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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 chewy 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.

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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 1x
  • 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

Scale

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 (46g) 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. Whisk in the eggs, then the lemon juice 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. These are amazing, thank you very much!

    Does anyone else have that thing where you know exactly how something is supposed to taste even though you´ve never actually tasted it? My experience with these… 🙂

    1. Simple record. Simple can bee best and this one is good. I added rind from a couple of the lemons to body the lemon flavor. Fresh lemons is the way to go. And you don’t need any sort of special implement or lemon juice or use a teaspoon and just press it around and around the half of a lemon and it works better than any juicer. These bars are good they’re worth it to make them fast and delicious

    2. Yes, Laura. I know exactly what you mean. I had that experience when I made scones for the first time.

    3. Oh my gosh! I put raspberry filling on the crust before pouring the lemon curd on it. These are the most delicious things ever!

  2. Hello – trying this recipe for the first time today! While cooling, my lemon bars cracked on top. Do you have any suggestions on how to remedy this in the future? Thank you for the yummy recipe!

    1. Hi KJ! Lemon bars are an egg-heavy dessert, like cheesecake, so they’re prone to cracking. They’re either cracking because the eggs are over-mixed (more air is whipped into the filling, then deflates causing the cracking) or they’re over-baked. One easy way to help guarantee no cracks, though, is to cool the lemon bars inside the oven. Turn the oven off 1-2 minutes before the lemon bars have finished cooking. Crack open the oven door and let the lemon bars cool inside the cooling oven for 1 hour. Then remove from the oven and cool at room temperature. The slow cooling will help prevent cracks. Hope this helps!

  3. I loved this recipe. So easy and quick to make. I made a couple of adjustments – I browned the butter to give the shortbread a deeper flavour and I added 1 T lemon zest to the filling. I will definitely drop down to 1 2/3 c sugar next time, as I did find them a wee bit sweet and Sally mentioned that 1 2/3 c still works. Yummy!

  4. I’m sorry to say this, but these lemon bars are not good at all. I followed the recipe to a tee, including the fresh squeezed lemon juice (by the way, it took 6 good-sized lemons to make one cup of juice, not 4). I ended up throwing the whole batch in the trash, as nobody in the house would eat them!

    1. You must try again. Use the freshest Ingredients you can. Meyer lemons are the best. I added Raspberry filling. I also used 7 tablespoons of flour instead of 6 in the curd. I put the raspberry filling on the crust before pouring the lemon curd over the crust. For a slightly different twist I put 1/2 cup of ground up pecans in the crust.

    2. My lemons were only medium sized and 4 yielded exactly 1 cup of juice. I’m wondering if it had something to do with the lemons you used? My bars turned out delicious – a hit at our recent family party.

    3. You are not the only one. The recipe had a 5 rating when I decided to try instead of old standby recipe. The shortbread almost hard, the curd was okay. My hubby rejected them and, sadly, the remaining squares went in the trash.

  5. I have made these several times and they are absolute favorites. The first time I made them, I had no trouble at all. But the second and third time, I got little lumps of flour/sugar in my lemon curd despite sifting them and whipping them completely. Now I strain the lemon curd and it works out perfectly. Just a small tip in case anyone else had this problem! They are delicious!!!

  6. I used a cup and a half of sugar and not 2 because I used sweeter lemons. Absolutely delicious and I don’t even like lemon bars

  7. Sally,
    Just made these bars.
    When I pulled them out of oven they had raised in bubble form on top and a little brown.
    Does that mean I mixed the egg mixture too much? I, also have a new oven and maybe it runs a little hot. Have not tried them but the smell great.
    Thanks for recipe.

    1. Hi Terry, Was it a white-ish layer with air bubbles? That’s completely normal. See “White Air Bubbles on Top of Baked Lemon Bars” above. A dusting of powdered sugar will cover those right up. Hope you enjoy the lemon bars!

  8. I have a darling tart pan and want to make mini lemon meringue pies. I’m being an indulgent Mimi (grandmother) and am adding these to my Thanksgiving menu. I’m also making traditional dishes and pies. Long story short, I need to make these on Monday. I LOVE every recipe of yours but am wondering, could I make, place and torch meringue on these the day I’m serving.

    1. You can definitely make these on Monday (cover and store in the refrigerator), and then top with meringue and torch on Thursday right before serving. If you are dividing this recipe between smaller tart pans, your bake time will be less so just keep an eye on them. Happy baking!

  9. Hi Sally, I can hardly wait to make these, and have prepped my lemons , but I’ m wondering how well these will freeze? Thanks so much
    Pam

    1. Hi Pam, These bars freeze well! See step 6 for freezing instructions.

  10. Absolutely the best lemon bar I’ve ever made or tasted. Even better than mom’s. Sorry Mother

  11. This recipe is fantastic. I’m a novice baker just getting into baking my own bread (thanks COVID) and this is the second sweet I’ve made (first was madeleines). I did the half recipe and it came out perfect in an 8×8 Pyrex. My wife was worried I would break my arm patting myself on the back. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Made again for dessert today. Also a half recipe, but I used orange juice since I had a couple left over and used 7 grams less sugar to account for the extra sugar in orange juice compared to lemon. While they taste good (sweet and rich), I don’t get any citrus/orange flavor at all so they’re pretty one note. Much prefer the lemon.

    1. Hi Janice, 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.

  12. How many days in advance can I make this? And what’s the best way to store it? Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Vanda, you can cover and store leftover lemon bars in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or, see last step in the recipe instructions for freezing notes. Enjoy!

  13. Fantastic lemon bars! Super straightforward recipe for kids or teens too- my little brother and I made this in no time. These treats are so good that my family can barely wait for them to chill before taking a few bites- we eat them warm the first day because we just can’t wait. Seriously would not make a single change to this recipe. We usually make an 8×8 pan of bars by halving the recipe and they work just fine. Thank you for this recipe!

  14. Made these and they were scrumptious- and takes about six lemons to get enough juice.
    The parchment idea avoided trying to get the dessert out of the pan without destroying it…it was a “piece of cake’.
    When I tried to cut the bars, they seemed a little too firm and difficult to cut, so I used a pizza cutter and that worked fine. I feared the base would be hard and dry but instead the crust simply melted in my mouth. I suggest precutting the bars into bite-sized pieces for serving.

    1. Blood orange bars! See the recipe note about substituting flavors.

  15. We have been looking for a recipe for lemon bars. We will definitely make these again. I think I will try the suggestion to brown the butter to deepen the flavor on the crust. These were delicious! Thank you for the recipe. It’s a keeper!

  16. I followed the recipe and I felt they came out perfect. My mom thought they were too tart. I liked the lemon punch!

  17. These came out exactly as prescribed in the recipe. They are OK, just OK. There is nothing special here, and I will be looking for another recipe.

  18. Best lemon filling I have ever tasted but the shortbread part was probably the worst. By melting the butter before mixing it in the cookie lost all its flakiness

  19. Your recipe says 1 cup of butter 230 grams. 2 cups of flour 265 grams. Is this correct as I had to add a lot more flour to thicken the crust.

  20. I LOVE these cookies but they don’t work well in my holiday cookie box because they get mushy quickly. Do you think the recipe would work as a cookie cup (baked in a mini muffin tin) instead?

    1. Hi Jen, we haven’t tried it but I’m sure you can! We recommend that you use cupcake liners so that they are easier to remove from the pan. Enjoy!

  21. I’m planning to freeze and will follow your instructions. Do I remove the foil before thawing?

  22. The third time I made this, I baked the crust, and let it cool like normal. Then, I poured the lemon mixture on top, like normal, and baked again, like normal.

    However, it came out quite dark on top. I thought I might have baked it far too long, but I sprinkled powdered sugar and let it cool anyway.

    Later while cutting the bars, I discovered that it was dark on top because, somehow, the crust rose above the lemon mixture on the second bake. This does not seem physically possible. Anyway, I’ve named them “Upside Down” lemon bars, and they still taste great.

    1. My sister and I baked these together today and also experienced the crust floating to the top, the crust is awfully mushy too. Not sure where we went wrong.

      1. Hi Bethany, Thank you for trying this recipe. Floating crust can be an issue if the shortbread wasn’t cooked long enough, which would also explain it being too soft. If you decide to try the recipe again, pre-baking the crust for a few extra minutes will help!

  23. I am about to try these as my first lemon bar. One thing struck me! Is it really 6 TABLESPOONS of flour for the filling? I thought that might make the filling taste, well, floury. 6 teaspoons sounded more likely. I would hate to waste all those ingredients if there was a typo.

  24. Hello, I m concerned they may be too sweet, can I reduce sugar without effecting outcome?

    1. Hi Deb! You can slightly reduce the sugar if desired. 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!

    1. I agree. I should have used mine which does come out perfect. The crust just does not work!
      Maybe posting the time and temp fir the pre ale would help. Really disappointed

  25. I love this recipe and make it often. I am wondering what would be the substitute for butter in the shortbread recipe ? That’s for someone who is a fan of these that recently discovered he is lactose intolerant. Thank you!

    1. Hi Laura, We haven’t tried these with a butter substitute, but please let us know how they turn out if you do!

  26. HI Sally,
    I loved this recipe and I thought I might have over whipped my eggs- so I put a pan of hot water in when baking the curd on top and it came out perfect, i also left the door open and let it cool down down gradually it’s really good!

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