have my moms recipe for lemon bars but this one was just as good! I like the idea of trying other citrus.

  22. Delicious! My shortbread wasn’t just right, though so we will have to try again to get it just right!

  23. These were actually super easy to make. Next time I will add just a little more lemon but turned out very good.

  24. Is there a way that you’d recommend incorporating raspberries? I’ve had raspberry lemon bars before and loved them.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Jessica! Fold fresh raspberries right into the lemon curd filling and increase the bake time by a few minutes.

  25. I just made these and let me tell you, they are absolutely delicious! The perfect balance of sweet & tart and that shortbread is to die for! Super easy to make too! I used mostly Meyer lemons and one regular lemon and they came out fantastic! I want to try them with limes next!

1 2 3 4 5 16

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

×