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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 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. The shortbread crust is dense and the filling uses too much lemon juice. Melting the butter for the crust is a mistake. It should be soft and cut into the flour mixture. I like very lemony bars but these are really strong and the curd is too soft to be able to hold without making a mess.

    1. You need soften butter beaten to add air. My friend made it with melted butter turned out like a brick! We could barely cut through it.

  2. I usually love recipes from this blog but I found this recipe had a lot of problems:
    – It took more like 8 lemons to get the cup of juice.
    – The lemon curd topping is *sooooo* tart it’s nearly inedible.

    It looked and smelled great every step of the way, but something about it just didn’t work right. (A lot of the folks who are saying it worked great are at the same time listing modifications they made to the recipe, so I have to ask– *did* it actually work great if you changed a bunch of things?)

    1. Hmmm……. Made these yesterday and had them for dessert today. My teen grandson who doesn’t normally like anything with lemons, couldn’t stop eating them. Not sure why you think they are too tart, seemed to me to be just right. Only issue I had was as mentioned by Laura R, the curd is very moist and should really be eaten with a fork, not fingers. Messy, but very delicious.
      BTW You must be using small or dry lemons. I got a cup of juice from 3 lemons.

    2. I thought this recipe was great. From the reviews I was expecting to have a disaster. I invited my daughter to come over and try one and she said it was amazing. It did take a lot of lemons to make a cup though.❤️

  3. I used this recipe yesterday, had lemons to use or loose. Since I was shy of a cup of fresh lemon juice, halved the recipe & followed notes accordingly. Only thing different m added some lemon zest in the filling. Served this for dessert last night, was well received. This was my 1st time ever making lemon bars, as well as eating. Will make them again, using this recipe! Thank you for sharing!

  4. I followed the recipe step by step. It turned out well – lemon filling was sour and sweet enough, crust was a little average as i left out the vanilla extract, but my lemon filling sat nicely on the crust. I had difficulties sifting granulated sugar and gave up on it.

    I halved the ingredients, and my 2 lemons gave me roughly 120ml of juice. My husband loved it. We thought it would taste great with ice cream on it!

  5. Sally,
    I just made your lemon bars and found them to be delicious. I followed the recipe exactly as written. The only issue I had was that the curd is so moist that they are really not “finger food.” If I stacked them like shown in your photo, they would stick together. Also, within a few seconds after sprinkling it on top, the confectioner’s sugar had melted into the curd and was no longer visible. Any suggestions, as to what caused it to be so moist on top?
    PS I see many comments saying they needed to use 6 or 8 lemons, so just thought I’d mention that I only needed 3 lemons to get 1 cup of juice. Lemons do come in different sizes!

    1. Hi Trent, That’s the nature of lemon bars because the curd is so moist. Blotting them a little bit first always helps though!

  6. Made this with half quantities and used softened butter rubbed into the flour and sugar for the shortbread base since the Scot in me could not handle putting melted butter in something purporting to be shortbread! It worked out fine (base held together well with a nice crumb and the filling stayed stuck on top) but the filling was very tart, too much so for the kids. Adults enjoyed it. The level of acidity probably depends on the variety of lemons used. I might add (even) more sugar next time, or use different lemons. (If you used Meyer lemons from your trees this might explain things.)

    1. I’m not sure if I did something wrong or what happened but my lemon curd was very jiggly at 22 minutes in the oven at 325°. It was not set at all but I put it back in the oven and after 6 more minutes it was set perfectly. Haven’t tried them yet but I hope they’re good! I only used 3/4 of a cup of lemon juice because I didn’t get enough lemons but I’m sure it’ll be fine!

  7. Best lemon bars I have ever had! Followed recipe as written. Will be making again, but trying different citrus.

  8. Made these last night with meyer lemons, stayed exactly true to the recipe even though I would never make shortbread with melted butter, and it turned out amazing! The filling held up nicely, it was not runny at all and while the crust was a little denser than I imagined, it yielded a pleasing chew. The curd was deliciously tart, I actually could have cut the sugar a little but I guess that’s where the meyer lemons helped out with the added sweetness. My family really enjoyed them and I took some to work today and my co-workers loved them. This recipe is a keeper for me!

  9. One of my favorite recipes! I find that the lemons do matter. I often use half coconut sugar for both the crust and curd because I like the deeper flavor it adds without too much sweetness. However, they are not as bright and vibrant looking.

  10. Hello Sally,

    Thank you for sharing this recipe for lemon bars, my lemon-lime bars came out perfect and taste is on point (actually better than expected). This was the first time baking this dessert and I was concern about using glass, since glass tends to take longer to heat up and stays hotter longer. You have to slightly under-cook the edges *light, light brown edges is key*

    Thanks again for sharing
    B. Isobe

  11. Tried this again! This time round with 15g less sugar, and putting the crust in the oven for a strict 20min. I also turned off the oven the moment the lemon curd stopped jiggling, and used 1 grapefruit and 1 lemon for the juicing.

    Looks wise, it was a pretty shade of reddish yellow for my lemon filling. The curd stayed on the crust, and the crust was less hard than my first attempt. The curd was too soft though! The top held in place but beneath it, curd flowed the moment i sliced it. It was difficult to eat and it turned messy. Overall taste was still good.

  12. I wish I had read the comments about the crust—don’t waste your butter on this crust! There was nothing ‘shortbread’ about it. This was like your worst underbaked , too thick pie shell nightmare. However, I had no problems with the curd being too runny. I will eat this part only and throw away the crust. I am very disappointed, as I have been satisfied with other recipes from this site. thank you.

  13. Did not read comments. Did not care for filling. Mine set fine however was very strong and too much of it. The other major issue is the crust is awful. I am an experienced baker and there is nothing redeeming about this crust except ease. Dense and bland. Have liked other recipes from her site but would never make this again. Thanks anyway, Sally!

  14. Comments are fierce on this recipe – but here is why I think it’s a good one and one I would make again.
    1. The lemon topping uses the whole egg instead of most lemon curd that uses just the yolks – means you’re not left with 6 egg whites to use up later.
    2. Lemon topping is tart and lemony – how I prefer it but I suppose you could up the sugar if you don’t like lemons? But then, why make lemon squares people??
    3. The topping absolutely does set IF you follow the recipe instructions – baking it until it sets (for my oven it took more like 25mins than 20min but my oven runs cooler than most), letting it set at room temperature, AND refrigerating before you cut into the bars. Bars tasted even better the next day after being in the fridge overnight.
    4. Crust is delish shortbread HOWEVER it gets 4 stars instead of 5 because I used room temperature butter and whipped it with the sugar instead of adding melted butter – I think melted butter as the recipe calls for would’ve made the shortbread too dense as some folks have been complaining. Mine turned out great.

    The previous comments made me worry unnecessarily. This is a good recipe (with the exception of the melted butter) if you follow it correctly.

  15. Perfect recipe! I followed the recipe exactly. I did have to cook my filling a bit longer than 25 minutes because it was still jiggly but once it stopped it solidified perfectly. We were able to eat it with our fingers. The crust held up and was not too hard nor soft. It was tart but we love a tart lemon bar. I’m adding this recipe to my cookbook because it is that good.

  16. My daughter made this while visiting and our family loved them! Best lemon bars we ever tasted! Thank you for coming up with this recipe.

  17. I made these and was very pleased! I did have to bake the shortbread base and the bars a bit on the longer end of things, perhaps my oven runs a bit cooler. It set fine for me and I can pick it up with my hands to eat it. I did make a small adjustment because I had some passion fruit that I needed to do something with. I replaced about 1/4 cup of the lemon juice with passion juice. I HIGHLY recommend if you like passion fruit. You could probably sub more for a more intense passion flavor. I did bring the lemon/passion juice and eggs to room temperature. Everything else I did exactly as written in the recipe. I do agree that the shortbread crust could be a bit lighter. I think I will try creaming room temp butter next time instead of going the melted butter route.

    1. I used pomegranate juice and lemon juice, it was so good! Passion fruit sounds like a dream though, I love it!

      1. That sounds amazing too! I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time.

  18. Made these today, followed the recipe exactly, were tasty an a little tart, the way I like them. There was nothing wrong with the crust, I thought they were perfect. I WILL MAKE THEM AGAIN DEFINITELY. Thanks for the recipe.

  19. Overall the best lemon squares I’ve made so far! I followed the exact recipe for 1/2 ingredients, and I do have to agree with other reviews about the bad crust. It tasted good but it was definitely NOT shortbread. I used melted butter so it seems that is the culprit. The consistency of the curd was perfect for me – a little gooey but firmly set. I don’t know if people are eating their bars warm right after baking or at room temperature (ew), but you have to let the bars set in the fridge for a few hours. I do love a good tart lemon bar, but my family members all agreed it was a little too tart. I think substituting half the lemon juice for lime or grapefruit would be interesting, I will definitely try it later! Thanks for the recipe.

    1. We used 2 cara cara oranges, 2 cuties, 1 lemon, 1 lime. They are tart and tangy and just delicious.

  20. Oh. Oh my. These are so easy to make! Just stir, press and bake, stir the curd, pour and bake. And they are soooo delicious. My kids did most of the work.

  21. Made these last night and they were a huge hit. I was already asked for the recipe.

    I don’t like powdered sugar on top of things so I skipped it and the sweetness and tartness were perfect that way.

  22. I made these exactly to the recipe last weekend. They were really good. I felt like my shortbread was a little under baked as I also had to bake my curd longer as well. They turned out delicious! So good that I just made another batch a second ago. Meyer lemons were less than regular lemons at costco yesterday so I bought those, I also added just a titch more sure sugar this time to see what that would do. This weekend I baked my shortbread longer til it was just golden on the edges as well as a little longer baking time on the curd as well. All ovens are different so I knew what to expect after my first run last weekend! I CAN’T WAIT TO DIG INTO THESE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Based on last weekend, I know these will be delicious also! Thank you for such an awesome recipe!

  23. Tried this recipe for the first time and it came out really great. Here’s a couple changes I made to the recipe:

    1. I used Meyer lemon and didn’t want it to be too sweet so I used the minimum amount of sugar suggested (340g). It still came out really sweet but it’s in the good range. People who complain it’s too tart might just not enjoy tart at all. I’m tempted to try this recipe again, lowering the sugar more and replacing it with a bit of corn starch (the sugar is also the biggest driver of calories in this recipe…)
    2. I didn’t bother with sifting the flour, I made a slurry with the lemon juice. In a bowl with the flour, add the lemon juice in small quantities until you have a bit of a paste. Then make sure it’s homogeneous. Then add a bit more lemon juice to make it a bit of a sludge, then keep adding the rest of the lemon juice. You can add that to the rest of the ingredient and you won’t have a single dry patch of flour in your curd.
    3. Just to address the “curd is too soft” comments, I’d say they went by time and not paying attention to the “test that it’s set” part. I cooked mine until it was set and the curd is creamy but definitely set. You can cut the thing in squares and eat them with your hands, no problem.

  24. It’s lemon season. My lemon tree produces the best lemons ever. I just made another batch of these delicious lemon bars. They are amazing! I make exactly as the recipe is written. Everyone I share these with tell me they are the best lemon bars they have ever eaten. Thank you for your yummy recipes.

  25. I loved these Lemon Bars! Just cut into my first bite! Perfect in every way!! I’ll make them again!

  26. Damn food network baking shows…they did a lemon custard…and I thought “Lemon Bars” would be amazing right now…here I am. Followed the recipe, and the tips, read some reviews…turned the oven down and cooked the lemon mixture a little longer…came out perfect!
    Thanks for the recipe and comments.

  27. I’ve made this recipe exactly as stated and it came out perfectly. I personally love that the crust is dense shortbread. It isn’t rock-hard, and gives way to the teeth easily. I’ve just made it again tonight, without reading all the instructions, and really wish I had taken the time to re-read it all. I forgot to bake it in a glass pan, instead of metal. It overcooked pretty quickly, because it’s a cheap pan with no insulative properties. It takes away from the rich zingy flavor a little, but it’s still nice. Next time I read ALL the blog before leaping straight into the recipe.

  28. I don’t know what those people are talking about saying that this recipe wasn’t good. I think they came out AMAZING! And I don’t even like lemon, I made them for my husband. I just had to add on about 10 minutes for each baking time. Maybe it’s my oven, not sure. But the flavor and and texture was wonderful. I used Lemon juice concentrate because I don’t have a juicer.

  29. I don’t know why all these amateurs are out here trashing this perfect recipe! Once again you do not disappoint, Sally. I didn’t make a single alteration to this recipe, and they’re the best lemon bars I’ve ever had. The crust is delicious and crunchy and the custard holds it shape perfectly if you’ve cooked it right and let it cool completely. I did add 1/4 tsp almond extract to the crust because I love almond extract. But besides that I followed it the recipe exactly and it was simple and delicious! If you can’t handle lemon, bake something else! Lemon desserts SHOULD be sour. They’re LEMON!!! I actually reduced the sugar. Also get some good organic, preferably homegrown lemons from a backyard or a local orchard or farmer’s market. Grocery store lemons won’t cut it, they never do.

  30. Loved this recipe and would love to double it. Any suggestions on cooking time for a double batch?

    1. Hi Leandra, We are unsure of the exact bake time for a double batch in a larger pan. Keep your eye on it and bake until the center is set. Enjoy!

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