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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. These are the best lemon bars I have ever made. Evey time I make them everyone loves them. The shortbread crust is perfect for the filling. So much better than the thin soft crust on other recipes that is too sweet. Always a big hit when I make them.

  2. this is the only lemon bar recipe i will use! It’s SO good, and they’re a bit tart which we prefer. Other recipes weren’t very lemon-y or they were wayy too sweet, and these are perfect. Love the crust too, it pairs so well! They are always gone within a few days.

  3. the top of my bars were very dark brown. Like a skin formed on top. They tasted better than they looked.

  4. I loved the filling in this recipe but the crust was dense and gummy. Not crumbly shortbread at all. What happened??

    1. You probably just need to bake it a bit longer, thats how mine was when I took it out too early

    2. It’s all in the butter. Room temp is better bc then it gives you that texture you need for the crust

      1. These are amazing! I agree with Rach… use room temperature butter. I also added lemon zest and a tsp of lemon extract because I never find lemon desserts taste like enough lemon! Delish!

  5. These are phenomenal, I love that you included the weights too! I only had to dirty ONE bowl to make these!? Just made the base, while that was baking, washed the bowl, made the filling, poured and baked. Seriously the easiest recipe I’ve made in a long time, I was so worried it wouldn’t set because the filling very liquidey going into the oven but I trusted the process and I’m so glad I did. I enjoyed a bar this morning after letting them cool in the fridge overnight, they’re the perfect punch of lemoney goodness without being sugarey sweet. I’ll be adding these to the rotation for sure, I’m just kicking myself for not making them sooner!

    1. I love this recipe. I use about a half cup whole wheat flour cuz I prefer the extra texture…

      One question. My filling always goes on foamy and a thin whitish surface layer forms. Yours are nice and jelly yellow on top. How do you avoid the foam from the eggs?

      1. Hi Susan, 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!

  6. Amazing recipe! I have dear friends who request these whenever I am bringing dessert. They never disappoint.

  7. Crust was a little darker then I like, could be the oven. Or may be the glass pan which I hate to use. U we r right about a little lower in temperature,white bubbles. Let ya know about taste in 3 hours

    1. Yuup they is tart and sweet ! Loved it the first recipe I ever made way back in 4th grade and have been a lemon bar nut since!!!

      1. I love these they’re delicious! But I’m having an issue, the filling seems really liquidy. I’ve followed the recipe exactly and I’ve tried extra eggs to get it to thicken. I’m really not sure what I’m doing wrong as the filling gets gelatinous after sitting and being in the fridge but it’s still runny gelatin. Please help!

      2. Hi Quinn, you can try to bake for a few more minutes. The center should still look a bit soft when they’re done. They will set up as they cool.

  8. I made these and they turned out well! My oven is a diva and required 10 extra minutes to set the lemon filling. A fantastic alteration to this recipe is to spread 4oz to 8oz of home made seedless mixed berry jam, warmed, on the short crust before adding the lemon filling. It adds a little extra color and a complimentary flavor layer!

  9. Love this, so much so that we’d like to make this for our rehearsal dinner dessert. We have a few guests who have celiac disease, however. Would gluten free flour be ok to substitute?

    1. Hi Ellen, We are happy you enjoyed this recipe so much! We haven’t tested it with a gluten free flour but let us know if you do!

    1. Did you also sub out the flour in the lemon filing with cornstarch? I have one family member with Celiacs and another Gluten intolerant but we love Lemon bars!!

  10. I made my first batch of Lemon Bars with Shortbread Crust. Delicious lemon bars, but I am wondering why mine have a light white-ish skin on the top, as others have mentioned, too. Mine didn’t turn brown on top, rather a bit white-ish. No problem, though, as I will dust with 10x sugar. However, I will be making again a few weeks from now for a baby shower. Any thoughts on what causes this?

    1. Hi Carole, This is likely air bubbles and is completely normal! See the paragraph in the post above called “White Air Bubbles on Top of Baked Lemon Bars” for details.

  11. Hi Sally! My squares came out discolored on top-very white instead of yellow. Is this from over whisking you think?

    1. Hi Chris, 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!

  12. Made this recipe for my aunt and they came out sooo good! So delicious! I did have a problem with mine cracking and was wondering if you had any tips to prevent that? Did I bake them too long or not enough? Thank you in advance! Definitely will keep this recipe on hand!

    1. Hi Kelsey, so glad you loved them! 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!

  13. Made these for my friend’s birthday and everyone loved them! The shortbread crust was perfect. I added some lemon zest to the top and they were absolutely perfect.

    1. Hi Christine, We don’t recommend using self rising flour in this recipe. It would take additional recipe testing to ensure accurate results.

  14. Oh dear mine didn’t turn out right. The lemon topping soaked right through the base. The base sort of combined with the topping and was almost on the surface under a thin white layer of what looked like egg white meringue. If I cut it and flip it over then it sort of looks like it should but the lemon topping isn’t as solid as it should be. Despite all that it tastes yummy. I made a half batch & followed instructions for that. I’m guessing the base might need to be cooked longer as well as the topping. Any other suggestion??? TIA

  15. I don’t understand what went wrong because they taste so good, the crust is absolutely perfect. The top layer of the lemon bars was cooked perfectly and then they middle was so gooey. I cooked them for 30 minutes. I put them back in for an extra 4 and almost no difference but the top is starting to turn too golden so I had to take them out. When I cut into them, the inside starts pouring out

    1. Hi Constance, We are happy you enjoyed the taste and are happy to help troubleshoot. Did you change anything about the recipe or bake them in a different size pan? Were they cooled and chilled completely before you cut them? Be sure you are using conventional heat settings (not convection/fan heat) and if they are taking longer to bake in the center you can loosely cover the top with aluminum foil to prevent the top from browning before the center is cooked.

  16. I’ve made this recipe 3 times now and it always comes out perfect as long as you remember the parchment paper. I zest the lemons before juicing and use the zest as a garnish along with powdered sugar when it cools. They’re sublime!

  17. I ran into a interesting problem… the crust rose to the top and the curd sank to the bottom so they end up being upside down. Do you have any idea what I did wrong to make that happen?? The top was still foamy so I didn’t realize it did this until I tried to cut them.

    1. Hi Beckie, Usually when the bars end up inverted it’s because we either over-baked the crust or let it cool for too long. We have, however, found an easy trick to help prevent this. If you ever want to try this recipe again, use a fork to poke holes into the warm crust after you take it out of the oven. This helps the topping stick to it and holds the crust in place (below the filling). Hope this is helpful!

      1. Thanks! The crust probably was too cool when I added the curd. I’ll try again!

      2. When you bake the crust the first time, does it come out slightly soft? My edges are lightly browned but the dough seems a bit soft still.

    2. this exact same thing happened to me. I have made them successfully so many times too. But i did go back and look at the recipe and I didn’t notice the hole poking thing until now. Darn it. I’m going to try and serve them upside down and top with a dollop of whipped cream. I don’t want all this deliciousness going to waste! Such a strange phenomenon. I wonder if the parchment paper somehow allows small pockets of air to be under the crust and then the filling can seep down there…

  18. I wish you should have shown what they are suppose to look like when you take them out of the oven. I like another person have tried this 2 times now and my curd is not cooking through. The top top is done the crust is great. The flavor is fine but I feel like I’m missing something.

  19. I love to bake but honestly it’s really rare where I put forth to pit something from scratch and still have a craving for it when it’s done. This on the other hand, it’s so delicious and lemony that I make it before my day off so it can refrigerate over night and I can immediately chow down as soon as I get out of my class.

  20. I replaced the flour with gluten free and they taste exactly the same as the regular recipe. I used king Arthur measure for measure baking flour.

  21. These are fantastic! I swapped vegetable shortening for the butter because my husband can’t have dairy, and they still came out perfect. My only comment is that it took 34 minutes of baking for the filling to set, and I thought I had somehow ruined them but they were perfect. Will make again!

  22. The BEST lemon bars every time I’ve made them. Seriously, so good! Thank you!!!

  23. I made these in an 8X8 pan with 1/2 of the crust recipe but all of the filling recipe. Baked 33 minutes. They were fantastic, thick, and juicy!

  24. Can I use a portion of my stevia product instead of the amount of granulated sugar in the recipe?

    1. Hi Fran, We’d love to help but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. For best taste and texture (and so you don’t waste your time trying to adapt this recipe since it may not work properly), it may be more useful to find a recipe that is specifically formulated for sugar substitutes. Thank you!

  25. I have a very simiIlar recipe. I add fresh blueberries to mine half way thru baking. Have you every tried this?

    1. Hi Jo, we haven’t tested that so can’t offer much advice but let us know if you give it a try!

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